Lake Natron tours & holiday packagesThe Rift Valley at its most thrillingly primeval
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Fringed by salt-encrusted flats and black volcanic protrusions, this remote and brooding 1,040-square-kilometre soda lake lies below the active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai.
Among the most primal and inhospitable of African landscapes, Lake Natron is a shallow sliver of hyper-alkaline water best known as the primary nursing ground for East Africa’s 2.5 million lesser flamingos. The southern lakeshore is towered over by the volcanic Ol Doinyo Lengai, the Maasai ‘Mountain of God’.
The landmark rises from the low-lying Rift Valley floor to an altitude of 2,960 metres, its harsh black contours softened, in a bizarre parody of the snows of Kilimanjaro, by a glistening layer of fine white volcanic ash. Better known for its scenery than its limited wildlife, Lake Natron is quite good for birding, as the shallows host a profusion of waders and other waterbirds.
Lake Natron is one of the most awe-inspiring spots in the East African Rift valley, one whose harsh angles and primal mood somehow evoke the violent tectonic forces that shaped this part of Africa.
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Fit and adventurous travellers are attracted to Natron to climb Ol Doinyo Lengai, which has experienced almost continuous low-key volcanic activity in historic times, with the most recent recorded eruption occurring in 2008. The steep and shadeless hike to the summit offers spectacular views across the Rift Valley, but it is the bleakly lunar expanse of the crater, with its ash cones, lava pools and steam vents, that most impresses.
Also of great interest are the Engare Sero Human Footprints, which are the oldest known spoor made by Homo sapiens. The set of 58 human footprints was made around 120,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers as they traipsed through a field of muddy ash from Lengai, and were discovered by a Maasai herdsman in 1998.
Between Lakes Manyara and Natron, the little-visited Engaruka Ruins are all that remain of a 500-year-old terraced city and irrigation system constructed by a mysterious Late Iron Age culture.
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