Lake Manyara is a fabulous but little big-game park with many thick woodlands, amazing stands of baobab tree and great sand rivers. It’s famous for its lions-in-tree. Lions love to climb trees wherever they can, and that’s exactly the point. Manyara has so many different kinds of trees, more are suitable to lion climbing than most trees found in other places. The great variety of ecosystems has earned it an UNESCO biosphere designation and results in a varied and exciting array of animals and birds.
The large lake from which the park gets its name is one of the Great Rift Valley soda lakes, located west and north of Arusha in Tanzania, not far from Ngorongoro Crater. At times it is 20 miles long and 4-5 miles wide, yet larger animals can walk right across. Nearly everything found in northern Tanzania is found here, from elephant to red duiker. The reason for this biodiversity is that the park sits right on the edge of the Great Rift Valley escarpment. The protected area includes the butte on top, the cliffs that fall downwards towards the lake, the thick forests of the bottom of the cliffs, then the grassland savanna that rolls out to the lakeshore, the lakeshore itself and the massive salt lake. So in a relatively small area there are nearly as many ecological zones as found in all the rest of northern Tanzania.
Manyara is where some of the first and most important elephant research was conducted by Ian and Oria Hamilton, and it remains an important park for elephant. But of all its attractions, it is the extensive lakeshore that provides so much excitement. Where the fresh water rivers roll into the alkaline lake there are huge collections of hippo, and amazing amounts of shorebirds, including hundreds if not thousands of migrant storks and cranes.
The opening scene from Out of Africa was filmed over the lake, and there are usually more than a million flamingos here although they tend to remain in the middle and are therefore often hard to see.
Game viewing occurs in a relatively small and narrow area along the lake’s western shore, but visitors usually encounter large amounts of game including giraffe, zebra, hippo and buffalo. Manyara is generally considered one of Tanzania’s most beautiful wildernesses because of its magical forests that are composed of so many different kinds of massive trees. Many blossom and most tower sometimes 100′ high.