Lake Manyara National Park
Location and How to Get There.
Lake Manyara is a scenic gem with the eastern and western escarpments of the Rift Valley surrounding it. It takes about a 2-hour drive from Arusha to Lake Manyara on well-paved roads. From Arusha Airport (ARK) it takes 20 minutes by plane or a 45-minute flight from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). From Lake Manyara, it takes about 2 hours to drive to Ngorongoro Crater, requiring an exciting drive up the Rift Valley’s western escarpment.
Wildlife and Natural Highlights
The park is known for its resident forest that is fed by an underground water forest, keeping the park green throughout the year. This attracts both migratory and wetland birds. Two-thirds of the lake is dominated by shallow alkaline-saline soda waters. These unique waters are formed by Rift Valley heat causing rapid evaporation of Manyara’s waters, leaving high concentrations of saline (salt) and sodium carbonate. This creates an ideal environment for the micro-organism cyan bacteria to thrive which produces blue-green benthic algae. This attracts flamingos that feed on it. Whereas these caustic waters that can reach Ph levels of 9, too toxic for most other creatures, the flamingos have adapted to it and the benthic algae provide a year-round food source for them.
Manyara National Park’s most common species, in addition to flamingos, are large troops of baboons, blue / syke monkeys, vervet monkeys, tree climbing lions, kudus, buffalos, giraffes, hippos, wildebeest, zebras, elephants, impalas, Grant and Thomson gazelles, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, leopards, hyrax, Elands, Bush backs, waterbucks, and dik-diks.
Mto Wa Mbu is the town near to the national park with a population of 18,000 people from 85 different tribes. This makes it one of the most culturally rich towns in Africa. This cultural confluence makes it a center for a variety of multicultural activities. Mto Wa Mbu village walks, mountain bike rides, forest walks on the Rift Valley western escarpment, bicycling around the lake and to waterfalls for the well fit, canoeing, and touring a local brewery. Night game drives are allowed at Manyara but should be booked in advance.