LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK:
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.
You can easily pick out the mosaic of the Park's different habitats. In the tall trees of the ground water forest monkeys leap from branch to branch, on the slope of the escarpment elephants stand in the shade of a baobab. In the acacia woodland lions lie draped along the branches of umbrella trees, in the pools along the lake shore the hippos wallow, and in the lake itself wade colourful flamingos.
The large variety of mammals, reptiles and birds in the Park and the different types of vegetation, all within a small area make Lake Manyara a diverse and particularly memorable place to visit.
As you approach the village of Mto wa Mbu (Mosquito Creek) from the direction of Arusha the outstanding landmark is the spectacular rift wall. Here where the Maasai plains give way to the cultivated uplands of Mbululand, lies Lake Manyara National Park, nestled at the base of the escarpment.
The Park derives its name from the Maasai word "manyara," which is the name for the plant Euphorbia tirucalli. The Maasai use this plant to grow livestock stockades. Eventually manyara will produce a stock-proof hedge which is more durable than any made of cut thorn branches. There is a specimen of Euphorbia tirucalli at the entrance gate.
The Great Rift Valley is part of a fault in the earth's crust which stretches 8,000 kilometers (4,971 miles) from Turkey to the mouth of the Zambezi River in Mozambique. The fault is so massive that when astronauts landed on the moon the Rift Valley was clearly visible to them. In the Manyara area there is no eastern wall to the Rift Valley as there is in Kenya. Here the flattish country falls very gently into a depression, while in Kenya the valley has walls to both east and west.
The types of vegetation which occur in the Park are related to the geology of the area. The northern part of the Park, nearest the entrance, is composed mainly of volcanic rock which, being porous, allows many streams of clear water to flow out of the base of the rift wall. Further south, around Msasa River, the volcanic rock gives way to ancient crystalline rock, which is hard and non-porous allowing fewer springs and streams to emerge. Those that do — the Ndala, Bagayo and Endabash — cascade down the entire face of the wall when flowing.
Despite the fact Lake Manyara National Park is only 330 square kilometers (127 square miles) in area — of which about 230 square kilometers (89 square miles) are lake — it contains a large variety of habitats: the rift wall, the ground water forest, acacia woodland, areas of open grassland, the lake shore, swamp and the lake itself. Due to the variety of habitats the Park is able to support a large number of species. Over 380 species of birds, some migratory, have been recorded in the Park.
330 square kilometres (127 square miles), of which up to 200 square kilometres (77 square miles) is lake when water levels are high.
In Northern Tanzania. The entrance gate lies 1.5 hours (126 km/80 miles) west of Arusha along a newly surfaced road, close to the ethnically diverse market town of Mto wa Mbu.
By road, charter or scheduled flight from Arusha, en route to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
Game drives, canoeing when the water level is sufficiently high, cultural tours, mountain bike tours, abseiling and forest walks on the escarpment outside the park.
Dry season (July-October), for large mammals, wet season (November - June) for bird watching, the waterfalls and canoeing.
The Lions of Lake Manyara National Park: By Adam Michael:
Ecologists in Lake Manyara National Park have embarked on an extensive and intensive research to establish the reasons the Lake Manyara lions are the only type of lions in the world which are tree climbing, Destination Tanzania has revealed. The tree climbing lions, which are occasionally seen along the branches of Acacia trees in Lake Manyara located 126 km west of Arusha town under the wall of the great rift valley, have become a wonderful spectacle for most of the visiting tourists.
In an exclusive interview with this Magazine recently, the Lake Manyara chief park warden, Bettie Loibook, said that research will investigate whether there are biological or environmental factors behind this novel trend of the amazing tree climbing lions. "Since the commencement of the park way back in 1960 no one knows exactly why these lions are the only ones which are tree climbing throughout the world" Loibook explained.
The natural habitat condition in any place for lions is mostly grass savannah lands where they usually hide and prey other animals.
"This is what has made the Lake Manyara National Park to be curious and conduct an interesting research due to the uniqueness or rather the abnormality of the famous tree climbing Lions" Loibook said.
She further added that most of the visiting tourists form Europe, USA and Japan have been highly impressed by this peculiar habitat which is not found anywhere else. Most of the tourists have been underscoring the importance of the research so as to establish the reason behind the amazing trend of these wonderful tree climbing lions.
The respective park's Ecologist Emilian Kihwele popped in and said; "If the ongoing research reveals the factors which make the Lake Manyara lions to climb trees, a second type of lion's habitat might be discovered or introduced in other national parks for the benefit of visitors" The second benefit of the research, according to Kihwele, would be the success in untangling the long time jigsaw puzzle as to why these animals should be the only ones in the world with this strange habit of climbing acacia trees (with thorns) let alone any tree.