Lake Natron: A Thrilling Natural Phenomenon
The mighty peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Great Migration of stampeding wildebeest through the Serengeti and the Big 5 within one of the seven Natural Wonders of Africa- the Ngorongoro Crater, are what the East African country of Tanzania are best known for. But lying in the country’s northern reaches you will find the eerily crimson waters of Lake Natron, an equally thrilling natural phenomenon to explore. Lake Natron is a destination that very few travelers visit. With flamingo filled lakes, ancient hominoid footprints and active volcanoes, Natron is a stunning region reserved for the adventurous. A truly wonderful region.
The lake sits close to the Tanzania/Kenya border, in the Arusha region. Approximately six hours drive from Arusha itself, this is an area well off the beaten track, consisting of a near-pristine forest reserve and extensive grass plains interspersed with mountains, rocky hills, and even a live volcano – Ol Doinyo Lengai, ‘Mountain of God’ in Maasai. The scenery is phenomenal; some of the most spectacular in Africa. With a magical location ‘guarding’ Lake Natron, Ol Doinyo Lengai is an extremely steep climb – but reach its peak and you are rewarded with breathtaking views over Ngorongoro, Kilimanjaro and all the volcanoes of the Rift Valley! On a clear day this view is absolutely outstanding. Descend to the shoreline however and marvel at ‘the Lake Natron footprints’, fossilised footfalls preserving moments over 120,000 years ago when two groups of Homo sapiens traversed the volcanic-ash terrain. This is one of the world’s largest collections of human footprints and well worth a visit.
The area is also notable for its location on village land rather than within a game reserve or national park that prohibits human settlement. As a result, there is a close and often symbiotic relationship between human and wildlife communities here. The former are mostly Maasai people, benefiting from local tourism. Travelers benefit in turn by enjoying truly authentic cultural experiences, among the best in Tanzania!
All in all, there is nowhere in the world like Lake Natron and its surrounds – in addition to the climb of Ol Doinyo Lengai, the landscape provides excellent opportunities for walking safari. It is truly remarkable that an area of the magnificence of Lake Natron exists so close to the Serengeti, it is so under-appreciated and little visited. We tend to recommend it most often to guests who are on longer safaris and are looking for a more intrepid and adventurous overland experience, especially those who want to undertake the magnificent hike up Oldonyo Lengai.
When to go to Lake Natron?
Tanzania lies close to the equator and so temperatures are fairly constant, and rainfall is the main seasonal variant. The diversity of altitude and habitats means that climate does vary across the country. Temperatures and rainfall peak during the short rainy season of March to May.
The best months to visit Lake Natron are the coolest ones—from June to August. Dry season is perfect for walking and trekking around the lake. During the dry season, the water in the lake evaporates and concentration of salts and microorganisms gets higher, creating amazing colours. The wet season brings lots of rain and thunderstorms, which damage most of the trails and even roads around this area.
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