Lake Manyara National park

Lake Manyara National park

Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is a protected area in Tanzania’s Arusha and Manyara Regions, situated between Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley. It is administered by the Tanzania National Parks Authority, and covers an area of 325 km2 (125 sq mi) including about 230 km2 (89 sq mi) lake surface. More than 350 bird species have been observed on the lake.

Lake Manyara National Park is located 126 km (78 mi) south west of Arusha and can be reached by car in an hour and a half. The park can also be reached from Babati the capital of Manyara Region. Lake Manyara Airport is nearby. To the south, situated on the escarpment above the park, is the 35,399 ha Marang Forest Reserve. To the east is the Kwa Kuchinja Wildlife Migration corridor, which allows wildlife to migrate between the near-by Tarangire National Park to the southeast, Lake Manyara to the west, and the Engaruka Basin to the north. Within the Kwa Kuchinja corridor are several villages.  Further from the lake and outside of village land is the 45,000-acre Manyara Ranch, a former livestock ranch, managed by the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust since 2001 and an important part of the corridor allowing wildlife movement between Tarangire and Lake Manyara national parks.

The flora of Lake Manyara National Park is diverse, with over 670 flowering plant and fern species documented. Most are widespread species; there are few rare or endemic species.

The park has a variety of diverse habitats. Rivers flowing off the escarpment and perennial springs below the rift wall support tall, evergreen groundwater forests dominated by Trichilia roka with Broad-Leaved Croton (Croton macrostachyus), sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus), quinine tree (Rauvolfia caffra) and forest toad-tree (Tabernaemontana ventricosa). Trees are densest in gorges, along the edge of streams and in areas where springs emerge. Growing at the edge of the groundwater forest are dense stands of yellow fever trees (Acacia xanthophloea) and the palm Phoenix reclinata.  The flora of Lake Manyara National Park is diverse, with over 670 flowering plant and fern species documented. Most are widespread species; there are few rare or endemic species.

Woodlands on the western shore of the lake dominated by Acacia and Commiphora species are also supported by groundwater. Trees are spaced irregularly; densest in zones of seepage and along drainage channels. The dominant tree, Acacia tortilis, grows to about 10m tall with a flat-topped canopy. There is a patchy and diverse understory shrub layer.

Extensive swamps have formed where the Simba River and its tributaries flow into the north end of Lake Manyara and smaller swamps have formed elsewhere, associated with the minor rivers flowing off the walls of the rift valley. A number of aquatic species have been documented, including two species of water lily (Nymphaea caerulea and N.lotus) and extensive mats of water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes). Cattails (Typha sp.) forms pure stands in the northern swamps and various Cyperus species are found around the edges of the swamps. Cyperus immensus forms dense clumps in areas with flooding by fresh water. Cyperus laevigatus is prominent along the lake shore in areas where the alkaline water table is high, in areas of shallow lagoons enclosed behind sand ridges and flanking river deltas.

Grasslands are dominated by Cynodon dactylon in dry locations, or by Sporobolus spicatus, often in association with Sporobolus consimilis on the alkaline lake flats. Sporobolus spicatus is dominant on exposed lakebed and can be very extensive during low lake levels, becoming restricted to a narrow zone above the high water mark when lake levels are high. There are extensive areas of Psilolemma jaegeri grasslands outside the park, along the eastern shore of the lake. Vegetation on the escarpment is characterized by Ruellia megachlamys and African baobab trees (Adansonia digitata).

Lake Manyara National Park is known for flocks of thousands flamingos that feed along the edge of the lake in the wet season. In 1991 there were an estimated 1,900,000 non-breeding Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) individuals and 40,000 Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus). Great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) can also be present in large numbers (an estimated 200,000 individuals in 1991) and in all there has been an estimated 1,000,000-2,499,999 individual water birds, however, only 78,320 birds were counted in 1994. The groundwater forest to the north of the lake, and largely within the National Park, is a well-known breeding site for thousands of pink-backed pelican (Pelecanus rufescens) and yellow-billed stork (Mycteria ibis) along with smaller numbers of Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus) and grey heron (Ardea cinerea). Over 40 species of birds of prey are documented, including palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) and Ayre’s hawk eagle (Hieraaetus ayresii)  In all, more than 390 species of birds have been documented in the national park, although in the dry season, flamingos and other water birds are usually found only in small numbers.

Populations of large migratory mammals that are concentrated primarily in Tarangire National Park, but also move through Lake Manyara National Park include wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and Grant’s gazelle. Large herds of wildebeest and other plains game from the Mto wa Mbu Game Controlled Area enter the park from the north for short periods. Wildebeest exclusively graze the alkaline grasslands around the lake, and numbers are highest during the dry season, dropping to small resident populations in the wet season.  Herbivores of Lake Manyara National Park include zebra, bushbuck, waterbuck, Grant’s gazelle, impala, Thomson’s gazelle, Cape buffalo, giraffe, hippopotamus, baboon, warthog, and elephant.

Means of Transport to Lake Manyara National Park

There are two major means of transport used to get to Lake Manyara National Park and these include:

By Air

The best way to get to Lake Manyara np is by flying into the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA).From Arusha, this airport is located about 46 km .Using a domestic flight, it is also possible to fly to Arusha Airport (ARK) while flying from the Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam .

Alternatively, you can take an international flight to the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam and then catch a connecting flight from either JRO or Arusha Airport (ARK). There are there are charter flights to the Lake Manyara Airport (LKY) that connect from the Serengeti or Arusha. From there you can connect by road to the park gate which is about 16.km away (approximately 30 minutes drive)

Domestic flights can be arranged with a domestic carrier. In addition to this, charter flights between parks are in most cases booked by your tour operator as part of your safari package.

By Road

Located southwest of Arusha town, the distance from Arusha to Lake Manyara National Park is 126 km (78 miles) and can easily be reached by car. You can also flexibly get there from Bahati, the capital of Manyara region. This is the most popular transport means among holidaymakers visiting the park along the northern safari circuit.

By car, one can also take a trip (road safari) along the newly tarred road connecting from Arusha which only takes 1 ½ to 2 hours to reach the entrance gate. Considering that Manyara Park is on the way to the more renowned Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti National Park which are the other parks on the northern circuit.

In case you do not have private means, you can use a public transport like a bus to Mto wa Mbu village and then rent a car to get you into the park. The distance from Tarangire National Park to Lake Manyara National Park is 37.4 km