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.
The area does not claim to rival the neighbouring Serengeti and Ngorongoro for wildlife numbers – big game is sparse here. Scenery however is breath taking and with a population of lesser flamingo (approximately 2.5 million, the largest breeding colony in the world) congregating on the lake shore to feast on the blue-green algae Spirulina, you are guaranteed a spectacular sight!
Other wildlife highlights include spotting the long-necked gerenuk, but neither of these matches the sheer majesty of the landscape of Natron. Surrounded by the Great Rift itself, scenery really is what this destination is all about!
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. Travellers 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.