Although only a third of the park consists of dry land, the reserve boasts a higher diversity of plant and animal species than the far larger Serengeti. Established to protect the vast elephant herds that the area is known for, Manyara features an incredible wealth of habitats, from soaring groundwater forest to acacia tortilis woodland, a tranquil soda lake, bubbling hot springs and the steep escarpment of the Rift Valley. The Great Rift Valley is at its most impressive here, with a precipitous drop of about 500 m (1 600 feet) to the flamingo-rimmed lakeshore.
Lake Manyara’s thick forests are a unique and surprising habitat for sightings of lion, which are known to climb and lounge in the trees, as well as hunting on the grassy shores of the lake. Other wildlife includes large herds of buffalo, endangered African wild dog, cheetah, Maasai giraffe and impala. Troops of several hundred olive baboon can be encountered in the park, which is also home to Syke’s monkey, short-eared galago, Cape clawless otters, Egyptian mongoose, hippo and klipspringer.
Lake Manyara is also an excellent bird watching destination, with flamingo and other fascinating species spotted in and around the soda lake. More than 400 species of birds, including waterfowl and migrants, can be found in the area.