Lake Natron

A salty red wasteland in Tanzania is a breeding spot for endangered flamingos.

Lake Natron is a salt or soda lake not far from Lake Manyara in northern Tanzania. It is located in the Gregory Rift, the eastern branch of the East African Rift. The lake lays at the foot of the Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano.

Lake Natron is quite shallow, less than three meters deep, and varies in width depending on its water level. The lake is 57 kilometers long and 22 kilometers wide. The area receives irregular seasonal rainfall, mainly between December and May. The temperatures at the lake are often over 40 ° C.

As the fresh water evaporates in the lake, water with high concentrations of salt minerals such as sodium and trona remains. The alkalinity of the lake can reach a pH level of more than 12. Special bacteria and blue algae thrive in this environment and form an ideal breeding ground for the life of birds. Such halophilic organisms include some cyano bacteria that, like plants, produce their own food through photosynthesis. The red pigment in those cyano bacteria produces the deep red colors of the lake’s waters and the orange colors in the shallow areas. Salt-loving microorganisms living there are coloring the alkali salt crust on the surface of the lake is red or pink.

Most common animals in Lake Natron

  • Flamingo
  • Lots of bird species
  • Fishes
  • Maasai goats, sheeps and donkeys
  • Some small antilopes
  • Some zebras and wildebeests

Excursions and activities in Lake Natron

  • Visit an authentic Maasai village
  • A walk to Lake Natron itself
  • Beautiful view on the mountain Ol Doinyo Lengai
  • Climb Ol Doinyo Lengai (Not for everybody and on your own risk!)
  • Walk to the waterfall (Not for everybody and on your own risk!)
  • Birdwatching (if you are lucky you can see thousands of flamingoes)
  • Photography: the view of the large escarpment landscape + volcano