Sheltering under the cliffs of the Manyara Escarpment, on the edge of the Rift Valley, Lake Manyara is a beautiful little park well known for its diverse set of landscapes and wildlife, and in particular for its elephants, incredible bird life, and large troops of baboons. The park covers an area of 325 sq. km, though the shallow, alkaline lake consumes roughly 2/3 of this area.
Your first view as you approach Lake Manyara National Park is spectacular, regardless of direction. When you approach it from the east the Rift Valley escarpment looms on the horizon forming an impressive backdrop to the lake. If you come from the west and pause at the top of the escarpment, the Park lies in a green strip below you, the lake glistening in the sunlight.
The escarpment's face, characterized by perennial herbs and distinguished by baobab trees, is dissected by spectacular gorges from which rivers, some flowing year round, feed into the lake. The park is home to three distinct habitats including a lush ground water forest, open floodplains and acacia woodlands. Below the rift wall, perennial springs in the north support a ground water forest of giant fig trees and mahoganies, where the baboons, elephants and impala can be found. At the edges of the ground water forest, yellow fever trees and palms form dense stands. Woodlands are found in the central area of the park, while perennial grasses and acacia woodlands are found to the south.
While most known for elephants, baboons, and birds, the lake is also home to herbivores such as hippos, impalas, elephants, wildebeest, buffalo, warthogs and giraffe. Given the Park's small size and wildlife abundance, it has been argued that it possibly has the greatest density of mammals in the world, mainly due to its elephant and buffalo populations. Black rhinoceros are still present, although in small numbers. Other species are hippopotamus, impala, giraffe, and zebra.
The park has grown a reputation for its famous tree-climbing lions, which are found lazing in the branches of the acacia trees. The other big carnivore of the park is the leopard. However, pretty much like anywhere else, the leopards of Manyara, although in abundance, are elusive and only occasionally one gets the chance to glimpse one.
Over 300 species of birds can be found in Lake Manyara including flamingo, long-crested eagle and grey-headed kingfisher. Spectacular flocks of water fowl are often present. Lesser flamingo can occur in thousands and greater flamingo in smaller numbers. White pelicans, yellow-billed storks, ibis, and white-necked cormorants are also common.