Before our safari in Tanzania, we thought that leopard were the only cats that climbed trees. On our Lake Manyara safari – one of Tanzania’s best safari experiences – we soon learned that lion also do. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised – after all, this was the home of ballerina-like flamingos and hundreds of other species, too.
We’d enjoyed a very relaxing morning in our stilted treehouse at our safari lodge. Our room was so beautiful we were almost reluctant to leave it, but we also wanted to enjoy another Lake Manyara safari. In particular, we very much wanted to see the famous tree-climbing lion.
After enjoying afternoon tea with our fellow guests, we headed out along the lakeshore. Our guide, Abasi, steered for the northern end of the lake, which meant that as we drove along, we had phenomenal views of the Great Rift Valley wall to one side, and the flat shimmering expanse of Hemingway’s ‘loveliest lake in Africa’ to the other.
Following a narrow strip of land, we paused to allow a herd of buffalo to cross the track ahead of us. Abasi pointed out the beds of saw-sedge grass along the shore they were heading for; it’s one of their favourite foods, and also prized by local people for basket weaving.
Two-thirds of the park is comprised of the lake, and it’s clearly a magnet for wildlife. We were astonished at how many different species of bird and animal we saw in a relatively short time. As well as the striking landscapes, this area is known for its incredibly high biodiversity.
Now, in the dry season, the vegetation had died back almost to the lake, which gave us clear views of every animal we saw, and I took some great pictures. There was so much to see, in fact, that I had to remind myself to put the camera down from time to time and just look.
We saw only a handful of flamingos wading in the shallow, alkaline waters. Abasi explained that this is their breeding season, and that most of them had flown north to Lake Natron. He joked that as they spend much of their lives with their heads upside down, feeding, they don’t think clearly, and had forgotten that we were coming to visit!
The habitat changed as we entered a section of lush forest. Fed by underground streams, these giant fig and mahogany trees are evergreen. We soon started seeing elephant and giraffe, busy feeding on the welcome greenery.
Our plan had been to enjoy a sundowner on the lakeside, but this changed in an instant when we followed our guide’s outstretched arm and saw an unmistakable shape in a tree ahead of us. Silhouetted in the golden late afternoon light, a lion stretched along a tree bough, and prepared to descend for a night of hunting.
Night drives are permitted here, so we were in no hurry to get back. We tagged along at a slight distance behind the cat as long as we could before she disappeared into the bush. Wishing her good luck, we made our way back to our own dinner at the lodge, pleased that our Lake Manyara safari had given us a great story to tell!