Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, Tanzania
Lake Manyara National Park is one of the smaller conservation areas in Tanzania that plunges dramatically from Gregory’s Rift to the soda- lake on the valley floor. Hemingway proclaimed the scenery was ‘the loveliest I have seen in Africa’. It was specifically established for the elephant herds that reside here, but is also famous for tree climbing lions. Naturally then the lodge is made up of rustically refined modern tree house suites for whimsical adventurers. Cradled in the branches of a mahogany forest, experience the unique wildlife and birds of this exquisite enclave.
These ten serene and sophisticated suites are the only property within the national park. This gives you the exclusive experience of watching day turn into night here and being enveloped in the surrounding sounds and forays in the forest on foot for the brave to observe elephants. The rooms blend the modern with the natural forest for the ultimate treetop wildlife hideaway.
Lake Manyara is an area of outstanding vistas as The Rift Valley plunges down 500 meters to the lapping edge of the lake. The lake is saline and therefore deposits build up giving a slightly surreal moonscape feeling to the shore, but even so it is teeming with life. Pods of hippos peer up from the shadowy water, flamingos perch nonchalantly, elephants and warthogs can be seen wallowing playfully in the mud and zebra and other buck gently graze the surrounding grassland on the edge of the marshes. This is a haven for birds and small buck such as Kirk’s dik-dik, there is always activity around the lake throughout the year that makes for great game viewing.
The treehouse suites meld in perfectly to the mahogany forest redefining the space between inside and out as the room flows seamlessly into the roomy veranda and on into the trees. Utilizing wood and sultry greens the rooms reflect the hues and shadows that play around in the changing light of the forest. Branches from the trees curl through the room flowing through the thatched roofs and creating a romantic nest perfect for privacy and escapism. Comfort is a paragon at &Beyond and lavish understated interiors define Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. Roomy luxuriant beds, elegant baths with views through the verdant leaves and roomy living areas take these suites to the pinnacle of treehouse cool.
The dining area is a fabulous ode to tribal chic surrounded by wood and shields it glitters with hundreds of lanterns every night as you hear the herds of elephant brushing through the undergrowth nearby. This is the true feeling of the bush and being in the open air, seas of stars above, fresh and fabulous food straight of the grill accompanied by the best of Cape wines. There is a true feeling of being immersed in nature here and part of the vast Tanzanian landscape that encompasses this small reserve.
Games drives start pre dawn and late afternoon to catch the wealth of wildlife and cacophony of activity when they are heading to the lake to drink. Knowledgeable guides make every experience a private lesson in ecology, species spotting and habitats. The plethora of knowledge is wonderous and adds and excitement and deeper understanding to every safari with &Beyond at Lake Manyara and their other lodges. As Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is the only property within the reserve then it is unlikely you will come across other vehicles on your drive making this the quintessential private safari experience.
The tree sleeping lions have become somewhat iconic of this reserve and seem to prefer to lounge in the branches of acacia trees surveying and snoozing rather than on the ground. This surreal scene is totally unique to this area. Lake Manyara is also a birdwatchers dream with over four hundred species, from larger waterfowl and flamingos to the rare and petit Amari Sunbird. Hippos can also be seen basking in the alkaline waters of the lake and the lowlands are home to the largest troops of olive baboon found anywhere in Africa.
Manyara National Park was created specifically to protect its herds of elephants that thrive in this area. Close encounters are guaranteed whether it is with the herd passing in grandiose procession or individuals bathing, feeding or simply passing through. There are several big tusker males and one has to exercise some caution. Guests are welcome to pass through the boundaries of the camp and have a stroll within the sight but if you come close to a large bull male who fixes on you and approaches fast then best to move out the way quickly no matter how great a photo you missed! Elephants are not naturally aggressive but in the bush you are in the territory of its inhabitants so always take a guide or respect the space of the animals and humans alike.
The property supports a lot of meaningful work in the area. The guides work closely with the Manyara National Park rangers to monitor the troops of olive baboons. The lodge also works closely alongside The Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST), in conjunction with Birdlife International, to monitor the endangered Amari Sunbird and Long – Billed Tailorbird in the adjacent East Usmabara Mountains. This work is vital to preserve the species in the park. In addition a new clinic for the community serves five thousand people and provides advice for healthy nutrition and encourages use of natural vitamins and minerals to alleviate a range of illnesses.
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is a sustainable safari choice for those searching for a little modern day tree dwelling adventure. Romantic and rural escapism immersed deep in the forest surrounded by elephants and tree dwelling lions are the stuff of imaginings in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘Tarzan’. A true African adventure awaits here hidden in the treetops of Tanzania.
Photos Courtesy of And Beyond Safaris
Words by Electra Gillies