(Lake Manyara, viewed from the Serena Lodge, Tanzania)
The last safari destination we visited in Tanzania was Lake Manyara National Park. We left our camp after breakfast and drove the Ngorongoro Crater Rim Drive through misty rain-forest We stopped for some memorable views and then left the Ngorongoro Crater. After having spent a week in the wilderness, the transition to “civilization” was abrupt and not pretty, with many poorly kept homes, scrawny domesticated animals, and lots of people. We drove east past farming fields, though with no crops really growing – off season, I guess (normally corn, wheat, millet and coffee are grown). There were many towns and villages but no cities and also no wildlife.
(Elephant, Lake Manyara, Tanzania)
By late morning our travels bring us to Lake Manyara National Park. Lake Manyara is a large alkaline (soda) lake nestled at the eastern base of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, the park occupying the western half of the Lake’s shore. This map (at the bottom of the page) might help orient you. The park is lush and green, with large trees and fairly dense vegetation, the thickness of the foliage hiding the animals and not making for ideal game viewing. As it’s the rainy season there’s a lot of flooding in the lowlands, so we can’t even approach the shore of the lake to view its vast flocks of flamingos. Still we see large troops of baboons and blue monkeys, many elephants and giraffes, and dozens and dozens of different species of birds (for birders, this is probably the best destination in Tanzania). Lake Manyara Park is famous for its “tree-climbing” lions (admittedly an uncommon behavior for these big cats), although we didn’t see any.
After a few hours of exploring the parts of the flooded park that were still accessible, we make for the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. This lodge sits high on the rim of the Rift Valley, with great views of Lake Manyara to the east. Our guide, Alex Lemunge, gives us a detailed briefing of our next activity, the trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro. The next morning we head to Arusha to shop, relax, and organize ourselves for this trek.
(Giraffe, well camouflaged in Lake Manyara, Tanzania)
I have to admit that after leaving the wonderful Ngorongoro Crater, a visit to Lake Manyara was anticlimactic. I wish we’d done the trip in reverse, traveling to Lake Manyara first, then heading to the Crater and the Serengeti. Still, how can you complain when you’re enjoying a magnificent sunrise over the lake viewed from the comfort of your room, listening to the noise of monkeys scrambling across your roof and the tunes of dozens of songbirds.