Our first game drive day was at Lake Manyara National Park, about a 3 hour drive from Rivertrees Country Inn. Lake Manyara National Park is home to many birds, hippos, elephants, giraffes, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, and its famous tree-climbing lions. It is fairly compact at only 127 square miles, a good portion of which is the lake itself.
Tanzania’s website for the park is worth visiting for its descriptions.
Its ground water forests, bush plains, baobab strewn cliffs, and algae-streaked hot springs offer incredible ecological variety in a small area, rich in wildlife and incredible numbers of birds.
The alkaline soda of Lake Manyara is home to an incredible array of bird life that thrives on its brackish waters…
…Lake Manyara’s famous tree-climbing lions are another reason to pay a visit to this park. The only kind of their species in the world… In addition to the lions, the national park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons anywhere in the world …
Lake Manyara National Park includes jungle like ground water forests with baboons, blue monkeys, bushbuck, and hornbills. Then the grassy floodplain has buffalo, wildebeest, zebras and giraffes. Away from the floodplain has an acacia woodland with the tree-climbing lions and many elephants. You can also find mongoose, dik-dik, and klipspringer. There are also 400 species of birds, including thousands of flamingos.
On our drive to Lake Manyara National Park, we saw our first safari animals (aside from monkeys in Arusha)–giraffes! We were so excited and pulled over to watch them. It was so cool just driving down a regular road and BOOM giraffes!
When you enter a park, you have to park and register as visitors. Your guide takes care of all of this, so you get a chance to stretch your legs and use the bathroom. If your kids are young enough to be free entry (ours were at 5 and 2), then you have to show their passports to prove age.
DS2 is obsessed with baboons, and the park had plenty of them! The babies and young baboons were so funny to watch, climbing all over their parents and clinging onto their backs for rides. Reminds me of my own little “baboon”-perhaps why he enjoys them so much!
While driving through the forest, we came around a corner and there was a very large bull elephant in the road. He stared at us and another jeep in front of us for a while and then eventually turned around and walked away. It was incredible being so close to him!
In the grassy plain we came across a large hippo pool with a ton of hippos lounging around. Oftentimes you could just see their eyes and tips of their noses until one would get cranky and rise up with an open mouth. Other times they looked like large rocks.
Our big goal for the park was the tree-climbing lions. They can be challenging to find as they are not easy to spot up in trees, and of course, many trees are not right near a road. The guides all talk to each other via radio and cell phone and report animal sightings.
At one point, our guide took off down the road. He told us he had a special surprise for us to see. We really hoped it was tree-climbing lions! After quite the long drive to the other end of the park, we slowed down and he started peering around in the trees. We camp to a spot with a couple other jeeps and, sure enough, lions sleeping up in a tree!
The road went conveniently close to them and eventually the other jeeps left and we got to watch them quietly all by ourselves before the next round of jeeps appeared. It was very cool to see and not something we would have found without the guide network!
For lunch, we went to their picnic area. This was an area with parking, bathrooms, and picnic tables overlooking a pretty view of the grasslands and lake. Many other safari-goers were there, but we found a table and ate our boxed lunch. This lunch was from the Arusha Coffee Lodge where we stopped briefly on our way out of Arusha for a briefing. Inside was a beef sandwich, cookies, chips, orange, apple, and juice. Even nicer it was plastic free and even had a cardboard type straw for the juice. Silverware was bamboo. Future boxed lunches were full of plastic.
Our lodgings for the night was Kirurumu Manyara Lodge, about 30 minutes away from the park. It was set up on a hill overlooking the lake and the views were pretty. Cottages dotted the property. Our two cottages were way at one end.
Inside was a large room with a massive bed and then a small bed for DD. Both had mosquito netting. Prior to dinner we had to use the provided spray to fully spray the entire bathroom and bedroom with mosquito spray. When we returned from dinner, dead mosquitos were all over. Unfortunately, the mosquito netting for DD’s bed was full of holes and wouldn’t tuck in or hang properly. Luckily, our bed was so massive all four of us slept in it just fine. Somehow, DD still ended up with a mosquito bite on her face and two on her hand. Good thing we were taking malaria meds!
The bathroom had a toilet separated by a door, two sinks, and a shower. We had a deck with 2 chairs and a table and pretty views over the mountain down to the lake. Power was 24 hour. We did need to use plug adapters for the outlets (all the other lodgings had outlets that took many different plug shapes). Wifi was provided in the reception area.
For dinner, we had a choice of beef, chicken, or vegetarian. The meal was good, though the kids got cranky early and we needed to retire promptly! Breakfast was buffet with eggs and bacon made-to-order.
Walking around at night was ok if you were cautious. They had Maasai guards stationed throughout who kept an eye on things.
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