Lake Natron

Lake Natron is one of the great soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley. Here you can see thousands of pink-tinged lesser flamingos, a wondrous sight for all, but especially keen photographers.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

May to Sept

Overview

Lake Natron is one of the great soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley. it lies in a remote area of northern Tanzania. But you can combine it with an adventurous driving tour to the northern Serengeti. You will see thousands of pink-tinged lesser flamingos on a Lake Natron safari. This is a wondrous sight for all, but especially keen photographers. But this extremely alkaline lake is but one of the attractions of this remote area.

The route in to Lake Natron from the south (from near Lake Manyara) is bumpy and dusty. So it's not for those with a bad back! But it is also incredibly beautiful with the wall of the Rift Valley escarpment in full, impressive view. As you travel you see real Maasai village-life that you'll not see on the normal ‘safari circuit’. This starkly beautiful wide valley is home to remote Maasai tribes trying to eke out a precarious living in this much drier climate (only 400mm of rain a year) than the Highlands.

As you approach the Lake, the looming majesty of Ol Doinyo Lengai dominates the skyline, with its classic volcano silhouette. This active volcano (2960m) last erupted in 2004. Intrepid hikes can do an overnight climb to the top. See Walks from Lake Natron for more information…

Flamingos at Lake Natron

Lake Natron is an immensely alkaline soda lake, the result of the same tectonic activity which created the rift valley. As you approach, the lake seems to be pink. But this mirage is caused by millions of flamingos as well as red pigments in the algae of the salt-encrusted lake. Lake Natron has not dried out only because it is fed by the immensely powerful Ewaso Ngiro river coming from the wet central highlands.

Flamingos at Lake Natron by Kate

The flamingos (some 2.5 million at their peak) come and go. But they are greatest in number from August to October when they breed. Other wildlife commonly seen are zebra and giraffe, as well as wildebeest, oryx, gazelles and even the occasional lion or cheetah (very rarely seen).

Walking in the Rift Valley Highlands

A walking safari to Lake Natron is very rewarding given its position under the Rift Valley highlands. Walking can take many formats from day walks (see Lake Natron walking) to a multi-day trek down from the Ngorongoro highlands via Empakai crater down the escarpment to end at Lake Natron.

Lake Natron hiking

How to get to Lake Natron

You can visit Lake Natron from the south from Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro crater area (approx 4 hours drive each way). But from July to October, it can be used as a stepping stone into the northern Serengeti National Park. This is where the migration is likely to be at that time. However that's a LONG drive so not recommended unless you have plenty of time.

Allow at least two nights at Lake Natron otherwise you will be disappointed.

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Features

Why you may love it

  • Millions of pink flamingos call it their home.
  • Superb area for walking on the rift valley escarpment
  • Great sense of wilderness with dramatic scenery
  • Engaresero Hominid Footprints is an important find of 58 footprints, discovered by a Maasai herder in 1998. These are possibly the oldest footprints of homo sapiens as opposed to earlier hominid fossils.
  • Climbing Ol Lengai - for the truly entrepid

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Tasha Eygelaar

Africa Travel Specialist

Hi I'm Tasha, I'm here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience
Did you know
  • Number of Flamingos2.5 million
  • Date of last eruption of Ol Lengai2004