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Lake Manyara National Park | Activities & practical travel tips

by Ferdi

If you are new to self-driving in Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park is a nice and gentle introduction. The park's tracks are well-maintained and not technical, and game viewing is very rewarding. The drive to Lake Manyara from Arusha takes no more than 120 km / 2 hours on a good asphalt road. A visit to Lake Manyara is featured in most Tanzania itineraries that cover the Northern Safari Circuit. Keep on reading to understand why.

Is Lake Manyara worth visiting?

Absolutely! Lake Manyara is a shallow soda lake set at the base of the Western Rift Valley Escarpment. The northwestern lakeshore and its hinterland are protected in a scenic national park. Manyara is one of Tanzania’s smallest parks, yet it boasts a diverse flora & fauna. Expect savannah, acacia woodland, rocks, grassy floodplains and tropical rainforest.

Activities in Lake Manyara National Park

Laka Manyara offers suburb birding and guided walking safaris, that will take you along the shore to various hot springs and a flamingo lookout point. If you ask us, we'd even tell you that Lake Manyara is the best place in Tanzania for nature walks! 

A walking safari is best to undertake early in the morning and can be easily arranged upon arrival at the park entrance gate. We recommend booking a walking safari at least one day in advance, although you might get lucky with a last-minute spot, depending on ranger availability. 

Self-drive safaris at Lake Manyara are a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with the park. Although the area is known for its legendary tree-climbing lions, there is no guarantee that you will encounter them on your game drive. On the other hand, you will likely spot impressively tusked elephants, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds, and many giraffes. The lake is a seasonal home to large flocks of flamingos, and a wide array of waterbirds can always be found on the shores as well.

The best time to visit Lake Manyara 

Game viewing in Lake Manyara National Park is good all year, but at its best during the dry season from late June to October. This time of year also marks Tanzania's peak season, so expect many other cars and tourists, perhaps compromising your wilderness experience. Since most people visit the park in the afternoon, we advise you to enter Laka Manyara in the early morning, when there are fewer crowds and more freedom to drive around at your own pace. 

Scenic Lake Manyara is most beautiful during its wet season, from November to May when the vegetation is lush and waterfalls cascade down the escarpment. Bird watching is also wonderful then, as many migratory birds flock to Lake Manyara at this time of year.

Getting from Arusha to Lake Manyara 

While Arusha is only a 2-hour drive away, we recommend including Lake Manyara in a 9-day itinerary, adding highlights such as Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro to your drive:: 

  • Day 1: Arusha
  • Day 2: Driving from Arusha to Tarangire (150 km, 2.5 hours)
  • Day 3: Tarangire National Park
  • Day 4: Driving from Tarangire to Serengeti (260 km, 6 hours)
  • Day 5 & 6: Serengeti
  • Day 7: Driving from Serengeti to Ngorongoro (140 km, 3.5 hours)
  • Day 8: Ngorongoro Crater, then on to Mto Wa Mbu (200 km, 3 hours)
  • Day 9: Lake Manyara, then on to Arusha (115 km, 2 hours)

Check out our Northern Safari Circuit Itinerary for more detailed route information and the option to book your 4x4! 

Best places to stay or camp when visiting Lake Manyara 

The gateway town to Lake Manyara National Park is Mto wa Mbu, a lively and touristy tropical village. It is said that around 120 different Tanzanian tribes live here in good harmony. There are some nice budget places to find in Mto wa Mbu. For more upscale and expensive lodges, we recommend staying inside the park and the surrounding Wildlife Management Areas. 

Roadtrip Africa's absolute favourite spot is Migombani Camp, located near the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park. The camp is nestled high on a cliff overlooking the National Parks. You can pitch your tent here, or book a stay in a furnished safari tent. There is a restaurant on site, a communal fireplace under the baobab trees, and an infinity pool with spectacular views of the Rift Valley. 

We don't recommend pitching your tent inside Manyara National Park. It's not a scenic spot, and the TANPA public campsite is located next to the entrance gate, creating lots of traffic noise. Looking for advice on camping in Tanzania? Check out our camping guide for more tips and ideas. 


Taking off on your Lake Manyara self-drive adventure

Are you ready to rent a car and explore Lake Manyara on a self-drive trip? Get in contact with our experienced team at Roadtrip Africa to check availability, and secure your 4x4 now!

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