Lake Manyara National Park
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 well worth a stop in its own right. Its ground water forests, bush plains, baobob 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 bird life that thrives on its brackish waters. Pink flamingo stoop and graze by the thousands, 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’s famous tree-climbing lions are another reason to pay this park a visit. The only kind of their species in the world, they make the ancient mahogany and elegant acacias their home during the rainy season, and are a well-known but rather rare feature of the northern park. In addition to the lions, the national park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons anywhere in the world — a fact that makes for interesting game viewing of large families of the primates..Lake Manyara
Lake Manyara is a shallow, alkaline lake which attracts masses of pink flamingoes. A narrow strip of forest runs between the lake and the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley wall which forms the border to the national park. Within this forest there is permanent fresh spring water trickling from the rift wall and this supports a great deal of wildlife. The park is well known for its herds of elephants, and for its unusual tree-climbing lions. This was the location for the comprehensive research and subsequent book “Among the Elephants” by Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton. The park is also home to hippos, baboons, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, and is particularly good for bird watching, with over 380 species having been recorded. Take a jeep safari here, or perhaps try a canoe trip on the lake for a different perspective.
There are dramatic views from the escarpment across this park, and a good place to stay for such a view is Kirurumu Tented Lodge (see page 6), which also offers fascinating ethno-botanical walks, and horse riding – from one hour to a few days, as the eye can see. You then descend into the acacia-covered steppe before visiting the famous Olduvai Gorge, known as the ‘cradle of mankind’, where the Leakeys unearthed the secrets of man’s early evolutionary heritage.
Another alternative is to head north in the company of the Maasai, to climb Oldoinyo Lengai, ‘the Mountain of God’, which is sacred to the Maasai, and look down on Lake Natron glistening in the sun far below. Similar views can be had in the south of the region where Lake Eyasi lies, home to the Hadzabe people.Flora & Fauna of Lake Manyara
Covering about 330km², of which typically two-thirds is underwater, Lake Manyara National Park is a small park by African standards. However, it’s also very beautiful and contains tremendous diversity of habitats, animals and especially birds.Animals
Lake Manyara’s game includes good numbers of elephant, buffalo and wildebeest along with plenty of giraffe. Also prolific in number are zebra, waterbuck, warthog and impala. You may need to search a little harder for the small and relatively shy Kirk’s dik-dik, and klipspringer on the slopes of the escarpment. The broken forests and escarpment make it good country for leopard, whilst Manyara’s healthy lion population are famous for their tree-climbing antics. (Whilst unusual, this isn’t as unique to the park as is often claimed.) Immediately obvious to most visitors are the huge troops of baboons – which often number several hundred and are widely regarded as Africa’s largest.Birds
As with the habitats, the birdlife here is exceptionally varied. In the middle of the lake you’ll often see flocks of pelicans and the pink-shading of distant flamingos, whilst the margins and floodplains feed innumerable herons, egrets, stilts, stalks, spoonbills and other waders. With so much water around, the woodlands are equally productive, but it’s the evergreen forests where you’ll spot some more entertaining species such as the noisy silvery-cheeked hornbills, crowned eagles and crested guinea fowl.Vegetation
Set beneath the spectacular backdrop of the Great Rift Valley’s steep western escarpment, this long, narrow park protects an area between the escarpment and Lake Manyara. The parks namesake is a shallow, alkaline lake which expands and contracts with the seasons within a long, silvery bowl of salt deposits. Adjacent to it are wide, grassy floodplains and, further away, bands of mixed acacia woodlands. Further still, next to the escarpment, are patches of enchanting evergreen forests, which are sustained by perennial groundwater springs issuing from the base of the escarpment.