Lake Manyara National Park is very easy to access: it’s about 90 minutes’ drive from Arusha and barely an hour from the Ngorongoro Crater. To see the park at its best, we recommend that you either stay within the park or spend two nights somewhere close, entering the park early for a full-day safari.
Safaris to Lake Manyara National Park
Many people will often visit Lake Manyara National Park enroute to or from the Crater, as part of a short half day safari. Often they won’t even spend the night in the area, but will rush on, so as to include as many areas, in as short a space of time as possible.
Though this can save on money, we feel that it restricts time and therefore only allows for visits to the busy northern quarter of the park. This can result in a rushed experience of Lake Manyara that can sometimes result in disappointment.
Instead we would recommend the following two options for visiting Lake Manyara National Park. The first is to stay within the park itself. Without any doubt, staying inside the park is the best wildlife experience.
Secondly you can opt to stay somewhere outside, but near to the park gate. From here you can enter the park early and enjoy the whole day exploring. There are some economical accommodation options outside the park, some of which are dotted along the top of the Rift Valley Escarpment with great views down across the park
Entrances to the National Park
There are two main entrances to Lake Manyara National Park, a gate in the north and in the south. Almost everybody uses the northern gate, since the majority of accommodation options are situated here. The gate in the far south is not commonly used and also has restricted access. Only few camps and lodges can use this entrance.
Flora & Fauna of Lake Manyara
Covering about 330km², of which typically two-thirds is underwater, Lake Manyara National Park is a small park by African standards. However, it’s also very beautiful and contains tremendous diversity of habitats, animals and especially birds.
Lake Manyara’s game includes good numbers of elephant, buffalo and wildebeest along with plenty of giraffe. Also prolific in number are zebra, waterbuck, warthog and impala. You may need to search a little harder for the small and relatively shy Kirk’s dik-dik, and klipspringer on the slopes of the escarpment. The broken forests and escarpment make it good country for leopard, whilst Manyara’s healthy lion population are famous for their tree-climbing antics. Immediately obvious to most visitors are the huge troops of baboons – which often number several hundred and are widely regarded as Africa’s largest.
As with the habitats, the birdlife here is exceptionally varied. In the middle of the lake you’ll often see flocks of pelicans and the pink-shading of distant flamingos, whilst the margins and floodplains feed innumerable herons, egrets, stilts, stalks, spoonbills and other waders. With so much water around, the woodlands are equally productive, but it’s the evergreen forests where you’ll spot some more entertaining species such as the noisy silvery-cheeked hornbills, crowned eagles and crested guinea fowl.
Set beneath the spectacular backdrop of the Great Rift Valley’s steep western escarpment, this long, narrow park protects an area between the escarpment and Lake Manyara. The parks namesake is a shallow, alkaline lake which expands and contracts with the seasons within a long, silvery bowl of salt deposits. Adjacent to it are wide, grassy floodplains and, further away, bands of mixed acacia woodlands. Further still, next to the escarpment, are patches of enchanting evergreen forests, which are sustained by perennial groundwater springs issuing from the base of the escarpment.