Lake Manyara National Park is a protected area in Tanzania’s Arusha and Manyara Regions, situated between Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley. It is administered by the Tanzania National Parks Authority, and covers an area of 325 km2 (125 sq mi) including about 230 km2 (89 sq mi) lake surface. More than 350 bird species have been observed on the lake.
Tanzania Horizon Safaris is offering a variety of Safaris to Lake Manyara National Park. We recommend to stay at least 2 Days to fully enjoy the beauty of Lake Manyara and nature around its shores.
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Since the 1920s, Lake Manyara area was used for sports hunting. In 1957, a game reserve was established. In 1960, it was given National Park status and in 1974 about 550 ha (1,400 acres) were added to the southern end. The majority of the land area of the park is a narrow strip running between the Gregory Rift wall to the west and Lake Manyara, an alkaline lake, to the east. The national park only includes the northwest quadrant of the lake, about 200 km2 (77 sq mi). It is part of the much larger Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve, established in 1981 by UNESCO as part of its Man and the Biosphere Programme.
Lake Manyara National Park is known for flocks of thousands flamingos that feed along the edge of the lake in the wet season. In 1991 there were an estimated 1,900,000 non-breeding Lesser Flamingo individuals and 40,000 Greater Flamingo. Great white pelican can also be present in large numbers and in all there has been an estimated 1,000,000-2,499,999 individual water birds. The groundwater forest to the north of the lake, and largely within the National Park, is a well-known breeding site for thousands of pink-backed pelican and yellow-billed stork along with smaller numbers of Marabou stork and grey heron. In all, more than 390 species of birds have been documented in the national park, although in the dry season, flamingos and other water birds are usually found only in small numbers.
Populations of large migratory mammals that are concentrated primarily in Tarangire National Park, but also move through Lake Manyara National Park include wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and Grant’s gazelle. Large herds of wildebeest and other plains enter the park from the north for short periods. Wildebeest exclusively graze the alkaline grasslands around the lake, and numbers are highest during the dry season, dropping to small resident populations in the wet season. Herbivores of Lake Manyara National Park include plains zebra, bushbuck, waterbuck, Grant’s gazelle, impala, Thomson’s gazelle, Cape buffalo, giraffe, hippos, baboon, warthog, and African bush elephant.
Studies in the 1980s found this to be one of the areas with the highest wildlife biomass in Africa, but elephant numbers had fallen by 75% between 1985 and 1991 as a result of illegal hunting, with numbers rebounding to around 200 in 1996. Lake Manyara was also once known for its high population of black rhinoceros, but none were present by 1996. Similarly, reedbuck were present in 1984, but no individuals were found in a 1996 census. Predators of Lake Manyara National Park include lion, leopard, African wild cat, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, serval, honey badger, African civet and several mongoose species, Cheetah and African golden cat are sighted occasionally.
There are two rainy seasons – “short rains” from November to December and the “long rains” from March to May. The wettest month (with the highest rainfall) is April and it also has the highest number of rainy days (19 days). The driest months (with the lowest rainfall) are July, August and September (1 mm (0.039 in). September also has the lowest average number of rainy days (2 days). The warmest months (with the highest average high temperature) are January, February and March 30 °C (86 °F). Months with the lowest average high temperature are June and July 25 °C (77 °F).
Lake Manyara National Park is located 126 km (78 mi) south west of Arusha and can be reached by jeep in about 2 hours. Lake Manyara Airport is nearby and serves the National Park. To the south of the park is the 35,399 ha Marang Forest Reserve, situated on the escarpment above the park. To the east is the Kwakuchinja Wildlife Migration corridor, which allows wildlife to migrate between the nearby Tarangire National Park to the southeast, Lake Manyara to the west, and the Engaruka Basin to the north. Within the Kwakuchinja corridor are several villages that include Ol Tukai Village and Esilalei along the lakeshore. Further from the lake and outside of village land is the 44,000-acre Manyara Ranch, of which 35000 acres comprise the Manyara Ranch Conservancy.
Lake Manyara is a shallow alkaline lake at an altitude of 960 m (3,150 ft), formed in a depression in the Rift Valley System. When full, the lake is a maximum of 10 ft (3.0 m) deep and covers two-thirds of the park. The lake has no outflow, but is fed by underground springs and by several permanent streams that drain surrounding Ngorongoro Highlands. Although it never completely dries up, the surface area covered by water shrinks in the dry season as the water evaporates. In extreme dry periods it may be less than 2 feet deep, and the salt levels become concentrated.
Beside the lake are extensive marshlands, saline flats (that expand in the dry season as the surface area of the lake shrinks) and a grassy floodplain. At the area near the park gate there is a tall forest, sustained by groundwater, dominated by evergreen fig and mahogany trees. On the west side of the park, the rocky escarpment of the rift valley wall rises steeply. Large African baobab trees are scattered on the slopes. A narrow zone of dense acacia woodland grows at the base of the rift wall. Other features include a hippopotamus pool at the northern end of the lake and two hot springs, one near the centre of the park and the other near the southern edge.
The flora of Lake Manyara National Park is diverse, with over 670 flowering plant and fern species documented. Most are widespread species; there are few rare or endemic species. The park has a variety of diverse habitats. Rivers flowing off the escarpment and perennial springs below the rift wall support tall, evergreen groundwater forests dominated by Trichilia with Broad-Leaved Croton, sycamore fig, quinine tree and forest toad-tree. Trees are densest in gorges, along the edge of streams and in areas where springs emerge. Growing at the edge of the groundwater forest are dense stands of yellow fever trees and the Phoenix palms.
Extensive swamps have formed where the Simba River and its tributaries flow into the north end of Lake Manyara and smaller swamps have formed elsewhere, associated with the minor rivers flowing off the walls of the rift valley. A number of aquatic species have been documented, including two species of water lily and extensive mats of water lettuce. Cattails forms pure stands in the northern swamps and various Cyperus species are found around the edges of the swamps.