Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara is a large, shallow, alkaline lake that has formed within a depression of the East African Rift Valley System. The northwest quadrant of the lake has been included within the Lake Manyara National Park and is also part of the larger Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve.
The very shallow Lake Manyara receives most of its water from local rainfall, and because it has no out-flow, the lake grows and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. During the long-wet season, the lake attracts literally millions of water birds, including thousands of greater and lesser flamingoes. As the lake dries, the shores sprout nutritious grazing, attracting large herds of buffalo, zebra, and wildebeest.
The world-famous Lake Manyara National Park, lying between Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley to the west, covers an area of 325 km2, including 230 km2 of lake surface. The Park has a wide diversity of habitats. Rivers flowing off the escarpment and perennial springs below the Rift wall support tall evergreen groundwater forests, gorges, and streams, alongside woodlands, swamps, and grasslands. There are 350 documented species of birds to be found here, 180 species of butterflies, and over 670 flowering and fern plants and trees.
Populations of large migratory mammals that are concentrated primarily in the nearby Tarangire National Park, also move through Lake Manyara National Park. These include wildebeest, zebra, Thomson's gazelle, and Grant's gazelle. Large herds of wildebeest and other plains game from the Mto wa Mbu Game Controlled Area also enter the Park from the north for short periods. Wildebeest exclusively graze on the alkaline grasslands around the lake. Numbers are highest during the dry season, dropping to small resident populations in the wet season. Herbivores of Lake Manyara National Park include zebra, bushbuck, waterbuck, Grant's gazelle, impala, Thomson's gazelle, Cape buffalo, giraffe, hippopotamus, baboon, warthog, and vast elephant herds. Predators of Lake Manyara National Park include unusual tree climbing lion, leopard, African wild cat, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, serval, honey badger, African civet, genet species and several mongoose species. Cheetah and African golden cat are sighted occasionally.
There are two rainy seasons in the Lake Manyara area - "short rains" from November to December and the "long rains" from March to May. The wettest month (with the highest rainfall) is April, which also has the highest number of rainy days (19 days). The driest months (with the lowest rainfall) are July, August, and September.