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Tanzanian Holiday in Lake Natron

Location and Size in Lake Natron

If you are planning a Tanzania Budget Safari to the North of the country Lake Natron is something you ought not to miss. It is the lake that sparked worldwide commotion regarding its potential ability to petrify living things as fast that there seems to be no chance of escape. The “killer” lake is 57 kilometres (35 mi) long and 22 kilometres (14 mi) wide stretching nearly from a surface area of 1000 square kilometres. It is a must see choice for your Tanzania safari.

The water is extremely high in pH value. So what you are going to visit is a big soda Lake. Positioned in Tanzania’s Arusha Region, it is well near the Kenyan border. In a way that means your Tanzanian Safari would take you close to Kenya also.

Special Features in Lake Natron

Ever remember seeing a disturbing series of black and white photos of living birds hauntingly calcified to what appears like instant death? By the vicinity of a sinister looking lake they remain immobile, turned into stone. Lot of people mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that the lake had supernatural powers to petrify any living thing that comes near it.

Yes, now we know it is all a myth, and Nick Brandt, an English photographer, wandering about the lake during a Tanzanian Safari had seen carcasses of these dead birds washed up on its shores. The birds had died from natural courses. But their bodies were intact, immersed in chalky sodium carbonate deposits.

On a hunch, and using a little bit of his sharp imagination, he had placed the salt frozen creatures in various “living” postures and photographed them back to life. The images were nightmarish and captured worldwide attention.

There are not one, but several reasons for the photographs to be so compelling. One reason was Nick’s expertise. Another is the ghostly backdrop of the lake. Thirdly, is the unbelievingly well-preserved status of corpses because of their alkaline environment. For if it not had been for the mineral and salt soup that is called Natron in the lake, the bird skeletons would have never lasted that long. Nor would they ever find their way into the limelight of the internet.  

Why to Go There in Lake Natron

Imagine visiting this place which once made so much stir within the international community – for real, as a part of your Tanzania Budget Safari. It is why you should go there. To experience the chill you felt sometime back one more time, this time not looking at your computer, but the actual Lake Natron itself, stretching before you towards the majestic Lengai and Ggelai mountains. 

Extreme evaporation creates this mineral called Natron, with the lake named after it; you need not have to worry about your visit there during your Tanzania Safari. Lake Natron cannot turn you into stone. The two million population of Lesser Flamingos building their nests on the Lake’s mad flats is living proof of this. It is their only breeding area in East Africa.

Lake Natron is a shallow salt lake and included as a Ramsar site because of its importance as a wetland in Northern Tanzania. Rainfall is limited, and wildlife is not promising. But for bird watchers, the place is heavenly.

Above all, you can’t beat the scenic beauty of the site. It is not the least bit of haunting when you get to the truth behind the blood red of lake water. Salt loving micro-bacteria, like Red algae, Red cyano-bacteria, thrive in it, despite its high pH levels and above average temperature level. Their presence naturally turns the whole lake crimson. Honestly it is a fascinating and remarkable sight.

In addition, there are also endemic fish in Lake Natron. Mostly they are alkaline Tilapia that feed on red algae. Do not forget to make your Tanzanian Holiday worthwhile by keeping your eyes open for them in the red salty water.

When to Go / Weather  in Lake Natron

The rain is scarce here, and the temperature is high. Shallow water is subjected to merciless evaporation and what gets left behind is a vast pool of caustic alkaline brine. The best time to visit Lake Natron is when evaporation is at its highest. During that period, the water level goes down, forming ubiquitous mud flats everywhere over the face of the lake.

It is when thousands of Lesser Flamingos throng those muddy islets to build their nests and breed. A countless number of the pinky birds flock together to one spot in whole of East Africa; the Lake Natron. An unbelievable sight it is that you can witness by the lakeside. But be on time.

Extra Information  in Lake Natron

If you are looking for lodgings, there are several options from which to choose. Lake Natron Tented Camp, Lengai Safari Lodge, Shu’mata Camp, and Halisi Camp are some of them. The staff is quite friendly and would guide you through the local customs around the area.

You can ask them for a guide to help you spend your Tanzanian holiday for a more humanitarian cause; visiting natives living within the vicinity of the Lake. But take note. The interaction between the native Massai people and guests are always monitored by TWC and their partner in conservation, Tembo Foundation Ltd.

If you are set on seeing wildlife, you should move away from the Lake and enter into Lake Natron South Game Control Area (GCA). The region boasts of a remarkable view of the highest mountain in the world; the Mount Kilimanjaro and harbours an unbelievably crowded population of Grant’s and Thompson’s Gazelles, Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu and Fringe-eared Oryx.

The Tanzania Safari drive towards Lake Natron would also take you around the basement of the great volcanic mountain of Oldoinyo Lengai the “mountain of god” in the Maasai language. It is the only active volcano about the place and brave visitors consider it worth a climb, despite its smoking tip. If you choose to be brave, be on the lookout!