Lake Manyara is a lake located within the larger Lake Manyara National Park in the Monduli District of Tanzania’s Arusha Region. It is the seventh-largest lake in Tanzania by surface area, at 470 square kilometers (180 square miles). It is a shallow, alkaline lake on the East African Rift’s Natron-Manyara-Balangida branch. The northwest quadrant of the lake (approximately 200 square kilometers) is part of Lake Manyara National Park and the Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve, which was created by UNESCO in 1981 as part of its Man and the Biosphere Programme.
There are several theories as to how Lake Manyara obtained its name. Manyara may be derived from the Maasai term “emanyara,” which refers to the spiky, protective enclosure that surrounds a family residence (boma).
If you’re looking for an incredible wildlife experience, Lake Manyara National Park is a must-visit destination. The park’s most notable feature is the great masses of pink-hued flamingoes that gather on the saline waters of Lake Manyara. This unique alkaline lake habitat is home to more than 300 different species of birds, including the flamingo, hippo, lilac-breasted roller, grey-headed kingfisher, and long-crested eagle.
Perhaps the 600-meter-high rift escarpment hems in the lake, similar to the enclosure around a Maasai boma. Another version is that the Lake Manyara area’s Mbugwe tribe named the lake from the Mbugwe word manyero, which means a trough or a location where animals drink water.
Let’s dive deeper into Lake Manyara’s fascinating landscape, unique features, and the best ways to experience its abundant wildlife.
Overview of Lake Manyara
Lake Manyara is a shallow, alkaline lake located in Tanzania’s Manyara Region, within the Great Rift Valley. The lake is fed by several small rivers and is known for its high salinity and algae growth.
Formation of Lake Manyara
Lake Manyara was formed millions of years ago as a result of the Great Rift Valley. As the rift grew wider, streams cascaded down and pooled into what is now the famous lake. Over time, the lake’s high alkaline levels created an ideal environment for the growth of algae, which attracts the diverse birdlife that we see today.
Wildlife at Lake Manyara
The great masses of pink-hued flamingoes are the most notable and recognizable wildlife at Lake Manyara. These beautiful birds are famous for their striking pink feathers and elegant long necks. Flamingos are filter feeders and use their beaks to strain food, such as algae, from the water.
Lake Manyara is also home to a large population of hippos. These majestic creatures spend most of their days submerged in the lake’s shallow waters to stay cool. Visitors to the park can witness hippos’ unique vocalizations, often referred to as grunts, growls, and snorts.
In addition to flamingos, Lake Manyara is home to over 300 different species of birds, making it a bird lover’s paradise. The lilac-breasted roller, grey-headed kingfisher, and long-crested eagle are just a few of the unique bird species that coexist in the park.
The main fish species inhabiting Lake Manyara are catfish and tilapia. However, due to the high salt concentration in the lake, fish tend to be found near the inflow areas where salt concentrations are lower. Lake Manyara is also the type locality for the endangered fish Oreochromis amphimelas, a species in the cichlid family, endemic to Tanzania. This fish species is found in Lake Manyara and other saline lakes with closed basins. Due to its endangered status, exploitation is prohibited in parts of Lake Manyara within the National Park. The protected park areas also provide important seed stock for the replenishment of fished populations.
Lake Manyara National Park is known for its diverse birdlife, including flocks of thousands of flamingos that feed along the edge of the lake in the wet season. At times, there have been over an estimated 2 million individuals of various species of water birds. The park has been recognized as an Important Bird Area, and the following table summarizes the most numerous species, according to the Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Manyara.
|Species||Scientific Name||Number of Individuals|
|Greater Flamingo||Phoenicopterus roseus||500,000 – 1,000,000|
|Lesser Flamingo||Phoeniconaias minor||50,000 – 1,000,000|
|White Pelican||Pelecanus onocrotalus||2,000 – 5,000|
|Yellow-billed Stork||Mycteria ibis||500 – 2,000|
|Marabou Stork||Leptoptilos crumeniferus||100 – 500|
|Grey Heron||Ardea cinerea||100 – 500|
|African Spoonbill||Platalea alba||50 – 200|
|Goliath Heron||Ardea goliath||50 – 200|
|Saddle-billed Stork||Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis||50 – 200|
|Pink-backed Pelican||Pelecanus rufescens||50 – 200|
How to Explore Lake Manyara
One of the best ways to experience Lake Manyara’s birdlife is from the elevated walkway that overlooks the flamingos. This walkway provides a unique vantage point for observing these magnificent birds and capturing stunning photographs.
Game drives are a popular activity in Lake Manyara National Park. Visitors can embark on guided tours to explore the park’s diverse landscape and wildlife. The best time for game drives is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when wildlife is most active.
For a more adventurous experience, visitors can explore Lake Manyara by canoe. Canoeing provides a unique perspective of the lake’s diverse birdlife and offers a peaceful, relaxing experience.
Lake Manyara National Park also offers a variety of hiking trails that provide visitors with the opportunity to explore the park on foot. These trails offer unique views of the lake and its surrounding landscape and are a great way to experience the park’s diverse wildlife.
Q1. Can I go fishing in Lake Manyara National Park?
No, fishing is not allowed in the parts of Lake Manyara within the National Park. However, fishing is permitted in other areas of the lake outside the park boundaries.
Q2. Which is the most endangered fish species in Lake Manyara National Park?
The endangered fish species found in Lake Manyara National Park is Oreochromis amphimelas.
Q3. What is the best time to visit Lake Manyara National Park for bird watching?
The best time to visit Lake Manyara National Park for bird watching is during the wet season (November to May), when the lake is filled with water, and birdlife is abundant.
Q4. Is it possible to see flamingos in Lake Manyara National Park throughout the year?
Flamingos are mostly seen in Lake Manyara National Park during the wet season when the lake is filled with water. However, some flamingos can still be seen in the park