Lake Manyara National Park

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Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park gets its name from Lake Manyara which also gets its name from a tree bush the maasai use in the fencing of their villages “bomas” to get protection for their homesteads and kraals. This tree is common in the national park and it’s called emanyara in the maasai dialect.

Lake manyara national park unrivalled in beauty and wildlife world over is the second oldest national park in Tanzania, established in 1960 after Serengeti national park in 1951. It occupies a meager 330 square kilometres which makes it the smallest national park of the four northern safari circuit parks in Tanzania that include Serengeti national park, Ngorongoro Conservation area, Tarangire national park and its self. However! don’t let this wildlife jewel’s size fool you, for what it lacks in size it pretty much makes it up tenfold in terms of its sheer beauty and enormous wildlife diversity lending credence to the common English saying of “beautiful things come in small packages” a fact the great noble laurate American writer/ explorer Ernest Hemmingway affectionately captures as the loveliest place he saw in Africa in reference to a recollection of his visit to Lake Manyara National Park on his 1930 African safari tour, an endowment the park has maintained to date effortlessly without a doubt.

The park is located on the floor of the dramatic rift valley western escarpment with the high rift valley cleft towering high up on its western boundary, on its eastern boundary is its center piece the salty lake Manyara that borders the kwa kuchinja wildlife migration corridor which aids the wildlife migration of the tarangire ecosystem between the nearby tarangire national park and Lake Manyara National Park, and on its south eastern boundary a scattering of well-placed extinct volcanoe escarpment risings occupied by marang forest reserve and masai savanah grassland then to the northern boundary is the engaruka basin.

Lake Manyara National Park has a diverse ecosystem consisting of diverse landscapes and habitats ranging from the emerald evergreen african forests that create a cool heavy shade at the entrance of the park that consists of underground water sping fed forests of ancient huge fig, pine and mahogany trees and further inward acacia woodlands not forgetting the riverine forests lining the seasonal rivers of the park, then the lush grassy mudflats around lake manyara plus its beaches abundantly endowed with fodder, and the savanah bushlands coupled with volcanic rocky patches spread all over the park not forgetting the marshy swamplands.

All these habitats with plenty of water and fodder only mean that lake manyara national park is home to an exceptional amount of wildlife that is the herbivores which equally attract the carnivores like nowhere else with the African big five being resident here with the exception of black rhinos that are now extinct here due to over poaching. Furthermore, this beautiful park lies in the tarangire ecosystem meaning it houses a wildebeest migration of its own and houses the largest herds of elephants in Africa majestically inhabiting the ancient forests, the highest baboon troops in the whole world swinging in the emerald forests, and an exclusive home to dramatic tree climbing lions that are tucked away south of the park an area so stunning and less accessed by the visitors an exclusive it only shares with queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda plus plenty many more animals like crocodiles, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, warthogs, dik diks,rock climbing kirk springers and blue monkeys just to mention a few make lake manyara national park the best quick but absolute safari destination since its vast diverse wildlife is concentrated in a small area considering the lake occupies most of the park. The lake, forests, swamps and springs ecosystem in the park are such a bird magnet thus making lake manyara national park a birders paradise with millions of flamingos beautifully striding the shores of lake manayara and plenty of other birds that are migratory, resident, aquatic and terrestrial all flocking this heavenly wild slice with over 400 species recorded here like the kingfishers, storks, herons, raptors and cormorants just to mention a few make lake manayara national park a top birding safari destination considering its even been gazetted as an IBA (important bird and biodiversity area).

Lake Manyara National Park Features

Lake Manyara National Park is the smallest park in the classic northern Africa safari circuit with a size of 330 square kilometres with an altitude ranging 900-1500 meters all on the floor of the western escarpment rift valley, despite its size it has well over 11 distinct habitats like swamps. Forests, savannah bushland, lakes, springs, rivers and volcanic escarpments which of course attract loads of wildlife.


There is an underwater fed forest that resembles an equatorial one right at the entrance of the park with ancient tall evergreen fig and mahogany trees towering well over 400m high, then on the lake shores there is a big expanse swamps and a grassy delta, then further to the west side the rocky escarpment of the rift valley has large ancient african mystic baobab trees dotted all over the slopes plus a dense strip of acacia woodlands right at the bottom of the rift valley escarpment and in the north an extensive swamp fed by river simba whose other tributaries feed lake manyara as well plus several other wetlands dotted all over that are seasonally fed by seasonal rivers running off the rift cliffs. To the south there has been an addition of forest cover known as the marang forest, and as one approaches the central part of the park the forests give way for an expanse of tall savannah grasses.

Lake Manyara

A beautiful centre piece of lake manyara national park which is in sight from all corners of the park is the seventh largest lake of Tanzania with a surface area of over 470 square kilometeres, it is a shallow alkaline volcanic lake with a depth of just over 3 meters when its full and covering 2/3 of the park however the lake's depth and the area it covers varies drastically getting full during the wet seasons and during extreme dry periods the surface area of the lake shrinks as the waters evaporate to an extent sometimes the lake has dried up completely.

It is home to the endangered fish species of Oreochromis amphimelas which are widespread to Tanzania marine life and also catfish and tilapia which attract fishing activities mainly at the inflow areas of the lake even if it is limited since it’s a protected area. It has no out flow and its slightly alkaline waters are fed into it from fresh river simba waters, streams from neighbouring ngorongoro highlands and underground springs but to a larger extent its fed by the rainfall and the waters become increasingly salted in the dry season as water evaporates and salts accumulate.

During the dry seasons its cover shrinks giving way to mudflats and juicy green grasslands that are such an attraction to animals that come to feed of them hence a strong presence of buffalos, wildebeests and zebras at its shores plus a diverse crew of millions of aquatic birds like the cormorants, ducks, geese, pelicans, storks and mainly the thousands upon thousands of pink flamingos that create such a calm pink decor on the lake shores. It gets its name from a local tree scientifically called Euphorbia Tirucalli (emanyara in the masai dialect) which is plentiful in the park and it is used by the maasai for constructing their bomas (homesteads). The main activities around the lake are birding, fishing and canoeing which of course is mainly during the wet seasons when the lake is full and beaming with life.

The Hot Springs

These occur because of volcanic activities and of course the park lies right on the floor of the rift valley meaning several hot springs are found here and create such beautiful picnic spots with hot water around about 60°C flowing from the bellies of rocks a product of geothermal where visitors can boil eggs and have a bite at these points called maji moto (swahilli meaning hot water).

Wild Animals in Manyara

The park has the highest wildlife biomas in Africa and it lies on the tarangire ecosystem meaning it’s in the great migration zone where animals migrate from tarangire national park to lake manyara national park in search of water and food which it has in plenty due to its diverse rich habitats of forest, swamps, lakes, rivers and grasslands.

Of course this is a home to the African safari big five with an exception of rhinos which are extinct in the park however the celebrities of the park are the dramatic tree climbing lions found in the southern side of the park, the largest troop of baboons you can ever set eyes on and the large herds of elephant families with the calves moving beneath their mothers bellies a protection mechanism against the ever present tactical alert large number of predators in the emerald green vintage forests of the park. It is a home to a large number of several other animals as well, like the Grant's gazelles, blue monkeys, Thomson's gazelles, warthogs, impalas, hippopotamuses, Wildebeests, zebras, spotted hyena, black-backed jackals, Cheetahs, mongoose and many many more not forgetting the insects with a staggering 180 species of butterflies recorded here which makes lake manyara the absolute safari destination in Africa.

Birds in Manyara Park

Lake Manyara National Park is a birders paradise with over 400 registered bird species that include the aquatic, terrestrial, migratory and residential birds that inhabit the several habitats of the park like forests, swamps, streams, rivers, grasslands and lakeshores. With the parks small size, bird viewing is kind, easy-going and convenient for an avid birder and a regular visitor thus making it the best birding safari destination in Africa with birds like the Greater and lesser flamingos that beautifully pink paint the lake, the grey-black headed heron, the white egrets spectacularly striking a mutual relationship with the hippos, the jacana, the African spoonbill, the white and pink backed pelican, kingfishers, the hammmerkops, cormorants, avocets, fish eagle, the spur winged Egyptian geese, the large ground hornbill, guinea fowls and many many more other birds charmingly decorate this slice of wildlife paradise.

The Great Rift Valley Escapement

The park lies on the floor of the volcanic rift valley which has a steep high rising wall (1600 meters) tall that create a supernatural hanging escarpment scenery that provides a magical aerial view of the park when at the top where one can clearly spot outlines of animals in the park going about their everyday lives and nearly every feature of the park and far beyond its environs even as far as ngorongoro.

Treetop Canopy

A 2016 addition on the already incredible features of the park thus making lake manyara national park the only park in Tanzania with a treetop walkway meandering a whooping 370 meters of the forest making it the longest in Africa. It is just five minutes away from the entrance of the park nestled high up there in the heavens of the ancient evergreen majestic African forest trees.

Once a visitor is up on the canopy walkway the feeling and aerial views of game, birds, features and neighbouring environs of the park are just out of this world for lack of a better word it’s a dreamlike experience high up in the canopy green clouds of lake manyara national park where one will come close to the monkeys, baboons and birds that seem to enjoy the gentle therapeutic swings, canopy shades and human interactions on the 370 meters’ cord board stretch. Like bungee jumping this is no mean feat for the faint hearted however its worth every penny, emotion and time invested plus its very safe, you just need to simply push your FEAR aside and live the floating moment.

Hippo Viewpoint

This wooden elevation at 8 ft. above the ground gives visitors an absolute closer elevated spectacular view of the swamps and rivers of the park entertaining their wildlife visitors like the hippos, buffalos, wildebeests and several birds as they feast and dink to their full an everyday melodramatic wildlife social and nourishing session.

Top things you simply must do in Lake Manyara National Park

lake manyara national park - Family Wildlife Game Drives

Africa Safari Game Drives

Game driving is what Africa safaris are all about and the petite beauty of Lake manyara offers the most satisfying game drive because of its size and diverse vast number of animals that are dotted all over the park in various habitats. It’s among the few parks in Africa that allow night game drives in Africa that begin at 7:00 pm offering visitors the intense nocturnal activities of the wildlife especially the predators like leopards that seem to be very active in search of prey with the camouflage of darkness. Using 4*4 tourist vehicles, visitors will traverse the parks habitats to get close to the wildlife in its natural habitat and through the eastern gates one will drive through the forest bypassing an arm’s reach countless curious blue monkeys and the thick larger than life baboons freely winging through the jungle forest twigs. Here you take in every inch of the awe-inspiring ancient fine-looking mahogany trees strikingly merging with the animals creating a blissful wildlife panorama to forever behold. A gradual drive through the forest eventually gives way to the open plains to the flood plains with long grasses where one will at a close distance will see the big mammals like buffalos, zebras and hippos freely without a care moving around this beautiful paradise in herds and to crown it all the pink flamingos beautifully lining the lake shores that create a permanent pink heaven impression in the visitors mind a tranquil view of the lake one will need to hold onto and relive when they are back in the busy concrete jungle world to keep sane. Beyond the expanse of the beautiful glistening lake the eyes will meet the edges of the volcanic undulant escarpment high above kissing the floating blue white clouds. After the lake the visitors will be driven to the southern side of the park through the emerald green African green forests of acacia woodlands here one will see the herds of elephants majestically moving about the forest, baboons sitting by idly as if enjoying the carnival of other animals and the elusive tree climbing lions reside in this part of town and surely on will spot one in the branches, when driving through this area visitors shouldn’t blink! for every minute is loaded with unpredictable adrenalin pumping wildlife action, then to catch a break after a long drive the visitors will be driven to the hippo wells where the maji moto springs is as well here one can take their shoes off layback as their egg is boiling in the hot spring while they take shade and enjoy the hippos cooling off in a distance while catching a bite and having a drink. There are three game drives offered in this park that’s the morning, late afternoon and the night game drives where one will be assured of sighting their bucket list safari animals any day of the calendar.

Bird Watching in  lake manyara national park

Bird Watching

The size of lake manyara national park coupled with the over 400 registered species of birds in here make the make a top birding destination in Africa, where birders enjoy birding well throughout the whole year climaxing in the wet months when migratory birds are in town and resident birds are nesting. The parks diverse habitats draw in aquatic, terrestrial, migratory and resident birds with lake manyara drawing in the aquatic birds especially the greater and lesser pink flamingos abundantly present in the months of November-August, then the months of August-October some migrate to lake Natron leaving the shores for storks, pelicans, egrets and many more, then in the swamps we have the egrets, spoonbills waders are in plenty then to the emerald green forests one is assured of spotting eagles, weavers, hornbills, guinea fowls, palm-nut vulture and many more birds. The most sighted birds in this birders paradise are the Flamingos obviously, swans, Rufous-tailed weaver, ducks, Emerald Cuckoo, Crested Guinea fowl, Fischer’s Sparrow Lark, Geese, Grey Crowned Crane, Crowned Hornbill and many more other birds and to have an absolute birding treat come along with a good binocular and a good zooming camera.

Manyara Tribal Culture Visits

Tribal Culture Visits

Mto wa mbu (meaning mosquito river in swahilli) is a beautiful adjacent agricultural and souvenir town that has the most diverse ethnic community in the whole world making it a melting pot of cultures with over 120 tribes living peaceful with each other. The tour can either be walking tour or a cycling tour that mainly starts in the farm plantations learning the farming methods of the community and partaking of fresh fruits like low hanging ripe delicious and organic bananas, cocoa, oranges and passion fruits then head to the river sides to canoe, fish or hometimes cool off with a swim followed by a visit of the homesteads where one will have a traditional meal and have an insight of native homestead settings then off we go to the busy craft shops and workshops beaming with artisans honing their craft to make beautiful handmade souvenirs like wooded sculptures, beaded necklaces, bangles and lots more, then next a visit to the colorful fruits market that will be crowned by a visit to the open bars that are laden with live sessions of native jazz, poetry, dances and of course the local millet beer called “mbege” that’s brewed by the master brewers of tanzanis the Chagga, the beer jug will de delightfully passed around in a big jug that’s refilled on the last gallop to make it go around again another round of sorts, a true Ubuntu living act. So a safari in lake manyara national park without a cultural tour of mto wa mbu is like reaching your destination but with your luggage missing metaphorically speaking.

Lake Manyara Canopy walks

Lake Manyara Canopy walks

In Tanzania it’s only an exclusive of lake manyara national park stretching 370m high up in the canopies of pristine equatorial forest trees making it the longest canopy walk there is in Africa. Visitors to the park should add this to their bucket list activities because it offers a fanciful break to alight form the vehicle after several hours of driving to stretch the legs by climbing up the suspended walkway to flatteringly engross oneself in the exquisite spine-tingling aerial view of the stunning game like elephants and bufallos, birds like eagles, egrets flying over head, features like the lake and the rift valley escarpment and environs of the park like the mto wa mbu and tarangire national park. The 45 minutes’ walk is a perfect vantage point offering one an eye level view of birds up in their nests in the canopies and the monkeys swinging and lounging up in the canopies with some even cheekily strolling the suspended walkway with visitors plus it is an opportunity to sight the shy species like dik diks in their hide outs on the floor of the park where at each tree the visitor encounters a big wraparound viewing platform, interspersing the walkway link and providing frequent stops to pause and enthral ones magnificent ambiance.Like bungee jumping treetop walks at a height of 18 m above the ground is no mean feat for the faint hearted however its worth every penny, emotion and time invested plus its extremely safe, you just need to simply thrust your FEAR of heights aside and live the moment.

Canoeing on Lake Manyara

Canoeing on Lake Manyara

A seasonal activity a preserve of a rainy season when lake manyara is full giving the visitor an opportunity to enjoy the tranquil lake atmosphere and learn a thing about local fishing methods as one will be taught how to hook a tilapia using a native method.

Hippo View Point in Manyara

Hippo View Point

This wooden elevation at 8 ft. above the ground gives visitors an absolute closer elevated spectacular view of the swamps and rivers of the park entertaining their wildlife visitors like the hippos, buffalos, wildebeests and several birds as they feast and dink to their full an everyday melodramatic wildlife social and nourishing session.