Lake Natron and its surrounding area is a place rich in cultural and natural diversity. The area is off the beaten track and only a handful of people go there. The climate can at times be unbearable as the African sun blazes down upon the land.
Temperatures can soar up to 50 degrees Celsius in the summer months from January to March.
This should not keep you from visiting though, as it is totally worth it.
The drive to get to Lake Natron starts just near to the village of Mto wa Mbu located next to Lake Manyara National Park. The road is bumpy and dusty, but an adventure for sure. The route takes you parallel to the East African Rift Valley, passing through Maasai villages; after a couple of hours you arrive at the Lake Natron village.
So, what is there to do, that makes it worth the tough drive? Cultural tours like visiting local Maasai villages are a great way to get an idea of how the people in the area live. Those wanting a tough mountain climbing experience, can also plan a trek up Ol Doinyo Lengai, the Mountain of God. It is important to note though, that the trek is very strenuous due to the extremely steep incline on the mountain. My favourite activity in the area is the walk to the waterfall.
I went back recently and we had a great time walking to the waterfall.
The tour started around 3 pm, our local Maasai guide introduced himself, asked if we all had drinking water and checked if we had the appropriate gear. By now the temperature outside was around 38 degrees Celsius and we were eager to get into the shade of the Ngare Sero River gorge.
After walking for a while, the track eventually dropped down into the gorge where we encountered our first river crossing. The water was cool and refreshing and it felt great to cool down our feet. Our guide knew each rock under the water’s surface and told us exactly where to step. The gorge was beautiful with steep walls and now and then some desert flowers.
The walk continued through some rugged terrain and every now and then another river crossing – which meant another opportunity to cool down our feet.
A note here: the Ngare Sero River that cuts through the gorge is not so deep. Of the 6-7 times you have to cross it, the deepest the water gets is up to your hips and the rest of the time it is knee high. Therefore, it is very important to wear shoes which can get wet or to have good trekking sandals.
After about 45 minutes we got to the waterfall which was absolutely beautiful. You can take a quick dip and enjoy the fresh water while swimming. It is the perfect way to cool down when the outside temperature has reached over 35 degrees.
I am always fascinated to find that in such a dry and arid area one can find such an oasis. The waterfall has wild palms growing above the gorge and if you go under the waterfall itself you find a semi tunnel that leads to the back where you can easily have a swim.
All in all, the walk there and back took us about two hours.
A few tips for your walk:
- The path can be slippery at some places and quite technical.
- The guides are very helpful and will show you exactly where to step.
- It is important to wear shoes with grip.
- Wear clothes that can get wet. It is even better to wear your swimming costume underneath your clothes.
- The sun can be harsh and it’s important to cover up. Wear light, but long-sleeved clothes.
- Carry your electronic devices like cameras and phones in a waterproof bag, since you may fall into the water.
Next time you are planning a visit to Lake Natron be sure to include a walk to the waterfall. It is a great experience!