|Scenic Safaris | Filming Safaris OlDonyo Lengai & Lake Natron Tanzania.|
Rising up at the south of Lake Natron is East Africa’s only active volcano,Oldonyo Lengai ,whose Maasai name means “The Mountain of God” .Despite its active status, very little is known about the mountain other than that it tends to erupt explosively every twenty to forty years ,and manages smaller eruptions every decade or so. The last significant eruption was in 2007, continuing into 2008, so you should be safe for the next few years.
For geologists, the special thing, about Oldonyo Lengai is that it is one of few volcanoes worldwide to emit sodium carbonate and potassium, whose run-off accounts for the extremely alkaline and corrosive swill of neighbouring Lake Natron.For photographers, Oldonyo Lengais perfectly conical shape is a delight, whilst the lave flows on the summit can be every bit as terrifying and awe-inspiring as you might imagine. Climbers are also in for a treat, despite the volcano’s summit (2889m) being but a pimple compared to the majesty of its giant but dormant brothers to the east- Meru and Kilimanjaro. Admittedly ,any pleasure gained by climbing the mountain ( which can be done without any special equipment) is distinctly masochistic: the searing sun, the notoriously prickly vegetation and rough surface, reported sightings of spitting cobras near the summit ( and leopard tracks) ,and the almost 45-degree slope. But as a reward for your travails, theres the weird, wonderful, eggily punget and quite positively perilous sight and sound of lava flows bubbling at 510 degrees centigrade on top. There are two summit craters: the southern one is dormant or extinct and almost filled to the brim with ash, but the northern one, over 200m deep, remains active ( occasionally lobbing lava bombs into the sky) and should be treated with extreme caution, particularly so given the highly fluid and hence potentially quick moving ( or explosive) nature of natrocarbonatite lava.
Climbing must be done with a guide who knows the mountain and its caprices. There are two ways of going about it: the easiest is simply to tackle the mountain as part of an extended “Crater Highlands” trek from Ngorongoro to Lake Natron.Many of Arushas safari operators offer this as a regular trip, but do check that they have both their own experienced guides, and that –if you need it- there’s adequate back-up (vehicles rather than donkeys, and HF radio for emergencies) .For more modest budgets, its perfectly feasible to arrange things at the campsites in Engaresero.
The climb starts about 10km south of Engeresero village, and takes at least seven hours: four hours up and three back down. If you don’t have a vehicle and don’t fancy walking from Engaresero to the start of the trail, youll have to wait until a vehicle is available. The ride shouldn’t cost more than a few thousand shillings. The ascent is steep and mostly on loose and uncompacted soil, and there’s no shade, so set off before dawn to arrive at the summit by mid-morning. Its possible to camp on the summit-the inactive southern crater makes a distinctly safer campsite than the active northern one.
With your own vehicle ,you also could try searching out one of several volcanic cones and craters on the eastern side of the mountain ,the biggest of which is called Shimo la Mungu (“ Gods Hole”).
To desert rats, the land around Lake Natron- a vast, shallow Soda Lake bordering Kenya in Tanzania’s far north- is something of a dream hellishly hot, dry, desolate and bizarrely beautiful, especially with the grandiose peak of Oldonyo Lengai rising at its southern end. This volcano is the cause of the lakes extreme alkalinity, which forms a pinkish-white crust of soda crystals across much of its surface in the dry season, cracked into a polygonal patchwork.
Covering over 1300 square kilometers ,the lake, like the smaller Lake Magadi just over the border in Kenya ,lacks any outlet ,and receives only 400mm of rain a year, part of it falling as “phantom rain” , meaning that the raindrops evaporate before hitting the surface. The amount lost by evaporation is eight times that: the shortfall is made up y volcanic springs and temporary streams, whose waters leach through Oldonyo Lengais caustic lava flows before reaching the lake. The concentration of salt, sodium carbonate (soda, or natron) and magnesite in the lake water is highly corrosive and the surrounding land isn’t much more hospitable.
Not surprisingly, the lake isn’t the most conducive to life, the big exception being a flourishing population of sometimes several hundred thousand lesser flamingos, who feed on the lakes microscope diatom algae, and who have made the lake the most important flamingo breeding ground in the world.
The only settlement of any size is ENGERESERO ( also called Ngarasero or Natron Village), near the lakes southwestern shore,56km north of Engaruka and 124km from Mto wa Mbu.Engaresero contains a handful of poorly stocked stores, a couple of bars ( the magogo being the best) – and that’s about it. There’s no petrol or diesel, and the place has all the charm of a frontier outpost, which of course it is.
The easiest way to get to Lake Natron is on an organized safari. The lake also features on a growing number of Crater Highlands treks from Ngorongoro.
The next easiest way to Lake Natron is to rent a vehicle with a driver in Arusha or through the cultural tourism programme in Mto wa Mbu, as there’s no public transport north of Engaruka. Theoretically, the drive from Mto wa Mbu should only take four or five hours, but the road is often impassable in the rains. Locals either walk or wait around, sometimes for a day or three, for a lift on one of the very few private vehicles that make it up here, usually carrying suppliers for Engareseros shops. Alternatively, if you’re staying at Lake Natron camp, they can arrange a ride from Mto wa Mbu.
Ngorongoro District Council has a toll gate 6km south of Engaresero, which charges tourists for entrance fees this covers Engaresero, the lake and Nguruman Escarpment, and Ol Donyo Lengai.
In between visiting the lake and climbing the volcano there isn’t much to do in Engeresero though you can always laze by the small pool at Lake Natron Tented Camp or visit the waterfalls; a 25-minute walk upstream from the waterfalls Campsite.
In addition to the following, there are a number of unofficial campsites that spring up from time to time, often owned by one of the major safari companies in Arusha.
Lake Natron Camp Turn right at the tollgate and continue for 2km towards the lake. Set in a bone-meltingly hot location not far from the lakeshore, this place resembles an army camp. Nevertheless, its still one of the best choices; seven eco-friendly tents (self-composting toilets and solar-generated electricity) stylish done out. They also run a full range of activities.
Lake Natron Tented Camp & Campsite Around 1km west of Engaresero (book through Moivaro Lodges & Tented camps.Moivaro coffee plantation Lodge, Arusha .It comes as something of a surprise to find such luxury in dusty Engaresero.The nine permanent ,en-suite tents are stylish and comfortable and come with electricity . Theres also a public campsite, a bar and good simple food, internet access and a swimming pool.FB
Riverside Kamakia Campsite in a ravine beside the Engeresero River, turn right as you approach the escarpment (no phone) .Despite being less shady than Lake Natron Camp, this has a much nicer and marginally cooler location, and there are rock pools in the adjacent river where you can take a dip. Drinks and meals are available, and there’s a full range of guided walks but you will need to bring your own tent.
Engeresero itself has little to detain you, but is the only base for visiting a number of attractions. The most obvious, of course, is Natrons lakeshore, 4km away across scorching grey sand (the level of the lake varies). As you approach the edge, soda and salt crystal, appear, concealing afoul-smelling slurry of mud, which can burn your skin. To reach the hot springs on the eastern shore calls for a 4WD and a driver experienced on loose sand. Take care not to drive too close to the shore, where you’re likely to get bogged down. The soda flats in the southeastern corner are used by flamingos to mate and nest between August and October: the nests, which you can see from a distance, are made from mud and resemble miniature volcanoes-rather fittingly, given the location. Flamingos can usually also be seen in Moniki area, roughly 10km north of Engaresero village. Other birds you might see include pelicans, ibis, ducks and geese, together with eagles and plovers. Terrestrial wildlife is also present, especially close to the springs, albeit in small numbers, and includes zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, ostrich, golden jackal, and –more rarely-fringe-eared oryx, lesser kudu and gerenuk.
The Nguruman Escarpment, within walking distance of Engaresero, contains a number of attractions, including a volcanic implosion crater, ravines containing nesting sites for Ruppells griffon vultures, and several waterfalls along Engaresero Gorge. Swimming is possible, though women are expected to cover up while bathing-shorts and a T-shirt .Walks further up the escarpment can be arranged at the campsites; they can also fix up visits to a Maasai boma.
There is variety of activities at Ol Donyo Lengai and Lake Natron for tourists to view for example scenic safaris, filming safaris, aerial survey & photography safaris, sight seeing safaris, hiking safaris, wildlife safaris. There are air safari flights and private air charter flights from Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Mwanza and Daresaalam airports to Lake Natron and Ol Donyo Lengai.
Anthony Mmeri is the Editor and Tours Director at Wings Over Africa Safaris Limited. <br><a href='http://www.wingsoverafrica-aviation.com’> This is an Air Charter Company that specializes on Scenic Safaris | Filming Safari Ol Donyo Lengai & Lake Natron Tanzania. </a> The website has guided thousands of travelers to achieve their dream holiday. For more information and guidance, visit the site at http://www.wingsoverafrica-aviation.com/index.php/safaris-east-africa/tanzania-tour-packages.html</a>