This spectacular area sits just north east of the Ngorongoro Crater and forms part of Africa's immense Great Rift Valley. Nestled between rolling volcanic hills and deep craters, Lake Natron sits at the lowest point of the rift valley – 600m above sea level – and is probably the world's most caustic body of water.
This area is hot and often very dry and dusty – so certainly for the more intrepid traveller. But for those who do choose to visit Natron, they are rewarded with an area that is far off the beaten track and sees relatively little tourism. It is also some of the most dramatic scenery we have seen in Tanzania and the journey here is worth it for the views alone.
Wildlife of Lake Natron
The area around Lake Natron is home to some wildlife, you might see the occasional giraffe or zebra – but this is not the main reason to come here. In stead, visit this area for its remoteness, scenery and for an interesting route into the back of Loliondo.
That said, the lake itself is home to a fascinating eco-system which thrives in this harsh environment. The lake is full of millions of Cyanobacteria - a salt loving micro organism which create their own food through photosynthesis. As the lake increases in salinity, so does the population of bacteria. The lake also supports a vast population of Spirulina, a blue-green algae with red pigments, on which the large population of Lesser Flamingos feed on.
The lake is an extremely hostile environment and most other organisms are not able to live here. The alkalinity levels of the lake can become so concentrated, that they almost approach that of straight ammonia. Few predators can survive here, and the result is a safe breeding ground for the flamingos who return here annually to nest.
If you're being driven between Lake Manyara and the Serengeti, then the obvious route is through the Ngorongoro Conservation area. This road can be busy to the point of congested: you will pass other vehicles very frequently.
However, there's a little-known route that's rarely used by tourists – which is the road we've described above, through the Lake Natron area. These camps in Lake Natron make a great half-way stop on this between Lake Manyara and the Loliondo area of the Serengeti. You can travel here without seeing more than a handful of other vehicles. When we last drove this way, in June 2008, we passed two vehicles in the entire day – plus some spectacular scenery. We loved its remote and off-beat feel.
However, the drawbacks of this area, and this route, are :
- Visitors are relatively uncommon here. Look around at the desolation to realise that the few Maasai villagers who live here have a very hard life. Some will try to sell jewellery to make a bit of an income. Their sales tactics are pushy and it can become a little uncomfortable.
- This area is dry and hot. The cooler months here (June, July and August) are hot but bearable; the rest of year has very high temperatures which can make being outside quite unpleasant.
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