The greener forest in the Lake Manyara national park is something everyone should have the opportunity to experience. With its extremely scenic sunrise or sundown, Manyara is really special and of course, the most unique park in Tanzania when it comes to scenery. Its greener dominant forest sets it apart from the other parks in Tanzania which are dominated by savannah vegetation.
However, while Lake Manyara national park is an amazing place to be and enjoy among the largest concentration of elephants, large flocks of millions of flamingoes, the un-usual tree-climbing lions and the prolific scenery, there is a better way to explore lake Manyara national park, and in this guide, I am going to share with you the important details you need for a successful safari to Lake Manyara national park
In case you’re pressed with time, here are the key takeaways;
- About Lake Manyara national park – Located in the Northern Tanzania tourism circuit, Lake Manyara national park covers an area of 325 km2 and is famous for its tree-climbing lions.
- Getting to Lake Manyara national park – 1.5 to 2hrs drive from Arusha
- Plants and animals in Lake Manyara national park – more than 600 flowering plants, more than 300 species of birds, and a good number of wild animals.
- Best things to do and see in Manyara – Day game drives, night game drives, canoeing, cultural tours, mountain bike tours, and the Treetop Walkway
- Best time to visit Manyara – while the scenery is good the whole year, the wetter months (April and May) may not be the best.
- Manyara safari cost – No fixed costs
- Where to stay in the Lake Manyara national park? – Escarpment Lodge, Burudika lodge, Eileen’s tree Inn, Bougainvillea lodge, country lodge, and farm of dreams.
Before being established as the park, Lake Manyara was famous for sports hunting activities where a few white folks used to invite their friends and together do some competition in target shoots.
One of the prominent hunters who are known to hunt in the Lake Manyara area are; Theodore Roosevelt, Philip Percival, and Ernest Miller Hemingway & his wife Pauline.
Ernest Hemingway who was an American journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and sportsman went on to write this about Lake Manyara area.
“It was a green, pleasant country, with hills below the forest that grew thick on the side of a mountain…. If you looked away from the forest and the mountainside you could follow the watercourses and the hilly slope of the land down until the land flattened and the grass was brown and burned and, away, across a long sweep of country, was the brown Rift Valley and the shine of Lake Manyara…..loveliest I had seen in Africa”
- M Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, Scribner, NY City, 1935.
As the hunting was taking over with no sign of slowing down, the British colonial government made the Lake Manyara area a game reserve where hunting was now reserved for special permits. However, this move wasn’t much successful in protecting wildlife, as a result in 1960 Lake Manyara area was made a national park before being established by UNESCO as part of its Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1981.
Taking a last bite of salad, Angel Simon shook her head and muttered irritably, ‘unmanageable!’ for the third time that night she tried to fend off David John’s question on what is her best national park in the country.
Pressed too much by David, the head of reservations & bookings department at Earthlife Expeditions, Angel who herself is a formidable safari planning specialist answered the question ‘best park?, I am still undecided, but if someone would ask me which one is the most unique national park among them all, Lake Manyara national park would simply be on top of my mind, not only because of its stunning scenery but the superb birding & array of activities one may do while at Manyara’
Lake Manyara National park is so reached in beautiful plants. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Lake Manyara National park has more than 670 flowering plant and fern species documented.
With a dense evergreen forest of Manyara, the following are some of the trees that shelter the animals of Lake Manyara national park;
- Trichilia roka,
- Sycamore fig,
- Quinine tree,
- Forest toad-tree,
- Yellow fever trees
- Palm Phoenix reclinata,
While Lake Manyara National Park is the best place to see the relaxed elephants at a close range, outstanding birding, superb olive baboons and blue monkeys, antelopes, giraffe and buffalo, you need a renowned safari guide to locate you the big cats, especially the celebrated tree-climbing lions.
Nevertheless, these animals are available in the park;
Wildebeests, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, Waterbuck, African bush elephant, warthog, Cape buffalo, baboon, bushbuck, impala, giraffe, hippopotamus, Grant’s gazelle, spotted hyena, leopard, African wild cat, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, serval, African civet, honey badger, and lion.
The good (and bad!) thing about visiting Lake Manyara national park is that you never run out of attractions and sights you really “must-see” and “must-do”. Though a small park, Manyara is really rewarding.
That being said, there really are a few things that should top your first-time-visitor list; I’m going to share my list, developed over years of listening to what our own guests enjoy the most;
A day game drive
Starting from the morning, late morning or afternoon, a day game drive in Lake Manyara National park gives you a chance to freshen up, relax, and explore the lake Manyara wilderness while discussing the sightings with your safari guide.
Night game drives
In this unique experience, you have the opportunity to see wildlife in a more different way. On top of all, night game drive is usually magnificent as it coincides with the nocturnal animal’s timing. Animals like leopards, hippos, and lions like to operate during the night hours.
When the water level is sufficiently high in Lake Manyara is a very good place to experience stunning landscape and beautiful nature through canoeing.
Tanzania may be a renowned safari destination with an international reputation but when it comes to cultural attractions, a few countries can match this wonderful destination. With so many cultural activities around Lake Manyara National park, here are some of them;
- Go and learn traditional African cuisines preparation
- How about getting your hair braided
- Consider visiting a localized vegetable market. While there, you can as well have a story or two with local business people
- If you like, you may as well participate in daily African home chores. You just decide which family.
- Visiting community development projects is another cultural activity that will make your experience even better.
- Maasai Village Cultural Walk
- Mirerani Tanzanite local market visit
- Farm tours
- Country walks and a view into the culture of many different tribes residing in the area
Mountain bike tours and the Treetop
Talk about 370m air walk.
This air walk takes place at the height of 18 meters off the ground and it is the best chance to experience the beautiful Lake Manyara national park nature from a different perspective and a way more outstanding scenery. It is a balloon safari of its own, you know.
If you’re going to be with your kids in Lake Manyara national park, add this activity on your list. It is among the most enjoyable experience by the kids while in safari.
Bird watching is also exceptional while on these series of suspension bridges with thick netting on the sides.
Again, biking around the slopes of Lake Manyara shore is another experience among so many in the Lake Manyara national park, if you like and your time timetable isn’t so tight, you may have up to two hours’ drive around this scenic park.
While the park is beautiful the full year, the months of April and May can be challenging due to heavy rains that sometimes force the wild animals more interior of the bush to find proper shelter hence making the wildlife spotting a bit difficult.
Nonetheless, this is the best time to see the flocks of birds, specifically the migratory birds like; flamingos, cormorants, white pelican, yellow-billed stork, and pink-backed pelican just to name a few, who camps in Lake Manyara area during these months before going on with their journey.
During these wetter months, roads can be a bit hard to travel & game drive hence you need to ensure that you book your safari with a company with a good eye for their vehicle maintenance.
A good checkup & service to the safari vehicle won’t mean that no breakdown shall happen, but at least the odds are more on a safer trip with the well-maintained vehicles.
Having said so, Lake Manyara national park is still a very good park to visit the whole year-round. While the offseason & wetter months of November to May can give some challenges to spot wildlife compared to June all the way to October, these months are still the best when it comes to;
- Getting best deals,
- Quiet & less crowded park
- Stunning scenery nourished by the rains
- Fantastic birding.
If you’re going to visit Lake Manyara National park in the high season (June to October) and you don’t like the overcrowding, I would suggest you do your game drive in the Morning hours as during these months the park tend to get overcrowded in the afternoon.
This is among those questions that a lot of wrong answers are usually given.
The truth is, there are no fixed costs for the Lake Manyara safari. It all depends on different things.
While the government fees are going to be fixed, the other things like;
- The number of days on your trip.
- A number of traveling people in your group, the more people in a group will reduce cost per person through cost-sharing.
- Nature of the accommodation – camping, budget, midrange, or luxury accommodation?
- Season of the year – In the low season (April & May) you are likely going to get the best deals for your Serengeti Safari
- Transport in and off the park will also influence Lake Manyara National park trip.
All the above are going to be the major determinant of what you should pay on your trip to Manyara national park.