Lake Manyara National Park is one of the smallest National parks at the base of the Rift Valley escarpment. Its groundwater forest offers a nice change of scenery from the more savannah dominated parks. Although the park is known for tree-climbing lions, big cats aren’t that easily seen. Elephants are prolific and are the main attraction.
The park is known for its large elephant population. The big cats are present, but not seen that easily. The forest patch is home to habituated troops of olive baboons and blue monkeys. Buffalo, giraffe, and several antelope species are easily encountered on a drive.
The park is known for its legendary tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephants. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on the grassy plains. The lake is a seasonal home to large flocks of flamingos, and a wide array of water birds can be found on the shore at all times.
The forest patch at the entrance of the park is home to habituated troops of olive baboons and blue monkeys. The occasional bushbuck can also be spotted here, darting off in the undergrowth. Pairs of klipspringer are sometimes seen balancing on the rocks at the far south of the park and the hippo pool is a good place to see these semi-aquatic creatures up close.
Lake Manyara NP offers reasonable wildlife viewing throughout the year, the Dry season, from June to October, is the best time. Wildlife is easier to spot because the vegetation is thinner and animals gather around predictable water sources. The Wet season, from November to May, offers the most beautiful scenery, but roads can sometimes become slippery and difficult to negotiate.
Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded and you can reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in one day. A big array of water-associated birds, including pink-backed pelicans, is easily seen around the hippo pool. When the water level is right, the lake is also home to thousands of pink-hued flamingo. More than 50 birds-of-prey have been recorded including the crowned eagle. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Its good throughout the year, the best bird watching in Manyara is from November to April when you can spot the migratory birds from Europe and northern Africa. This is also the time many birds can be seen in their breeding plumage. For wildlife viewing, the Dry season (from June to October) is best.
Lake Manyara is a shallow, alkaline lake at the base of the Western Rift Valley escarpment. The park has a remarkable variety of habitats in a small area. The park entrance leads to a beautiful groundwater forest. Other habitats include the grassy floodplain, rocky escarpment, and acacia woodland, all of which can be covered in a half-day visit. Deeper into the park a visit to the hot springs (Majo Moto) is recommended.
The climate never overheats at Lake Manyara, where average daytime temperatures peak at around 29°C/84°F in the Wet season (November to May). The pattern in this period is a month or two of ‘short rains’, then a dry spell, then a long stretch of rain. It’s slightly cooler in the Dry season (June to October). The temperature plummets at night, however. Freezing conditions are rare, but they can happen.
This climate in Lake Manyara NP is mild and temperate. Average temperatures are consistent throughout the year. It is very rarely hot enough to be uncomfortable, but it is almost always cold during the evening and early morning. Taking warm clothing along on early morning game drives is recommended. Manyara’s Dry season is from June to September. The Wet seasons consist of ‘long rains’, which occur from March to May, and ‘short rains’ occurring from October to November. It rarely rains the whole day.
Dry season –June to October
It is usually sunny and bright.
June, July, August & September – Afternoon temperatures are usually around 24°C/75°F. Average evening temperatures get as cold as 14°C/57°F. This cold weather remains in the morning, so be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes for early game drives.
October – It is possible for the short rains to begin in October.
Wet season –November to May
Temperatures remain mild during the Wet season, peaking in the afternoon around 27°C/81°F. Nighttime temperatures are around 16°C/61°F.
November & December, These rains last about one month and can occur anytime between November and December. Afternoon showers may occur, but it is unusual for it to rain all day so it will have little impact on your trip.
January & February – period of dryness is likely between the two rainy seasons, although the timing is hard to predict.
March, April & May, Although it rains daily during the wettest months, it is unusual for it to last the whole day. Clouds are usually present.
This wildlife watching is good at Lake Manyara practically all year. As a consequence, it’s high season in the park for all but two of the wetter months (April and May). That means maximum prices and lots of tourists. Most people visit the park in the afternoon, so if your itinerary allows it, an early morning visit is highly recommended. Watching wildlife in Lake Manyara National Park is good all year, but at its best from late June to October, during the Dry season. However, this very scenic park is at its most beautiful during the Wet season, from November to May, when the vegetation is lush and waterfalls cascade down the escarpment.
This park is part of the popular northern safari circuit. Arusha is the gateway town and the best way to get there is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha. It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam and fly on to Arusha Airport (ARK)
There is a flight from Arusha and the Serengeti to Manyara’s airstrip, but the trip from Arusha on the tarred road only takes 1½ hours by car. Coming from the Ngorongoro Crater, the driving time is about two hours to cover the 80km/50mi.
Lake Manyara National Park sees high volumes of visitors who safely enjoy the park’s diverse wildlife. There is some crimes in towns and cities, so normal precautions should be taken when visiting urban centers during your trip (see ‘Cities & Other Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ below). The vast majority of travelers don’t have any crime-related incidents during their visit.
You need to protect against malaria when visiting Lake Manyara. Mosquito repellent (choose one containing DEET as it will be the most effective) is a must and it’s also wise to cover exposed skin in the evening. You should take ant malarial medication too. Several vaccinations are recommended – consult with your doctor or travel clinic before traveling.