Lake Manyara National park
Lake Manyara National park was gazette in 1960 covering a landscape of 330km2 which makes it one of the smallest national parks in Tanzania situated at the extreme end of the western rift valley escarpment. The largest part of the park is covered by underwater which takes about two thirds of the park that is usually seen as a Lake during the rainy season when the water levels rise and the remaining area comprises of both savanna grassland and woodland filed with plenty of willed life species and birds that make it one of the best national park to visit in Tanzania. Lake Manyara national park is strategically position and is the most stopover for tourists on their way to Serengeti national park and Ngorongoro crater since it’s also situated in the Northern part of Tanzania about 126km from Arusha town. Lake Manyara contains alkaline water which expands and contracts leading to salt deposit at the shores. The flora of the park is filled with evergreen forest, acacia trees, and a thrilling savanna grassland all acting as a home to the wildlife. Lake Manyara national park is famously known for harboring the unique tree climbing lions which are so far seen in two destination with the other population being spotted in Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda the pearl of Africa. The park was named after the plant that is commonly seen on the fences of the local Masai people’s home steads and farms known as “euphorbia tirucalli”
Top things to see / Tourist attractions in Lake Manyara national park
Lake Manyara: Lake Manyara itself is a tourist attraction as it attracts several tourists to have a glance at its alkaline salty water while viewing several wildlife along the shores of the lake such as Flamingo birds, Hippos, and other mammals that frequently visit the lake to quench their thirsty on salty water. During the dry months, Lake Manyara contracts and the water levels reduce while during the rainy season, Lake Manyara expands and covers the largest part of the park and in this rainy season tourists do enjoy breathtaking canoe ridding safaris.
Springs: the springs in Lake Manyara National park are known as “Maji Moto springs” which literally means springs with hot water. These springs offer very clean and warm water that is good for swimming while overlooking the wildlife such as grazing mammals, water birds and a clear vegetation filled with several species of palm trees and fig trees that create a good shade for picnic in a relaxed haven.
Ground water forest: Ground water forest is yet another tourist attraction with in Lake Manyara national park. This forest is situated in the savanna of the park and is kept fresh by the fresh water from springs and rivers. This is the perfect destination for primate lovers and birders as it harbors a good number of primate species especially baboons as well as bird species and mammals such as Hippos, Antelopes, buffaloes etc.
Termite Mounds: these Termite mounds are made by the termites and they are very attractive to look at while on a visit to Lake Manyara national park as they are well scattered with in the park.
Wildlife: Lake Manyara thrills with several wildlife species including mammals with the largest population of Elephants, alongside other mammals such as African lion, Elephants, Giraffes, impalas, Hippos, Zebras, wildebeests, Thomson s gazelles, dik dik, warthogs, Klipspringer, Mongoose, Bushbuck and not forgetting the mighty tree climbing lions which are the major attractions in the park that are usually seen resting in the branches of acacia trees and many more as seen with in the savanna grassland, woodland and escarpments of the rift valley. Most of these mammals are seen during game drive, canoe ride, walking safari and many more. Apart from Mammals, the park also harbors primate species with a large population of Baboons.
Birds: Lake Manyara is a home to over 400 species making it the birders paradise. Here are some of the bird species seen in the park and they include; cormorants, pelicans, Crowned Lapwing, pink-hued flamingos, storks, kingfisher, Weaverbirds, hornbill, Secretary bird, Verreaux’s eagles, African fish eagle, Cuckoo, Little Bee-Eater, Pink flamingo, herons among others. The best time for birding in Lake Manyara national park is during the rainy season when the water level in the park is high thus attraction several birding including the migratory birds, Birds endemic to Albertine rift, water birds and forest birds among others.
Mto WA Mbu Village: This village also attracts tourists on a safari to Lake Manyara national park as most people visit the market area with in this village to encounter with the local community members as they go with their daily life of farming. There is also a market where tourists can shop some souvenirs since it’s located close to Lake Manyara entrance gate.
Top things to do/ Tourist activities in Lake Manyara national park
Lake Manyara national park offers several tourist activities such as game viewing, birding, walking, biking etc.
Game drives in Lake Manyara national park: Game drives are always the most done activities in all savanna national parks in Tanzania and the entire east African region as they open the door to encounter with plenty of wildlife while driving in a 4×4 safari car. Lake Manyara national park offers both Morning game drives, afternoon game drive, Full day game drives and night game drive though most tourists pass by on an afternoon game drive as they proceed to either Serengeti national park or Ngorongoro crater but opting for both game drives offers a lot of encounters with a big sum of wildlife in different parts of the park. Grabbing an early morning game drive that starts at 6:30am, offers a view of the nocturnal mammals and hunters as they return to their hiding places and also a clear view of the grazing mammals such as Hippos, buffaloes, elephants, zebras, gazelles among others. This morning game drive can be continued throughout the afternoons to view mammals as they visit the waterbodies to quench their thirst and even move on till even to make it entirely a full day game drive as you watch the norctumal mammals getting out hideouts and the hunters starting their night hunting such as Leopards, Hyenas, bush babies among others. On the other hand, Night game drives commences from 7:00pm till 11:00pm offering a 4 hours’ drive amidst tight protection of armed rangers and using the sport lights to view the nocturnal wildlife such as Porcupines, Civet, hyenas, serval cats, Nightjars, leopards and many more.
Birding in Lake Manyara: Being a home to 400 species of birds, Lake Manyara is undoubtable a birders haven with several species of birds widely spread along the savanna plains, the forested area including the ground water forest, along the spring and the shores of the lakes. During the birding safari n Lake Manyara national park , be sure to encounter with a large number of Flamingo birds along the shores of the lake since the lake provides enough food for this bird species, you will also view the pelicans, woodpeckers, fly catchers, herons, hornbills, storks, eagles, egrets among others. A birder requires a good pair of binocular and a birding book to fully enjoy this birding adventure. Birding is most favorable during the rainy season.
Walking safaris in Lake Manyara: Since the park is mixed with both savanna woodland and grassland, the best way to explore the forested areas is by taking a walking safari through different trails that takes about few hours to many hours depending on the choice of the tourists. There are 3 basic walking trails in Lake Manyara national park and these trails include the 2-3 hours Msasa trail that runs from Msasa picnic ground and takes tourists through river gorge and proceed to the topmost wall of the Great Rift Valley. There is yet a longer walking trail that takes tourists on a walking safari along the shores of Lake Manyara while viewing a lot of attractions including mammals such as Hippos, elephants, birds such as Flamingos and the entire vegetation cover along the lake shore and finally the Iyambi river trail all leading to various destinations that are explored on foot.
Canoeing in Lake Manyara national park: this fascinating activity is usually enjoyed during the rainy season when there are high water levels in Lake Manyara. During the Canoe ride, keep the eyes open to the shores as you view flamingos, and other aquatic birds without forgetting the mammals that visit the lake especially in the afternoons for water. Some of these mammals include; Elephants, bathing and wallowing Hippos, wildebeests, gazelles, zebras among others.
Biking in Lake Manyara this is yet another way to explore different corners of Lake Manyara national park while on a bike. There are well modified trails to use during biking and they offer stunning view of the park including an encounter with the mammals, birds, a view of the rift valley, and an encounter with the local communities that reside close to the park.
Other activities to enjoy while on a safari to Lake Manyara national park include; camping along the shores of Lake Manyara, and on Bagayo A & B campsites all situated in the heart of lake manyara national park. There is also Picnic lunch that is usually enjoyed by tourists on a game drive or walking safari where they enjoy a relax lunch with an exciting view of the wildlife in the park, filming safaris are also available in Lake Manyara national park and many more that make a safari to Lake Manyara such a memorable one.
There are two different options on how best one can get to Lake Manyara national park that is by road and by air.
By road, upon landing in Arusha, tourists take a road drive towards northern circuit of Tanzania which is situated west of Arusha city approximately 126km which is about 2 hours’ drive. Its strategic location makes it the most stopover by tourists heading to Serengeti national park and Ngorongoro crater all situated with in Tanzania northern circuit. Using a tour operator like “Focus East Africa Tours” is the best option as the safari vehicle picks you up from the Arusha to the park and return you back to Arusha after the safari. However, tourists may also opt to use a bus or a private car to access Lake Manyara national park.
By Air, there are flights from Arusha both Scheduled flights and Charter flights that take tourists to Manyara airstrip and connect to the park.
When is the best time to Visit Lake Manyara national park?
The park can be visited throughout the year but dry months between July to October offer best wild viewing safaris and are known as the peak season when the park receives a large number of tourists thus best time for wildlife viewing safaris while rainy months of November to June when the water levels in the park are high are favorable for bird watching so the best time to visit Lake manyara national park depends on what a tourists wishes to do and see.
Accommodations /Where to stay during Lake Manyara national park safari
Lake Manyara national park thrills with variety of accommodation facilities ranging from hotels, lodges, and camping sites that cater for both categories of tourists let it be luxury tourists, midrange and budget making every tourist’s stay very comfortable. Examples of these accommodations include; Lake Manyara Serena lodge, Lake Manyara Tree lodge, Flamingo Safari lodge, Twiga camp, Lake Manyara Plantation Lodge, Manyara Ranch Conservancy, Eunoto Retreat Manyara, Kiboko Bush camp, Haven Nature Camp and Lodge, Manyara Wildlife Safari Camp, Losirwa Camp, Lake Manyara View Lodge, Acacia farm lodge, Lake Burunge Tented Camp, Kirurumu Tented Lodge, Eco bama camp, Manyara Wildlife Safari Camp, Lemala Manyara Camp, Lake Manyara Hotel, Migunga Tented Camp, Escarpment Luxury Lodge Manyara, Lake Manyara Sopa lodge and many more.
Conclusion: The best way to explore Lake Manyara national park is by taking a Tanzania Northern Circuit that takes you to different parks including Lake Manyara national park, Serengeti national park, Tarangire national park and Ngorongoro crater though it can also be done on an independent safari or even as a stopover to other parks in Tanzania.