After a wonderful couple of days in Tarangire National Park, our guide took us just a few kilometers up the road to Lake Manyara National Park. We spent about half a day there, but it was enough time to really get a feel for the place. The park is known as one of Tanzania’s premiere birdwatching areas, and we saw a wide variety of both birds and other wildlife.
Lake Manyara National Park
Ernest Hemingway referred the centerpiece of Lake Manyara National Park as “loveliest [lake] … in Africa.” The lake itself spreads over approximately 200km during the rainy season, but virtually disappears during the dry season. The water is very alkaline, leaving white powdery residue on the lake shore and on the dry land when the water evaporates. Incidentally, the dry season is the best time to visit Lake Manyara National Park. The smaller pools of water mean that the animals are crowded together more, which makes for easier viewing.
Upwards of 400 separate species of birds can be found around or near the lake, and it’s not uncommon for bird watchers to spot 100 or more species in a single day. I was really excited about the possibility of seeing lots of birds because I love bird watching and photography. We were incredibly fortunate that our guide Ricky was an expert in birdwatching. He was able to spot many birds we couldn’t even see on first look, and get us very close so I could photograph them. He had an extensive knowledge of nearly all the birds in the park and knew both the common and Latin names for most of them.
We took our lunch in a grove of acacia trees overlooking a large pond. Even though the day was warm and humid, there were nice breezes and good shade from the acacias which helped cool us down.
Staying at Lake Manyara National Park
While we were only planning to be there for a few hours, we could have easily made this a longer trip and maybe incorporated an overnight stay. Had we done that, we would have had the ability to head out right before (or shortly after) the sunrise and catch the animals as they began their day.
In the event you choose to stay in or around Lake Manyara, there are plenty of great lodging options in the area. These options include everything from basic lodging up to luxury locations with lots of nice amenities. After a day out in nature trekking around, it’s awfully nice to come back to a great shower, a comfy bed to relax on, and a nice dinner with the beverage of your choice.
After our short tour of Lake Manyara National Park, we headed north toward our next destination – Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We were moving out of the area where the Maasai people were the dominant tribe and into other tribes’ areas. We made a brief stop in Karatu to check out a Maasai farmers’ market.
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The market is held in a different city in the Karatu Region every day. The Maasai are traditionally an agrarian tribe, herding goats and planting subsistence crops. It’s becoming more common for them to trade or outright sell their animals at these markets, or to sell the milk or cheese from the goats, in order to obtain other amenities they need.
After a quick tour – and a sampling of some Mbege (a banana-based beer) – we were on our way toward Ngorongoro Conservation Area. My next post in this series will cover our time there as well as our wonderful stay in an upscale lodge.