Great things sometimes come in small packages. At 329sqkm, this game reserve is small, but you will find it truly beautiful and easy to tour. If you visit at the best time, when water levels are high, Lake Manyara takes up 200sqkm – two thirds of the park! With such an impressive range of flora and fauna, Lake Manyara National Park has been awarded World Biosphere Reserve. Ernest Hemingway was so moved by his experience here that he called Manyara “the loveliest lake in Africa”. Come decide for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.
One of the great things about this park is the mix of habitats in such a compact area. You will experience at least 5 different environments, which means you will be lucky enough to see a unique and diverse collection of species within just one small park. The shallow alkaline lake is adjoined by mud flats and a narrow stretch of grassy floodplains leads you to a band of mixed acacia woodland. Pass through the dense, jungle-like evergreen forest to hot groundwater springs that bubble and steam beneath the rocky escarpment of the Great Rift Valley.
Lake Manyara National Park gives you a perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife and it is seasonal home to over 100 species of birdlife, including colonies of flamingos, pelicans, herons, cormorants and stalks. You’ll see thousands of flamingos – so many that the lake looks pink – and hippo pods bobbing up and down in cool pools. Most of the big game can be found on the shores of the lake or grazing the grassy floodplains – elephants, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, impala and many more, depending on migration patterns and the time of year you visit. You’re guaranteed to see baboons and blue monkeys in the evergreen forest. Try to enter the park as early as possible in the morning if you want to seek out the big cats.
Explore the South of the Park
Most visitors spend just half a day in the busy northern quarter of the park en route to the larger game reserves close-by in northern Tanzania. We don’t want you to miss out on the hidden gems of the south so, if you have time, it is well worth taking a full day to enjoy the more southerly areas of the park which are seldom visited by tourists. You’ll find the Rift Valley escarpment at its most dramatic here, adjoined by the largest area of evergreen forest. The lake shore in the far south is peppered with hot groundwater springs. This wet, wooded landscape is home to troops of olive baboons, blue monkeys and crowned eagles. In the tranquil south of the park, you are more likely to catch sight of the illusive leopards and a pride of lions relaxing in the branches of an Acacia tree – the infamous tree-climbing lions of Lake Manyara.
What Activities Are Available?
Game driving by day is the most popular activity at Lake Manyara National Park, but a night safari can also be arranged. The Lodge inside the Park offers short guided walks. If you choose to stay just outside the Park on the Rift Valley escarpment, there are more activities available, such as mountain biking, hiking and village tours.
Half Day, Full Day or Just a Picnic Lunch?
A half-day safari will take you to the park’s busy northern quarter with only a narrow strip of grassland at the lake’s shores for game-driving. A full day’s game driving in Lake Manyara National Park is an ideal introduction to safaris, since you can explore the hidden gems of the more remote southern quarter. If you are not able to give up a full day, Manyara is still an idyllic place to stop, even if just for a special picnic lunch overlooking the flamingo-lined lake by the Hippo Pool, listening to the cacophony of birdlife and monkeys.
Accommodation is limited within the actual park itself, the only place to stay being a very beautiful lodge in a quiet area of the Park. This is one of the most luxurious lodges on the northern circuit, if you fancy treating yourself and benefiting from being first on safari in the morning. Outside the park, on the way to Ngorongoro, you will find mid-range tented camps, lodges and hotels in elevated positions overlooking Manyara National Park. Some have truly magnificent views, swimming pools and a warm, friendly atmosphere. First choice would of course be to stay within the Park itself for one or two nights in the Lodge. If finances won’t allow, we recommend staying in more economical accommodation just outside the park gate for two nights. This means you could enter the park early in the morning to make the most of a full day’s safari.
Best Time to Visit
Best game viewing is December to February and May to August. July and August are ideal as the lake should be full to the brim and migration patterns mean the game is at its peak. Afternoons tend to be busy.
How to Get There
Lake Manyara National Park is in Northern Tanzania, a 90 minute drive from Arusha along a reasonably good road and just one hour from the Ngorongoro Crater. The main entrance is the northern gate; the southern gate has restricted access.