Nestled in the northern part of Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park beckons travelers with its mesmerizing landscapes and abundant wildlife. Located just 126 kilometers west of Arusha, the primary tourist hub, this national park covers an area of 330 square kilometers. A significant portion of this area, approximately 220 square kilometers, transforms into a lake during the rainy season when water levels rise.
Despite its smaller size compared to some of Tanzania’s vast national parks, Lake Manyara is teeming with diverse wildlife species. As you embark on a game safari here, you’ll encounter elephants, wildebeest, giraffes, buffalo, zebras, impala, warthogs, and waterbucks. On the slopes of the park’s escarpment, you may need a keen eye to spot the tiny and elusive Kirk’s dik-dik and klipspringer.
Lake Manyara National Park is renowned for its substantial elephant population, numerous giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, impala, waterbuck, warthogs, and the less-known shy Kik’s dik-dik and Klipspringer, often found along the escarpment’s slopes. Leopards are concealed within the park’s broken forests and the rugged escarpment. Furthermore, Lake Manyara is famous for its tree-climbing lions, a unique trait that has attracted visitors for years. The park is also known for hosting large troops of baboons, which are a delight for travelers.
Out of Lake Manyara’s total area, roughly two-thirds are submerged in water. While it’s considered a small park by African standards, Lake Manyara dazzles with its abundant wildlife, including a rich variety of bird species.
A game safari in Lake Manyara National Park offers the chance to observe elephants, wildebeest, giraffes, buffalo, zebras, impala, warthogs, and waterbucks. The park’s terrain is also home to Kirk’s dik-dik and klipspringer, which may require a bit more effort to spot.
Lake Manyara’s diverse habitats make it a haven for birdwatchers. Here, you can witness the beauty of flocks of pelicans and distant flamingos with their pink hues adorning the lake’s surface. The park’s margins and floodplains are frequented by egrets, stilts, herons, spoonbills, storks, and various waders. The woodlands surrounding the lake offer opportunities to spot fascinating species such as crowned eagles, crested guinea fowl, and silvery-cheeked hornbills.
Set beneath the imposing western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park encompasses a narrow strip of land between the escarpment and Lake Manyara. The lake itself is shallow and has water levels that expand and contract with the seasons, creating a shimmering bowl of salt deposits. In the vicinity of the lake, vast grassy floodplains stretch, followed by mixed acacia woodlands as you move away. Patches of enchanting evergreen forests thrive, nourished by perennial groundwater springs originating from the base of the escarpment.
A circuit within Lake Manyara National Park, including game drives, can typically be completed in 3 to 4 hours. This provides you with an opportunity to observe the park’s resident wildlife, always on the move. While visiting, consider taking a morning game drive, as there are fewer vehicles during this time, resulting in enhanced wildlife viewing opportunities.
Lake Manyara National Park is situated in the heart of Maasai Country. Here, you can interact with the iconic red-robed Maasai pastoralists, who are a significant presence in local bomas (villages). Beyond the park, activities such as mountain bike tours and forest walks along the escarpment are offered. When water levels permit, you can also partake in canoe safaris, offering a unique perspective on the park’s stunning landscapes.
Lake Manyara National Park can be enjoyed year-round. However, the optimal time for a safari is during the dry season, which typically spans from late June to September, when wildlife activity is at its peak.
For most travelers, visiting Lake Manyara National Park is part of the renowned northern safari circuit in Tanzania. Safaris in this circuit often commence from the town of Arusha. Access options include:
Embarking on a safari in Lake Manyara National Park promises an unforgettable journey through diverse landscapes and close encounters with an array of wildlife. Witness the beauty of the region and its unique Maasai culture as you explore this captivating part of Tanzania.