Lake Manyara National Park may be one of Tanzania’s smaller wildlife reserves, but it is beautifully scenic and incredibly diverse. It is a small reserve (330 sq km) in northern Tanzania, with nearly two-thirds of its area covered by the lake. Despite this, the park can claim a higher diversity of plant and animal species than the much larger Serengeti National Park, including an impressive number of large animals.
The park was originally established to protect the legendary elephant herds that have made Manyara part of their home range. A Lake Manyara safari is a fascinating experience, as the park features a wealth of diverse habitats, from ground-water forests, acacia woodland, the tranquil soda lake, hot springs (called Maji Moto), to the steep mountain escarpment forming part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Where it enters Lake Manyara, the valley is at its most impressive, with the escarpment dropping some 500m down to the flamingo-rimmed shores of Lake Manyara.
Renowned for its prolific elephants and tree-climbing lions, Lake Manyara is also well-known for its flamingos and other bird life in and around the soda lake. Due to the vastness of the lake, Lake Manyara is a birding hot-spot (nearly 400 species recorded), particularly for waterfowl and migrant species. The forests provide an interesting and unusual habitat for lion sightings, where the lions are renowned for climbing and lounging in the trees, as well as for hunting along the shores of the lake.
The park was once a favorite amoung big game hunters; however, today Lake Manyara’s wildlife is protected and nearly all the mammals known to have occurred here historically are still present. This includes large herds of buffalo, the endangered African wild dog (or painted dog), cheetah, Masai giraffe and impala. Other mammals at Manyara include Olive baboons in troops numbering several hundred animals, Syke’s monkey, short-eared galago (bush baby), Cape clawless otter, Egyptian mongoose, hippo and klipspringer.