Lake Manyara National Park | Tanzania | Wild Safari Guide

    Lake Manyara National Park is a protected area in Tanzania‘s Arusha and Manyara Regions. Situated between Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley, in 1960 it was given National Park status and in 1974 about 550 hectares were added to the southern end. The park now has a total area of 648.7 km2 of which 262.7 km2  is covered by lake and 386 km2 (240 sq miles) is land. It is part of the much larger Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve, established in 1981 by UNESCO as part of its Man and the Biosphere Programme

    The park derived its name from a plant called Euphorbia tirucalli which is known as ‘Emanyara’ in the local Maasai language. It is a common occurrence in the park and the local Maasai would typically use it to ‘fence’ off their dwellings.

    Lake Manyara National Park is one of the most scenic parks in Tanzania and offers year-round game viewing and attractions. Patches of yellow fever trees are dotted around the grassy lake shores and the rift valley wall is a prominent feature throughout. The entrance of the park is in a very special environment: a groundwater forest offering a beautiful change of scenery from the savannah dominated parks.

    These forests are home to a few different primates and the combination of it and the lake, attract over 400 species of birds to the area.

    The park gained some additional fame with the filming of its unique tree-climbing lions though they are typically rather elusive. What is in large abundance are great herds of elephant known for their particularly impressive tusks and the birdlife that congregate on and around the lake itself.

    Lake Manyara is a shallow alkaline lake at an altitude of 960 m formed in a depression in the Rift Valley System. When full, the lake is just 3 metres deep and covers two-thirds of the park. The lake has no outflow but is fed by underground springs and by several permanent streams that drain surrounding Ngorongoro Highlands. The lake’s depth and the area it covers fluctuates significantly. In extreme dry periods, the surface area of the lake shrinks as the waters evaporate and at times the lake has dried up completely.

    Other features include a hippopotamus pool at the northern end of the lake and two hot springs, one near the centre of the park and the other near the southern edge. There is a hot water spring on the western shores of Lake Manyara called Maji Moto hot water springs. This 60 °C geothermal feature is formed by underground water that passes through hot volcanic magma rocks of the great rift valley.

    The park is part of the popular northern safari circuit. Arusha is the gateway town and the best way 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).


    Q Getting there

    The park is part of the popular northern safari circuit. Arusha is the gateway town and the best way 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).
    There are flights from Arusha and the Serengeti to Manyara's airstrip, but the trip from Arusha on the tarred road only takes 1½ hours by car.
    Coming from the Ngorongoro Crater, the driving time is about two hours to cover the 80km/50mi.

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    Lake Manyara is probably best known for its legendary tree-climbing lions but they are just the cherry-on-top. Scores of the wildlife thrive around this beautiful lake and it is also home to a large population of impressively tusked elephants. Immense herds of buffalo can be found, as well as wildebeest and zebra and many other plains game.

    The groundwater forest, aside from providing a beautiful change in scenery, is home to troops of olive baboon and blue monkeys. Predators in the park other than the tree-climbing lion are leopard, African wild cat, spotted hyena and black-backed jackal. The smaller bat-eared fox, serval, honey badger and African civet can also be found. Cheetah and African golden cat are sighted but very rarely.

    The lake itself obviously attracts scores of water-loving animals and birds alike. The lake is seasonal home to large flocks of flamingos, and a wide array of waterbirds can be found on the shore all year. Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania's birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded and you can reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in one day.

    The lake is also home to the endangered fish Oreochromis amphimelas, a type of tilapia. It is endemic to Tanzania.

    Although wildlife viewing is good practically all year, the best time would be the dry season. From June to October, wildlife is easier to spot because of thinner vegetation and animals gathering around the water sources. The wet season, from November to May, offers the most beautiful scenery with refreshed waterfalls but roads can become difficult to negotiate.

    In general, it is well worth a visit anytime of the year, making it a very busy stop. Most people visit the park in the afternoon, so an early morning visit is highly recommended. Two nights spent in the park would be ideal.

    For birding, although it is good throughout the year, the best time is from November to April. Then, the avid birder can spot the migratory birds from Europe and northern Africa. This is also the time many birds can be seen in their breeding plumage

    You need to protect against malaria when visiting Lake Manyara. Mosquito repellent is a must and it's also wise to cover exposed skin in the evening. Several vaccinations are recommended – consult with your doctor or travel clinic before traveling.

    Having advantage of habitat diversity, Lake Manyara National Park offers a range of exciting activities. These include day game drives, walks, canoeing, canopy tours, birding, filming, and a chance to experience a rare night drive!

    Here is some further info on the different activities:

    Day Game drive: This activity is conducted from 06:30 – 18:30 hrs

    Night game drive is carried out from 20:00 – 23:00 hrs and there is an additional fee. Four-wheel (4x4) drive vehicles are recommended. Booking is recommended for the arrangement of armed park rangers. Below are the specific areas that night game drives can be done:

    • Northern zone - Groundwater forest, Hippo pool, Flood plain, Msasa and Endalla areas.
    • Central zone – Endabasha forest, Cetral Lakeshore, Majimoto ndogo and Bagayo areas
    • Southern zone - Sothern lake shore, Iyambi, Array river confluence and Majimoto kubwa areas.

    For walking safaris, there are set trails and ones catered for the different travellers. Booking is necessary which help the management to prepare armed ranger

    • Msasa walking trail: Start from Msasa picnic site crossing through the river gorge (2-3hrs) up to the top of the of the rift valley wall.
    • Lake shore walking trail: Long walk that takes 4 to 6 hrs

    Canoeing is offered at Lake Manyara when water levels are suitable. The activity is only carried out during the day, between 0700hrs and 1700hrs.

    Due the size of the park and that almost 50% of it is dominated by the lake, only a few permanent facilities are inside the park.

    Special campsites: there are three namely; Bagayo A and B and Lakeshore. All are located in the middle of the Park. Pre booking is mandatory and campers must bring with them all camping gears and food.

    Other public campsites are Endabash and Camp number one. Campsite number one is located 100m from park main gate and Endabash campsite is located in the middle of the park at edge of Endabash River, 37km from park main gate. The later can also be accessed from Iyambi gate (south). Facilities like Flush toilets, Bathrooms and water for cooking are available.

    There are also seasonal campsites, Bandas (rustic dwellings) and one luxury private lodge.

    Outside the park there are tourist Hotels, Lodges, campsites and guest houses at nearby villages of Mto wa Mbu, kigongoni and Kibaoni

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