Sitting between just 300-600 feet above sea level and bordered by the western escarpment of the Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park is home to perhaps one the largest selection of bird species in Tanzania. We arrive at our campsite, which sits atop the escarpment looking over the valley, lake, and national park, a couple hours before sunset and quickly unload Doc, Ben, the tents and food before descending back down into the park with Simon.
Looking east from atop the escarpment at our campsite, the forested green belt of Manyara is spread out before us.
Now the roof is raised on the Land Cruiser and I stand with camera and binoculars in hand as Simon winds his way through the parks network of dirt, sand and muddy roads spotting baboons, antelope, elephant and blue velvet monkeys. Is this what an African Safari is all about? Manyara is not one of the most popular parks and this afternoon there are few other adventurers prowling for a glimpse of a leopard, lion or gazelle. In fact, here in Manyara several prides of lion are known for tree climbing. Though the chance of seeing lions in Lake Manyara is low, we do our best during our twilight game drive to spot an abundance of wildlife.
Due to its proximity to the Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara benefits from an abundance of ground water drainage and therefore offers more diversity in vegetation than most of the other parks in Tanzania. Here there are forested hillsides, acacia woodlands, savannah, marshes and Lake Manyara NP it’s also one of the smallest parks in Tanzania and especially since the lake takes up more than 50% of its acreage. Nearly halfway up the steep escarpment Simon points out several elephants. How these massive mammals can climb and then “veg” out on tasty acacias is something only mother nature knows. But it’s a treat to watch.
Storks and pelicans hanging out with the Hippo clan at Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania.
Giraffes have a massive and rough tumbling tongue that doesn’t mind the sharp pricks of the thorn tree. Yummy!
Then we got lucky. Passing over a trickling stream we spotted a female lion sleeping on a fallen tree that crossed the stream. On her back and with her paws stretched to the sky, it wasn’t the best view of the lion, but watching her chest rise and fall to the rhythm of her breathing and her kinetic tail flopping around the log provided entertainment better than the bad music videos the staff of the campsite were watching in the dining hall while Simon and I chased wildlife in the park.
There are usually up to 50 females to one male when spotting Impala grazing in the bush.
Blue Velvet Monkey
That night Ben prepared delicious mushroom soup, pasta with minced meat. Before retiring to my tent and sleeping to the sounds of hyena calls in the distance we were treated to an acrobatic show of balance and tricks by a group of local men. The next morning before packing up Simon and I did another drive through Lake Manyara spotting more bird-life, monkeys and antelope and then made our way to the Ngorogoro Conservation Area.
Breakfast ala Big Ben in the bush.