Rift Safari
Traveling along the Rift Valley: Lake Manyara National Park

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Lake Manyara national park is located along the road that leads to Ngorongoro and to Serengeti. It is one of the park with the highest bio-diversity of Tanzania. In 1981 it was declared world's heritage site. It measures 330 square kilometers, of which 200 are occupied by the lake and consists of five different eco-systems:

• the dense groundwater forest
the xerophilous open woodland with palm trees, acacias and a few baobabs
• the swamps and reed beds nearby the delta
• the savannah and the expanses of long grass
• the volcanic sites and hot springs.

Thanks to such a changing habitat the park is said to claim the highest bio-mass [flora/fauna ratio per square kilometer] of all East Africa.
Suddenly, past the entrance gate, one finds himself into a dense, lush evergreen forest explosively contrasting with the surrounding area which is instead very dry for much of the year. This forest not only hosts throughout the year a good resident game but it also attracts, in dry season, other animals particularly elephants and giraffes. Among the resident animals the first ones you are most likely to encounter along the dirt road just after the gate are the playful blue monkeys and the large baboons groups. Baboons can be seen almost everywhere but nowhere else, except maybe Arusha national Park, they are so incline to be so closely approached and observed
.

Past the forest towards the lake shores you will enter the open acacia woodland and then the savannah populated by giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, warthogs and buffaloes. Buffaloes in particular are attracted by the abundance of
saw-sedge grass which grows along lake shores and it is also traditionally used by local people to
bottom chairs and to weave baskets and mats. Finally you will reach the delta of lake characterized by swamps and marshes where the lazy hippos are regularly seen resting in the water in order to protect their skin from the sun.

Proceeding towards south the park reduces to a thin strip of land embedded between the western wall of the Rift Valley and the lake itself. The landscape is very scenic and along with elephants and buffaloes you are very likely to spot here klipspringer. The Maji Moto hot springs, which water flows at 60°, are also located in this sector of the park.

Lake Manyara National Park is also considered a bird watchers paradise with its over 380 different species. Unlikely other parks, such as Tarangire which is even hosting a higher number of species, Manyara offers the spectacle of large flocks more than that of single sightings. During the green season the park hosts thousand of flamingos [during the dry season the great majority of them will move to Lake Natron to breed]. According to the season, along the lake shores one can sight large flocks of white pelican, pink-backed pelican, flamingos, cormorants, yellow-billed stork and many other eurasian migratory species. In the forest one could spot the silvery-cheeked hornbill; the open woodland is the ideal habitat for the leadbeater hornbill. Among the 46 birds of prey species that the park hosts one can sight ruppell's griffon, egyptian vulture, martial eagle, Verreaux's eagle, crowned eagle, peregrine falcon and bat hawk.
The park atmosphere is brightened up by the beautiful colors of the inseparable couples of Agapornis fischeri, Peters twinspot, king fisher and yellow and red barbet .

Among predators the park hosts lions and leopards. Disturbed by insects bites, Manyara lions have seriously developed the attitude to climb on acacias. We have seen behaving the same way also lions in Serengeti however only a few elects succeed in snatching such a picture. There's a particular end of the park that cats prefer and it is located along the forest just south of Msasa River.

Lake Manyara is the only national park within which night game drives are allowed. Night game drives offer the opportunity to sight the most elusive species uncommonly seen during the day like genets, porcupines and night birds. Predators active at night are leopards and lions.

Finally a curiosity, the park owes its name to the masai word emanyara, a kind of euphorbia used to fence villages.

 
LAKE MANYARA MIGRATION

Like Tarangire also Manyara is subject to game migration flows with the transition from the dry season [June to October] to the green season [November to May] and vice versa. However while in Tarangire in certain months what occurs is a real exodus involving many of the species which inhabit the park during the dry season, in Manyara the number of animals moving out from the park is relatively lower not counting that some of the game abandoning Tarangire migrates right into Manyara.

Manyara climbing lions


JANUARY FEBRUARY & MARCH

Weather: bright and sunny skies with possibility of downpours above all in January and second half of March
Average temperatures: max. 30° - min. 17°
Landscape: green.

Recommended at this time of the year: 0 - 1 night

Similarly to Serengeti and Ngorongoro, January and February tend to have little rain compared to the months that precede and follow them. The risk of rains tend to be higher in January and in the second half of March albeit sunshine hours remaining at the highest levels. The short november rains, that tend to be here more consistent than in Tarangire, should have enabled migratory animals [some elephants, some predators, zebras, wildebeest and
giraffes
] to move outside the park. At the same time anyway the park is receiving some of the game that left Tarangire [wildebeest, zebras, elephants] which add up to the resident game: some elephants, buffaloes, hippos, troops of baboon and some predators among which lions and leopard. Bird watching remains very strong. The number of visitors could be high but only in the northern sector of the park.

Accommodation in Lake Manyara

Zebras, Manyara


APRIL & MAY

Weather: generally bright and sunny but possibility of severe downpours.
Average temperatures: max. 28,5° - min. 17°
Landscape: green

Recommended at this time of the year: 0 - 1 night

Within April at least a part of wildebeest and zebras spreading out from Tarangire should have arrived in Manyara adding up to the resident game consisting of elephants, buffalos, hippos, troops of baboon and some predators among which lions and leopards. The number of birds that can be sighted in large flocks remain very high including, at this time of the year, thousand of flamingos. Many new born and lots of flowers. The number of visitors should be low which in itself could be already an incentive.

Accommodation in Lake Manyara

Flocks of flamingos and yellow-billed stork, Manyara


JUNE & JULY

Weather: rarely raining but the sky tend to be cloudy
Average temperatures: max. 26,5° - min. 13,5°
Landscape: lush green into the waterground forest - tending to be dry nearby the lake shores

Recommended at this time of the year: 0 - 1 night

Rainfall patterns can vary every year but May usually demarcates the beginning of the dry season in northern Tanzania. Migratory animals start to re-enter the park however while in Tarangire this trend tends to be particularly pronounced and rains in the second half of May rarely occur, here in Manyara the game tends come back in full only within the end of June. Hence in June sightings will most probably continue to focus on resident game: elephants, bufalos, hippos, troops of baboon and some predators among which lions and leopards. In July instead resident and migratory game should have congregate and the park should host a high percentage of giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, elephants, hippos, buffalos herds, and baboon troops. The number of predators should have increased as well.
Considering that all the above species can be seen at this time in more significant numbers also in Tarangire where moreover the vegetation should have start to drop foliage allowing easier sightings,
we tend in these months to skip Manyara in favor of Tarangire
except for longer safaris when a visit to Manyara can be well justified if only to complete the mosaic of habitats that northern Tanzania offers.

Accommodation in Lake Manyara

Elephant in the groundwater forest at Manyara


AUGUST SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER

Weather: rarely raining but the sky tend to be cloudy until the end of August
Average temperatures: max. 29° - min. 14°
Landscape: lush green into the waterground forest - dry nearby the lake shores

Recommended at this time of the year: 0 - 1 night

Starting from July all migratory animals should have come back into the park adding up to resident game and the park should host a high percentage of giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, elephants, hippos, buffalos herds, and baboon troops. The number of predators should have increased as well despite sightings here are less easy than in Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Bird watching remains very strong albeit flamingos should have moved to Natron to breed.
Considering that all the above species can be seen at this time in more significant numbers also in Tarangire where moreover the vegetation should have dropped the foliage allowing easier sightings,
we tend in these months to skip Manyara in favour of Tarangire
except for longer safaris when a visit to Manyara can be well justified if only to complete the mosaic of habitats that northern Tanzania offers.

Accommodation in Lake Manyara

Baboon in the waterground forest at Manyara


NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER

Weather: with the rains arrival the sky brighten up and sunshine hours climb up to best annual levels
Average temperatures: max. 28° - min. 17°
Landscape: lush green into the waterground forest -
greening up nearby the lake shores
Recommended at this time of the year: 0 - 1 night

Statistically November marks the beginning of short light rains which gradually green up the pastures. Forecast on game migration are difficult. As happens with Tarangire, if rains occurred within mid of October then animals would have certainly begun to disperse beyond the park boundaries; per converse if the rains had not been sufficient to create seasonal watering sources then game would be very reluctant to leave the permanent rivers. Compared to Tarangire however rains in here in Manyara tend to be stronger [in November and December i.e. the average of rainy days in Tarangire is respectively 8 and 9 days per month while for Manyara it is 21 and 18 days]. Having to chose between the two parks, Tarangire is the one that statistically offers the best opportunity to find good part of the game still inside the park. As far as Manyara is concerned, prudence suggests to expect to encounter just the resident game hence elephants, buffalos, hippos, troops of baboon and some predators among which lions and leopards.

Accommodation in Lake Manyara

Elephant in the southern lake shores at Manyara


WEATHER LAKE MANYARA



January, February, March: Similarly to Serengeti and Ngorongoro, January and February tend to have little rain compared to the months that precede and follow them. The risk of rains tend to be higher in January and in the second half of March albeit sunshine hours remaining at the highest levels.

April: the risk of severe downpours increases and sunshine hours tend to decrease albeit remaining quite high [7 sunshine hours out of 12 hours daylight].

May: from mid-month the risk of rains decreases considerably. The sky however could be covered and sunshine hours decrease slightly.

June and July: the risk of rains is limited. The sky tend to be cloudy with respectively 6 and 4 sunshine hours out of 12 hours daylight.

August, September and October: they represent the peak of the dry season. The sky tend to be cloudy until the end of August improving throughout September and October.

November and December: in November the short rains usually come. The sky tends to brighten up and sunshine hours climb up to best annual levels

NOTE: the above bar-graph represents the statistical average of rainy days per month and sunshine hours per day for Manyara. It must be noted that as in the rest of the world in Tanzania as well the climate is changing and there are years in which, for instance, a month like April does not experience rains while traditionally dry months turn out to be wet. The chart and the relative comments should be taken as a reference guide but with no absolute value..