Lake Manyara National park is relatively small compared to Tanzania’s other Northern circuit safari parks. However, its position at the base of the Rift Valley sustains a thriving groundwater forest that makes Manyara a very different landscape to the other more savannah dominated parks and is known as a microcosm of all the offering in the larger parks.
The groundwater is the basis for the Lake Manyara National Park, which Ernest Hemingway descried as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”: a shallow alkaline body subject to the rise and drain of the tropical seasons. However, there are also grassy floodplains and rocky slopes around the acacia woodland meaning there is a he variety of life in a small park that be toured in about half a day.
Upon entering Manyara National Park, your safari truck is guided through a plush jungle of groundwater forestry home to huge troops of curiously lazy baboons (some numbering in the hundreds) dotting the roadside. Monkey varieties of blue and black can be seen hooping through the ancient forest amidst a torrent of bird songs.
Exiting the forest opens up the wide grasslands in almost constant flood that accompany the Manyara Lake. The Massai Steppes can be seen across the lake under sharp volcanic peaks in the distance while big game prowls the lands in front of you: buffalo, elephant, wildebeast, zebra, giraffes… and if you’re lucky an infamous tree-climbing lion!
Don’t get too excited though, the lions are generally hard to come by in Lake Manyara National Park, which is better visited for the vast elephant herds. The tree-climbing lion lies in the narrow belt of acacia woodland which is also the preferred location for mongoose, Kirk’s dik-dik, and pairs of klipsringer near the steaming hot springs at the southern lakeshore.
Tanzania’s Water Wonderland
Game drives and night game drives.
Very relaxed herds of elephants in unusually close range.
Canoeing when the water levels are sufficiently high.
Mountain bike tours, abseiling, and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.
Early morning safaris: afternoon in the peak season can get crowded
- Remoteness 35% 35%
- Family 75% 75%
- Animal Viewing 75% 75%
- Landscape 80% 80%
- Flora 85% 85%
- Birding 75% 75%
Lake Manyara National Park Flora & Fauna
Lake Manyara National Park is home to a lot of Tanzania’s big game in a small space. There is a large elephant population that can be easily spotted on a safari along with buffalo, wildebeest, giraffes, and zebras on the grassy floodplains. Olive baboons populate the inner forests along with the blue monkeys where the tree-climbing lion and bushbuck can be (rarely) spotted.
However, Lake Manyara National Park’s bird variety and population is magnificent. Home to over 400 species of birds, keen ornithologists are treated a great introduction to the country’s birdlife. Seasonal flocks of pink-hued flamingo permeate the Manyara lakeshore alongside pelicans, cormorants, storks, and other waterbirds. These migratory birds comes from as far as North Africa and even Europe. They are best seen between November and April when other species show off their mating plumage, but this may not be the best time to see the big game which is better seen in the dry June to October season.
Lake Manyara National Park Location & Map
Lake Manyara National Park is located in Northern Tanzania at the Southern border of the Arusha and Manyara regions. The Park is mostly a narrow strip of land that runs between the Gregory Rift wall in the West and Lake Manyara to the East, in all containing 330 square kilometers of safari land including massive alkaline lakes that disappear in the dry season.
Arusha is the starting point for most safaris to Manyara from where the Park’s entrance gate is a one and half hour’s drive West, close to the small Mto wa Mbu market town. Arusha is served by its own regional airport (ARK) that can be reached via Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyere International Airport, or the closer by Kilimanjaro International Airport where regular KLM flights from Amsterdam land as well as new Qatar and Turkish Airlines routes.
Alternatively, there is actually an airstrip in Manyara (LKY) which can take chartered flights from Arusha or a shuttle bus can take you from Kenya to Arusha but most safari operators will pick you up at the airport and take you from there. The Park is en route to the Ngorongoro and Serengeti parks.
The best time of year to visit Lake Manyara National park to see the large mammals is between the July and October dry seasons, whereas the November to June wet season is best for birdwatching and also gives rise to the alkaline lakes, waterfalls, and canoeing opportunities.
Total Land Area
644 sq km About the same size as Singapore
Elevation above sea level
About 340 stacked giraffes
Nearest Major City & Airport
About 113 km East
When To Visit Lake Manyara National Park
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec