Lake Natron Safari

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Lake Natron: Tanzania’s beautiful and deadly red lake

Lake Natron, found in a dry, northern part of Tanzania, is like no other lake you’ve ever seen or heard about. Or perhaps even imagined. Why? Well, for starters, parts of it sometimes turn red! And we bet you’ve never seen a red lake before.

Apart from sometimes turning red, another reason that Lake Natron is so unusual is that it’s incredibly caustic (alkaline) from the nearby volcano. This makes it poisonous to most animals. Animal and bird corpses can be found in and around the lake. This is why we refer to Lake Natron as Tanzania’s beautiful but deadly red lake.  Stick around so we can explain what turns the water red and makes it deadly, talk flamingoes, hikes and Maasai, and also introduce you to the active volcano on the lake’s shore …

Where is Lake Natron?

Lake Natron is in northern Tanzania, just over a 100 km northwest of the city of Arusha. The elongated lake is 56 km long from north to south, and 24 km wide. A small portion of the lake – its northern tip – lies over the border in southern Kenya.

The perfect addition to a Tanzania safari

As you can see in the map above, Lake Natron is perfectly positioned to be incorporated into a northern parks Tanzania safari. We often take clients looking for a Big Five safari to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, but we now also offer a visit to Lake Natron as well. One of the things we dig about Lake Natron is that it’s so wildly different from it neighbouring attractions. It offers spectacular scenery that often seems implausible or unreal, as well as different wildlife, which even includes camels! And we also really appreciate how truly remote and sparsely populated it is.

6 amazing Lake Natron facts

Here are some facts you’ll want to share with others for the wow factor!

  1. Phantom rain

Lake Natron receives only 400 mm of rain a year, and much of that is ‘phantom rain’ – rain that evaporates before hitting the surface. This is because the lake is in a desert.

  1. A volcano-fed lake

The lake has no outlets, and receives most of its water from springs and episodic streams. Because the water coming into the lake leaches through the volcanic material of nearby Mt Ol Doinyo Lengai, the lake’s water is highly alkaline.

  1. The lake’s water is poisonous

Lake Natron contains large salt, soda and magnesite deposits. This is a good environment for the growth of a kind of bacteria that damages the innards of the organisms that drink it.

  1. Flamingoes thrive where others perish

Flamingos aren’t negatively affected by the bacteria in Lake Natron that harms most other birds. The lake is actually the largest breeding ground in the world for lesser flamingoes!

  1. The water sometimes turns red

The water of Lake Natron sometimes turns red (or orange-red) because of the algae that thrives in its hypersaline environment. This red tinge to the water can even be seen from space!

  1. The lake is really hot

The lake’s temperature can rise to 60 °C (140 °F) in summer! There are also hot springs on its eastern shore.

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