Like each park we entered, our guide pulled into a small building and presented papers for us to enter (yet another reason why we were so glad we had booked with Africa Dream Safaris who made the whole trip seamless). We had a short, mandatory tour at the park's entrance and I loved that our guide was wearing a Supreme sweatshirt in the heat; it felt like walking in Soho while checking the ground for snakes.
He showed us a building that used to be the park's headquarters, and had been overtaken in a mudslide several years ago.
It's funny looking back now at just how exciting everything was, because the volume of animals was so much greater in the Serengeti. Nonetheless, Manyara did excel above all other parks in one way: baboons!
We don't have many photos of them in groups, but as our car rocketed through the jungle-dense thickets of green and damp road, hundreds scooted out of the way.
The drive started with loping baboons,
and we slowly started seeing other species: deer, gazelle, antelope, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys. And all throughout the trip, I scribbled in shaky pencil letters marking what we saw, each one a revelation, each one's actions so beautiful and unpredictable.
Since I didn't have a big lens like everyone else in the car, I sat in the back of 4x4,
and popped up like a prairie dog whenever I saw something to film with my little iPhone.
Manyara was to the east of the Serengeti, so the climate was very comfortable and moderate, and the ground not terribly dusty from the dry. The air smelled like coffee and so many birds and butterflies roamed past.
Our closest elephant experience of the trip also occurred in Manyara; we could nearly reach out and touch their dusted, creviced skin. This was our first experience of the small groups of elephants, 10-20, that travel together as a family with varying sizes and ages.
One of the most fascinating tidbits we learned was that elephants are some of the guides' favorite animals because of their intelligence. They know that poachers are after their tusks, so when one dies of natural causes, the other elephants trample the tusks to pieces. Take that, poachers!
If you do an image search for Manyara, you'll likely find iconic hoards of pink flamingoes and pelicans. The stench made me nearly gag, but the volume of birds on top of each other was hard to believe.
I have always thought of giraffe as fairly stationary, but in Lake Manyara, we saw them galloping like horses through the trees, their hooves knocking the dust and leaving clouds behind them. Their height seemed to make their speed slow motion, gentle.
The older the giraffe, the longer the neck, the darker the spots––some nearly black.
Most of these in the photos are pretty young.
And Lake Manyara was also our introduction to some of the animals we would see everywhere on the trip. Warthogs (whose Swahili name is actually Pumba!)
and water buffalo.
From Lake Manyara, we continued on west toward our next stop: Ngorngoro Crater!