Lake Manyara National Park – The ultimate unbiased guide

Young lion resting in a tree, Lake Manyara

Gorgeous and abundant with life, Lake Manyara National Park has a lot to offer. Yet it’s far smaller than the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro.

So while you may not see as much wilderness, you’re far more likely to spot animals in the smaller space. Particularly at the edges of the incredible Lake Manyara!

This is a guide to everything you need to know about this Tanzanian park – the good, the “bad”, and the beautiful. Prepare to see troops of elephants roaming the woodlands, lions on the hunt, and all manner of creatures making their home here on this Tanzanian safari.

Your Manyara National Park Safari

Two safari vehicles looking for animals in Lake Manyara National Park, with flock of birds flying above

If you’re ever left wondering what to see in Tanzania, the answer is always to take a safari.

While it’s best to spend a few days here, Manyara’s relatively small size makes a day trip possible. Arrive in the early morning, when there are few other safari vehicles around and you have a whole day to dedicate to sightseeing.

Alternatively, join a multi-day safari that combines Manyara and Tarangire National Park. Lake Manyara National Park is situated right next to Tarangire. Many safaris will take you to both parks, so you can experience as much of the area as possible.

There is a large number of beautiful national parks in Northern Tanzania, so you can tick as many as you want off the bucket list.

The last option is to spend a few days solely in Manyara. If you have the funds, this is the best option. You can take your time to experience everything, and wake up to the sounds of animal calls.

Is it Worth Visiting Lake Manyara, Tanzania?

Lake Manyara at sunrise

There are better, more impressive parks in Tanzania than Manyara. If you’re going to travel to northern Tanzania from another part of the world, it shouldn’t be just for a safari at Manyara National Park. It’s relatively small, and you won’t be able to check the full Big 5 off your list.

It is usually a one-day stop on a larger safari tour, or as a precursor to a multi-day safari at the nearby Ngorongoro. And as such, it is a perfect place to be. So lush and green, with easy sightings of several animals you’ll struggle to find at the larger parks.

Visit Manyara for its unique groundwater forest. For the highly alkaline soda lake which attracts a massive number of colorful birds. For hot springs and hippos, Sykes’ monkeys and lions lounging in trees.

This safari destination feels like a lazy Sunday spent outdoors. An opportunity to relax and watch the animals experiencing life in their natural habitat, at their pace – even if you have just a day.

FAQs About Lake Manyara National Park

Compared to the nearby Serengeti National Park, Manyara is relatively unknown. So you may have a few questions.

Where is the park?

Entrance to Lake Manyara

Manyara Park is located in northern Tanzania, Africa. Nestled between the Arusha and Manyara regions, it includes a large portion of the beautiful Lake Manyara.

This lake makes the park a lot greener than Tanzania is generally known to be. So if the dry, immense expanse of the Serengeti is not for you, definitely consider Manyara.

What animals can you see here?

Lone elephant in Manyara

Elephants – The park is perhaps most famous for its abundance of elephants. Because this is one of the biggest Tanzanian lakes, and there is abundant groundwater, elephants have plenty to eat and drink here.

Lions – Manyara is also renowned for its tree-climbing lions. A rare and exciting sight, you’re likely to spot the local lion pride relaxing in the branches of the trees. Putting distance between themselves and the ground bugs.

Baboons – You can find these highly social animals all across the park. Teaching their young the ropes of baboon living, checking one another for ticks, and battling for mates and social dominance.

Flamingos – The edges of Lake Manyara are dense with pink flamingos. Admire their delicate feeding, among hundreds of other bird species. The lake is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

What is the best time to visit?

The best time to visit Tanzania depends on what you want to get out of your safari experience.

The dry season (June to October) has ideal viewing opportunities, with sparse grass, clear water points, and few mosquitos. It’s also a less humid time of the year, which many of us can appreciate the value of.

Unfortunately, the best time also means the busiest time. If you’re looking for lower prices, less heat, and fewer crowds, visit during the wet season. Running from November to May, there’s still ample opportunity to spot wildlife. It’s also the best time for bird-watching.

Keep an eye on the weather – from March to May, road closures are common due to the rains.

How to Make the Most of Your Time at Manyara

Marabou stork standing on a log, Lake Manyara

Not everyone has an incredible time at Manyara. If you don’t know what to look for, it may feel like a bit of a useless detour from the bigger safari destinations. But if you do it right, you may leave Tanzania with Manyara at the forefront of your great memories.

Here are a few tips on how to ensure your experience is unforgettable.

Stay overnight

Now, while you can see enough of the park in a single day, there’s a lot to be said for spending the night. You can enjoy an easier pace (and be more in-sync with the animals around you).

You’ll see more of the little things, and have a higher chance of witnessing incredible interactions, like a lion hunt, or elephants playing with each other by the lake.

You can also take a night safari, observing activity that lays dormant during the day. The park offers various forms of accommodation for different budgets, from campsites and tented lodges to more luxurious resort-style options.

Don’t just stick to the safari vehicle

Lake Manyara Hippo Pool - funny 'magical living sponge' hippo signpost

In most national parks, it’s illegal to leave your safari vehicle. And in some parts of Lake Manyara National Park, the same rule stands. However, there are some really great stops within the park, that leave the vehicles far behind.

See the view from atop the Treetop Walkway

With such dense vegetation, your safari experience doesn’t have to stay on the ground. Take to the treetops, and look out for the monkeys and birds flitting about.

Cycle along Lake Manyara

Beautiful landscape from the edge of the lake, Lake Manyara National Park

Many of the accommodation options within the National Park offer cycling as a free or cheap activity. Hop on a bicycle and slowly make your way along the lake, pausing to watch the animals interact.

Sightseeing by bike is an incredible way to experience Manyara, as it’s far slower and less noisy than a safari vehicle, so the animals will behave more naturally.

Bring the right gear

Tanzania has a lot of mosquitoes and tsetse flies. These flies are thought to be one of the main reasons the lions here have taken to the trees – as the biting flies stay close to the ground.

To avoid these disease-carrying bugs, it’s best to wear light vegetable-colored clothing. This may sound a bit absurd, but dark colors – particularly blue and black, but also reds – have been proven to attract the flies. You should also make use of insect repellant and sleep under a mosquito net.

Additionally, a sturdy hat, comfortable closed shoes, a camera, and binoculars are all valuable things to bring on a safari.

For more suggestions on what to pack, check out our ultimate safari packing guide.

Where to Stay in Manyara

Spectacular views of Lake Manyara, from the edge of a swimming pool

If you do plan to spend a few nights here, there are plenty of options to choose from. All within the national park, these are a few top favorites.

Escarpment Luxury Lodge

A luxurious yet authentic experience, this lodge is situated on the escarpment overlooking the lake and the forests. Relax with a drink and take it all in, or wash off the grit of the day in the pool.

Whether you’re in your room, the pool, or at the restaurant and bar, the views are incredible.

Maramboi Tented Camp

Pool area at the Maramboi tented camp

This permanent tented site is right in the action, with views over the lake. There’s plenty of space between the tents for privacy. And often you’ll see fewer humans than giraffes and other animals in the vicinity. Which is just what you want from safari accommodation.

Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge

With stunning views, good food, and friendly staff, Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge is another great option within the national park. The furniture is a little dated, but its perfect location more than makes up for it.

Diving Deep into Local Wilderness

Blue monkey portrait, in Lake Manyara National Park

There are many ways you can experience Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania.

Deep-dive into the local wilderness. Or embark on a safari that covers all the top parks north of the country.

Tailormade African safaris can give you the enriching safari experience you want – curated for you and your group.

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