Lake Manyara is a shallow lake in the Natron-Manyara-Balangida branch of the East African Rift in Manyara Region in Tanzania. Said by Ernest Hemingway to be the "loveliest [lake] ... in Africa," it is also the home of a diverse set of landscapes and wildlife.
The name Manyara comes from the Maasai word emanyara, which is a euphorbia species of plant that is grown into a hedge around a family homestead (Euphorbia tirucalli). The name "is a Masai description not for the lake, but in general for a lake shore region."
Of the 127 square miles (329 km2) of Lake Manyara National Park, the lake's alkaline waters (with a pH near 9.5) cover approximately 89 square miles (231 km2), though the area and pH fluctuate widely with the seasons, and dry spells expose large areas of mud flats. While most known for baboons, the lake and its environs is also home to herbivores such as hippos, impalas, elephants, wildebeests, buffalo, warthogs and giraffes. Giant fig trees and mahogany seen in the groundwater forest immediately around the park gates draw nourishment from the underground springs replenished continuously from crater highlands directly above the Manyara basin. Leading away from the forest to the fringes of Lake Manyara are the flood plains. To the south are visible the acacia woodlands. Leopards, although in abundance, are hard to get a glimpse of, just like the other elusive carnivores - the lions - of this park.
Lake Manyara provides opportunities for ornithologists keen on viewing and observing over 300 migratory birds, including flamingo, long-crested eagle and grey-headed kingfisher.
With an entrance gate that doubles as an exit, the trail of Lake Manyara National Park is effectively a loop that can be traversed by jeep within a couple of hours that may be stretched to a few more at best, if driving slowly, to watch, observe and enjoy the diversity of flora and fauna. The Rift Valley escarpment forms a noteworthy landmark and provides a spectacular backdrop to Lake Manyara.
To the east of Lake Manyara lies the Kwakuchinja wildlife corridor. The corridor allows wildlife to migrate between dispersal areas and parks that include Tarangire National Park to the southeast, Lake Manyara to the west and the Engaruka Basin to the north. Within the Kwakuchinja corridor are several villages that include Ol Tukai Village and Esilalei along the lakeshore.
Further from the lake and outside of village lands, lies the 44000 acre Manyara Ranch, of which 35000 acres comprise the Manyara Ranch Conservancy. This is a pioneering conservation and tourism project supported by the African Wildlife Foundation, the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust and the Manyara Ranch Conservancy. While not a park, the conservancy is frequented by resident and migrating wildlife including elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and the more common plains game. Rarely seen in the parks but a common resident on the conservancy is the lesser kudu.
Lake Manyara is part of the Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve, established in 1981 by UNESCO as part of its Man and the Biosphere Programme.