Lake Manyara, one of Tanzania’s smallest and most diverse national parks, bordered by the dramatic Western Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara is notable for its abundant birdlife, diverse vegetation, tree-climbing lions, and hippos among others. Lake Manyara is a scenic gem, with a setting extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”. Located on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, Lake Manyara National Park is well worth a stop in its own right. Lake Manyara covers an area of 127 sq miles, of which up to 77 Sq miles is lake when water levels are high.
The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience. Its ground water forests, bush plains, baobab strewn cliffs, and algae-streaked hot springs offer incredible ecological variety in a small area, rich in wildlife and incredible numbers of birds.
Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded, and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in one day. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large water birds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks. Even reluctant bird-watchers will find something to watch and marvel at within the national park.
Contrasting with the intimacy of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai Steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these grassy plains, as do giraffes – some so dark in coloration that they appear to be black from a distance.
Lake Manyara’s famous legendary tree-climbing lions are another reason to pay this park a visit. The only kind of their species in the world, they make the ancient mahogany and elegant acacias their home during the rainy season, and are a well-known but rather rare feature of the northern park. In addition to the lions, the national park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons anywhere in the world — a fact that makes for interesting game viewing of large families of the primates.