Lake Manyara National Park

Where to Stay While Visiting Lake Manyara:
Manyara Serena

Although Lake Manyara National Park covers an area of only 318sq km, its terrain is so diverse that its mammal and bird lists are some of the most impressive in Tanzania. The Park includes not only a substantial portion of the lake and its shores but also large areas of ground-water forest with giant fig and mahogany trees alternating with acacia woodland and open swamplands. The Park is bordered to the west by the dramatic western escarpment of the Rift Valley and to the east by the Lake which spreads out in a shimmering heat haze backed by a narrow band of forest and the sheer red and brown cliffs of the escarpment. The name is derived from the Maasai word for the Euphorbia tirucalli bush which the tribesmen plant as a living stockade to keep their cattle from straying.

As to wildlife, the park offers abundant sightings of; monkey, jackal, mongoose, hyena, hyrax, zebra, hippo, warthog, buffalo, Masai giraffe, duiker, waterbuck and impala. Significant numbers of elephant are also resident in the Park whilst sightings of black rhino and leopard are not uncommon. Manyara is also especially noted for its wealth of bird life, being visited by many thousands of sugar-pink Lesser Flamingos, significant numbers of Greater Flamingos and a host of other woodland, plains and water birds.

The People of Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara is adjacent to the colourful market town of Mto wa Mbu (Mosquito Creek) where several tribes converge to form a linguistic mix that is the richest in Africa. The Mgubwe, Iraqw, Gorowa, Irangi, Tatoga, Chagga and Maasai have used Mto wa Mbu as a trading post for centuries and it is the only place on the continent where you can hear the four major African language groups, Bantu, Khoisan, Cushitic and Nilotic spoken in the same area.

There are approximately 120 tribal groups in Tanzania, most of which are so small that one hundred tribes combined would only account for one-third of the total population. As a result, no tribe dominates either politically or culturally. Approximately 95% of Tanzanians are of Bantu origin, the largest tribes being the Sukuma (approximately 13% of the population), the Nyamwezi, Makonde, Haya and Chagga. The Maasai and several smaller groups, including the Arusha and Samburu, are of Nilotic origin. There is also a small but economically significant Asian and Arabic population. According to the most recent census, Tanzania is one of the least-urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa, urban dwellers making up only 11.5% of all mainland Tanzanians..

The Maasai

The most memorable human feature of the Lake Manyara area are the fabled Maasai who have a strong presence in the region. Often strikingly tall and slender, swathed in brilliant red cloth 'Shukas', hung about with beads and metal jewellery, the young men (Moran) favour long, plaited, ochre-daubed hairstyles and have a formidable reputation for glamour, prowess and ferocity. Traditionally the Maasai live off the milk and blood of their beloved cattle and believe that all the world's cattle are theirs by God-given right. Their nomadic and pastoral lifestyle, though historically based on the pursuit of migratory wildlife, is slowly changing thanks to a combination of education, favourable new laws, projects, jobs and income.

After deep reflection on my people and culture, I have painfully come to accept that the Maasai must change to protect themselves, if not their culture. They must adapt to the realities.

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