Lake Manyara National Park is located in the Arusha Region of Tanzania. The majority of the land area of the park is a narrow strip running between the Gregory Rift wall to the west and Lake Manyara, an alkaline or soda-lake, to the east. It is home to a diverse set of landscapes and wildlife, including its famous population of flamingoes.
Lake Manyara itself is a shallow lake in the Natron-Manyara-Balangida branch of the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania. Ernest Hemingway proclaimed it the “loveliest” in Africa.
The name Manyara comes from the Maasai word “emanyara”, which is a type of euphorbia plant that is grown into a hedge around a family homestead. The name “is a Masai description not for the lake, but in general for a lake shore region.”
Of the 127 square miles (329 square km) of Lake Manyara National Park, the lake’s alkaline waters cover approximately 89 square miles (231 square km). Although the area and pH fluctuate widely with the seasons, dry spells expose large areas of mud flats.
While most known for baboons, the lake and its surrounding areas are also home to hippos, impalas, elephants, wildebeests, buffalo, warthogs and giraffes. Giant fig trees and mahogany seen in the groundwater forest immediately around the park gates draw nourishment from the underground springs replenished continuously from crater highlands directly above the Manyara basin.
Leading away from the forest to the fringes of Lake Manyara are the flood plains. To the south are visible the acacia woodlands. Leopards and lions are abundant in this park.
Lake Manyara provides opportunities for bird watchers to observe over 300 migratory birds, including flamingo, Long-crested Eagle and Grey-headed Kingfisher.
The Lake Manyara National Park trail is effectively a loop that can be traversed by jeep within a couple of hours that may be stretched to a few more at best, if driving slowly, to watch, observe and enjoy the diversity of flora and fauna. The Rift Valley escarpment forms a noteworthy landmark and provides a spectacular backdrop to Lake Manyara.
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