Lake Manyara National Park
brief overview L ake Manyara is a real gem and one of the most beautiful parks in Africa. The way it nestles magnificently at the foot of the Great Rift Valley slope, one could simply call it a flora and fauna paradise. The whole area is embedded between the 300 meter high Rift Valley cliffs on one side and a pink coloured soda lake with lots of shimmering flamingos on the other side.
With only 325 km² (of which more than two thirds consist of the lake), it is not a large park. With its five distinctly different vegetation areas, the stone wall of the Rift Valley, the jungle-like jungle, the acacia forest, the wide grassland and a swampy marshland, it still provides great variety. Due to the Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God), which is almost 3000 meters high, still active and only 75 km away, the whole area consists of volcanic soil and is therefore very fertile.
Area: 325 km²
Travel: 130 km from Arusha
Visitors: 178.500 / year
Known for: Flamingos, Elephants, “Tree-Lions”
Activities: Game Drives, Forest Hiking, Mountain-bike tour, Manyara Treetop Walkway
Lake Manyara National park
Lake Manyara National Park, named after the seasonal alkaline lake in its heart, is a great place for traditional game drives all year round. Lake Manyara is described by Ernest Hemingway as “the most beautiful I have seen in Africa” and is an ideal starting or finishing point for the Northern Circuit. The small park lies at the foot of the Great Rift Valley. The Maasai gave the area the name “manyara”. In the Maasai language this is the name of a thorny bush that is particularly common in this area. It is a euphorbia species (= spurge), with the scientific name “Euphorbia tirucalli”. This bush is planted by the Maasai as a hedge around their huts, mainly to protect their cows from the wild animals.
Lake Manyara is not only known for its flamingo population but also for the tree-climbing lions that call it home. Nowhere else in Tanzania do these agile predators cut such a striking figure when they sit lazily in acacia trees. The park is also home to Africa’s most famous animals such as elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and buffalos, as well as the lesser known but no less fascinating dik-diks and is known for its incredible beauty. The area offers a huge variety of birds. Also many hippos and a variety of smaller animals live in the park.
Lake Manyara is also known for its tree-climbing lions, which spend most of the day on the branches of acacia trees at a height of six to seven metres above the ground. The park contains the most pachyderms per km² in Tanzania. When visitors enter the gate, they enter the lush forest, where troops of baboons and blue monkeys are found. Buffalo and hippo stagger in the adjacent hippo pool. The vegetation finally turns into flat acacia forests where, in the heat of the day, whole lion prides can be seen on the branches of these trees – a habit that is widespread among Manyara lions. Besides these amazing tree-climbing lions, there are the many wildebeests and zebras as well as the curious looking mongooses. Two thirds of the park is dominated by the slightly alkaline lake, which is home to a variety of water birds. More than 400 bird species, including flamingoes, pelicans, storks, ibis, cormorants and Egyptian geese can be spotted in this area.
Lake Manyara, which is rich in sodium, shimmers white in the sun due to its salt deposits on the edge. Seasonally it is surrounded by thousands of flamingos with a pink hem. Then the shore looks as if it is lined with a white-pink band for miles. In this soda lake both the Great Flamingo and the Lesser Flamingo are represented, with the Lesser Flamingo being the predominant species. The water contains secondary sodium carbonate and thus offers ideal growth conditions for blue-green algae (=Spirulina platensis), on which the Lesser Flamingo feeds. It filters them out of the water with the help of its lamellar beak. The algae contain colour pigments (e.g. carotene) which colour the plumage of the lesser flamingo pink. In contrast, the great flamingos feed on tiny crustaceans, which they filter out of the mud of the sea floor with their beaks. Because of these two different diets, the two flamingo species are not food competitors.
The grassy area is divided by the Mto Wa Mbu river, which is home to many hippos. They search for cooling in the shallow water of this freshwater river. Accordingly, this area in Manyara Park is also called Hippo Pool. The area around the Hippo Pool makes photographers’ hearts beat faster, because here you can find the snorting hippos and the most amazing water birds: small fluffy-looking little divers swim next to white pelicans and red pelicans, which hunt fish in formations in the shallow water. The pelicans drive the fish towards each other and at the same time dip their bulbous beaks in. More fish can be caught in teamwork. The white pelican is larger than the red pelican. Cormorants and darters croak and spread their wings to dry. The white herons are very easy to distinguish: The largest is the Great White Egret, the Middle Egret has a yellow bill, the Little Egret has yellow feet. Cattle egrets are the smallest herons (only about 50 cm tall!); they are not bound to waters and are almost always together in larger groups. They like to be carried around on the back of large animals (e.g. buffalos). They feed on the skin parasites of grazing animals and on the insects that are flushed out during grazing. If sufficient water holes and swamp areas have been preserved around the lake since the last rainy season, you can also admire the rusty brown Goliath Heron as the largest African heron. The largest stork in the same habitat is the brightly coloured Saddle Stork. Saddle storks also prefer the proximity of water where they seek their food. You can tell by its plucked breast feathers that the birds take turns in breeding. Long-legged storks can almost always be seen at the Hippo Pool, they are even quite common here. They wade with their long legs through the shallow water looking for fish, frogs and water insects. Because of their yellow beak the English call them “Yellow Billed Stork”. At its huge nest and of course especially because of the characteristic hammer shape of its head feathers, the hammerhead bird is easy to identify.