A groundwater forest, tree-climbing lions, and hippo pools!

A landscape once described by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest that I had seen in Africa”, Lake Manyara is an incredibly ecologically diverse area. Fed by underground springs and streams from the Ngorongoro highlands, Lake Manyara is a very shallow, salty lake with no outflow. While the lake accounts for over two thirds of the park’s area when it’s full, in periods of extreme drought it is known to essentially disappear! With an average depth of only 2’8” (0.81m), the lake evaporates into mud flats which turn into grasslands that attract wildlife such as wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, and more! The northern end of the lake is home to Manyara’s famous hippo pools where hippos hang out alongside numerous bird life such as flamingos. About 400 bird species have been spotted throughout the greater Manyara ecosystem.

Despite a lack of rain in the region, the northern edge of the park boasts a jungle-like forest that thrives on groundwater. This forest is home to many primates and baboon troops are a common sight! Lake Manyara National Park is also famous for its tree climbing lions. Most lions live in savannah ecosystems with few trees big enough to support them. Despite not being nearly as well suited to tree life as leopards, the lions of Manyara frequently hang out in the acacia canopy – possibly to escape biting insects, or to simply catch a breeze.

Located next to the rocky rift valley escarpment, the park is also home to a dense acacia woodland fed by minerals washed down from the cliffs. Some suggest that the name Manyara is a reference to the rift wall, which protects similarly to the spiky hedge grown around a Maasai boma called “emanyara”.

We highly recommend Lake Manyara as a stop on your way to Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. Tell us what else is on your safari bucket list here!