Cape Buffalo – Lake Manyara

LAKE MANYARA is arguably the most scenic of all the Great Rift Valley lakes – created aeons ago by dramatic geological forces. The national park incorporates a 500 metre escarpment drop, acacia savanna and evergreen swamp forest as well as the lake itself. Lake Manyara National Park is part of the Northern Tanzania Safari Circuit which begins in Arusha and includes Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. Being set at a lower elevation than either of these, Manyara is home to certain mammals and birds that cannot be seen in the more famous wildlife reserves. In addition, Manyara has a unique wild character with a network of narrow roads, the broad Endabash river crossing, wooded hills and open floodplains. Views from the escarpment lip are simply breathtaking. Perhaps most famous for its tree-climbing lions (which sleep on lateral branches to catch a cool breeze off the lake), Manyara was also the location for Iain Douglas-Hamilton’s pioneering work on elephant behavioural ecology in the 1960s.

I first visited the reserve in 1996 when safari operator andBeyond (then CC Africa) was constructing the Maji Moto Lodge in the far south; this lodge was later destroyed by floods and rebuilt as Lake Manyara Tree Lodge – still the finest place to stay inside the park.

Some photographs taken during visits to Manyara.

I have many wonderful memories of that and subsequent visits to Manyara where I worked with resident guides including Abdallah Hassan and Salim Ali on field projects for andBeyond’s ‘Ecological Journal’ and ‘WildWatch’ web platform. At Manyara I have photographed Egyptian Vultures mating on the lake shore, watched a pair of Cape Clawless Otters playing in a pool outside my tent at dawn, seen Silvery-cheeked Hornbills hawking winged termites after a thunderous tropical storm, and observed a lion pride pull down a Heck’s Wildebeest (a sub-species distinct from the migratory White-bearded Wildebeest of the Serengeti) in front of our Land Rover.

This illustrated poster design features Cape Buffalo – an impressive and moody animal that – for me – captures the spirit of Manyara. Great White Pelican are among the more conspicuous birds of the lake which Lesser Flamingo visit in huge numbers, although their breeding site is at Lake Natron, to the north. Herons, storks, ducks, ibis, kingfishers, plovers and sandpipers abound in and around the lake, while hornbills, bee-eaters, lovebirds, shrikes and all manner of raptors occur in abundance.

The ‘Ecological Journal’ editor transporting copies of the annual publication across the Endabash River – for delivery to contributing guides at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge – 1999.

Duncan Butchart

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