Flamingoes are among the few birds that aren’t harmed by the cyanobacteria of the lake. In fact, the one known side effect of their consumption of this particular bacteria is their pink hue! Certain other water birds, like storks, are also unaffected by the lake’s cyanobacteria, and so can be found flourishing at Lake Natron.
Not only are flamingoes unharmed by the lake’s cyanobacteria, they actually flourish because of the presence of a different bacteria, which is their food source. They thrive on the lake’s algae-rich water so much, in fact, that at times there are over a million flamingoes at the lake!
Algae chomping flamingoes
The flamingoes eat the lake’s microscopic diatom algae. They eat upside down, in a sense, because they drop their heads down into the water and suck in the algae-rich water, which they filter for their food. The ’emptied’ water is passed back out through their bills.
You can find both greater and lesser flamingos at the lake – in other words, the largest and smallest of flamingo species, and the only two species found in the Old World. The graphic below shows all of the different types of flamingoes.
Lake Natron Animals
The region surrounding Lake Natron isn’t somewhere you go specifically for game viewing. Nearby Serengeti and Ngorongoro are the spots for that.
Rather, you go to Lake Natron to see the landscape: the desert lake, with its unusually colored water, the flamingoes and other water birds, and the nearby volcano and escarpment.
But while there, do of course keep your eyes open for:
- Golden jackals
- Fringe-eared Oryxes
- Lesser kudus
- Dromedary camels
The Maasai of Lake Natron
The Maasai are an ethnic group living in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They’re a Nilotic people who migrated from South Sudan to their current territory around the 1700s. The Maasai of the twenty-first century has resisted integration with modern society and pride themselves on retaining their cultural identity and traditional way of life, which includes herding and hunting.
They’re well recognized for their red and blue robes and the women for their intricate and colorful beaded jewelry. There are some remote Maasai communities living in the harsh and exacting environment around Lake Natron. Tourism-related jobs are a prominent source of income for many Maasai.
Ngare Sero Waterfall hike
A full-day and rewarding activity in the Lake Natron region is hiking to Ngare Sero Waterfall and back. This hike takes you up Ngare Sero Gorge, and at times requires you to scramble, climb and walk through the water. But the water isn’t ever very high nothing above your hips. The gorge grows increasingly steep and narrow the nearer you come to the waterfall, and early and late in the day, you can experience some very welcome shade from its walls.
When you reach the waterfall, you can swim in its pool, a great treat after hiking in such a hot region! This is also the time to eat your picnic lunch and marvel at this oasis.
Those who are keen to do this hike must hire the services of a Maasai guide to lead them. You can’t do this hike independently. The trailhead is a 30-minute drive from Lake Natron. The trail itself is 5.5 km there and back, and you ascend a little over 300 m. Proper shoes are important, as the rocks are slippery. You’ll want to wear water shoes or be prepared to get your hiking boots wet.
Best time to visit Lake Natron
Lake Natron is in an arid, hot region. Temperatures can easily soar above 40 °C (104 °F).
July to early October is arguably the best time to visit the region for two reasons:
- Winter offers slightly cooler weather and no rain. You’ll enjoy clear, expansive views of the lake, Ol Doinyo Lengai, and the Great Rift Valley escarpment.
- Since most people heading to Lake Natron also plan to visit the Serengeti, this is again an excellent time as you can see the Great Wildlife Migration river crossings that take place at this time of year in the northern Serengeti.