The Quick Guide to Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara is a shallow alkaline lake along the Rift Valley of Eastern Africa. During the wet season, roughly 2 million flamingoes call Lake Manyara home as they feed along its edges. The park itself is relatively small at 125 sq miles including the 89 sq mile lake. The 36 sq miles of land are mostly made up of woodland and populated with a large number of elephants. Another claim to fame is the presence of "tree climbing lions", though they are not commonly seen.

Lake Manyara National Park is very different visually than the other parks of Tanzania and a nice change of pace for those who have spent most of their safari exploring Ngorongoro, Serengeti, or Tarangire. It is also possible to participate is several activities that are not typically permitted elsewhere such as night game drives, canoeing, and a treetop walkway.

This guide seeks to give a quick breakdown of need-to-know information about Lake Manyara National Park.

Where is Lake Manyara National Park?

Lake Manyara is located on the way from Arusha towards Serengeti National Park and very close to Ngorongoro Crater. Its northern shores are only around 30 minutes from the tourism hub town of Karatu and an hour from the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. The northern tip of Tarangire National Park is also only around 20 minutes from Lake Manyara's Southeast edge.

How Far is Lake Manyara National Park From Other Destinations in Tanzania?

  • JRO Airport: 3 hours
  • Arusha City: 2 hours
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro basecamp (Moshi): 3.5 hours
  • Arusha National Park: 2.5 hours
  • Tarangire National Park: 0.5-1 hours
  • Ngorongoro Crater: 1 hour
  • Seronera (Central Serengeti): 3.5-4 hours

What Are the Fees to Enter Lake Manyara National Park for 2022?

Tanzanian park entry fees vary by age, season, and whether or not you are a citizen of East Africa. Fees also are often charged both per person as well as per group. If you sleep in the park, you will also be assessed a concession fee. All park fees are INCLUDED in every Tohe Wildlife Safari itinerary.

The below fees are for NON-East African Adults over 16 years of age. To see the detailed tariff list, click here.

Concession (entry) Fees:

  • Low Season (March 15-May 15): $45/per person
  • High Season (May 16-March 14): $50/per person

Camp Site Fees (Only assessed if using public Camp sites):

  • Low Season (October - June): $50/per person
  • High Season (July - September): $60/per person

Hotel Concession Fees (Assessed if you stay at a lodge within the park boundaries):

  • Year round: $40/per person

Vehicle Entry Fees:

  • ~$20/vehicle depending on weight

What Kind of Wildlife Can Be Found In Lake Manyara National Park?

Lake Manyara is a birdwathers paradise. Over 400 species have been found here includeing Silvery-cheeked hornbill, Crowned Eagle, and of course millions of Flamingo. Hippo also find comfort in the shallow waters of the lake and surrounding swampland. The woodlands are a favorite hangout of the several monkey species that live in the park as well as the large number of elephants. Several big cat species live here including Leopard, African Wild Cat, and the aforementioned tree-climbing Lions.

Common Highlights: Elephant, Hippo, Flamingo, Hornbill, Zebra, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Cape Buffalo, Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Blue Monkey, etc.

Lake Manyara National Park Lodges and Accommodation

A small amount of lodging is available within the park boundaries but because of its small size, we recommend visitors opt for one of the many options in nearby Karatu.

See some of the Karatu lodging available within your chosen budget class below:

See here for mid-range options

See here for luxury options

Is Lake Manyara National Park Good For a Day Trip?

If you're located in Karatu, then yes Lake Manyara is a perfect option for a day trip. Most of the park can be explored in less than a day and its scenery is vastly different than the other parks of Tanzania. If coming from Arusha, we would recommend Arusha National Park or possibly Tarangire National Park.

What does Lake Manyara National Park Look Like?

Bordering the Rift Valley, Lake Manyara is mostly wooded with a splendid view of the rising ridge. The lake itself is shallow, calm, and covers more than 2/3 of area the park.

The shores of Lake Manyara near one of the picnic sites

The ridge of the Rift Valley rising above a troop of baboons in the foreground

Wildebeest and Zebra in front of a few of the millions of Flamingo that feed in Lake Manyara

Some lazy tree climbing Lions of Lake Manyara National Park

What is the Best Time Of Year to Visit Lake Manyara National Park?

What constitutes the best time to visit is always subjective depending on what you prioritize. In general, the things to consider with seasonality are:

How busy will it be?

Since bird watching is a major draw here, visitors will "flock" to Lake Manyara in the wet season and dry season alike. Regardless of the time of year, the park is usually empty in the mornings with more visitors opting to come in the afternoon.

What is the weather like? Will the weather limit the accessibility of the park?

During dry season (June - October) typical temperatures during the day are in the mid-70s and the high 50's in the early mornings and evenings. Rain is extremely rare. All areas of the park will be accessible.

During wet season temperatures are generally slightly hotter than dry season (high of low-mid 80s). Regarding precipitation, the wet season is further split in two sub-seasons known as the "long rains" and "short rains."

  • The "short rains" are generally in November-December and consist of sporadic afternoon showers that will seldom effect your trip.
  • The "long rains" are usually between March and Mid-May and are characterized by more consistent rains. It usually won't rain all day, but many days will be overcast and wet. The water level of the lake will rise, making it difficult to navigate to certain areas.
  • Between the short & long rains (January-February) are an unpredictable dry period. It is not possible to predict when exactly it will arrive in advance.

How easily can you spot the animals?

In general, wildlife is always more difficult to find during the wet season for two reasons. First, wet season produces more vegetation. The greenery, while beautiful, gives the animals many more places to hide. Second, the animals have more access to water sources so they do not need to concentrate around fewer areas as they do during dry season.

The above factors are in play for Manyara's mammal population, but it is the opposite for bird watchers. The rains of the wet season bring migratory birds to the lake by the hundreds of thousands.

If you are coming with hopes of spotting the tree climbing lions, you should visit in the dry season. If birdwatching is your primary reason for visiting, wet season is the season to visit.

What are the cost differences?

Because Lake Manyara National Park is already quite inexpensive, the cost savings for going during wet season are not significant. Cost savings will vary by accommodation choice.

An overview:

Dry Season (June - October)
  • The weather is more pleasant. Daytime temperatures are typically in the mid 70's and evenings/mornings will be cool.
  • Animals are easier to find. Less vegetation means they have fewer places to hide and lower lake water levels mean they will be more concentrated.
  • Less rain means less mosquitoes
  • Slightly more people and slightly more expensive
  • Migratory birds are not present in the park

Wet Season (November - May)
  • The weather is a bit hotter and more humid. Temperatures are in the 80's during the day.
  • Animals may be more difficult to spot due to heavy vegetation and higher water levels
  • More mosquitoes
  • Less people and slightly less expensive
  • There may be slight issues accessing certain parts of the park due to the rains.
  • World class bird watching

What Is The Bottom Line?

  • Lake Manyara is visually very different than the rest of the parks in the Northern Tanzania safari circuit, making it a nice change of pace on any itinerary.
  • The small size of navigable land within the park means that it can typically be explored in a day or even half-day.
  • Entry fees and nearby accommodation costs are reasonable and lower than those of Serengeti or Ngorongoro.
  • Because one of the primary reasons to visit Manyara is for birdwatching, seasonality can play a factor in reverse of most of Tanzania's parks. Wet season would be considered the best time to see the massive flocks of Flamingo, while dry season will make it easier to spot the famous, but well hidden tree climbing lions.
  • Its close proximity to Karatu, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park makes it very convenient to pair with any or all of those destinations for your safari trip