Lake Natron is a place that only a small percentage of tourists visit. Natron is a magnificent location reserved for the courageous, with flamingo-filled lakes, ancient hominid footprints, and active volcanoes. This is a wonderfully magnificent location.

The lake is located in the Arusha area, close to the Tanzania/Kenya border. This area, about six hours drive from Arusha, consists of a near-pristine forest reserve and huge grass plains mixed with mountains, rocky hills, and even an active volcano – Ol Doinyo Lengai, which means ‘Mountain of God’ in Maasai. The landscape is breathtaking; among of Africa’s most beautiful.

This breathtaking region is located just north of the Ngorongoro Crater and is part of Africa’s vast Great Rift Valley. Lake Natron is the world’s most caustic body of water, nestled between rolling volcanic hills and massive craters at the rift valley’s lowest point — 600 meters above sea level.

This region is hot, dry, and dusty, so it’s best left to the more adventurous tourist. Those who do choose to visit Natron, however, will be rewarded with a location that is off the main path and sees minimal tourists. It also has some of Tanzania’s most stunning scenery, and the trek here is worth it just for the vistas.

From Mto wa Mbu, the travel to Lake Natron takes around three hours (beside Lake Manyara). It’s hot, but the terrain is becoming more stunning as the Rift Valley rises up on your left. Soon, your attention will be drawn to the scenery: the vistas are breathtaking. As you get farther into the forest, the greenery gives way to a bleak, dusty environment. The countryside is now dotted with only the occasional Maasai dwelling.

To the north of this road, there are a few large mounds that are the remnants of ancient volcanoes. The vista of Kerimasi Crater and, eventually, the active Oldoinyo Lengai – whose name means “mountain of God” in Maasai – dwarfs these.

To get to Lake Natron, you must drive around this massive volcano, maybe keeping your gaze fixed on its smoldering summit.

The safari camps in the Serengeti’s Loliondo region are roughly a five-hour drive from Lake Natron.

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Highlights of Lake Natron’s Wildlife

The region does not claim to have the same level of wildlife as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro National Parks, as large game is scarce.

The scenery, on the other hand, is stunning, with a population of lesser flamingos (about 2.5 million, the world’s biggest breeding colony) congregating on the lakeshore to feast on the blue-green algae Spirulina. Spotting the long-necked gerenuk is another animal highlight, but none compares to the sheer magnificence of the Natron terrain. The beauty is truly what this place is all about since it is surrounded by the Great Rift itself!

Lake Natron Safaris

Ol Doinyo Lengai, with its beautiful location ‘guarding’ Lake Natron, is a tremendously steep climb – but once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of Ngorongoro, Kilimanjaro, and all of the Rift Valley’s mountains!

This vista is really breathtaking on a clear day. However, descend to the coastline and marvel at ‘the Lake Natron footprints,’ which are fossilized footfalls dating back over 120,000 years and capturing moments when two groups of Homo sapiens traversed the volcanic-ash landscape. This is one of the greatest collections of human footprints in the world, and it is definitely worth a visit.

The location of the region is additionally noteworthy since it is on village land rather than within a wildlife reserve or national park where human habitation is prohibited. As a result, human and wildlife groups here have a tight and frequently symbiotic interaction. The former are largely Maasai people who profit from tourism in the area. Travelers benefit as well, as they get to enjoy some of Tanzania’s greatest cultural experiences!