Lake Natron

from $191 /person

Plan an Unforgettable Lake Natron Safari

Lake Natron is situated in northern Tanzania on the border with Kenya, close to Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Lake Natron is home to ancient hominid footprints, the largest breeding ground for Lesser Flamingo and to Ol Doinyo Lengai, and it’s the only active carbonatite volcano in the world.

If you’d like to include Lake Natron in your big Tanzania safari, keep reading to find out more about this amazing place.

Situated between its volcanic hills and deep craters, Lake Natron is at the lowest point of the rift valley – 600m above sea level – and is probably the world’s most caustic body of water. The lake is fed by the Southern Ewaso Ng’iro River and by mineral-rich hot springs.

It’s less than three meters (10 feet) deep, so it’s very shallow, and it varies in width depending on its water level, which changes due to high levels of evaporation, leaving high concentrations of salt magnesite and sodium carbonate (natron) on its surface…which shows as a pinkish-white soda crust.

The country surrounding the lake is hot and often very dusty and dry, which isn’t very conducive to travel, but the people who choose to visit Natron are rewarded with some of the most visually compelling scenes in the world. The views alone are worth the journey!

Home to the Maasai and over one million flamingos, Lake Natron is a perfect base for amazing adventures! The area around the lake offers different attractions like a large number of volcanic implosion craters, numerous waterfalls, and ravines with nesting places for Rüppell’s Griffon Vultures.

Wildlife at Lake Natron

For many plants and animals, the saline waters make the lake inhospitable, yet the saltwater marshes surrounding the lake are a surprising habitat for flamingos whose leathery skins make them able to withstand the deadly waters.

The lake is home to the highest concentrations of lesser and greater flamingos in East Africa where they feed on the lake’s spirulina – a green algae with red pigments. Because Lake Natron’s caustic environment is a barrier against predators trying to reach their nests on seasonally-forming evaporite islands, it’s a safe breeding location. The pH and temperature levels in the water are so high that it can burn off the skin and eyes of animals that aren’t adapted to it. The most interesting, otherworldly thing about the lake is the solitary, mummified birds occasionally seen along the shoreline, calcified over a long period, and turned into strange fossils.

The lake is also home to endemic algae, invertebrates, and even fish that can survive in the slightly less salty water. Other animals that inhabit this area are zebra, ostrich, fringed-eared oryx, gazelle, gerenuk, lesser kudu, and golden jackal. 

Activities to Include on a Lake Natron Tour

Bird Watching and Flamingo Lake Walk
Across eastern Africa, the lesser flamingo feed on algae found in soda lakes but they choose to breed at Lake Natron almost exclusively.

Approximately 75% of the world’s lesser flamingos are born at Lake Natron. The best times to view these amazing birds are either at sunrise or at sunset when the heat isn’t so ferocious. The Lake Flats around the water’s edge contain small lakes, streams, and hills providing a variety of hospitable environments for birds that thrive in the alkali oasis. There is nowhere else in Africa like Lake Natron, and the flamingos are especially popular with children, making it the perfect addition to a family safari in Tanzania.

Mountain Biking at Lake Natron
Experience Lake Natron on wheels. Hop on a mountain bike and go exploring around the local area with your guide. Please note that this must be booked before arrival. Tip: This is best done at sunrise or sunset when the weather is cooler.

Hominid Footprints at Lake Natron
Within the concession area, you can walk to the hominid footprints where researchers have cataloged rare finds of well-preserved human footprints left in the mud between 5,000 and 19,000 years ago. No other site in Africa has as many ancient Homo sapiens footprints, making it a treasure trove for scientists trying to learn the story of mankind’s earliest days.

Lake Natron’s Natural Pools
Cool off in any one of the natural plunge pools at Lake Natron Camp and there’s also a deeper, larger pool where you can immerse yourself under shade netting out of the hot sun. But don’t be scared of the little fish! They may bite, but they’re very gentle. It’s more of a nibble.

Ngare Sero Water Falls
To see these spectacular waterfalls, a decided favorite among our guests, we’ll arrange a walk up Ngare Sero Gorge. The scenery is a unique blend of arid volcanic rocks and lush tropical palms. It’s a terrific spot to have lunch so please ask your guide for a packed lunch if you want to.

Rift Valley Day Hike (6 hours)
Hiking the Rift Valley is a great alternative to climbing Mount Lengai. This adventurous trek departs camp before dawn and you transfer to the base of the Rift Valley wall. You then climb the wall on foot, enjoying the dawn as you ascend close to the Ngare Sero Gorge. You’ll take a picnic breakfast with you to the top and you’ll enjoy being in one of the most dramatic viewpoints in the region. After breakfast you descend back down via another route, or, depending on time, you could come back the same way. You’ll arrive back at camp in time for lunch and then you’ll relax in the natural pool or enjoy a massage…or both!