Lake Natron Tanzania

Lake Natron Tanzania

Situated in the Arusha Region of Tanzania, the lake in Africa’s Great Rift Valley is one of the most caustic lakes in the world.Located in an arid region where rainfall is erratic, the terminal lake is fed by hot springs and small rivers. The water from the lake also does not drain out to any river or sea. Volcanic ash from the Great Rift Valley is collected in its basin, making the lake hostile to most organisms.

High levels of evaporation cause Natron to be left behind in its bed. Natron, after which the lake has been named, is a mineral salt that ancient Egyptians used for the mummification process. It is a drying as well as an anti-bacterial agent, so immersion in Natron can suck all the moisture out of a dead body and preserve it against microorganisms that will feed on it.

Animals that die here can turn into calcified statues over time, because of the unique chemical makeup of the lake, which encrusts the carcasses with layers of salt, sodium carbonates, and sodium bicarbonate.

Despite having the most alkaline waters, Lake Natron supports an ecosystem of salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, flamingos and other wetland birds. An endemic species of fish, the alkaline tilapia, has adapted to the lake and lives along the edges of its hot spring inlets.

Location of Lake Natron

Lake Natron is situated in northern Tanzania on the border with Kenya, close to the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The lake is in the vicinity of Ol Doinyo, which is visible on the southern part. Lake Natron covers an area 56 km (35 miles) long and 24 km (15 miles) wide but the water level changes due to evaporation. The shallow and alkaline lake has different springs, the Ewaso Ng’iro River and different hot springs. The surface of Lake Natron, which has high salt, magnesite and sodium carbonate concentration, is covered with a pinkish-white soda crust.

Why does the Lake Natron appear Reddish?

The lake gets its reddish hue from salt-loving microorganisms called halophiles that thrive in its alkaline waters and produce reddish pigments, which colour the lake’s salt crust red. The salty crust, however, changes over time, giving the lake a different appearance each time.

The alkalinity of Lake Natron

Lake Natron is known to be one of the most inhospitable places for a majority of fauna in the continent of Africa. With a pH that can reach levels as high as 12, and scorching temperatures reaching up to 60 °C (140 °F), the lake can literally burn your skin off. The lake also possesses a bright red colour, which acts as a warning signal, cautioning most life forms to stay away.

Why you must visit Lake Natron Tanzania

Lake Natron is the most important breeding site in the world for Lesser Flamingos as 75 per cent of the world’s population of these flamingos are hatched at the lake. The high salinity of the lake ensures maximum food for these birds as they feed on the tilapia and the algae. The lake enchants bird watcher’s across the world as large groups of flamingos can be strutting around, the spectacle often referred to as the ‘pink parade’.

Lake Natron has been listed on the Ramseur List of Wetlands of International Importance due to its unique biodiversity and has also been recognized as an important Ecoregion by the World Wildlife Fund. This lake definitely makes it to the list of most unique places in the world!

How to get to Lake Natron

The drive to Lake Natron takes around three hours from Mto Wa Mbu (beside Lake Manyara). It is hot but with the Rift Valley rising up on your left-hand side, the landscape is increasingly dramatic. You will soon focus on the scenery: looking around, the views are spectacular.

Best time to visit Lake Natron

The period June-October is the best time for walking and hiking tours. You won’t find wildlife here, but the tracks are good. The weather at Lake Natron is primarily hot and mostly dry, and the coolest months are June through August, but some guests find these temperatures tropically warm.


Things to do at Lake Natron
How to get to Lake Natron
Best time to visit Lake Natron


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