With a myriad of animals frolicking along the glittering shoreline and clouds of pink flamingos dusted over its glassy surface, Lake Manyara itself is a beautiful sight to behold. The mirror like surface reflects the shifting shades of the sky above - from dawn's rosy hue in the early morning to shimmering blue as the sun rolls directly overhead to golden glass as the yellow rays of sunset strike over the valley.
Lake Manyara was formed as a result of the Great Rift Valley - over millions of years as the rift grew wider, streams cascaded down its continually eroding slopes and pooled into what is now the famous lake. Typical of lakes formed in this way, Lake Manyara has no outlet and is thus subjected to intense evaporation, allowing salt and other minerals to accumulate. Crusty white deposits of soda glitter like diamonds around the water's edge and the saline water appears almost soapy in texture due to the concentrated minerals. However the water is not too salty for animals to drink, and hippos happily make their home in these brackish waters.
Algae vivaciously thrive in the high saline content of the lake, and their growth supports large numbers of fish. Huge and colorful flocks of birds gather in or near the water to feed, including many different varieties of birds that coexist together. In fact, well over 300 different species of birds have been recorded here!
Among the stunning sights of the entire park is a view of the great masses of pink hued flamingoes that often congregate together - feeding on the garden of blue green algae that flourish in the shallows. Posing in large numbers on their tall stilts of legs with their pink plumage reflecting in the still water, the first sight of these colorful birds is really quite remarkable.
The specialized diet of flamingos limits their distribution to alkaline or saline lakes where blue green algae prosper. This unique habitat includes a serious of lakes and water pans along the Great Rift Valley that were formed similarly as Lake Manyara. Flamingos communicate with a wide range of visual displays, and are very vocal birds as well. When they congregate in great numbers, as they often do here in Lake Manyara, the air is heavy with their noises, which range from a brash nasal honking to a loud grunting even growling.
These statuesque birds have excellent hearing and sight, including well developed color perception; however their sense of smell is quite poor. Since flamingos have long legs, they can wade into much deeper water than most birds and their webbed feet help support them on soft mud. Flamingos have an endearing habit of standing on one leg. The reason why they do this is because curling a leg under the body keeps the foot warm and conserves body heat; flamingos practice this habit in both cool and warm environments.
Before taking flight, a flamingo must run several steps before it lifts into the air, great wings outspread to catch the lifting undercurrents. They fly with their body completely extended - neck and head outstretched in front of their body with legs trailing horizontally behind. It is interesting to note that the flight speed of a flock of flamingos can reach up to 60 kph (37mph) and groups of these birds have been known to fly up to 600 km (373 mi) each night between stops for food.