LAKE NATRON & OLDONYIO LENGAI

Located in the Ngorongoro Highlands both of these areas are hauntingly beautiful places to visit. Maasai villages surround both the mountain and the lake and when visiting these communities, one feels like stepping back in time as here life has changed little.

Lake Natron is a salt lake located in northern Tanzania, close to the Kenyan border, in the eastern branch of the East African Rift. The lake is fed by the Southern Ewaso Ng’iro River and also by mineral-rich hot springs. It is quite shallow, less than three metres (9.8 ft) deep, and varies in width depending on its water level, which changes due to high levels of evaporation, leaving behind a mixture of salts and minerals called natron. The surrounding country is dry and receives irregular seasonal rainfall. The lake falls within the Lake Natron Basin Wetlands of International Importance Ramsar Site. Temperatures in the lake can reach 60 °C (140 °F), and depending on rainfall, the alkalinity can reach a pH of 9 to 10.5 (almost as alkaline as ammonia).

Oldoinyo Lengai means “The Mountain of God” in the Maasai language. The summit of this strato-volcano is 2962 metres above sea level, and affords direct views into the caldera of Tanzania’s only officially-certified active volcano, and the world’s only carbonatite volcano; records of eruptions have been maintained since 1883, the largest of which deposited ash 100 kilometres away in Loliondo on the Kenyan border to the north west.

Recent volcanic activity began on 12th July 2007 with daily tremors in Kenya and Tanzania, the strongest of which measured 6.0 on the Richter scale. The mountain finally erupted on September 4, 2007, sending a plume of ash and steam at least 18 kilometres downwind and covering the north and west flanks in fresh lava flows. The eruption continued intermittently into 2008, with a major outburst taking place on March 5 2008, and smaller eruptions on 8 and 17 April 2008; activity continued until late August 2008. Eruptions occurred again in October 2010.
A visit to the summit of Oldoinyo Lengai in February 2012 revealed extensive crack development across the summit, accompanied by significant gaseous release. Intermittent noises were detected from the ash pit, and large extents of the rock-studded pavement resounded hollow on percussion, suggesting gaseous build-up beneath the pavement.