Lake Manyara is one of Tanzania’s smallest and most accessible parks when coming from Arusha (<2h drive) and a perfect introduction for the first-time self drive goer. The game drive circuits are well maintained, and it’s a small yet very diverse National Park.
- Excellent birding > 400 species
- Tree climbing lions (if you’re lucky)
- Exceptional diversity of ecosystems
- Canopy walkway, walking safaris, night game drives.
Lake Manyara is a shallow soda lake set at the base of the Western Rift Valley Escarpment. The Northwestern lake shore and its hinterland are protected in a scenic National Park boasting very diverse flora & fauna – savanna, acacia woodland, rocks, grassy floodplains and tropical rainforest. It is a great birding reserve, with around 400 species recorded. It is said to be perfectly feasible for a casual birder to see 100 species here in a day!
Park permits costs US$ 45 pp and are valid for 24 hours (single entry). Vehicle entry fee is U$$ 10 / vehicle and camping is US$ 30 / pp.
More than game viewing
Lake Manyara used to be one of Tanzania’s least celebrated National Parks, but this has changed drastically over the last years. TANAPA, the Tanzanian Wildlife Association, has invested heavily in the park and so has Wayo Africa, to the extent that Lake Manyara National Park nowadays has a lot on offer beyond mere wildlife watching.
It is one of the few national parks in Tanzania where walking safaris with an authorized ranger are allowed. Best to go early in the morning. Start at Endabash Ranger post, 1 hour drive south from main entrance gate. ($ 20 pp / 2.5h). Recently, a canopy walkway has been constructed near the entrance, operated by Wayo Africa. The game viewing circuits are well managed. Early morning game drives are the best and it is advisable to explore the southern area, as the compact game viewing circuits near the entrance gate can get disturbingly busy in the afternoon at times. Night game drives are allowed with an additional payment.
The nice village of Mto wa Mbo
The main entrance gate to the park is at the outskirts of the unpronounceable village Mto wa Mbu (try it..). It means “river of mosquito’’. Despite its unappealing name, it is an inviting, tropical town with a laid back Rastafari vibe, well worth spending an extra day. This village sees a large volume of tourist traffic, so it’s well stocked with various tourist paraphernalia. It is said to be the only place in Tanzania where representatives of 120 Tanzanian tribes are resident! Community walking tours are recommended in Mto wa Mbu village, or undertake a varied selection of mild adventure activities operated by Wayo Africa, such as mountain biking down the Rift Vallley Escarpment. There are many places to stay in and around the park, catering to all budgets.