When you think of an African escapade, you are almost spoilt for choices – so many spectacular national parks that take you into the arms of nature and provide you with the most unforgettable of memories. A Safari in Tanzania is a lot similar to most others when you look at the terrain, wildlife as well as the general itineraries. However, safaris in Tanzania can also be very different from many others – from calderas to vanishing lakes, there are certain safaris in Tanzania that will leave a very different yet refreshing flavour on the palette of the African explorer.
One such interesting and a relatively forgotten national park is the Lake Manyara National Park. That’s why, if you’re looking at a place where you can find the classic safari with a hint of a never-seen-before safari, Tanzania might be the exact place where all your desires might fruit into reality!
Where is Lake Manyara National Park Located?
Lake Manyara National Park is a small national park that is located between the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Tarangire National Park. A two-hour drive approximately 120 kilometers to the south-west from Arusha will bring you to Lake Manyara National Park. It is nowhere close to the size of its adjacent heavyweights, but still boasts an impressive array of ecosystems as well as animals. The western edge of the national park is lined by the Gregory Rift while the eastern edge is occupied by the Lake Manyara – an alkaline lake that often vanishes during the dry season. A total of 330 square kilometers of arid land covers the national park while Lake Manyara itself can cover up to 200 square kilometers during the wet season. Only a third of the area is land when the lake is filled to the brim.
What Is It Famous For?
While the area of the national park might not be able to match the other safaris in Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park is home to a greater diversity of plants and animals than even the mammoth Serengeti. Yes, this little park has everything a safari in Tanzania has to offer. From flamingos flocking to the lake shore during the wet season to vast herds of wild elephant, this national park is oozing with diversity. Movie buffs might also know it from the Taran movie which was shot here a long time ago. There’s a lot more that Lake Manyara has to offer, read along to know more!
Lake Manyara National Park is unique because of the myriad ecosystems that are present within the national park. These range from the basic arid lands to the soda lake, from the dense woodlands to the groundwater forests. All-in-all, there are 11 ecosystems that can be found within this small national park – one of those places that have it all in the same place.
What this diversity in relief and habitat does is attract a host of animals that range from 400 species of birds including thousands of flamingos in the wet season to buffalo, cheetah and giraffe. It is quite an achievement to rank above the Serengeti in terms of diversity regardless of the small size of the national park. If this was not enough, there are other natural features like the Maji Moto hot springs that are also part of the national park!
One of the most peculiar yet spectacular sightings that sets Lake Manyara apart from any other national park is that of its tree-climbing lions. Yes, those words usually don’t go together, but this national park is one-of-a-kind and what you observe here might not be matched by the most famed of safaris in Tanzania. Only Lake Manyara National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park have been known to have these tree-climbing lions.
While spotting these lions has become more challenging than it used to be, the reason behind this peculiar behaviour is speculated among research groups. Many believe lions engage in such behavior in order to avoid the annoying and highly irritating Tsetse flies while others believe tree-climbing helps the lions escape the dry and warm draft of air that runs along the floor of the arid lands.
Others also believe it is an act that allows them to gain a vantage point for spotting potential meals. They often pick trees that are short and stout with a network of thick branches that are not too high up – easy to jump up and down of. These trees are often found along the groundwater-rich areas within the national park or along the shorelines of Lake Manyara.
Lake Manyara is not a very big national park. Most of the national park is covered along a singular spinal roadway – something that it rare amidst national parks that extend and sprawl over thousands of kilometres. However, this does not limit what the national park has to offer for the tourist. If tree climbing lions are not enough to bring you here, maybe the vast diversity of wildlife will.
One of the most majestic sights is that of watching a herd of wild elephant interact with one another. They are extremely protective of their young ones, so don’t try getting too close to them when they are with their families. Apart from this, you will find a lot of giraffe, hippopotamus, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. Occasional sightings of cheetah and leopard are common, while there are always Hyena lurking in the shadows.
Habituated olive baboons are also pretty common here with some also suggesting that they are the most abundant in this national park as against any other in East Africa. Blue monkeys, bushbucks and klipspringers are also seen around the southern edge of the park. Tourists generally prefer coming during the wet season which is from November to May, but animal sightings are much easier when the grasses are thinner while they also often congregate around watering holes during the dry season. This national park is also ideal for those who are looking to explore the birds of Tanzania through safaris. Over 400 species of birds can be found here during the wet season when Lake Manyara is overflowing.
The national park also boasts of some luxurious lodges that are around the area – farm lodges to tree lodges, you can get the most idealistic treatment in the middle of nowhere. The staff is extremely courteous while the sights and views are relentless. You will never get enough of these and they will certainly make you want to come back for another safari in Tanzania. The best time to visit would be June to September when it is relatively easier to spot animals while the height of the tourist population is between July and March. People often fit this little national park in while making their way to the other famous safaris in Tanzania, but if you were to go by the word of the experienced travellers, this is not a park to be taken lightly. Unpack, unwind and get into your primal zone to experience the raw and thrilling Lake Manyara National Park.