There are few places in Africa where one can find in scarcely 300 square kilometres the variety of ecosystems found in the Lake Manyara area, one of the most beautiful national parks in Tanzania.
Following the formation of the Rift Valley two or three million years ago, currents of water began to descent along the walls of the gigantic escarpment to form a lake. Although its greatest extension took place some 250,000 years ago, the lake still exists today and, under the protection of the Rift from which it received water, has generated a mosaic of diverse habitats offering refuge to wildlife.
Between the escarpment and the salty waters of Lake Manyara there are thick rain forests, acacia forests, savannahs and wetlands with their own particular flora and fauna. There are few places in Africa where one can find in scarcely 300 square kilometres the variety of ecosystems found in the Lake Manyara area, one of the most beautiful national parks in Tanzania.
The lake, measuring 390 square kilometres, occupies 230 of the national park’s 330 square kilometres.
The Manyara area has a very unstable level of rainfall, which varies between 250 and 1,200 mm. per year, which causes years of intense draught followed by heavy flooding.
With these fluctuations it would be impossible to develop the jungle and rain forest bordering the lake, but Manyara receives the waters which spring forth from the base of the ridge and are filtered through the 600 metres of uneven land from the highlands of Ngorongoro.
The rain forest is populated by a very high number of animal species, although the number of individual specimens of each species is lower than that found in open areas.
Camouflaged amidst the dense vegetation, the Manyara forest houses an authentic collection of Tanzanian snakes. Many of them are inoffensive to man but some, although timid and evasive, have a mortal bite.
The green mamba is one of the most venomous snakes on the entire African continent. Although not as powerful as that of the black mamba, the venom of this mamba acts quickly.
Just before reaching the lake, the Simba River forms a natural pool where a group of hippopotami live permanently. The place, known as the hippo-pool, shelters the great animals during the hottest hours of the day. Despite their size and strength, the hippopotami’s skin is very sensitive to the sun’s rays and so they protect themselves by spending the day submerged in water.
The name Manyara comes from an indigenous word. The Masai use the word manyara to refer to an euphorbia with which they raise palisades to protect their livestock. It is a harder and more resistant plant than any other hawthorn they use in their bomas and protects the livestock contained inside better than any other. In the same way, the Manyara National Park protects a mosaic of ecosystems which represent the biological variability of Tanzania and give shelter to the animal species living there. Today, this former hunting preserve has become an inviolable refuge for the animal species which, not long ago, attracted hunters from all over the world.