Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lake Manyara, Tanzania: Revealing Africa's Diverse Natural Habitat - January 2016

Safari Day 1: Lake Manyara National Park

With Arusha town behind us, we drove past fields of sugar cane, rice and banana trees. From the car window we saw small towns with shops and circular thatch huts surrounded by tall grass. We watched as women dressed in brightly-colored fabric carried pots and sacks on their heads with babies strapped to their backs, and as young Maasai boys herded cattle across the road and through the hilly grasslands.

After less than two hours driving and just past Mosquito Town, we reached our destination of Lake Manyara National Park. Nestled into the base of the Rift Mountains, Lake Manyara National Park encompasses about 127 square miles and showcases an incredibly diverse sampling of African terrain and animal habitat.

Within the park, game trails journey through jungle-like forestland hiding blue monkeys that swing from the trees and commanding baboon troops; woodlands which house the park's iconic tree-climbing lions; grassy plains where buffalo, giraffes, wildebeest and zebra herds graze; flooded swamplands stocked with bathing hippos, pelicans and storks; and around the 77 square-mile freshwater lake.

Against the dramatic volcanic mountain backdrop and within the dense forests we also spotted: elephants, a m
onitor lizard, bush buck, warthogs, African jacanas, impala, giraffe, lilac-breasted roller birds, African fish eagles, crown cranes, water buck, guinea and rabbits.

While Lake Manyara is home to a number of different bird and animal species, it was hard to travel more than a few yards without encountering zebra.

Zebras tend to live in small harems to large herds, and have been unable to be tamed due to their inability to carry goods and panicked temperament. We learned that a zebra foal is born with brown and white stripes which darken as the animal ages; each zebra's black and white stripes carry a unique pattern much like a human fingerprint.

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