Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is one of the smallest parks in Tanzania and one of the most scenic, it really is a photographer’s dream. Two thirds of the park is taken up by the alkaline lake that dominates the landscape and gives the park its name.

Lake Manyara is easily visited, its located at the base of the Rift Valley western escarpment, just 90 minutes from Arusha.  The landscape is diverse, ranging from evergreen forests sustained by groundwater springs to savannah and marshland. This biodiversity sustains a variety of wildlife and birdlife.  It is here you will find the tree-climbing lions, not normal lion behaviour, and the forests have a healthy leopard population too. The savannah supports plenty of plains game including zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and impala and you will also come across elephant and giraffe.  The lake sustains a myriad of birds with pelicans and flamingos amongst them. By the edges of the lake you will get many waders such as herons, egrets and spoonbills – over 400 species of bird have been recorded here.

Things to do in Lake Manyara National Park

  • Night Drives – this is the only park in northern Tanzania where you can take part in a night drive so it’s well worth staying overnight in the park.
  • Game Drives – as with any safari, a game drive is an essential experience and part of what being on safari is all about. There are plenty of different areas to explore even though this might be one of Tanzania’s smallest parks.
  • Tree Climbing Lions – Lake Manyara is well known for its lions who ‘hang about’ in trees, not your usual lion sighting, it makes for great photographs too.
  • Visit Mto Wa Mbu – enjoy a village walk and traditional lunch at this village beside the park
  • Picnic lunch – spend the full day in the park and explore more of this beautiful terrain, picnic lunches enjoyed al-fresco are the way to go.
  • Nature walks – these aren’t usually offered in national parks, but certain properties such as Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge do have permission to show guests the beauty of the area on foot.
  • Bike rides – perhaps not something you would associate with a safari but bike rides to a local village are a different way to explore the park and meet the villagers. It’s worthwhile to spend a morning or afternoon in the saddle.

When to visit Lake Manyara National Park

Wildlife viewing is good all year round but if you are looking for the absolute best game viewing then you should go from late June to October, which is the dry season.  The wildlife will congregate around the water sources and the grass will be shorter and wildlife easier to spot.  Make sure you bring some warm clothes though as mornings in June, July and August can be rather chilly.  March and April are the peak of the rainy season, however, the wildlife viewing in Lake Manyara NP will still be good. This is a good time for birders too with the migratory species found here at this time. Add to that lower prices and fewer visitors, it’s still a good time to visit.

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  • This is the dry season when wildlife viewing is at its best
  • Vegetation is sparse making wildlife easier to spot
  • Animals are drawn to water sources
  • There are fewer mosquitos and other insects at this time of year
  • Early mornings and evenings can be cold. Wearing layers is the key


  • Low season usually means lower rates for accommodation
  • You will have more choice of accommodation when it is less busy
  • The park is less crowded in the off season, particularly April and May
  • Many migratory birds are in the area in the rainy season
  • Vegetation is lush and green, perfect for photography
  • Travelling by road can be challenging due to the rains
  • Try to avoid the peak of the rainy season which is March to May

Where to stay around Lake Manyara National Park

There are camps both in the national park and just outside.  The advantage of staying in the park is that you are there before others arrive, including day visitors, so you can get to less crowded areas. It also means you can discover more of what this beautiful park has to offer and partake in night drives and guided walks or cycle trails.  In short, staying in the park means you get to experience more of Lake Manyara.