Are you planning to go on safari in Lake Natron?
Talk to our experts about the perfect planning for your holiday.
Lake Natron, lake in northern Tanzania on the border with Kenya, lying in the East African Rift System, 70 miles (113 km) northwest of Arusha. The lake is 35 miles (56 km) long and 15 miles (24 km) wide and contains salt, soda, and magnesite deposits. The lake’s warm water is an ideal breeding ground for the Rift Valley flamingos. The Gelai volcano (9,652 feet [2,942 m]) is at the lake’s southeastern edge. Just west of Lake Natron at Peninj, archaeologists discovered the Peninj, or Natron, mandible—an almost perfectly preserved fossil hominid jaw containing a complete set of adult teeth. The specimen has been assigned to Australopithecus boisei.
Lake Natron, the perfect breeding place for Flamingos
Every year, more than two million flamingos come here to lay their eggs and chicks hatch between September and April. Cyanobacteria are increasing with the salinity of the water, and the lake can carry more nests. Larger flamingos also breed in the Wadden Sea.
- Located in Tanzania, Lake Natron is a soda lake or a salt lake that can be found in Arusha Region.
- It is a dead-end lake which means that the lake doesn’t drain into any river or sea.
- The principal feeder of this lake is Southern Ewaso Ng’iro River that originates in Central Kenya.
- This shallow lake is also fed by hot springs that are rich in minerals. When we say shallow, we mean pretty shallow. The maximum depth of the lake is 9.8 feet or 3 meters only.
- Despite its shallow depth, the lake is quite big in length and breadth. It runs 57 kilometers in length and 22 kilometers in width but the width can occasionally vary depending on water level.
- The lake is known for its consistent high temperature. The average temperature of the lake is 40˚C or 104˚F but occasionally, its temperature peaks at 60˚C.
- The lake is extremely salty. The alkalinity of the lake stays at an average level of 10.5 but there are times when the pH levels can reach as high as 12.
- The bed rock surrounding the lake belongs to the Pleistocene period and is composed of trachyte lava that is dominated by sodium content.
- The lava has low levels of magnesium and calcium and high levels of carbonate which makes the lake water a concentrated caustic alkaline brine.
- During summer months, the lake water evaporates significantly, thus increasing the overall salinity of the lake. This is when halophile organisms thrive. Halophiles are microorganisms that thrive in salty conditions and use photosynthesis for making food.
- Most abundant halophile microbe at Lake Natron is the cyanobacteria. This bacterium has a red pigment that it uses for photosynthesis.
- It is this red pigment of the cyanobacteria that gives the characteristic red color to the open waters of the lake and orange color to the shallow water of the lake.
- The lake also supports a few other life forms that include some endemic birds, invertebrates and algae.
- About 2.5 million lesser flamingoes (a species of flamingoes) use the lake as their regular breeding ground. They thrive on the cyanobacteria which grow in numbers when the salinity of the lake increases. Increased numbers of cyanobacteria means more nests of lesser flamingoes.
- The reason these birds choose Lake Natron as their breeding ground is that the extremely harsh and inhospitable conditions keep away predators. The evaporite islands that form seasonally are the most preferred nesting grounds for these birds.
The best time 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 most logical route is to visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti first and then continue to Lake Natron. Return via Mto wa Mbu to Arusha. Not everyone is aware though of the driving times to Lake Natron.
- Hominid Footprints at Lake Natron
- Birds eg: flamingos
- Lake Natron’s Natural Pools eg: plunge pool
- Ngare Sero Water Falls
- Oldonyo lengai mountain
- Rift valley
- Climbing the Oldonyo Lengai mountain.
- Guided walks around the destination include walking to the hominid footprints.
- Flamingo and bird watching experiences
- Maasai cultural experience
- Rift Valley Day Hike (6 hours)
The two accommodations are:
- Moivaro Lake Natron Tented Camp
- Ngare Sero Lake Natron Camp.
Both camps are located near the lake, so you always have splendid views of the volcanic landscape and lake.
Do you need expert tips on planning for your next safari in Africa?
Share your email here