Lake Manyara is a picturesque jewel, stretching over 50 kilometers at the base of the rusty-gold, 600-meter-high Rift Valley escarpment. Ernest Hemingway praised the setting as “the best I had seen in Africa.”
A virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience may be found on the short game-viewing circuit through Manyara. From the gate, the road meanders through a vast area of lush groundwater forest that resembles a jungle, where baboon troops numbering in the hundreds lounge carelessly by the side of the road, blue monkeys scamper nimbly between ancient mahogany trees, dainty bushbuck tread warily through the shadows, and enormous forest hornbills honk loudly in the high canopy.
The grassy floodplain and its broad vistas eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic hills that rise from the limitless Maasai Steppes contrast with the forest’s intimacy. On these grassy plains, there are large herds of buffalo, wildebeest, and zebras, as well as giraffes, some of whose coloring is so dark that it gives the impression that they are black from a distance.
The famed tree-climbing lions of Manyara and the massively tusked elephants of the park prefer to hang out in a narrow band of acacia woodland that is located inside the floodplain. Banded mongoose flocks fly between the acacias as the tiny Kirk’s dik-dik forages in their cover. In the far south of the park, pairs of klipspringer are frequently spotted silhouetted on the rocks above a field of scorching hot springs that bubbles and steams next to the shoreline.
The ideal place to learn about Tanzania’s birdlife is Manyara. Even a first-time traveler to Africa may expect to see 100 of the more than 400 species that have been documented there in a single day. Numerous pink-hued flamingos on their never-ending migration and other large waterbirds like pelicans, cormorants, and storks are among the highlights.