Lake Manyara National Park

conveniently located between Arusha and the Ngorongoro Crater, the park, which is small in terms of area, is best remembered for its scenery. Picturesquely, Lake Manyara literally lies at the foot of the imposing East African Rift Valley. Elephants in particular feel particularly comfortable in the evergreen groundwater forest.


Easy to reach

About 2.5-3 hours northwest of Arusha, the national park is just off the highway. After Tarangire, it is the second park that you pass on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. Because worthwhile safaris are possible with relatively little travel effort, it is a popular place to visit.

The quick access to the park is also its greatest weakness: In certain months, especially in the northern sector, there is no trace of wilderness or peaceful nature experiences. Instead, there are many vehicles and noisy, insensitive tourists.

Small but nice

The park is located on the western shore of Lake Manyara at about 1000m above sea level, below the fault step of the magnificent East African Rift Valley. The slopes are mostly in very good condition. A visit is worthwhile, as the varied landscape, the rift valley towering on the right and the diverse animal world provide variety.

Interesting sceneries

Just 30 minutes before the gate, you can already guess the scenic beauty that awaits visitors: in the distance, you can see the looming East African Rift Valley, Lake Manyara glitters and in front of it, lush green carpets cover the ground. Even before the highway winds up the rift valley, you turn left into Manyara Park.

The entire park lies below the fault level; Visitors always have the rift valley in view. First, you drive through a dense groundwater forest, which is permanently nourished by subterranean water all year round. The vegetation is correspondingly thick and lush, including mahogany trees, euphorbia, sycamore trees, and fever acacias. The vegetation thins out behind the groundwater forest. On the left, the lake opens up with the alkaline grassland and the soda-containing, i.e. alkaline Lake Manyara.

Further south the thicket thins out because that is where the sometimes very dry tree and shrub savannah with umbrella acacias, sausage trees, baobab trees, and similar plants, which is more typical of East Africa, begins.

The namesake: Lake Manyara

Unaware that it is Lake Manyara, many television viewers and moviegoers have already made acquaintance with the lake. The movie scene from Out of Africa, in which Robert Redford flies through a flock of flamingos with Meryl Streep, was filmed here.

The slightly alkaline lake takes up two-thirds of the entire park area, although its size varies depending on the season. During the dry season, between June and September, it is almost completely dry and animals can wade through it with ease. A completely different picture emerges during the rainy season in March or April: During this time, the water level rises sharply. The streams can become torrential watercourses that are sometimes no longer passable.

In some months large herds of elephants

The groundwater forest offers a real feast for the elephants. Lake Manyara National Park is therefore considered an elephant hotspot, especially from December to May, because huge herds flee from the black cotton soil of Tarangire National Park, which has been soaked by the rain.

The rangers are good at controlling elephant poaching in the park , as there are practically no escape routes for the poachers. On the one hand, the East African Rift Valley and on the other hand Lake Manyara hinder the poachers.

What worries the elephants more than poaching is the population pressure in the neighboring village of Mto wa Mbu. Where a few years ago there were not more than a few houses, the settlements in the west now extend to the park boundary, the lake shore. Elephants feel threatened by this and look for other areas.

Known for tree lions, but…

The park is known for its tree lions. Their atypical behavior of lurking on branches has different reasons.

On the one hand, the elevated position offers protection, e.g. B. in the rainy season from annoying insects in the grass or aggressive buffalo. Large herds of buffalo existed in Manyara Park until the 1970s. Female lions in particular go into the trees, for example when the offspring are too colorful.

In recent years, tree lion sightings have generally declined. But especially in wet months, there is a good chance of seeing lions resting on branches.

In fact, tree lions can be seen in other areas as well, not just Manyara National Park. The atypical behavior is less a regional and more a seasonal feature.

Birds, baboons, antelope, and more

Around 400 bird species have been counted, including Lesser Flamingos, waders, little egrets and egrets, pelicans, ibises, African spoonbills, storks (African gluttons), cormorants, Egyptian geese, and the conspicuous hornbills or the rare guinea fowl.

A particularly large number of birds of prey can be observed, including sparrow vultures, palm vultures, various eagles such as caper eagles, crowned eagles or martial eagles, as well as Egyptian vultures or peregrine falcons.

During and shortly after the rainy season, when the lake has a lot of water, it is a meeting place for large flocks of flamingos, which do not breed here (they do at Lake Natron).

Large families of olive baboons live in the northern sector and have become so used to people that they get into cars or steal packed lunches. The lively, brownish-green olive baboons are fun to behold as they frolic and tease each other. It’s fun to watch them play!

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