Located beneath the cliffs of the Manyara Escarpment, on the edge of the Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park offers varied ecosystems, incredible bird life, and breathtaking views. Located on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, Lake Manyara National Park is worth a stop in its own right. It’s ground water forests, bush plains, baobab strewn cliffs, and algae-streaked hot springs offer incredible ecological variety in a small area, rich in wildlife and incredible numbers of birds.
The alkaline soda of Lake Manyara is home to an incredible array of birdlife that thrives on its brackish waters. Pink flamingo stoops and grazes by the thousands of colourful specks against the grey minerals of the lake shore. Yellow-billed storks swoop and corkscrew on thermal winds rising up from the escarpment, and herons flap their wings against the sun-drenched sky. Even reluctant bird-watchers will find something to watch and marvel at within the national park.
Lake Manyara Treetop Walkway: Enjoy a guided bird’s-eye view of Manyara on Tanzania’s first treetop walkway (370m). It begins at ground level and climbs gently into the canopy, reaching a maximum height of 18m above the forest floor. Given the importance of the trees in Lake Manyara (and the lions that famously climb them), there’s a certain magic in climbing up into the canopy.
Wildlife: The forest patch at the entrance of the park is home to habituated troops of olive baboon and blue monkey. The occasional bushbuck can also be spotted here, darting off in the undergrowth. Pairs of klipspringer are sometimes seen balancing on the rocks at the far south of the park.
The park has a good supply of wildlife and is known for its legendary tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephant. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on the grassy plains. The hippo pool is a good place to see these creatures up close. The lake is a seasonal home to large flocks of flamingos, and a wide array of waterbirds can be found on the shore at all times.
Getting there: The park is part of the popular northern safari circuit. Most safaris to this circuit (Manyara NP in particular) start from the town of Arusha. The best option to get there is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha. It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam and fly on to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) using a domestic flight.
There is also the option to book a cheap flight to Nairobi in Kenya, and take a shuttle bus to Arusha. In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up at the airport in Tanzania.
Where to stay: Lemala Manyara Camp is a small, isolated site deep in the southwestern wilderness, with twelve guest tents and a communal mess tent. Wildlife roams within feet of your bedded tent. Bush cooking is done over a charcoal burner. Bush television (watching the flame pictures in a traditional campfire) and good conversation are the means of outback entertainment.