Lake Manyara National Park lies in a very dramatic setting up against the steep western wall of the Rift Valley. Being direct en route to Ngorongoro from Arusha or Tarangire, it is a popular place either for a day visit or for longer.
However, it is an exceptional National Park that would deserve a visit regardless of where it was located; in fact so exceptional that it was declared part of a World Biosphere Reserve in 1981.
There are at least 5 very different habitats existing side by side in an area of 325 sq km. In fact, on a game drive, you see more variation in the distance traveled than anywhere else in Africa. There are copious groundwater springs at one end, spilling out from the base of the Rift Valley wall. These give rise to a true jungle type of ground-water forest, which is in stark contrast to the dry bush acacia woodlands all around, and to the enormous shallow alkaline lake that lies on the valley floor. Then there is also the steep escarpment wall with its own boulder-strewn habitat.
In the south of the Park are found extensive hot water springs as a testament to the active tectonic nature of the Rift Valley, and there is a long walkway out across the steaming rivulets and reed beds of the lake edge giving a magnificent view up and down the full length of this part of the Rift Valley. Here you can watch old bull buffaloes wallowing in the warm alkaline mud, and on occasions, vast flocks of flamingos in Enormous Baobabs are scattered throughout the drier parts. In fact, one of these baobabs was visited by Disney Imagineers in 1994 and became the inspiration for the baobabs that feature in Disney Worlds’ famous Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida.
When to Visit
All year, although the most popular times are during the two dry seasons June – October and January and February.
Wildlife at Lake Manyara
Most of the characteristic East African mammals are found in Manyara including elephant, buffalo, hippo, lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, and lots of plains game, and reputedly the largest baboon troupes in Africa. Some lions have opted to rest up during the heat of midday in trees, giving rise to the mistaken belief that the Manyara lions are somehow different. Lions in many parts of Africa often spend time on the lower broad limbed branches of trees probably to escape flies.
Things to do
- Game drive
- Night game viewing
- Canopy tree walk
- Horse riding
- Bush Meals
- Bird Watching
There are Park bandas to stay at as well as Public and Special campsites. There is one luxury lodge actually within the Park, and a number of seasonal tented campsites. All other overnight options for Manyara are outside the Park including many on the edge of the Rift Valley with wonderful views across the floor of the valley
There is a small airport on the edge of the Rift Valley above Manyara that has regularly scheduled flights all year round.
A good tarmac road runs close by the main gate linking Manyara to Arusha, Tarangire Ngorongoro, and the Serengeti, and therefore to other places further afield. The journey from Arusha takes about 2 hours. There is also access from the southern end along a graveled road from Babati.
Manyara fits well into numerous Northern circuit itineraries, but of especial interest is the southern Entry Gate. This enables visitors from Tarangire to travel the full length of Manyara as they head to Ngorongoro or the Serengeti.