LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK
Lake Manyara National Park is one of the smaller national parks in Tanzania but still offers beautiful landscapes and is home to an interesting collection of wildlife. The lake itself is a soda lake / alkaline lake and reaches a maximum depth of 3.7 m. The vegetation changes from ground water forests to flood plains and finally to acacia wood plains.
For bird enthusiasts this park is truly rewarding as it is home to over 400 species of birds. Other inhabitants of the park include elephants, buffaloes, hippos, baboons, waterbucks, impalas, giraffes, zebras and wildebeests. The park has an abundant population of leopards but sightings are rare due to the thick vegetation. With a bit of luck visitors can catch a glimpse of the renowned “tree climbing” lions.
ABOUT LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL NATIONAL PARK
Upon entering the Lake Manyara National Park visitors are greeted by ground water forest which boasts with ancient mahogany trees, giant fig trees as well as kapok trees. It is a common site to see the crystal clear water seeping directly out of the ground. This area is always lush green and is also home to the olive baboons who proudly call Manyara their home. Troops of up to 150 individuals joyfully playing and foraging around in the forest can be seen.
Elegant bushbucks can be seen grazing almost soundlessly. From time to time the peace of the forest is disrupted by the trumpeting calls of the silvery cheeked hornbills who enjoy perching on top of the giant trees.
As you continue, the ground water forest transforms into a flash of greens and yellows signalling the arrival of the acacia forest. Vervet monkeys as well as the noisy red billed hornbills are common residents here. A must stop is the new hippo viewing deck from which visitors can gaze upon these large mammals going about their business. Water birds like blacksmith plovers, little egrets and herons are just a few of the many birds to be seen here. Large herds of wildebeests, zebras and buffaloes like to gather on the open flood plains from where they graze and can keep a look out for approaching predators.
The acacia woodlands deeper in the park are famous for the renowned “tree climbing lions”. These large cats have evolved over generations to add tree climbing to their daily activity.
The lake itself receives its water primarily from the Simba River in the north and the Makuyuni River in the east. However the rift valley also provides a lot of water mainly in the rainy season. The ground water forest also feeds the swamps that eventually flow into the lake.
TREETOP AND CANOPY WALKWAY
Towards the end of last year, big news reached us from Lake Manyara National Park: something totally new and unique had opened its doors, they said. So we went to find out for ourselves what all the fuss was about.
A new treetop walkway had opened up, just a five-minute drive from the main gate. It is the first treetop walkway in Tanzania and with 370 metres one of the longest in Africa!
The walk starts off at ground level where you pass through the lush forest before the boardwalk rises towards the treetops. The walkway is made up of suspension bridges which have thick netting around the sides for your safety. Each of the bridges ends at a large tree which has a platform, where you can stop to take in the beautiful scenery.
The walkway’s highest point is 18 meters above the ground. From the platform, you have a 360-degree view over the canopy and if you are lucky you can also spot some wildlife. Our guide was very knowledgeable and he explained how the treetop walkway had been constructed and how they use the living trees for support. He explained the characteristics of the different trees and spotted different birds and monkeys.
Sometimes, you can spot larger game like elephants and buffaloes grazing on the forest floor, he said. On that particular day, though, it seemed as though the elephants were on holiday. Nevertheless, we enjoyed being up high and getting a totally new insight into life above the ground! It was really something I had never experienced before.
As we descended we realized that we were not alone on the walkway. Countless Blue Monkeys were jumping on and around the suspension bridges, chasing one another up and down and around the platforms! It was so funny to watch how these primates had already adapted to the man-made structures and were having the time of their lives.
We also got to see plenty of Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, some quite close. On game drives in the forest of Lake Manyara it is quite difficult to spot them. You can hear them trumpeting and now and then you see them swooshing past, but on the walkway, they were clearly visible.
This hasn’t been my last visit
All in all, the walk took us about 45 minutes. It was definitely an experience like no other and I would have been happy to stay even longer.
However, it is important to know that the walkway can be a bit scary, if you are afraid of heights. Even though all the structures are extremely stable some parts can be quite daunting and the suspension bridges naturally sway from time to time. I believe it is worth to build up your courage and do it, you will not regret this truly unique experience.
The walk can be done in the morning before going on game drives or even at the end of the day.
If you’d like to take a walk through Lake Manyara’s treetops, let us know and we will organize this experience for you!