After our climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, some of the group had signed up for a safari in Tanzania taking advantage of having spent the time and money to travel so far from home already. I had been to the Serengeti six years before on a day trip in from the west side since I had been working in Mwanza and only had one day off. I remember how neat it had been but also how rushed it had been. I only got to see a lion perched atop a large rock. I had also done a one day trip into the Pilanesberg Game Reserve close to Pretoria, South Africa after attending a work conference in Johannesburg.
I had been left wanting a proper safari. However, as I had at least been to these places, a proper safari was not at the top of my bucket list. The opportunity to return to Tanzania for the Kili climb set up my chance to do a safari proper.
Our safari began with our departure from our hotel in Moshi, Tanzania (just east of Arusha) with all our belongings since we would not return to that town prior to our departure back home days later. And the first target for our safari was the Lake Manyara National Park in the Great Rift Valley area of Tanzania.
Getting to Lake Manyara NP
As you can see in the first map below, it neighbors the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the southeast. You can also see how much smaller it is than those two, making it quite doable in a short afternoon. I cannot recall exactly how long it took us from Moshi but I want to say about 3 hours.
As you can see on the next map, the park mainly sits on the western side of Lake Manyara. We entered from the north and traveled along the main road until we exited to head to the town of Karatu where we were going to stay for the night before heading into the Serengeti. The road to Lake Manyara NP is mostly paved or in the process of being paved. The latter made for a dusty ride but mercifully it was only in certain places. And, hopefully, it will be completely paved in the near future. Good job, Tanzania, on investing in the infrastructure that will support your tourism industry!
Baboon welcome to Lake Manyara NP
Lake Manyara felt very different to what I remembered of the Serengeti. Of course, entering the Serengeti the next day confirmed for me that it was not just a matter of me forgetting how the Serengeti had looked on my visit 6 years before. The Lake Manyara NP, which occupies about 127 sq miles (330 sq km) of which 60% is the lake itself, is very lush with trees providing a different setting for the animals than the Serengeti. It is compact yet offers a microcosm of what the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro area will later offer us. The lake seemed to be on the dry side when we were there. In the following picture, you can barely even see the lake from a slightly higher vantage point on the road out of the park.
Baboons quickly makes themselves the first animals we see.
They are everywhere eating grasses, picking lice or something off each other, and mainly looking at us quizzically but unperturbed. You can’t help but stare at them and notice their hairless behind. I respected their privacy and minded their feelings by not taking a picture of said-behinds
And the rest of the wildlife…
… No, no, not the people in my vehicle! Moving from the road towards the lake offers different animals to view. However, I do not know if visitors are taken on vehicle towards the lake – at least we did not. Regardless here are some of the other local denizens who allowed us into their space.
OK, I will NOT take this as a welcome gesture…
We also saw some elephants on this first day…
… This one in particular seemed to be preparing something for us… and I use the least graphic of the picture series
Lake Manyara is definitely a small piece of what Tanzania offers its visitors for animal-watching. But it is a unique ecosystem worth the drive through. My advice: see it before the Serengeti or Ngorongoro or, else, it could underwhelm you!
For more info on Tanzania’s many national parks, check their well-designed website at http://www.tanzaniaparks.com/.