Lake Manyara National Park, which encompasses an area of 330 sq km, of which 230sq km is the Lake, was proclaimed a Game Reserve in 1957 and registered three years later as a national park. The park is situated between the 600 m high escarpment of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Manyara and is 130 km from Arusha.
Thus, it can be visited on a day excursion from this centre. At the southern end of the park are hot Sulphur Springs known as Majimoto. Further along the forest the area opens up into woodlands, grassland, swamps and beyond, the soda lake itself.
Nestling at the base of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, the park is recognized for its incredible beauty. Wildlife at Lake Manyara is not restricted to birdlife only. Many game animals such as Buffalo, Elephants, Giraffes, Impala, Bushbuck, Hippos and a great variety of smaller animals also inhabit the park. Lake Manyara is also renowned for its tree-climbing lions which spend most of the day spread out along the branches of acacia trees six to seven meters above the ground.
The park contains the most pachyderms per km sq. in Tanzania. As visitors enter the gate, they pass through lush forest, home to troops of baboons and blue monkeys. Buffalo and Hippo lurch in the adjacent Hippo Pool. The vegetation eventually merges into flat- topped acacia woodland where, in the heat of the day entire prides of lions can be seen stretched on the branches of these trees – a habit prevalent to Manyara lions. Along with these amazing tree-climbing lions, there are the usual browsers and grazers as well as the curious-looking Banded-Mongooses, Meerkats’ relatives. Two thirds of the park is dominated by the slightly alkaline lake which is home to a huge variety of water- birds.
More than 400 species of birds including Flamingos, Pelicans, Red-billed Quelea, Storks, Sacred ibises, Cormorants, and Egyptian Geese can be sighted in this area. Other species of birds include the African Spoonbills, White-faced-Whistling Duck, Ospreys, Palm nut-Vulture, et cetera.
Lake Manyara National Park is 130 km west of Arusha and the drive takes about two and a half hours. The entrance to the park is off to the left of the Great North Road at Makuyuni. From here there is a track that goes past the lake and through the village of Mto wa Mbu to the park entrance.
Mto wa Mbu, in English, “Mosquito Creek” is a small busy market town selling fruits and vegetables produced by the fruitful adjacent farms. The little settlement has become a temporary stopover for tourists and campers.
When to visit
The dry season of July to October is the best time to visit, to spot large mammals, whilst the wet season of November to June is the best time for bird-watching.