LAKE MANYARA NATIONLA PARK
A popular first port of call on any northern Tanzanian safari, Lake Manyara National Park is named after its dominant geographic feature, a shallow, alkaline lake set at the base of the tall wooded cliffs of the western Rift Valley Escarpment. This scenic sanctuary protects the lake’s northwestern shore, along with a diversity of terrestrial habitats that seems truly remarkable considering that water comprised up to 2/3 rd of the park’s surface area of 330km² (prior to the recent incorporation of the largely inaccessible 250km² Marang Forest Reserve).
Lake Manyara National Park is one of Tanzania’s smaller and most underrated parks. While it may lack the size and variety of other northern-circuit destinations (there's pretty much one main north–south route through the park), its vegetation is diverse, ranging from savannah to marsh to evergreen forest (11 ecosystems in all) and it supports one of the highest biomass densities of large mammals in the world. The chance to see elephant families moving through the forest or Lake Manyara's famous population of tree-climbing lions (although sighting them is becoming increasingly rare) are alone reason enough to come.
Lake Manyara National Park is known for the flamingos that inhabit the lake. During the wet season they inhabit the edges of the lake in flocks of thousands but they are not so present during the dry season.
More than 400 species of birds inhabit the park and many remain throughout the year. Because of this Lake Manyara National Park is a good spot for bird watching. Visitors to the park can expect to see upwards of 100 different species of bird on any day.
Leopards, East African lions, cheetahs, elephants, blue monkeys, dik-dik, gazelles, hippopotami, Masai giraffe, impala, zebras and many more wild animals inhabit this park and many can be seen throughout the year. The leopards and lions are both known to lounge in the trees while not hunting for prey.
Reliable highlights include the large habituated baboon troops, often accompanied by blue monkeys, that inhabit the groundwater forest close to the entrance gate, and a hippo pool that also offers some great aquatic birdwatching.