We headed out early that morning. It was a 3 to 4 hours’ drive to the entrance of Lake Manyara National Park and Nikki and I couldn’t wait to get there and start this 4-day adventure. It was her second safari but for me it was the first, and I can’t remember the last time I was THIS excited about a trip.
We were the first to be picked up and were soon to discover it was going to be an all-girls trip. Five of us, to be exact, and all of them were amongst the coolest ladies I have ever met. I felt a liiiiiittle bit sorry for our guide and driver Rachid, as the poor guy was definitely going to have a headache after 4 days with these 5 crazy chicas, but we all knew it right from the start: this trip was going to be epic and we were about to have the time of our lives!
LAKE MANYARA - SOME FACTS & FIGURES
With its 330 km², Lake Manyara National Park is one of the smaller Tanzanian parks. It’s often skipped and replaced by a visit to Tarangire National Park, but I think it’s definitely worth a visit. About 200 km² of the total area are taken by the lake itself in rainy season, but it disappears almost completely during dry season.
Ever-changing landscapes define the rest of the scenery. More than 10 different ecosystems are present in the park, and there’s animals literally everywhere. Depending on the season you’ll get to see more or less of certain species. During rainy season, for example, the shores of the lake are crowded with thousands of flamingos. During dry season they’re a lot more difficult to spot. Oh and have you ever heard of tree-climbing lions? Watch out for them, they’re very hard to see but we were lucky to find two!
Check the pictures below to see which animals we got to see on our trip at the end of rainy season in May.
As we enter Lake Manyara National Park I’m not really sure what to expect. I’ve heard about the tree-climbing lions but can hardly believe they actually exist, and I don’t really know which animals we’ll be able to spot in which park, nor how many of them. I’m soon to discover the answer: A LOT!!
‘ Is that a zebra?!? ‘ one of the girls screams from inside the jeep. ‘ Nnnnnnnnope, that’s 7 zebras. ‘ Rachid hits the brake and we all jump up at the same time. We clearly need to train our animal spotting radar a bit more, but for now we’ll just fall in love with these cuties.
Look how cute they are when they stand there in pairs, each in a different direction. They actually do this to have a better view of the surroundings and protect each other but I like to tell myself they’re cuddling… #JustTooCute
We continue driving and not much further, BAM. Elephants. Right next to the road. Big 5 – 1 down, 4 to go, and we’ve only just started!
But of course it’s not only size that matters… Over 400 species of birds can be found in the park, together with a lot of smaller animals. Check these out.
OK let’s be honest. While it might not be the ONLY thing that matters, size does help sometimes, and it’s definitely an asset when you want to try to impress a bunch of girls on safari. We’re definitely on a roll and are able to scratch number 2 – the Cape buffalo – off our big 5 list soon after seeing the elephants. Woooooop! They were very far from the car though, so stay tuned for buffalo pictures from the other parks.
After staring into our binoculars until our eyes ache – that’s what happens on day 1, even if the animal’s 2 km away and your guide keeps telling you you’ll see plenty more in the next few days, you’ll still want to stop and stare, because well, you never know – we hit the road again. Giraffes are next, and I can’t believe how elegant and beautiful they are.
We don’t get the chance to enjoy the view very long. Rachid just got a call saying there’s a lion sitting in a tree not far from there, and that’s something we definitely don’t want to miss!
We got to see both a male and female lion sitting in a tree. Big 5 – 3/5, and it’s only day one… #LuckyGirls
We continue driving and not much further, BAM. Elephants. Right next to the road. Big 5 – 1 down, 4 to go, and we’ve only just started!We skipped a whole part of the park to go see the lions, so we drive back for a while and never seize to be amazed. More elephants, more giraffes, more zebras, … we basically stop every few minutes and it never gets old. A nice drive along the shores of the lake later it’s already time to head to our campsite – we’ve been in the park for several hours – and while it feels as if we’ve only just started, we realized we’ve been very lucky. Lions, buffalo’s, elephants, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, birds, antilopes, … And it’s only day one…
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BOOK YOUR OWN SAFARI
There are so many safari companies and so many different possibilities for the safari itself, that it’s difficult to give an overview of all the options in this article. But you’re lucky that about 1,5 year after my first visit to Lake Manyara, I opened my own safari company in Tanzania, called Mawenzi Adventures! 😀 On our website, you’ll find plenty of packages, all with prices for different accommodation options.
Whichever kind of safari you choose, you’d better start saving right now as safaris in Tanzania aren’t cheap. They ARE however worth every penny, so quit smoking, start making your own coffee, move back in with your parents and whatever else you need to do to save some cash, I promise you won’t regret it!
If you’re happy to go camping and to join a group (max. 7 people in total), you’ll need to budget around 170-230 USD / day depending on the itinerary you choose. Packages including the Serengeti or Ngorongoro crater are always more expensive, whereas packages without these 2 parks will be on the lower end of this price range. This is all included except tips, soft drinks, snacks and decent wine or other alcoholic drinks. Count around 25 USD / day in tips for the guide and 15 USD / day for the cook, to be divided between all the members of your group. Prefer to stay in lodges? A group tour with the most basic lodges starts at around 300 USD / day, but it quickly gets more expensive if you want more luxurious lodges or prefer a private or small group tour.
If you’d like to get any more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, either here or through Mawenzi Adventures!
So how long should you go? Well it obviously depends on your budget and your love for wildlife, but if it’s your first safari and you’re looking for a good mix, I would say 4 days is a minimum. The most sold packages are either 4 days including Tarangire, Serengeti (2 days) and Ngorongoro crater or 5 days with either an extra day in the Serengeti or an extra day in Lake Manyara. I would personally never go on a camping safari of more than 5 days, but in lodges of course it’s a very different story as you’re much more comfortable. If you have the chance to add Lake Natron, I absolutely recommend it as well! This would add at least 2 days to your safari.
Disclaimer: this safari was fully paid for by yours truly and opinions are my own and straight from the heart, as always.