Situated within the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania stretches 50 km along the Rift Valley Escarpment. Lake Manyara, a shallow alkaline lake that provides refuge for greater and lesser flamingos, covers approximately two thirds of the park’s 330 square kilometers. The backdrop provided by the escarpment and flamingo pink on the lake’s edge make for a stunning landscape.
When driving away from Kilimanjaro International Airport or in the town of Arusha, you can’t help but notice national park billboards lining the streets. Lake Manyara’s billboard features tree climbing lions. Yes, it’s true that tree climbing lions can be found in the park’s acacia trees, but Lake Manyara is not the exclusive domain for arboreal felines. Our guide this past trip stated that he’s seen them more often in Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks than at Lake Manyara. However, if you have your heart set on seeing lions in trees, plan on staying two to three nights at the park. With that amount of time and multiple game drives, your chances top out at approximately 50%.
Year-round ground water allows the plants in Lake Manyara’s riverine forest to stay green with foliage throughout the year. Huge troops of baboons are common sights in this habitat along with resident elephant herds. If you look closely, you may notice that the elephants here are smaller than in other parks in Tanzania’s Northern Circuit. Smaller stature makes it easier to move through dense foliage. Grazers like buffalo, wildebeest and zebra congregate on the plains in large numbers, while hyraxes and klipspringers frequent rocky outcrops of the escarpment. If you’re a fan of feathered fauna, Lake Manyara is sure to please. More than 400 species have been identified in the park and a single day’s checklist often exceeds 100 species.
When to go: year-round since each season provides unique opportunities. The wet season spans November through June and the dry season from July to October.