Located in northern Tanzania, near the border with neighbouring Kenya, Lake Natron is situated north east of the Ngorongoro Crater. The landscape is dominated by Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano which is just south of Lake Natron.The lake has a maximum length of 56km and a width of 22km. Lake Natron is primarily fed by the Southern Ewaso Ng'iro River, and by hot springs that are rich in minerals.As water cannot flow out of the lake, evaporation levels are very high, and this leaves behind natron (sodium carbonate decahydrate) and trona (sodium sesquicarbonate dihydrate).The high concentration of natron gives the lake extreme alkaline levels, and it is one of the deadliest lakes on the planet. The surrounding landscape is eerie due to its proximity to a deadly body of water, but it is rich with rare flora and fauna.

A Perfect Planet

In January 2021, Lake Natron featured in the opening episode of ‘A Perfect Planet’, a BBC series which is narrated by David Attenborough.Matt Aeberhard, a camera operator during the filming of the episode, explained that ‘the pH level of the lake is not far short of household bleach’. Aeberhard also noted that ‘until recently, more people had landed on the moon than had actually stood out in Lake Natron’.The camera crew managed to defy the elements by travelling to the lake in a hovercraft.

Wildlife at Lake Natron

Although the lake is deadly to most animals, a unique ecosystem has developed in this harsh environment, creating fascinating opportunities for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers.

Salt marshes and freshwater wetlands have formed, creating a habitat for the long-legged waterfowl. The lake also contains two endemic fish species: Alcolapia latilabris and Alcolapia ndalalani. You can also find Alcolapia alcalica at Lake Natron, but the species is not endemic.Lesser flamingos are Lake Natron’s most famous attraction. 75% of the world’s population of lesser flamingos were born at this lake. They amass at the lake between August and October to lay their eggs, and the eggs hatch during the wet season in November.The surrounding area is also home to other species that can survive in this dry and dusty landscape, including kudus, oryxs, gerenuks, zebras, and ostriches. Fortunate adventurers may even catch a glimpse of a golden jackal!Although Lake Natron does not contain the same array of wildlife as the surrounding natural parks, it is fascinating to see life so close to such a deadly body of water.

Activities at Lake NatronBirdwatching

Naturally, Lake Natron is a hotspot for birdwatchers.Lake Natron is the only regular breeding area in East Africa for 2.5 million lesser flamingos. Their dependence on the location led the International Union for Conservation of Nature to give the flamingos a status of ‘near threatened’.Birdwatchers should take enough water and wear good shoes, as the ground can get very hot in this dry area of Tanzania.


For adventurers who like to challenge themselves, you can climb Ol Doinyo Lengai with the help of an experienced guide.

Ol Doinyo Lengai means ‘Mountain of God’ in the Maasai language. The climb is very steep, and we recommend that you have experience in mountaineering.The climb is usually completed during the night to avoid the scorching temperatures of the daytime.Climbing at night also allows you to watch the spectacular sunrise from the summit.

Other activities

There are several stunning waterfalls around the lake which you can visit.

You can also explore the local culture by visiting Maasai villages and their ‘boma’ (homesteads).

You can even spend an evening with the Maasai and learn about their customs as a warrior tribe, eat traditional food, and sleep under sky in the protection of their ‘boma’.