A Day at Lake Manyara
A flurry of pink glints across the surface of the soda lake. Long necks stretch towards the alkaline waters and rosy feathers rustle in the rising heat. Hundreds of pink flamingos wade languidly in the shallow waters of Lake Manyara in Northern Tanzania. Pelicans, cormorants and storks are dotted amongst the numerous long-legged birds. Adjacent to the lake’s shore, short grass plains roll into ground water forests and acacia woodlands. The hour is early and dense foliage is already alive with activity.
Lake Manyara is one of Tanzania’s smaller national parks. Bordered to the west by a dramatic Great Rift Valley escarpment and to the east by the vast lake. The park is a narrow strip along the lake’s shores broken up by slivers of winding rivers with ten different ecosystems thriving within the borders. This small park which is famous for its resident birdlife and the notoriously evasive tree-climbing lions is a perfect day trip en route along Tanzania’s Northern Circuit.
After greeting the day in Arusha, Lake Manyara National Park is a short hour and a half drive away. Take in the sights of Tanzania’s wild horizons as your game drive vehicle trundles towards Lake Manyara’s entrance gate.
The habitats of Lake Manyara are diverse; stand in the grassy open plains, peer through thick forests and woodlands in the north, marvel at the soda lake, journey through swamps and marvel at hot springs and hippo pools in the south.
Immediately entering the park, you will be enveloped in the forest. The trees stand close together and blue monkeys swing through branches overhead. Keep an eye open for bigger game wondering through the thickets.
Move through the forest and get your first look at stunning Lake Manyara. The shoreline stretches the length of the park and the lapping waters of the lake are never far off no matter where you are in. During the wet season, the lake covers an impressive two thirds of the park. It then shrinks down to almost nothing during the dry season. When the lake recedes, salt flats border the water line and the resident elephants, wildebeest, maasai giraffe, zebra and impala - to name a few - congregate in their droves in search of water during the arid months.
While wondering along the shoreline, turn your gaze towards the woodland area. With a combination of luck and keen eyesight, you will be able to spot the flick of a tawny tail hanging over the edge of a low hanging branch. Lake Manyara’s tree-climbing lions are almost as hard to spot as they are well-known. The big cats lumber up trunks and spend their time relaxing in the mid-day heat.
Unpack your picnic baskets and enjoy an once-in-a-lifetime lunch experience with sweeping views over the soda lakes waters.
Spend the afternoon exploring the rest of the park. The appeal of Lake Manyara is that while it is such a scenic, varied environment, with so much to see, it is small enough to be explored in one day. An afternoon game drive to the park’s southern borders takes you through swamps and past a bubbling hot spring called “Maji Moto” (hot water). Clamber along the raised walkway alongside the hippo pool and spend some time admiring the huge creatures lounging in the cool waters.
Lake Manyara is also home to Tanzania’s only Treetop Walkway. Meander along the 400m long trek through the canopy. The experience provides a special bird’s eye view look at the park.
As the late afternoon arrives and the heat starts to subside slightly it’s time to return to Arusha or continue onto the nearby Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater.
Pink feathers flutter on the lake as the flamingos get their last fix of the algae they feed on and which they can thank for their vibrant colour. Big game wanders back through the forests and woodlands. Nocturnal animals begin to stir. The game drive vehicles amble slowly back towards the entrance gate. It’s time to drink in the last views of Lake Manyara National Park.