Tree-climbing lion in Lake Manyara | J Goetz

Lake Manyara National Park

27 reviews

Safari suitability: 6/10

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It may have four of the big five and stellar bird life, but its small size means guests have seen it all after spending only one day in the park.

Found in: Tanzania
Companies: 352
Tour packages: 1233
Wildlife: 8 animals listed
Total area: 325 km² (126 mi)
Year established: 1960
Anti-malarial: Not required

What YAS members think

Quality of wildlife:
Crowdedness:
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Most-visited month:
January
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Highlights

  • The elusive, tree-climbing lion

  • Over 400 species of migratory birds – a bird lover’s paradise!

  • Close proximity to Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater make it a perfect addendum to a larger safari.

  • Its lush, verdant groundwater forest is truly unique and worth a visit or two.

  • It is within a few hours’ drive from Arusha.

About Lake Manyara National Park

Located about 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Arusha, Lake Manyara National Park is a compact, verdant park that is highly prized by bird lovers from around the globe. Although small in size, Manyara packs a mighty punch. It starts the moment visitors drive through the entry gates and encounter the amazing groundwater forest. Here, guests can see all types of flora such as mahogany, sausage trees, ficus and wild mango trees.

Bird lovers are sure to be astounded by the vast array of birds, with over 400 species of migratory bird being found here. The saline waters of Lake Manyara are often dotted with bright-pink flamingos and stodgy pelicans. In addition to the large number of birds found at Lake Manyara, it is also possible to see several types of animals here, including the elusive tree-climbing lion.

Tree-climbing lion

For some reason, the lions of Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks have a penchant for climbing up into the branches of a sausage tree and lazing around in the heat of the day. Photographers will relish the opportunity to snap a photo or two, if they’re lucky enough to encounter one. It is possible to see four of the big five at Lake Manyara—buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion—with the rhino being the missing fifth animal. 

When is the best time to visit Lake Manyara National Park?

Lake Manyara is recommended year-round, with only the months of April and May being a bit wet and difficult for travel. Due to its small size, most lodges are located outside of the park, en route to either Tarangire or Ngorongoro Crater. There is one lodge inside the park and it is of very high standard. 

Safari enthusiast
Tanzania Tanzania
553 kudus
Photos (39)
Reviews (5)
Visited: Jul. 2015 Reviewed: Dec. 23, 2015

Lake Manyara is a very picturesque and is a scenic beauty and is among the must visit parks on a Tanzanian safari. The park is well known for its tree-climbing lions and its vast array of birds. You will always cherish the moment when a lion king is resting on an Acacia tree and you witness and capture the moment. Lake Manyara is not a very big park. It's a relatively small park with many varieties of the animals and birds. You will enjoy witnessing variety of birds there. Our experience of the park was so wonderful that we will recommend you to keep the park in your itinerary on a Tanzanian safari.

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Safari enthusiast
Tanzania Tanzania
Visited: Jul. 2015
Reviewed: Dec. 23, 2015

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"Lake Manyara, a jewel in the Great Rift Valley"
By: Mirta
Safari guru
Italy Italy
5 kudus
Photos (18)
Reviews (4)
Visited: Sep. 2020 Reviewed: Feb. 02, 2021 Submitted in:

This little park is situated in the Western branch of the Great Rift Valley and it’s characterized by the lake that takes the most part of it. The forest is thick and the animals must be tracked down, chased if you prefer, but there’s plenty of them hidden in every corner. A shy elephant eating in the middle of a bush, a family of vervet monkeys climbing some tree branch and scanning the horizon, a group of female impalas drinking in a quite environment. The roads are congested with huge families of baboons crossing, eating, combing through and carrying the little ones on their back. They are really one the features of the park, always present, always numerous. And then, there’s the lake. Majestic. Last September, when I went on a quick trip to Manyara, the rains had been abundant and the roads were difficult to run across, but I could anyway enjoy the day and admire this little jewel of the Great Rift Valley.

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By: Mirta
Safari guru
Italy Italy
Visited: Sep. 2020
Reviewed: Feb. 02, 2021

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"Rare sights of tree-climbing lions"
Safari tour operator
Kenya Kenya
962 kudus
Photos (179)
Reviews (8)
Visited: Jun. 2019 Reviewed: Sep. 24, 2019

While on a long safari we got to see the rare tree-climbing lions and it was worth it. Apart from the lions, there is also a wide variety of various wildlife including birds which is a plus considering some tourists are birdwatchers. I'd recommend this park anytime despite it not being too large.

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Safari tour operator
Kenya Kenya
Visited: Jun. 2019
Reviewed: Sep. 24, 2019

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"Little piece of paradise"
Safari tour operator
Tanzania Tanzania
9 kudus
Photos (0)
Reviews (1)
Visited: Nov. 2016 Reviewed: Nov. 27, 2017

We were very pleasantly surprised with the shear abundance of wildlife at Lake Manyara. It's an assault on the senses - literally so many birds you don't know where to look. A beautiful place and well worth a visit.

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Safari tour operator
Tanzania Tanzania
Visited: Nov. 2016
Reviewed: Nov. 27, 2017

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"Great bird watching"
Safari guru
Tanzania Tanzania
604 kudus
Photos (38)
Reviews (13)
Visited: Jul. 2015 Reviewed: Mar. 13, 2017

Never seen so many baboons in my life. We drove half hour into the park into an opening on the lake that had 100's of baboons, zebras and flamingos running around. Saw at least 10 giraffes and 20-30 elephants you'll see a lot of similar wildlife: elephants, baboons, gazelles. We absolutely loved the hippo pool, but not necessarily for the hippos. It was because of the myriad of birds - literally 1000s of them flying around, sitting around, you name it, the birds were doing it. captured a long video of the birds flying as one this way and that. Very cool to see 1000s of birds flying across the horizon. Definitely worth a visit when coming to Tanzania for a safari.

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Safari guru
Tanzania Tanzania
Visited: Jul. 2015
Reviewed: Mar. 13, 2017

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"Lake Manyara - incredible experience"
Safari guru
South Africa South Africa
287 kudus
Photos (23)
Reviews (5)
Visited: Nov. 2014 Reviewed: Feb. 03, 2017

I had visited Lake Manyara National Park as a day visitor before, as most people on the northern circuit in Tanzania do…just passing through. The day visits are rewarding, there is no doubt about that. The easy-to-reach areas are enough to allow a rewarding day visit. But there is more and I didn’t fully realise this until I had experienced it for myself. If you can spare the time, you will not be disappointed. Lake Manyara National Park has lots to offer. I saw my first silvery-cheeked hornbill here, my guide thought I had seen a leopard such was the level of my excitement! I spent two nights in the park and we seldom saw other vehicles. Once we started to go deeper into the park there were no other vehicles. In peak season I am sure there will be more vehicles but with just two camps in the park offering accommodation, even in peak season once you get to the area of where the camps are, there is little chance of crowds. The park is most famous for its tree-climbing lions, thanks to social media we know that there are ‘tree-climbing lions’ in many other parks! If you plan to visit only to see the tree-climbing lions, most likely you will be disappointed. I did see lion but they were not in trees. Perhaps it was the rain, when I asked my guide he did comment that he had seen plenty of lion, but the 'tree-climbing lions'. If you want to fall asleep to the sound of a lion calling and wake up to the cheerful chatter of birds and the smell of fresh Tanzania coffee brewing, this is the place for you. If you want to take the time to enjoy a lake shore walk and watch the sunset from the shores of the lake, this is the place for you. It doesn’t have the herds of wildebeest like the Serengeti, nor does it have the visibility of the Ngorongoro Crater. What it does have is excellent birding, a variety of fun activities that gets you out of the game drive vehicle, tall trees, herds of elephants and something exciting around every corner. Even when the bush is thick as it was when I visited in November, the wildlife enjoy the clearings as much as we do and you often come across open areas where the wildlife gather. You never know what is around the corner. We had great elephant sightings, lots of giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, hippo out of water, impala, a large (and entertaining) troop of baboons, blue monkeys and countless birds.

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Safari guru
South Africa South Africa
Visited: Nov. 2014
Reviewed: Feb. 03, 2017

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"The great rift valley "
Safari tour operator
Tanzania Tanzania
145 kudus
Photos (12)
Reviews (1)
Visited: Jan. 2016 Reviewed: Sep. 19, 2016

Lake Manyara National Park that the name of the park that's found in rift valley. It was amazing tour in this park of northern Tanzania, we saw many birds and animals.

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Safari tour operator
Tanzania Tanzania
Visited: Jan. 2016
Reviewed: Sep. 19, 2016

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"Lake Manyara with hot water springs"
Safari enthusiast
Netherlands Netherlands
801 kudus
Photos (58)
Reviews (13)
Visited: Jan. 2014 Reviewed: Dec. 21, 2015

What I read abput Lake Manyara was very nice and make me curious to go to there. And, it is very nice to visit. Coming out of the rain forest, crossing a river by car, and then you're in the park. Baboons on the car later lots of elephants we saw walking. There is a big quagmire and we wait there. A few minutes later the first elephants are playing in the mud. An old lady with one tooth is looking to us but she trusts us and also wallows in the mud. A little elephant ducks itself in the mud; marvelous to see. After about 15 minutes the family of elephants walks around us and goes through the grass into the lake. I know its not allowed, and of course I didn't, but they were so close that you could touch them. Further, my guide saw lions with cubs under a tree and the food was next to them, a buffalo. Now to the hot springs. The water is really hot! I try to go with my finger in the water, but not possible. During the day we did not see any other cars. When we saw the lions, it was too dangerous to go alone on the group. My guide called to see if someone was not to far away. Yes, one car could be in 20 minutes with us. We had our lunch with us, so we ate and waited and when the other arrives, we could go one time around the lions.

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Safari enthusiast
Netherlands Netherlands
Visited: Jan. 2014
Reviewed: Dec. 21, 2015

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"Beautiful Lake Manyara"
Safari enthusiast
Netherlands Netherlands
801 kudus
Photos (58)
Reviews (13)
Visited: Feb. 2013 Reviewed: Dec. 18, 2015

Lake Manyara a place also with many different animals and not so very busy. Coming out of the woods, you see the lake and the view is marvelous. During this day we didn't see any other cars. Very nice to be there alone. Monkeys, wildebeest, buffalo, elephants, gazelle. (Thank Joseph you saw him) all kind of birds, giraffe and more. Loveley place to stay. I see many nice things, but now already I have the idea, I must come back and need more time to see it real good

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13People gave this
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Safari enthusiast
Netherlands Netherlands
Visited: Feb. 2013
Reviewed: Dec. 18, 2015

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Travel writer
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
98 kudus
Photos (0)
Reviews (8)
Visited: Jun. 2015 Reviewed: Jun. 20, 2015

Ok, so we only spent a few hours here, but I was in awe of all the bird life. If you like pelicans, flamingos and other big birds, this is the park for you. I did not see any tree climbing lions. :(

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Travel writer
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Visited: Jun. 2015
Reviewed: Jun. 20, 2015

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"A soda lake with flamingos and diverse species"
Safari guru
Tanzania Tanzania
357 kudus
Photos (35)
Reviews (4)
Visited: Jan. 2014 Reviewed: May. 26, 2015

Lake Manyara is a scenic gem with the eastern and western escarpments of the Rift Valley surrounding it. I have been there many times. The national park is known for its resident forest that is fed by an underground water forest, keeping the park green throughout the year. This attracts both migratory and wetland birds. Two-thirds of the lake is dominated by shallow alkaline-saline soda waters. These unique waters are formed by Rift Valley heat causing rapid evaporation of Manyara's waters, leaving high concentrations of saline (salt) and sodium carbonate. This creates an ideal environment for the micro-organism cyan bacteria to thrive which produces blue-green benthic algae. This attracts flamingos that feed on it. Whereas these caustic waters that can reach pH levels of 9, too toxic for most other creatures, the flamingos have adapted to it and the benthic algae provide a year round food source for them. Manyara's most common species in addition to flamingos are large troops of baboons, blue / Sykes monkeys, tree-climbing lions, giraffes, impalas, Grant and Thomson gazelles and hyrax. Mto wa Mbu is the town near to the national park with a population of 18,000 people from 85 different tribes. This makes it one of the most culturally rich towns in Africa. This cultural confluence makes it a center for a variety of multicultural activities. Mto wa Mbu village walks, mountain bike rides, forest walks on the Rift Valley western escarpment, bicycling around the lake and to waterfalls for the well fit, canoeing, and touring a local brewery. Night game drives are allowed at Manyara but should be booked in advance. I would not recommend Manyara the end of the dry season (Feb-March) as it dries up and many of its wildlife migrate elsewhere. I would highly recommend it at other times of the year.

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13People gave this
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Safari guru
Tanzania Tanzania
Visited: Jan. 2014
Reviewed: May. 26, 2015

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Driving to Lake Manyara NP from Arusha

At under two hours, Lake Manyara NP is the shortest drive from Arusha. The road, in general, is in good condition and it is easy to combine a safari that includes Tarangire and Ngornogoro Crater. 

Domestic flights to Lake Manyara

In addition to charter flights, a few domestic airlines also offer scheduled flights to Lake Manyara. 

Coastal Aviation

Regional Air

The following airlines travel to Lake Manyara National Park


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As Salaam Air has grown to be a leading air carrier between the Tanzanian Islands. Our experienced team understands that customer satisfaction is important to the creation of a successful flight operation. Thus, we go above and beyond to satisfy our clients. The airline plies eight routes to promote tourism within and outside the country. We have two fuel-efficient aircraft – Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia, which are good for the environment and the safety of our clients.We would like to help you discover more about our Islands here on our website and at every step of your journey Visit website

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Auric Air Services Ltd is Tanzania's preferred corporate and safari airline with a wide network of domestic scheduled services with daily scheduled services to more than 30 destinations and handles approximately 8500 passengers every month. From its bases at Mwanza Airport—Mwanza, Julius Nyerere International Airport—Dar-es-salaam and Arusha Airport, Auric Air provides scheduled charter flights to some of the most remote and otherwise inaccessible destinations (parks & game reserves) within Tanzania. Visit website

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Coastal Aviation is an airline operating out of Dar es Salaam - charter flights. Coastal Aviation flying to some 100 strips located in some of the most isolated pockets of the East African Region. The scheduled Coastal network also connects visitors to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda with the world-famous Serengeti, links the emerging tourism destinations of Mozambique with the Southern Tanzania parks of Selous and Ruaha, and unites the tropical island paradises of Pemba, Zanzibar, Mafia and Fanjove Private Iaslandwith the National Parks and towns of the mainland. Our state of the art fleet is composed of 20 aircraft and has been expertly-adapted to the African safari environment, without compromise to safety and comfort. Visit website

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Flightlink is a scheduled airline with Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and Air Service License (ASL) granted by Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority & Kenya Civil Aviation Authority to conduct Private & Scheduled Flight under Public Transport category within the region. All the aircraft in our fleet are chosen for their excellent safety records and their ability to perform in even in the most hostile conditions, so landing be it in the bush or on tarmac is not at all taxing. Visit website

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Regional air is a recognized leader in the aviation industry in Tanzania, the airline began in 1997 with one pilot and one aircraft. They are affiliated to the long-established Nairobi-based domestic airline, Airkenya. We are based in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha. Arusha is the starting point of safaris into Northern Tanzania, as the airline also offers charters to these various parks and game reserves. Visit website

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TANZANAIR was formed in 1969 and pioneered aviation throughout Tanzania. Today it continues to live up to its slogan as the“Complete Aviation Company”. It was founded by Dinos J Samaras who managed the Company until he passed away in April 2010. It is now headed by his son John Samaras who was his deputy since 1983. With 45 years’ experience, TANZANAIR offers tailor-made air travel to suit the needs of its customers. With a modern fleet of twin and single-engine Cessna and Beechcraft turbine aircraft, TANZANAIR’s well-established reputation leads the way in air charter services throughout the region. TANZANAIR operates out of its own purpose-built Passenger Terminal located between Terminal I and II at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. The passenger lounge is adjacent to the two hangars. It is housed within a secure wall enclosed compound with ample parking facilities. Visit website

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ZanAir Limited is a domestic airline based in Zanzibar. Since their inaugural flight in 1992, ZanAir has continued to establish a quality reputation, serving esteemed clientele. ZanAir is an acknowledged expert within Tanzania serving all destinations, including remote unpaved bush locations. Visit website

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