Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara is a scenic gem within the Great Rift Valley with its eastern and western escarpments surrounding it. Lake Manyara National Park is a 2 hour drive on well paved roads from Arusha, a 20 minute flight from Arusha Airport (ARK), or a 45 minute flight from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
The national park is known for its resident forest fed by an underground water forest which keeps the park green throughout the year. This attracts migratory and wetland birds. Two-thirds of Manyara National Park is dominated by its shallow alkaline-saline soda lake. The heat of the Rift Valley causes rapid evaporation of water that leaves high levels 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, which are toxic for most other creatures, the flamingos have adapted to it and the benthic algae provide a year round food source for the lesser flamingos. To the north of Lake Manyara is Lake Natron where flamingos breed in these alkaline-saline waters and migrate to Lake Manyara.
Manyara National Park’s most common species, in addition to flamingos, are large troops of baboons, vervet monkeys, blue / syke monkeys, tree climbing lions, giraffes, zebras, hippos, wildebeest, buffalos, elephants, warthogs, impalas, Thomson gazelles, Grant gazelles, leopards, lions, cheetahs, rock / tree hyrax, kudus, elands, bush backs, waterbucks, and dik diks.
Mto wa Mbu is the town next to the park that has a population of 18,000 people who are from 85 different tribes, making it one of the most culturally rich towns in Africa. This cultural confluence makes it a center for various multicultural activities and events. Mto wa Mbu village walks, forest walks on the escarpment, mountain bike tours, bicycling around the lake outside the park boundary, canoeing, and tours of a local brewery keep visitors busy. At Lake Manyara National Park, night game drives are allowed but should be booked in advance.