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Ultimate Guide to Lake Natron

Active volcanoes, rushing waterfalls, warriors who walk with spears, and Africa’s deadliest lake: these are some of the adventures awaiting travelers willing to get off the beaten track and truly experience the wild of Africa in remote Lake Natron, Tanzania.

The road to reach Lake Natron might be bumpy, but it will certainly be worth it to experience climbing Tanzania’s active volcano and the only ‘cold lava’ volcano in the world. Lake Natron offers the unique chance of seeing the nesting grounds of pink flamingos and experiencing a traditional Maasai community in a new way.

man standing next to Lake Natron in Tanzania

Where is Lake Natron?

Lake Natron is located in northern Tanzania, near the wider Serengeti and Ngorongoro areas, close to the land border with Kenya.

However, due to its remote location and poor road infrastructure, there are few roads leading to Lake Natron.

Also, there is no official immigration office in the area, despite it being close to Kenya, so you cannot enter from Kenya.

Why Visit Lake Natron?

Although it is in a remote location, there are some amazing things to do in Lake Natron tour

Lake Natron Flamingos

The Lesser Flamingos use Lake Natron as a nesting site; it is estimated that 75% of all Lesser Flamingos in the world were hatched in the waters of Lake Natron.

As you walk closer and closer to the lakeshore, the majestic birds will begin flapping, fluttering and flying: it makes for a fantastic video of thousands of huge pink birds taking to the sky. 

The beauty

The landscape of Lake Natron includes the impressive volcano Oldoinyo Lengai, dry plains dotted with acacia trees, the Ngorongoro Highlands in the distance, and of course, the beautiful lake itself.

The scenery is incredible, but due to the remote location, sees fewer visitors than popular places in Tanzania. This means you can experience the rugged wild of Tanzania away from the crowds and have a more authentic Tanzanian experience.

About the Lake

Lake Natron is known as “Africa’s Deadliest Lake” because of the dangerous ph level of the water: 10.5 on the ph scale, and the natural hot temperature of the water.

The mix of intense heat, alkalinity, salinity, and special algae that grows in the water make for a deadly lake.

It is cyanobacteria that flourish in the waters of Lake Natron; this algae is powerful enough to kill the nerves of creatures that consume it. Many birds die shortly after drinking the water of Lake Natron.

It is also these algae that give the lake a unique red color.

Furthermore, the high salt content acts as a brine and can preserve creatures that are unfortunate enough to drown or die within its waters. This can make for some very strange-looking corpses at the water’s edge.

But there is one animal that does not die from drinking cyanobacteria: the flamingo. Cyanobacteria are actually a source of food for them.

Why do flamingos use it as nesting grounds?

The harsh conditions of the lake water offer natural protection for flamingos from predators and protect their eggs. Furthermore, they feast on cyanobacteria, making it a safe and bountiful haven for these beautiful birds.

Since the lake is naturally hot, flamingos lay their eggs in the warm mud of Lake Natron, where they will remain until they hatch for the next generation of Lesser Flamingos.

Since flamingos use Lake Natron as a breeding and nesting ground you’re sure to see flocks of flamingos here, year-round. If you’re a bird lover, it’s the best place in all of Africa to see thousands of flamingos.

Attractions in the Lake Natron Area

Aside from the beautiful flamingos of Lake Natron, there are many other attractions for adventurous travelers to Tanzania; trekking, cultural excursions, and historical and geological sites.

Lake Natron itself

The breeding and nesting grounds of the Lesser Flamingos. 

The waters of Lake Natron are scientifically interesting, and visually beautiful, too. You’re sure to capture stunning photos of this shallow lake in a scenic location.

Oldonyo Lengai

Oldoinyo Lengai is an active volcano located near Lake Natron; it is the only volcano of its type in the entire world and is sacred to the local Maasai tribe.

When it erupts, this volcano spews “cold” lava which is brown, not red in color. It is under constant scientific research, so you may see evidence of testing sites as you climb.

Being an active volcano, you can also put your hands in the active vents and feel the steam the volcano emits – how cool!

The volcano’s name means “Mountain of God” in the Maasai language, and climbers must be led by a Maasai warrior, as a cultural tradition. This trek is also completed at night, with the summit concluding just in time for sunrise.

Climbing this steep mountain is an incredible adventure and a once-in-a-life opportunity to trek an active volcano.

Travelers looking to pump their adrenaline are in for an awesome experience. If you want to learn more about how to trek this volcano during your time in Tanzania, reach out to Altezza Travel; experts in mountain climbing in Tanzania, who have on-the-ground experience climbing this active volcano.

Hike to Ngare Sero Waterfalls

If you’re looking for more trekking opportunities, enjoy a short (and relatively easy) trek to a nearby waterfall. Jump in the refreshing pools and swim under the waterfall.

The trek follows the local shallow river, so bring your hiking sandals or shoes if you don’t mind getting wet.

Hominid Footprints

Another interesting site in the Lake Natron area are the Hominid Footprints. 

National Geographic offers some insight to these ancient footprints, permanently fossilized by what is believed to be the lava from nearby Ol Doinyo Lengai erupting.

The footprints are of both humans and cows and are estimated to be somewhere between 5000 – nearly 20,000 years old. 

There is nowhere else in all of Africa with such clearly preserved footprints of humans and cows, telling us much about the previous civilization that traded this ground thousands of years ago.

God’s Hole

God’s hole is a massive crater found near Ol Doinyo Lengai. It’s incredible to walk along flat terrain that suddenly drops away to a very deep crater.

Was it formed from a volcanic eruption? A meteor?

We don’t know, but it’s huge and makes for some great photos.

Animals don’t live inside, and don’t drop anything down there – it’s much too dangerous to try and retrieve it!

God’s Hole is a good spot to visit as you drive to or from Lake Natron.

Lake Natron Animals

You are sure to see plenty of wildlife in the Lake Natron area.

Giraffe, Ostrich, Wildebeest, Zebra, Gazelle and more!

Near the lake itself is a grove of acacia trees where you’re sure to see giraffes nibbling on the tender leaves. You can drive quite close, as these giraffes are not so accustomed to safari jeeps as the ones you’ll see in the National Parks.

Driving along the road toward Lake Manyara offers the best chance to see ostriches, zebras and herds of wildebeests roaming about the plains. You won’t see as many animals as, say, Ngorongoro Crater, but it will still be a wildlife safari while going to and from Lake Natron.

Traditional Maasai Communities

Visitors to Lake Natron may also visit the local Maasai community in Ngare Sero and learn first-hand about their way of life.

See how they live in harmony with their herds and flocks, make handmade jewelry, and maybe even share a beer with a few Maasai warriors at a local bar!

How to Get to Lake Natron

Reaching Lake Natron is the only challenge facing the incredible adventures of this area. There are two main roads to reach Lake Natron: from Arusha through Longido, or from Mtu wa Mbu, near Manyara National Park.

Lake Manyara to Lake Natron: 152 km, approximately 4 hrs drive (if the road is not flooded)

Arusha to Lake Natron: 130 km, approximately 4 hrs drive, as the road is very poor.

You should give yourself 2-3 days to really enjoy the area and visit the main sites.

Safari Options

Drive to Lake Natron after a safari in Arusha National Park or Ngorongoro Crater/ Lake Manyara National Park. Pass through the Longido or Mtu wa Mbu routes and spend 3 days in Lake Natron, Tanzania.

Day 1: Drive from Arusha/Longido to Lake Natron, rest up and overnight climb Ol Doinyo Lengai

Day 2: Enjoy a relaxing day at the Lakeshore, visit the Hominoid Footprints and visit a local Maasai Boma

Day 3: Hike to Ngare Sero Waterfall, and drive back, making sure to pass by the acacia grove to see the giraffe family and another stop to see God’s Hole.

Best time to go

Because the roads to and from Lake Natron are poorly maintained, it’s best to go during the dry season. Otherwise, you risk portions of the road being flooded or impassible. 

The dry season from July – October is usually slightly cooler. While Lake Natron is very warm, it will be a bit more comfortable during these months.


The majority of accommodations in the Lake Natron area are tent camping. There are several basic campsites with cold water showers for travelers. However, as the Lake Natron area is very hot, this may not be comfortable for all travelers.

If you are looking for something more comfortable, then consider staying at the Lake Natron Tented Camp. It is one of the few tented lodges in the vicinity. Run by local Maasai staff, you’ll have a chance to learn about the local culture with an amazing view of the Lake Natron scenery.

Reach out for Altezza Travel to book your Lake Natron adventure or to book a stay at Lake Natron Tented Camp.

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