Lake Natron & Ol Donyo Lengai
This area is popular for those seeking to really get off the beaten track. Temperatures often reach 41C (106 F) and the wildly beautiful parched landscape offers the intrepid traveler and avid birder a worthy destination. Ol Donya Lengai, the only active carbonatite volcano in the world, is the eastern-most volcano in the range of mountains (all extinct volcanoes) located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Tanzania’s only active volcano. Although the most recent significant eruptions occurred over a one-year period from July 2007 to August 2008, plumes of steam and ash constantly vent from the crater. Located just outside the NCA, this volcano, whose Maasai name means ‘Mountain of God’, has had a major influence on the geological development of the area. An impressive presence over the surrounding plains, the mountain affords avid climbers a possibility for adventure.
Nearby Lake Natron is an area of significant bio-diversity. The lake falls within the Lake Natron Basin Wetlands of International Importance Ramsar Site and is the only regular breeding area in all of East Africa for approximately 2.5 million Lesser Flamingos as well as a population of Greater Flamingos that breed on the mud flats. The birds feed on spirulina and algae produced in the highly alkaline lake.
Another soda lake situated on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, just adjacent to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Eyasi is a popular cultural destination. Two small and diverse tribes inhabit the area. The last surviving clan of “click-language” speakers in Tanzania, genetically and linguistically un-related to any other tribe, the Hadzabe people have dwindled to fewer than 1,000 individuals. These hunter-gatherers struggle to maintain their traditional values and life-style against the increasing encroachment of agricultural endeavours, tourism and the like. Pressure by successive colonial and current governments, not to mention missionaries, to force the Hadazbe to settle, farm, abandon their nomadic lifestyle and adopt Christianity have failed but faced with ever-dwindling numbers their survival as a distinct tribe is most probably unviable.
Also resident in the area are the Datoga people. This semi-nomadic tribe were once exclusively pastoralists but have now taken up agriculture. They are Nilotic, having migrated from Sudan or Ethiopia thousands of years ago and still staunchly retain their tribal traditions. Much more numerous than the neighboring Hadzabe, the Barabaig Datoga are also skilled blacksmiths. Known to be fierce warriors, they are respected by the nearby Maasai as such although cattle raids between the two are still not uncommon.