Lake Manyara is a shallow lake in the northern safari circuit, which nestles against the magnificent and towering Rift Valley Escarpment. Ernest Hemingway described it as the “loveliest lake in Africa.” Home to a diverse set of landscapes and wildlife, guarded by the Great Escarpment dotted with giant Baobab trees reaching for the sky. Its location makes it the perfect start or ending to any exhilarating safari.
The name Manyara comes from the Maasai word for a lakeshore region and its alkaline waters cover approximately 89 square miles (231 km2). The lake’s depth fluctuates widely within the seasons, and during dry spells the water recedes exposing large areas of muddy, alkaline flats.
Lake Manyara and its surroundings are home to a huge number of herbivores, including large numbers of hippo that snooze and wallow in the shallows. On the open flat-lands stroll majestic giraffe and groups of African buffalo; whilst numerous species of plains-game including impala (and many other antelopes), as well as elephants, wildebeests, and warthogs frequent the grassy and forested zones stretching out from the lake’s fringe into its flood plains.
Below the Great Escarpment wall giant fig and mahogany trees can be seen in the groundwater forest immediately around the park gates. It draws nourishment from the underground springs replenished continuously from the crater highlands directly above the Manyara basin. To the south are visible acacia woodlands, which are famously known as favourites with the park’s tree climbing lions. Shy, elusive leopards although in abundance are harder to find.
It is a magical place for ornithologists with over 300 migratory birds, including flamingo, long-crested eagle and grey-headed kingfisher.
With an entrance gate that doubles as an exit, the trail of Lake Manyara National Park is effectively a loop that can be traversed by four-wheel drive vehicles.
To the east of Lake Manyara lies the ‘Kwakuchinja wildlife corridor’ that allows wildlife to migrate between surrounding scattered areas and other parks, including Tarangire National Park to the southeast, the Rift Valley, Ngorongoro Highlands and the Serengeti National Park to the north.
Further from the lake lies the 44000 acre Manyara Ranch, of which 35000 acres form the Manyara Ranch Conservancy. This is a pioneering conservation and tourism project supported by the African Wildlife Foundation, the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust and the Manyara Ranch Conservancy. Whilst not a park, the conservancy is frequented by resident and migrating wildlife including elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and most plains game. Rarely seen in the parks but a common resident on the conservancy is the shy, lesser kudu.