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Lake Natron and Empaki

Why visit Lake Natron and Empakai?

A highlight of the Rift Valley, this vast, 1.5-million-year-old soda lake - the only breeding ground for East Africa's more than three million Lesser Flamingos - is set amidst dramatic, bleakly beautiful volcanic scenery, while the glorious green riches of Empakai Crater are a stunning contrast.

The reasons you should visit are:

  • The high saline content of the lake means little survives here, but millions of flamingos thrive, making for some remarkable photographic opportunities.
  • The colours of Lake Natron - the microorganisms turn the water to deep red in the depths and pink and orange in the shallows, all beautifully set off by the pale pink flamingos, with their bright orangey-red legs and beaks.
  • Incredible views of the Maasai ‘Mountain of God’ - Ol Donyo Lengai, an active volcano and the only one in the world that erupts carbonatite lava.
  • Take a break from the crowds that flock to Ngorongoro and head to the 6km wide Empakai Crater - the views from the rim of this are marvellous, encompassing Kilimanjaro, Ol Donyo Lengai and the Great Rift Valley
  • Descend into Empaki’s serene, lushly forested depths and gaze over the 85m deep alkaline lake that lies at the bottom of the crater, as flamingos fly overhead and you look out for water bucks, buffalo and blue monkeys.
  • It’s a birdwatcher’s delight. In addition to the flamingos there are many other waterbirds such as pelicans, egrets and herons, around Lake Natron, while Empaki Crater is home to a great diversity of colourful birdlife including sunbirds and turacos.
  • Visit the Maasai village of Ngare Sero or take a picturesque hike along the Ngare Sero river and swim in a cool pool at the base of a waterfall.
  • You don’t have to miss out on wildlife here - you could spot zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, gazelles and possibly lion and cheetah.
  • It’s a fabulous location for some unforgettable hiking - and there are options depending on fitness levels.

When to go on safari to Lake Natron and Empakai

To see the really huge crowds of flamingos, visit from August to October, when millions congregate on the Lake to breed. Eggs are laid in September and October and start to hatch in November. The coolest, most comfortable months are in the dry season - June to August - and peak season for visiting is September to December. In April and May it can be very wet and the road conditions can make travelling very difficult.

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Lake Natron and Empaki accommodation

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Time: GMT +3 hours

Flight time:

Flights from UK to Tanzania take about 9 hours direct or 10-11 with a brief stopover en route if from Europe.

Language: Kiswahili and English are Tanzania's official languages. Although most people in the cities speak some English, a few phrases of Kiswahili are useful in more rural areas.

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Most nationalities require a Tanzania visa, obtainable from the High Commission in London (or on arrival into International Airport.

Health:

Most nationalities require a Tanzania visa, obtainable from the High Commission in London (or on arrival into International Airport.

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