Stretching for 50km along the  base of the rusty-gold 600-metre high Rift Valley escarpment, Lake   Manyara is a scenic gem, with a setting extolled by Ernest  Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”.

The compact game-viewing  circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari  experience.

From the entrance gate, the  road winds through an expanse of lush jungle-like groundwater forest where  hundred-strong baboon troops lounge nonchalantly along the roadside, blue  monkeys scamper nimbly between the ancient mahogany trees, dainty bushbuck  tread warily through the shadows, and outsized forest hornbills honk  cacophonously in the high canopy.

Contrasting with the intimacy  of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across  the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless  Maasai Steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these  grassy plains, as do giraffes – some so dark in coloration that they appear to  be black from a distance.

Inland of the floodplain, a  narrow belt of acacia woodland is the favoured haunt of Manyara’s legendary  tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephants. Squadrons of banded  mongoose dart between the acacias, while the diminutive Kirk’s dik-dik forages  in their shade. Pairs of klipspringer are often seen silhouetted on the rocks  above a field of searing hot    springs that  steams and bubbles adjacent to the lakeshore in the far south of the park.

Manyara provides the perfect  introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded,  and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in  one day. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual  migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and  storks.

About Lake Manyara National Park Size: 330 sq km (127 sq miles), of which up to  200 sq km (77 sq miles) is lake when water levels are high. Location: In northern Tanzania. The entrance gate lies 1.5 hours (126km/80 miles)  west of Arusha along a newly surfaced road, close to the ethnically diverse  market town of Mto wa Mbu.

Getting there  By road, charter or scheduled  flight from Arusha, en route to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

What to do     Game drives, night game drives, canoeing when  the water levels is sufficiently high. Cultural tours, picnicking, bush lunch/dinner, mountain bike tours, abseiling  and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.

When to go    Dry season (July-October) for large mammals; Wet season (November-June) for bird watching, the waterfalls and canoeing.

Accommodation       One luxury treehouse-style camp, public bandas  and campsites inside the park. One luxury tented camp and three lodges perched on the Rift Wall outside the  park overlooking the lake. Several guesthouses and campsites in nearby Mto wa Mbu.

More info   on accomodation

Park Posters

Lake Manyara National Park poster