In stark contrast to the dense forest is the grassy floodplain and vast views that stretch beyond it, across the glassy lake, to the hazy blue volcanic ridge of the Maasai Steppes on the far horizon. This unique habitat of grassy shoreline emerges during the dry season when the water recedes, exposing vast stretches of land alongside the lake. This flat spread of bare earth, which is waterlogged during the wet season, now basks in direct sunlight and allows saline-tolerant grasses spring up. A temporary park like habitat soon develops and persists till the rains of the wet season flood it over again. In the meantime grazing herbivores gather in these wide open spaces to indulge in the nutrient-rich grasses.
Because of the fresh food source and spacious views, a menagerie of different animals gathers together here. Wildebeest and zebra favor the wide open spaces of these shoreline plains since they can easily see predators approaching, and they are among the most commonly seen mammals that come here to crop down the tender shoots. Majestic buffalo can be seen dotting the landscape, milling about like a herd of cattle in relatively dense numbers here. Impressively tusked elephants can also be seen strolling in the sunshine on the shore of the lake, with a sea of pink flamingos shimmering in the shallow lake behind them.
Taking a break from browsing their favorite acacia woodlands, giraffe can be seen on these open plains, towering above the otherwise flat landscape. Giraffe can sometimes be seen lying down in the grass in the open clearing around the shore, perhaps more comfortable relaxing here knowing they have an unobstructed view of an approaching lion or leopard. Otherwise quite graceful, these statuesque creatures look rather awkward when they bend down to take a drink; due to their incredible height giraffe have to splay their legs out from side to side in order to get their muzzle down to water level.
Groves of ivory palm trees hem the outer banks of the floodplain like leafy sentinels, overlooking hippo families as they froth about in the distant hippo pool. At night these same hippos will leave their watery refuge and gorge themselves on these grassy flood plains. On overcast days these generously proportioned beasts can be seen basking on the shoreline, but on a sunny day they usually prefer to wallow in the cooling waters of their pool till dusk tempers the heat.
Although the floodplains can seem somewhat desolate compared to the leafy forest behind it, the clear shoreline is an excellent place to spot wildlife since there are no obstacles to obstruct your view. It is so interesting and a little odd to see so many different types of animals grazing and living together in perfect harmony. Lake Manyara is a very special park, and the floodplains here are part of what make it so unique and appealing to so many different types of wildlife.