Cradled in the glory of its surroundings below the sheer majesty of the Rift valley wall, Lake Manyara lies serene, spreading in a heat haze backed by a thin green band of forest and the sheer 600 metre red and brown cliffs of the escarpment.
A wedge of surprisingly varied vegetation sustains a wealth of wildlife, nourished by chattering strums bubbling out of the escarpment base and waterfalls spilling over the cliff. Acacia woodland shelters the park’s famous but elusive tree-climbing lions, along with squadrons of mongoose feasting on the trail of buffalo and elephant the most pachyderms per square kilometre in Tanzania.
Deep in the south of the park, hot springs bubble to the surface in the shadow of the escarpment. Hippo wallow near the lake’s borders of sedge. The park hosts 400 varieties of birds, including thousands of red-billed quelea flitting over the water like swarms of giant insects; pelicans, cormorants and pink streaks of thousands of flamingo on their perpetual migration.
Enter Manyara from the village of Mto wa Mbu, an eclectic market town where several tribes coverage to form a linguistic mix that is the richest in Africa.