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Lake Manyara National Park

Buffalo relax on the shores of Lake Manyara, Tanzania.

Best time to visit: December, January, February, May, June

Safaris: Tanzania's Northern Circuit

Activities: Game Walking, Mountain Biking, Canoeing, Climbing, Cultural Visits

Accommodation: Kirurumu Lodge

Day: 20-35° C, 68-95° F
Night: 10-20° C, 50-68° F

Lake Manyara spreads out at the bottom of the Rift Valley's sheer, western wall cliffs. This park is a study in contrasts with a dusty red-brown heat haze filling the air, a vivid, green vegetation fringe surrounding the lake and the shimmering blue water of the lake itself spreading out to the horizon.

At Park's entrance is the village of Mto wa Mbu, an ancient trading post for tribes such as the Mgubwe, Iraq, Gorowa, Chagga and Masai. It is the only place in Africa where you may hear all four of the major African languages groups (Bantu, Khoisan, Cushitic and Nilotic) spoken in the same area. A vibrant market town, the handicraft markets are worth a visit!

The Manyara area has a highly unreliable rainfall, which varies between 10-47 inches per year. In 1961 the lake dried up completely, yet just one year later it flooded the area. In this area of rainfall extremes, the forests and plants find an alternative water supply that sustains them: underground springs that surface at the base of the cliffs.

Entering the park, one is surrounded by the tall trees of the "ground water" forest with its lush foliage. Blue monkeys pick insects and fruits from the high branches while elephants eat the wild figs. Baboons, bushbuck, civet, leopard and the nocturnal aardvark are all present in the forest; some of the few remaining Manyara rhino may also be spotted here. Reeds, sedges and star grass cover the forest floor in small clearings where the ground literally seeps water, forming an ample food supply for the large herds of buffalo.

Venturing further into the park takes you past huge hippo filled pools in the Simba River, where the darting bird songs accompany the grunts and splashes of these huge animals. Over 380 bird species have been recorded at the pools. Lake Manyara itself is slightly alkaline and maintains a huge population of water birds such as pelicans, storks, cormorants, geese, ducks and flamingoes.

Hippo in Lake Manyara, Tanzania.

Leaving the river, the landscape opens out into the classic African acacia tree woodlands, filled with giraffe, zebra, impala and elephant. This is also the area known for its tree-climbing lions. During the heat of the midday sun, entire prides of lion may be seen draped over branches of the acacias, escaping both biting insects and the heat of the long grass.

It is well worth a quick visit to "Maji Moto", literally meaning "Hot Water" in KiSwahili, a natural hot springs where the water bubbles out of the ground at temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Copyright Melinda Rees of Eco-resorts

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