Guide to Lake Manyara National Park

Guide to Lake Manyara National Park  : The small national park of Lake Manyara is nestled away in the Great Rift Valley, just two hours from Arusha and on the way to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti National Park. It is surrounded by picturesque escarpments, glittering water bodies, and swaying green canopies. The beauty of this lake prompted American literary icon Ernest Hemingway to pause and declare it the “loveliest lake in Africa.”

 Lake Manyara is well known for its diverse habitats and ecosystems. Around the lake, there are dense rainforests, savannas, wetlands, and acacia forests, each with its own set of animals. Because a large portion of the park is submerged under water, game drives will be shorter than in other parks, but even within this small region, you will find a variety like no other.

Who do we recommend this park for? If you enjoy exploring diverse habitats, beautiful scenery, plants, and birds, Lake Manyara National Park is a must-see. There are over 600 plant species and hundreds of thousands of birds in the park. Although it is home to a variety of animals, ranging from small reptiles like monitor lizards to popular species like lions, elephants, and giraffes, their numbers are not as high as in other parks. So, if you are primarily interested in wildlife and the idea of seeing diverse habitats, beautiful scenery, and a variety of birds does not appeal to you, you might have a better experience visiting other parks in the region rather than Lake Manyara.


Hemingway himself referred to it as the most beautiful park in Africa because the landscape is so varied and abundant in flora that it mesmerizes the eyes of the observer. In the past, it served as the backdrop for the first Tarzan movies.

 Despite the area’s low rainfall, as soon as you enter the park, you are surrounded by a lush rainforest full of big trees like tamarind, Ficus, mahogany, and others that are fed by a network of underground springs that permeate the porous volcanic soil.

Giraffes, elephants, antelopes, large groups of baboons, and the curious diademed cercopithecus live in the area. Although baboons are present in many Tanzanian parks, they are quite numerous and easy to approach here; on the contrary, they will move away very slowly if met on the dirt road.


As you get closer to the lake, the forest splits, making room for small savannahs populated by giraffes, warthogs, wildebeests, zebras, and buffaloes. Then you arrive at the lake’s shore, a flat expanse of land with lake settings, marshes, and reed beds, where lazy hippos spend the day almost completely immersed in the water and hundreds of colorful migratory birds, such as pelicans, flamingos, herons, glossy ibis, and ducks, inhabit the water.

 The presence of wooden piers above the lake, where you can take a walk, completely immersed in nature and becoming an integral part of it, allows you to see hippos much closer than in other parks.

Later on, the route is reduced to an evocative small strip of land surrounded by the lagoon, with a surreal landscape and a diverse fauna. There are many birds here, including blackbirds, white pelicans, huge marabous, ducks, and geese, as well as some large mammals like buffaloes.

 To the west of the lake, however, you will find yourself on a path that connects the lake to a slope where intense geothermal activity, common throughout the Rift Valley, has resulted in the formation of some sulfurous hot springs that attract many flamingos unaffected by high temperatures, which can reach 76°C in some cases.

Guide to Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park

Finally, we pass through a wooded area densely forested with acacia and palm trees that extends south of the forest and is crossed by several small rivers. Arboreal lions can be seen here, which climb on the branches of acacia umbrella trees, which is unusual for this type of feline. There are also several giraffes in this area who prefer to eat the leaves of the tallest and seemingly inaccessible thorny acacia trees.


  • Arusha is approximately 90 minutes away by car.
  • Game drives, canoe safaris, cultural tours, mountain biking, abseiling, and forest walks are all options.
  • Known for having the highest concentration of elephants, tree-climbing lions, and flamingos in Africa.


The best months for game viewing are July and October, while the best months for bird watching are November and June.


Wildlife and Africa’s Largest Concentration of Elephants

While Tarangire National Park in Tanzania has the largest elephant population, Lake Manyara has the highest concentration of elephants in Africa. There are few places in the world that can compete with spotting elephants in the wild. In addition to these giants, the park provides excellent viewing opportunities for mongooses, the adorable Kirk’s dik-dik, hippos, buffaloes, antelopes, gazelles, and large baboon herds.

Guide to Lake Manyara National Park : Tree-Climbing Lions

The lions of Lake Manyara National Park are unique among their species, as they are some of the only lions in the world who regularly climb trees and use them as resting spots. Only Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park can claim this honor.

 These beautiful creatures perched on the branches of acacia trees will be photographed by lucky photographers. Zoologists aren’t sure why the lions in this park have developed this interesting habit, but visitors benefit from seeing such unique behavior from such beautiful creatures.

Guide to Lake Manyara National Park : Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara, an isolated lake subject to intense evaporation during the dry season, is a slightly salty lake that is home to hippopotamus, flamingos, and a diverse range of aquatic life. Despite its salt content, it is safe to drink for animals and serves as a popular watering hole for the park’s animal population.

 Lake Manyara swells into a large body of water during the wet season, making it ideal for guided canoe safaris. During the dry season, it can shrink to the point where you can almost walk across it.

When there is water, klipspringers, rock hyrax, and porcupines can be seen near the lake’s edge, and a wide variety of birds, including Ruppel’s Griffon, Verreaux’s Eagle, the Augur Buzzard, the Peregrine Falcon, and an abundance of flamingoes, live there all year.

Guide to Lake Manyara National Park : Mto Wa Mbu Village

Mto We Mbu, a nearby farming and market village, is ideally situated for souvenir shopping or for a glimpse into everyday life in Tanzania. It is not far from the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park. Farmers from all over the area congregate on market days to display their wares in this vibrant melting pot of cultures and personalities.

Guide to Lake Manyara National Park : Termite Mounds

The towering termite mountains that dot the landscape are among Lake Manyara National Park’s most striking features. These impressive structures are the result of the labor of termites, minuscule but hardworking insects. These creatures build enormous colonies of incredibly sturdy and sophisticated mounds that serve as homes and protect the queen.

 The termites don’t stop at this level of engineering; inside their colony, they also grow fungus in special chambers! The spires and castles the termites construct are quite amazing to see, even though much of this fascinating work is hidden from view.


Numerous months out of the year, the microscopic algae that the flamingos eat draws thousands of them to Lake Manyara. Due to their specialized diet, flamingos are restricted to the Rift Valley’s alkaline lakes, and Lake Manyara is arguably the best place in Tanzania to view these massive flocks of colorful birds.

Maji Moto Springs

It might not seem likely that something as lovely and tranquil as Maji Moto could exist out here as you wind your way down a bumpy, dusty road through the desert region surrounding Lake Manyara National Park. Nevertheless, the lengthy drive is worthwhile once the oasis is in sight.

Maji Moto, which translates to “hot water” in Swahili, is a natural spring that is encircled by palm and fig trees. It is a remote paradise with crystal-clear waters, shady picnic areas under the sun, and unrivaled beauty. Maji Moto, which is more of a warm spring than a hot one, is the ideal location for a picnic lunch and a swim.

 In recent years, resourceful locals have also installed a small restaurant and restrooms at the location.