Lake Natron – Tanzania
Lake Natron, a very alkaline lake almost caustic which hardly supports any life. So why would you visit? The harsh surroundings immediately show the origins of this place, but look beyond this desolation and you will see it. The incredible redness of the lake, best seen from the air, the flamboyance of millions of flamingos in the breeding season, the hot springs ensuring there is still some water left in this vast lake, and the other plains animals (including wildebeest, zebra, oryx, gazelle and even the odd cheetah and lion) that can be found here, especially from December to April.
Oldoinyo Lengai, meaning the mountain of God, forms a backdrop to this prehistoric looking area, or perhaps it is better to describe it as from out-of-this-world? The active volcano is pyramid shaped and looks like it is topped with ice or snow, but this is, in fact, white ash. If you are active you can even hike to the top in a long day-hike, well worth it for the stunning views from the top.
About Lake Natron and Oldonyo Lengai
Lake Natron is 57 km long, 22 km wide and less than 3 meters deep. The lake is fed by the waters from both the Ewaso Ngiro River and hot alkaline springs.
Lake Natron is a caustic soda wonder. Sitting at the base of Ol Doniyo Lengai it is one of the most un-inhabitable and harsh environments on Earth. The majority of species can’t deal with the lake’s searing temperatures and high alkalinity, but a small type of tilapia (fish) and flamingos call it home. The blue-green algae that thrive in this environment turn the lake an eye-popping red and orange and as it’s the lesser flamingoes favorite food, it is the most important breeding site for them in the world.
The unusual moonscape is an amazing unexplored adventure zone. This superficially desolate land is incredibly ancient and dramatic.
Ol Doinyo Lengai is 2,890 meters high and is Tanzania’s only active volcano. It is also the world’s only carbonatite volcano, spewing out ‘cold’ lava. Cold is relative, though, as it flows at 500 degrees Celsius but this is around half the temperature of regular molten rock. The lava flows can solidify pinkish-white, green-white and yellow-white, giving the impression that Ol Doinyo is snow-capped.
From the summit there are fantastic views over the red, hot Lake Natron, stunning Ngorongoro Conservation Area and across to majestic Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru in the distance. The ascent is pretty tough, taking six to seven hours of climbing on steep, unstable slopes. The rewards are massive, sitting on top of a seismic giant, rumbling and grumbling, occasionally belching out a puff of black dust as you absorb the surreal beauty far and wide.