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A troop of baboons on the road in Lake Manyara.
  Lake Manyara NP
Size: 325 km2/125 sq mi (of which 220 km2/85 sq mi is lake or, seasonally, dry lakebed.
Best time to visit: Good all year round. The southern parts may be inaccessible due to flooded roads during the rainy season in April and May.
Wildlife & attractions: Tree-climbing lions, many elephants, birds. Beautiful groundwater forest.
Getting there: A two-hour drive on fairly good to good tarmac road from Arusha.
An airstrip, served by daily sheduled flights, is situated on top of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, a 20-minute drive from the national park. As the road connection with Arusha is good, this airstrip is mainly for flights westwards, for example to Serengeti. It is also a backup for the Ngorongoro Crater rim airstrip, which is sometimes closed because of fog or low clouds.
Lake Manyara map
Lake Manyara map.
Tanzania map
Tanzania map.
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Lake Manyara National Park
By Tanapa.
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Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is situated in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania, immediately below the rift escarpment on the western side of the valley. It's more forested than most other rift valley parks in East Africa, thanks to an ample supply of water from a number of creeks flowing down the escarpment.

The northern part of the park also has a high groundwater table, allowing for a high and dense forest resembling a rain forest, home to many baboons, blue monkeys, elephants and birds such as the silvery-cheeked hornbill and the crowned eagle, hunting for monkeys among the trees. Leopards are seen occasionally, but are hard to find due to the dense vegetation.

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Lake Manyara may also be the best place along your safari route to see the shy bushbuck, which sometimes is spotted when dashing across the road. Some of the most notable tree species are the many wild mango trees, the majestic sycomore figs and the very high antiaris.

The northern part of the park is covered in groundwater forest.

The acacia woodland further south is also home to many elephants, as well as to African buffalos, giraffes, lions and impalas, and zebras and wildebeest may be seen seasonally in the open grassland between the forest and the lake.

The name of the lake, Manyara, comes from the Maasai word for finger euphorbia (Euphorbia tirucalli), a shrub found throughout the area, and used by the Maasai for hedging.

Flamingos in the soda lake
Lake Manyara is a soda lake, i.e. has a high content of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate. The water is therefore not drinkable, but the algae and crustaceans living in such water is eaten by flamingos, which can be seen in numbers on the lake. Generally, more flamingos are seen (and are seen closer to the lakeshore) when the water level is high, i.e. during and after rainy seasons.

The freshwater inlets into the lake are favoured by birds of many kinds, including pelicans, cormorants, herons and storks. Hippos can be seen in the northern part of the park, where the Mto wa Mbu River flows into the lake.

Tree-climbing lions
The lions of Lake Manyara are known for their habit to climb and rest in trees, as if they were leopards. Lions in trees are hard to spot, though, due to the vegetation, and you're more likely to see them on the ground. Dry riverbeds and the shrubs close to the grasslands are often favoured by the lions.

Lion in a tree.

Some bird species found in the park...
... are marabou stork, African spoonbill, long-crested eagle, crowned eagle, African fish eagle, white-backed vulture, hooded vulture, pygmy kingfisher, giant kingfisher, white-headed shrike, long-tailed fiscal shrike, bearded woodpecker, African paradise flycatcher, grey heron, little egret, black heron, flamingo, white pelican, little bee-eater, gull-billed tern, red-winged lark, emerald-spotted wood-dove, African drongo, silvery-cheeked hornbill, crowned hornbill, yellow-billed oxpecker, lilac-breasted roller, red and yellow barbet, crested guineafowl and paradise whydah.

Picnic sites
The Msasa picnic site, just north of the Msasa River, has a beautiful view of the lake and some nice birding. Another picnic site is located close to the lake shore further south. It's a nice place to stop when the water level in the lake is high, attracting vast numbers of flamingos. Both picnic sites have well-kept bathrooms.

Good road from Arusha
The road to Lake Manyara from Arusha is fairly good to good tarmac all the way, and the bush roads for game drives within the park are not very bumpy. This makes the park the best choice in northern Tanzania for visitors who want to avoid poor roads.

Close to 400 bird species have been recorded in the park, and it has the highest density of elephants in the country; 7 per km2/17 per sq mi. It's quite a small park though, and it has a limited number of roads for game driving. For most safari-goers, a half-day visit is enough to see the northern and most beautiful half. The southern half has shrubby vegetation favoured by tsetse flies, so if you don't have a special interest in seeing all of the park, you may want to avoid the south. During seasons of much rain, the southern areas may be difficult to reach, as the roads going there may be flooded.

Male impalas. Lake Manyara covered in flamingos in the background.

Lodges, camps and hotels
There is one lodge within the park, and a number of lodges and tented camps outside it. There are camping sites and bandas just outside the park's main entrance.

Kirurumu Tented Lodge.Kirurumu Tented Lodge is built above the rift escarpment north-west of the national park, offering views of Lake Manyara, the Great Rift Valley and Losiminguri Mountain. There are 22 tents, of which 16 are spacious safari tents, and 6 are family rooms and suite. There is a restaurant and a bar.

More about Kirurumu Tented Lodge

Web site:

Lake Manyara Hotel.Lake Manyara Hotel is a tourist class hotel/lodge built above the rift escarpment west of the national park. It has very good views of the lake and the park. There are 95 rooms, restaurant, bar and a garden swimming pool.

More about Lake Manyara Hotel

Web site:

Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge.Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge is a good lodge built above the rift escarpment north-west of the national park and has good views of Lake Manyara, the Great Rift Valley and Losiminguri Mountain. The lodge has 67 rooms, restaurant and swimming pool.

More about Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge

Web site:

Migunga Tented Camp.Migunga Tented Camp is a tourist class tented camp some km/mi north-east of the park. The 19 tents have verandas and private bathrooms. There is a restaurant and a bar. The forest surrounding the camp, mainly consisting of yellow-barked acacias, has some interesting bird life. 

Web site:

Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is a fairly new and exclusive lodge in the southern part of the park (where it replaces the former tented camp Maji Moto). There are ten rooms, or tree houses, built in mahogany trees.

Web site:

E Unoto Retreat is a lodge designed to resemble a Maasai village, situated in the plains below the Great Rift Valley escarpment. There are 25 bungalows with ensuite bathrooms. Four of the bungalows have wheelchair access. The lodge has an open-air restaurant, a bar and a swimming pool.

Web site:

Wild Africa Manyara Lodge is a tourist class lodge set on the lower slopes of the Great Rift Valley Escarpment and has wide views over the rift valley plains. There are ten rooms with private balconies, restaurant and bar with seating indoors and outdoors, and a swimming pool in a lodge garden.

Web site:

Kibiko Bushcamp is a budget tented camp in the Great Rift Valley, not very far from Lake Manyara National Park. It offers accommodation in basic safari tents with ensuite bathrooms, meals, and various outings in the area.

Manyara Safari Lodge (under construction) is a luxury tented lodge presently being built on the shore of Lake Manyara, outside the national park. It will initially have 10 tents, and more will be added gradually. Good standard and comfort can be expected.

Web site:

Maji Moto Tented Camp has closed.

Early dawn over Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley.
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Page updated 27 April 2013