I was in Arusha recently to mark the World Press Freedom Day, and as soon as we were done with the media stakeholders meeting, two other journalists and I decided to take a one-day trip to Lake Manyara National Park.
Famous for its tree-climbing lions, the park is the closest to Arusha and is among the most accessible national reserves in Tanzania.
We opted for a self-drive car and departed early in the morning for the two-hour, 120-kilometres road trip. We had breakfast at Mtu-wa-Mbu town near Lake Manyara National Park’s entry gate.
We were here to see the lions and the migratory flamingoes at the lake.
After driving for a while, we spotted the big cats resting near the lake, basking in the morning sun. We were lucky to see six lionesses relaxing in a large acacia tree.
The lions can leap from one branch to another, but we didn’t get to see them jump.
There was a platoon of baboons in the nearby tree, and they didn’t look friendly.
The park wardens said that the lions spend their days in the trees then descend at sunset. They also climb trees five or six metres tall, from where they have a wide view of the park and can spot their prey before a hunt.
This park is reportedly also home to the largest number of baboons in the world, and it attracts many scientists and tourists interested in primates.
The alkaline Lake Manyara is also home to more than 400 species of birds, with hundreds of flamingoes and yellow-billed storks flapping their wings — a scenic base for bird watchers.
The southern end of the park is where the Maji Moto hot springs lie, spewing sulphuric waters hot enough to boil an egg.
We did not spot the elusive leopards of Manyara, although there is said to be a large family here.
For those planning an overnight stay, Mto-wa-Mbu and Karatu towns offer affordable accommodation in guest houses.
The Lake Manyara Serena Lodge and Lake Manyara Hotel on the Rift Valley rim also provide accommodation to those looking for a more luxurious stay in the wild.
Being citizens, we had paid the park fee of Tsh10,000 ($4.3) for adults, which also applies to East African Community (EAC) citizens.
Children between five and 15 years of age pay Tsh2,000 ($0.86). Diplomats and foreign EAC residents pay $25 for adults and $15 for children.
Visiting foreigners pay $50 per adult and $15 for children between five to 15 years.
We exited the park before sunset and drove back to Arusha.
It was a fulfilling day of domestic tourism.