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Lake Natron is an alkaline lake located in Ngorongoro District of Arusha Region in Tanzania, at the border with Kenya. It is in the Gregory Rift, which is the eastern branch of the East African Rift Valley. This beautiful lake lies at the foot of Ol Doinyo Lengai. Ol Doinyo Lengai, also locally known as the ‘Mountain of God’ is an active volcano.

This lake is primarily fed by the Southern Ewaso Ngiro River, which rises from central Kenya, and by the mineral rich springs. The lake is fairly shallow, no more than 3m deep.

It is the lowest point in the Great Rift Valley and it is the most caustic body of water in the world. There are large concentrations of salt magnesite and sodium carbonate (natron) on the surface of the lake, which is visible as a pink-whitish soda crust.

The lake is also known as the red lake because it turns creatures that drown their into ‘stone’ due to its high alkaline nature. Sometimes the pH level can rise as high as 12. Chemical properties of Lake Natron waters are known to harden (calcify) bodies of birds and animals that die in the lake, turning them into ‘stone’ before they decompose.

It has no outlet to any body of water and therefore the major source of its loss of water is evaporation.

Location: Ngorongoro District of Arusha Region, Tanzania

Accessibility: By road and chartered flights

Best time to visit: Dry season although the charm of Lake Natron remains all year round.

Accommodation: Various facilities ranging from budget to midrange accommodation

Nearest city/ town: Arusha

Flamingos of Lake Natron

Lake Natron is East Africa’s only regular breeding area for millions of the lesser flamingos. This lake is a safe breeding location due to its caustic environment which is a barrier against predators that may attempt to reach the nests on the seasonal islands.

Sadly, due to their dependence on this one regular breeding area, the status of the lesser flamingos has been classified as ‘near threatened’.

The greater flamingo also breeds on Lake Natron’s mud flats.

The lesser flamingos have a distinctive bright plumage which comes from the pigment of the algae and small crustaceans that they feed on in the lake.

These elegant tall birds, which are also commonly called the pink flamingos, with their long necks are a marvel to behold as they flock in great numbers.

Lake Natron Attractions

The area surrounding this alkaline lake has quite a number of attractions that make it a worthwhile place to visit. There are a number of waterfalls, volcanic implosion craters, and gorges with nesting places.

Some of the notable attractions are the following.

Ol Doinyo Lengai

Lake Natron is lies at the base of the world’s only active carbonatite volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai. This mountain gets its name from a Maasai phrase which means “Mountain of God”

Hiking up Mount Ol Doinyo Lengai is an awesome adventure which presents astonishing views of the Great Rift Valley in the west, Lake Natron in the north and the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro in the east.  and the volcanic formations in the Ngorongoro highlands.

Conquering the summit of this active volcanic mountain is possible in 6 hours.

Mount Lengai is 878m high and it has explosive eruptions every twenty to forty years. The last significant eruption occurred in 1966 with subsequent smaller ones taking place in 1983, 1933, and 2007.

The Great Rift Valley

The Great Rift valley runs from northern Ethiopia to Mozambique in the south. This is an awesome attraction which is a wonder to behold. The Great Rift Valley stretches for a distance of about 5600 km.

It is created by two tectonic plates moving apart resulting in the valley floor to drop down leaving intact and fragmented valley walls or escarpments. Craters and volcanos, different in ages are spread around this rift valley.

Ancient Hominid Footprints

Well preserved ancient hominid footprints were discovered in the Lake Natron concession area by scientists.

Actually, modern research has further confirmed that these footprints are about 120,000 years old, making them the oldest Homo sapiens footprints yet discovered.

Ngare Sero Waterfalls

The Ngare Sero gorge has some scenic waterfalls. This area has a unique and enchanting blend of lush tropical palms and arid volcanic rocks as well as lush tropical palms.

Tourists can also explore the Ngare Sero source river. The tour is done on a full day’s hiking adventure within the Ngare Sero gorge.

Natural Pools

Lake Natron is bounded by scattered pools of water, some of which are fresh enough to provide drinking water for both large and small wildlife species. This offers a good wildlife viewing opportunities for tourists.

The lake is located at the lowest point of the valley. Its water evaporates leaving behind very high concentrations of soda. Algae and zooplankton thrive in this water, which also sustain huge populations of flamingos.

The remote and somehow unconducive nature of the soda mud-flats provide a relatively safe breeding environment for the flamingos.

Lake Natron Activities

There are a lot of activities that visitors to Lake Natron can involve themselves in. This area is never short of awesome activities to make the visit memorable.

Some activities undertaken around lake Natron are:

Flamingo Walks

Tourists can take either early morning or sunset walks to the lake and watch the fascinating lesser flamingos as they wade and feed on algae.

Rift Valley Day Hike

The Rift Valley hike is great option to climbing Ol Doinyo Lengai for those who feel that the ‘Mountain of God’ is too challenging.

Guests can scale the escarpment wall and ascend close to the Ngare Sero gorge where spectacular views await them.

Bird Watching

Bird watching is a prominent activity during the visit to Lake Natron. The Lake Natron flats and surrounding areas have little streams, lakes as well as hills which provide a variety of habitats for bird species that thrive in alkaline environments.

Maasai Boma Tour

The Maasai people have a rich and strong cultural heritage that is centuries old, but nevertheless, so remarkably preserved. This ethnic group inhabits this part of the Great Rift Valley.

Maasai bomas, which are actually homesteads, are spread around Lake Natron catchment area, but the main central village, called Engare Sero is a few kilometers westward at the bottom of the escarpment.

This village gets its name from the river that flows from the escarpment through a spectacular canyon. Engare Sero, is a Maasai phrase which means “dappled water”.


The Lake Natron area also boasts of a number of natural plunge pools in which visitors can swim. After indulging in other activities, guests may opt to cool off in one of the pools.


Plan a trip to this marvelous lake.

It is a lasting memory you just have to make

And we, as Tanzania Offroad Trips,

We are ready to ensure it is a memorable trip.

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