The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience. From the entrance gate, the road winds through an expanse of lush jungle like groundwater forest where hundred-strong baboon troops lounge nonchalantly along the roadside, blue monkeys scamper nimbly between the ancient mahogany trees, dainty bush buck tread warily through the shadows, and out sized forest horn-bills honk cacophonously in the high canopy.

Contrasting with the intimacy of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai Steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these grassy plains, as do giraffes – some so dark in coloration that they appear to be black from a distance.

Inland of the flood plain, a narrow belt of acacia woodland is the favored haunt of Manyara’s legendary tree-climbing lions and impressively tusked elephants.

Squadrons of banded mongoose dart between the acacias, while the diminutive Kirk’s dik-dik forages in their shade. Pairs of sprinkling are often seen silhouetted on the rocks above a field of searing hot springs that steams and bubbles adjacent to the lake shore in the far south of the park.

Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s bird life. More than 400 species have been recorded, and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in one day. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks.

Size

330 sq km (127 sq miles), of which up to 200 sq km (77 sq miles) is lake when water levels are high.

Location

In northern Tanzania. The entrance gate lies 1.5 hours(126km/80 miles) west of Arusha along a newly surfaced road, close to the ethnically diverse market town of Mto wa Mbu. There By road, charter or scheduled flight from Arusha, enroute to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

To do

Game drives, canoing when the water levelsis suffi ciently high. Cultural tours, mountain biketours, abseiling and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.

Best time
Dry season (July-October) for large mammals; wet season (November-June) for bird watching, the waterfalls and canoeing. Accommodation One luxury tree house-style camp, public banda sand campsites inside the park. One luxury tented camp and two lodges perched on the Rift Wall overlooking the lake; several guest houses and campsites in nearby Mto wa Mbu.