Safari on Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park

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.

Tanzania Map Serengeti Lake Manyara

Map showing Lake Manyara in relation to the rest of the country (Source:

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!

Map of Lake Manyara Tanzania in relation to Ngorongoro

Detail of the Lake Manyara National Park (Source:

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.

Lake Manyara in Tanzania

Baboons quickly makes themselves the first animals we see.

Baboons in Lake Manyara, Tanzania during safari

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 :)

Baboon in Lake Manyara, Tanzania during safari

Baboon in Lake Manyara, Tanzania during safari

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.

Dwarf kingfisher bird

Colorful dwarf kingfisher

One of many giraffes we encountered

One of many giraffes we encountered

Zebras under a dark sky in Lake Manyara

A good dark sky is always a good backdrop!

Young and adult zebra in Lake Manyara

A young and an adult zebra wondering who we are

OK, I will NOT take this as a welcome gesture…

We also saw some elephants on this first day…

Elephant in Lake Manyara

The elephant was walking away. We thought that was the end of the show…

… This one in particular seemed to be preparing something for us…  and I use the least graphic of the picture series :)

Elephant pooping in Lake Manyara

… but it had something in store for us… a welcome gift? We declined…

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


  1. impresionante verlos cerca de ti…y ese souvenir del elefante????

    • Yes, it is impressive to see them up close and also that they don’t seem to really care! Well, the zebras were more skittish or alert than then elephants or giraffes.

  2. Que fotos mas preciosas! Parecen de mentira de lo real que se ven. Me alegro que todo haya salido tan bien, exitoso y la hayan pasado bien!

  3. I heart Tanzania. This totally brought me back there. I believe I did not make it to Lake Manyara, though… love the baboons and the gift-bearing elephant! :-)
    Francesca recently posted..Giving my daughter the gift of travelMy Profile

    • Francesca, it is an awesome place. I went 6 yrs ago and I can see the change (for the better) in things like infrastructure. It made me feel good to see the changes and to return to a place where the people are so nice. You gotta take the kid(s) on safari some day!

  4. This made me homesick for Africa…even the elephant poop! Beautiful photos. Tanzania has been on my list for years. When I get back to Africa, it’s where I’m heading first!
    The World Wanderer recently posted..Music Monday: Safety Rope.My Profile

    • Erin, the totality of the experience of a trip to Tanzania (climb, safari) is great! And you are already a frequent hiker back home so a Kili climb will be just right for you! May I suggest when you are ready to see Tanzania that you check out Trekking for Kids for the Kili climb and to have the orphanage service element – which will take the trip from great to life changing!

  5. UGH so insanely jealous of this trip! tanzania is at the very tippy top of our africa bucket list, and this certainly doesnt help our wanderlust! great photos, sir!
    thelazytravelers recently posted..laws to travel by – #38My Profile

  6. This is a great post sure as a bear sh#ts in the woods and an elephant on the savannah. Welcome back and look forward to the rest of the Africa posts.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Traveling Ted wins the Chicago Marathon lotteryMy Profile

  7. I love it how detailed your posts are, Raul! You make hiking Kili easy… Great pics of the animals! :)
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Driving like it’s 1998My Profile

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