Explore Lake Natron: Tanzania’s Beautiful And Deadly Red Lake : The parched, northern region of Tanzania is home to Lake Natron, which is unlike any other lake you’ve ever seen or heard of. Possibly even imagined. Why? First off, some of it occasionally turns red! Additionally, we bet you’ve never seen a red lake.

Lake Natron is distinctive not only because it occasionally turns red but also because it is extremely caustic (alkaline) due to the surrounding volcano. It is poisonous to most animals because of this. In and around the lake, there are dead animals and birds. Because of this, Lake Natron is sometimes referred to as Tanzania’s stunning but deadly red lake.


Just over 100 kilometers northwest of the town of Arusha, in northern Tanzania, is where Lake Natron located. The lake’s length from north to south is 56 km, while its width is 24 km. A little piece of the lake, specifically its northern tip, is located in southern Kenya across the border.


Lake Natron is ideally situated to be included in a Northern Tanzania safari Parks. We frequently take customers seeking to go on a Big Five safari to the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, but we now also offer a trip to Lake Natron. One of our favorite things about Lake Natron is how drastically different it is from the nearby attractions. It boasts diverse fauna, including camels, as well as stunning scenery that frequently looks unbelievable or surreal. We also value the area’s true isolation and limited population.


Here are some facts to know about Lake Natron before you make your safari plan and booking there:

 Phantom rain: Only 400 mm of rain fall on Lake Natron annually, and a large portion of that is “phantom rain”—rain that evaporates before it reaches the surface. The lake’s location in a desert is the reason of this.

A volcano-fed lake: The majority of the lake’s water comes from springs and sporadic streams; it has no outflows. The lake’s water is extremely alkaline because the water entering the lake leaches through the volcanic material of nearby Ol Doinyo Lengai Mountain.

The water in the lake is lethal: Large salt, soda, and magnetite deposits can be found in Lake Natron. A particular type of bacteria that harms the internal organs of species that consume it can flourish in this environment.

 Where others fail, flamingos flourish: The bacterium in Lake Natron that kills most other birds does not damage flamingos. Lesser flamingos’ main nesting grounds worldwide are actually in this lake.

 Occasionally, the water becomes red: The algae that grows in Lake Natron’s hypersaline environment causes the water to occasionally turn red (or orange-red). Even from orbit, you can tell that the water has a reddish tint.

The lake is really hot: Summertime lake temperatures can reach 60 °C (140 °F)! Hot springs can be found on its eastern shore as well.


Cyanobacteria are present in great abundance in Lake Natron’s water. The majority of the species that have fed on this algae suffer cell, brain, and liver damage as a result of the chemicals it releases into the environment. As a result, many of the birds and animals that drink from Lake Natron pass away. The animals, birds, and bats that perish in the water become mummified replicas of themselves after being calcified.

Explore Lake Natron
Explore Lake Natron


The lake frequently has areas that are bright red or orange. A specific form of algae is the reason for the colors. In soda lakes, a particular form of bacterium frequently produces “algae blooms,” which in turn tint the water. Lake Natron’s algal blooms wax and wane; hence, the color of the lake is not constant. Additionally, the lake’s edge frequently appears more orange than red.


Only people who have never actually spent any time in a desert environment perceive them as being only arid, brown areas. Since practically every desert is actually drenched in a variety of colors, Pinks and reds are very popular in Lake Natron’s surroundings. Consider that in addition to the lake’s well-known red algae, which is present in great quantities, you also get:

  • The Maasai tribes in the area have a custom of donning red robes.
  • Beautiful, deep pink blossoms can be spotted on the local desert rose trees.
  • Large, dense flocks of pink and white flamingos inhabit the lake.
  • A fractured layer of pinkish-white soda crystals covers some of the lake in the summer.
  • Only deserts can produce the pink and red sunsets that frequently cover the sky.


Flamingoes are one of the few birds that are unaffected by the lake’s cyanobacteria. In fact, their pink color is the only known negative side effect of consuming this specific bacteria! Other waterfowl can be found thriving at Lake Natron, including storks, which are likewise unaffected by the lake’s cyanobacteria. Flamingos are not only unaffected by the cyanobacteria in the lake, but they also thrive because of the presence of a separate bacteria that serves as their food supply. There are occasionally over a million flamingos at the lake because they thrive in the water’s abundance of algae.


The tiny diatom algae in the lake are consumed by the flamingos. In a way, they eat upside down since they dunk their heads into the water to filter algae-rich water for their diet. Through their bills, the “emptied” water is returned to the public. The lake is home to both greater and lesser flamingos, the only two kinds found in the Old World and the largest and smallest of all flamingo species. The Old World is home to numerous greater flamingo species, but smaller flamingos are restricted to sub-Saharan Africa and a small area of northwest India.


The world’s largest breeding area for lesser flamingos is Lake Natron. Flamingoes are on the lake from August to October. On the lake’s southeast edge, their nests can be found on the soda flats. They resemble smaller replicas of the nearby Mt. Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano because they are made of mud. One muddy egg, which is chalky white, is laid by each flamingo. Flaminglets create crèches, which are groupings of young flamingos, when they are mature enough to walk and swim. 300,000 people can be reached through these creches. Although they still only receive food from their parents, unrelated adult flamingos assist in taking care of them, Explore Lake Natron


The area around Lake Natron is hot and dry. It is very easy for temperatures to rise above 40 °C (104 °F). The best time to visit the area is arguably between early July and early October for two reasons:

The temperature is a little cooler and drier in the winter. You can see Ol Doinyo Lengai, the lake, and the Great Rift Valley escarpment in crystal-clear, wide-ranging views, Explore Lake Natron

This is once again a fantastic time since you may watch the Great Wildlife Migration river crossings that happen at this time of year in the northern Serengeti. This is because the majority of people traveling to Lake Natron also plan to visit the Serengeti.

Some of the roads leading to and from Lake Natron can be more challenging to travel on during the rainy season (late March to early May). Nevertheless, you can still go at that time; the drive only takes a little longer. For some, the region’s gorgeous green softness that the rainy season often delivers is a draw.

book a safari