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Lake Manyara National Park

With it's lush groundwater forest, open floodplains and acacia woodlands Lake Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience.

Fast Facts

Major Attractions
  •  The Great Rift Wall
  • Famous tree climbing lions
  • Large herds of elephant and buffalo
  • Luxuriant groundwater forest
  • Lake Manyara
  • Extraordinary hot water sulfur springs on lakeshore
  • Enormous flock of nomadic lesser flamingo
  • Rich bird watching opportunities
Activities
  • Game drives
  • Night game drive
  • Canoeing safari - when the water levels are sufficiently high
  • Cultural tours
  • Cycling safari
  • Walking safari
  • Bird watching
  • Bush dinners
Size
  • 330 sq kms(127 sq miles)of which up to 200 sq km’s is lake when the water levels are high.
Location
  • The entrance gate lies 1.5 hours(126km/80 miles) west of Arusha . Lake Manyara National Park forms part of the northern circuit of Tanzania.

ABOUT

Manyara National Park is the smallest national park in Tanzania. Don’t lets it’s small size deter you from visiting this majestic park. A visit to Manyara National Park is a truly unique experience. Manyara offers 3 distinct habitats in which to safari. With its lush groundwater forest, open floodplains and acacia woodlands it offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience.

The park is set beneath the spectacular backdrop of the Great Rifts Valleys steep western escarpment, this long narrow park protects an area between the escarpment and Lake Manyara.

The crowning glory of Manyara National Park is Lake Manyara itself. Lake Manyara is a freshwater alkaline lake that covers over half of the area of the park and expands and contracts with the season. Upon entering  Lake Manyara National Park, the visitor is surrounded by the “ground water forest”. This unique forest area resembles a tropical rain forest, but the vegetation is mainly supported by an underground water supply instead of an abundant rainfall as in the case of rainforests. This unique forest provides an ideal wildlife habitat for the African blue monkey, bush and waterbuck, the nocturnal aardvark as well as vervet monkeys, the favorite prey of the leopard.

Between the Msasa and Bagayo rivers, the ground water forest changes into a flat-topped acacia woodland and is the home of the notorious tree-climbing lions of Lake Manyara. Lake Manyara’s most visible predators, and also its prime tourist attraction are its lions, famous for their habit of climbing trees. Why the lions of Lake Manyara National Park and not those of nearby Serengeti and Ngorongoro spend so much time in trees remains a mystery. You may even see entire prides of lions stretched out in the acacia trees, particularly in the wet season.

Grass feeders and browsers like impala, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and elephant are also common in this narrow belt of acacia woodland. Further south, past the Bagayo River, an area most notable for its majestic baobab trees, lays Maji Moto Ngogo a fresh hot water spring that bubbles at about 40°C. Near the edge of the park a second set of hot water springs called Maji Moto bubble at around 60 degrees celsius and make enthralling viewing.

The forest, which produces an abundant number of wild fruits and figs, is a great attraction for the majestic African elephant and the few remaining black rhino in the park. The Hippo Pool located in the Simba River, not only attracts these 3000kg animals, but many of the parks nearly 400 species of birds, including the predatory fish eagle, which lives in and around the hippo pool.

WILDLIFE 

Lake Manyara offers game viewing that is varied, accessible and relatively reliable all year round. It’s game includes healthy numbers of elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, and giraffe. Look more carefully for zebra, warthog, lion, leopard, impala, bushbuck, aardvark, aardwolf, pangolins, civets, wildcats, African rock python, waterbuck in marshy areas and klipspringer on the rocky slopes.

The primate enthusiast will be pleased to know that a healthy primate population resides in Lake Manyara. Watching a ubiquitous troop of baboons and vervet monkeys at play will more than keep you amused. They are found in the groundwater forest area of Lake Manyara National Park.

Lake Manyara National Park is known for its abundant and varied birdlife. It attracts birdwatchers from around the globe. It is estimated that over 400 species of birdlife can be observed in this park. The diverse terrain of Manyara also means diverse birdlife classifications. As Manyara is a fusion of wetlands, plain-lands and woodland species of both animal and birdlife it never disappoints the enthusiasts.

The lakeshore area is often fringed with pink flamingo and other wading species of birdlife, the escarpment is home to the raptors. You will be able to observe thousand of pink hued flamingoes on their perpetual migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks. Look out for egrets, stilts, storks and spoonbills. In the evergreen forest you may come across some raucous silvery-cheeked hornbills, crowned eagles and crested guinea fowl.

GEOGRAPHY

Lake Manyara is one of the many alkaline lakes of the Great Rift Valley. It was formed about 3 million years ago and is quite shallow, with an average depth of about 3 metres. The lake  covers two thirds of the total area of the park.

The lake lies in a closed basin with no outlet. Chemical salts, mainly carbonates and bicarbonates, are dissolved as rain cascades down the side of the rift over volcanic ash and lava. Then the sun evaporates the water in the lake leaving behind an alkaline called ‘magad’ or soda.

Not all species of birdlife are attracted to the alkaline water of Lake Manyara. Two species are found in abundance at certain times. Greater and lesser flamingo, their scaly feet unaffected by the caustic salts, thrive on the algae and brine shrimps that abound.

Much of the land area is defined by the western wall of the Great Rift Valley in the form of slopes that lead down to an extensive floodplain where most of the wildlife activity in the park can be found.

CLIMATE

Manyara’s rainfall averages 760mm(30 inches) per annum and the groundwater forest would not survive were it not for the seepage from the rift, which is the water which originally fell on the eastern side of nearby Ngorongoro.

The rainy season at Manyara should begin in November and, with a brief lull in January/February, continue until May. However, the rains are notoriously fickle and average years are interspersed by both drought and flood. This cycle brings dramatic increases in the size and depth of Lake Manyara.

Lake Manyara has a warm to hot climate year round due to its altitude and close proximity to the equator. Minimum temperatures are 15°C/59°F to maximum 40°C/104°F, and the heat reaches its peak in the dry months of January and February.

WHEN TO VISIT

Superb game viewing is offered throughout the year but is at its peak between from December and February and from August through to September. For optimum game viewing the ideal months are between July and October in the dry season.

If you are keen to do some birdwatching we definitely recommend visiting Manyara in the wet season between the months of November and June. The west season is also recommended if you wish to do some canoeing.

Accommodation at Lake Manyara National Park

Eunoto Retreat1

E Unoto Retreat

The lodge was constructed incorporating traditional Maasai methods. The handcrafted and imported furnishings and fittings compliment the lodges theme and provide all guests with an exotic Tanzanian flavour.

Haven Nature Camp and Lodge, Tanzania Safari, SafariHQ

Haven Nature Camp & Lodge

Haven Nature Safari Camp and Lodge is only minutes from Lake Manyara National Park and provides tented accommodation with views across the Great East African Rift Valley.

Jambo Campsite, Tanzania Safari, SafariHQ

Jambo Campsite

This campsite is conveniently located in Mtu Wa Mbu Village, not far from the gate to Lake Manyara National Park. The grounds are lush and green and making it a great place to relax and unwind.

Kirurumu Tented Lodge Lake Manyara Bedroom 1

Kirurumu Manyara Lodge

Kirurumu Tented Lodge is set high on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, enjoying a marvelous, uplifting and panoramic view eastward over Lake Manyara, the Rift floor and Mt Losimigoori.

Serena Lodge Manyara1

Lake Manyara Serena Lodge

Standing high on the edge of a towering terracotta escarpment with panoramic views over the glittering alkaline waters of Lake Manyara, Serena Lodge offers a unique blend of tranquility and picturesque beauty.

Tanzania

Lake Manyara Tree Lodge

This remote lodge blends intimacy and romance in cool, leafy surrounds. Spacious bedrooms float in a sea of green, with generous decks and massive windows opening up to lush forest.

Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge 2

Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge

Authentic traditional African style decor creates a unique atmosphere that is both relaxing and tranquil. Each guest room has a private veranda with views across the beautiful shimmering waters of the lake.

Migunga_Camp_200810_0204

Migunga Tented Camp

Migunga is nestled away in a quiet corner of 35 acres of acacia forest and consists of 19 semi-luxury permanent tents on raised platforms with attached bathrooms and a private veranda.

Panorama Campsite, Tanzania Safari, SafariHQ

Panorama Campsite

Panorama Campsite is located just outside Mto Wa Mbu Village, near Lake Manyara National Park.

Twiga Campsite, Tanzania Safari, SafariHQ

Twiga Campsite & Lodge

Twiga Cmapsite is located in the colourful market village of Mto wa Mbu, close to the entrance gate of Lake Manyara National Park and nestled at the foot of Great Rift Valley Escarpment.

Optional Activities in Lake Manyara National Park