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Lake Natron & Ol Doinyo Lengai

Lake Natron & Ol Doinyo Lengai

Lake Natron is a huge alkaline lake on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. Although Arusha (214km) is in the vicinity, it’s a wild and isolated area on the famous Northern Circuit. Yet, Lake Natron can be easily visited in conjunction with Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park.

Lake Natron experiences a hot desert climate year-round, and its alkaline water is deadly to most birds and animals. Moreover, the roads are bumpy, and the air is dusty. So why does Lake Natron attract so many visitors?

Lake Natron is a destination for nature lovers, solitude seekers and photographers. This incredible lake, which turns red in the dry season, dominates the stunning scenery, and Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano, creates a spectacular backdrop. The deep ochre colours and unique landscapes feel unreal at times.


Millions of flamingos flock here to lay their eggs from September to May. The harsh soda water helps to keep predators away from their young.


This remote area on the popular Northern Safari Circuit feels secluded even during peak season. Take a detour to experience a few days off the beaten track.


A 45-minute guided walk into the steep sided Ngare Sero River gorge will lead you to a waterfall, where you can swim in the plunge pool and retreat from the heat.

The Great Rift Valley, Lake Natron & Ol doinyo Lengai

The Great Rift Valley stretches from northern Ethiopia to Mozambique in the south, a distance of about 5600km. The valley is created by two tectonic plates moving apart causing the valley floor to drop down leaving intact and fragmented valley walls or escarpments. The prominent escarpment in this area lies to the west. Volcanoes and craters of different ages are scattered around the valley. Oldoinyo Lengai (Mountain of God) is the only active volcano in Tanzania. Volcanism around the Great Rift Valley produces soda (Sodium Carbonate), which is washed down by rain and ground water. 

Lake Natron sits at the lowest point of the valley in East Africa at an altitude of 600m or 2000feet above sea level.  Here the water evaporates leaving behind very high concentrations of soda. Algae and zooplankton thrive in this water, which in turn supports great numbers of flamingos. The combination of remoteness and the hostility of the soda mud-flats provides the flamingos with a relatively safe area to breed and rear chicks. The lake is also surrounded by scattered springs, some of which are fresh enough to provide drinking water for many species of animals, large and small. Lake Natron Camp is located at one of these springs. 

You will be staying in a truly ancient and unique environment where man possibly evolved. 

When to Go

The best time to visit Lake Natron is during the dry season, from June to October. Daytime temperatures are still hot but milder than during the rainy season, and hiking is more comfortable. Intense evaporation during the dry season increases the lake’s salinity levels, creating the perfect environment for the cyanobacteria to multiply rapidly. This process turns the lake red. Consequently, the best time to take incredible photos is the dry season. The area should be avoided from mid-November to February if you do not like very hot weather. You can visit during the rainy season, from March to May; however, parts of the shoreline may be inaccessible.

Dry Season - June to October

Ideal for hiking and to see the start of the flamingo breeding season.

Green Season - March to May

Heavy rain turns the surroundings green, and the dilution of the lake water dissolves the red hue.

Why to Go

An unexpected hiking destination

Lake Natron and Ol Doinyo Lengai are exceptional hiking destinations. On a guided hike, you can walk along a gorge until you reach a waterfall to enjoy a refreshing swim in a natural plunge pool. If you have more time, you can enjoy a multi-day hike from the Ngorongoro Highlands to Lake Natron – a magical experience few people have enjoyed. If you’re an experienced hiker, you can climb Ol Doinyo Lengai, a steep and challenging hike that rewards you with stunning dawn views from the crater rim.

The area is very hot from September to June. If you want to climb Ol Doinyo Lengai or go on a multi-day trek, we recommend the cooler dry season months of July and August. Nevertheless, a hike to the waterfall is possible year-round.

Things to Do

An incredible landscape to explore

Lake Natron and its surroundings are not a typical safari destination – you won’t be going on game drives here. Instead, you can explore this off-the-beaten-path location on foot and take in the incredible scenery around you.

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