Natron: Shrinking lake, missing flamingoes.


Can you see the rainbow?

When I woke up last Saturday; I knew it was a great day to pack and take off but wasn’t decided on where. By noon, my sister and I were on the road to Ngare sero via mto wa mbu. We arrived just after sunset, tired and excited. Thanks to my Karatu trip last year, I was in contact with Richard (a tour guide running cultural tourism programs) who laid down the trip’s logistics to us. We were to sleep at Mto wa mbu and set off at around 8 am to Ngare sero hoping to arrive by around 10 am. I don’t like quick trips but I often have not enough time to linger so we had fingers crossed to head back on the same day after a tour of lake Natron.
Our estimated budget was: 100,000 Tshs for the both of us.

Dire bus ride: 8,000 Tshs per person for a chance to stand

To get to Ngare sero from mto wa mbu is a bad idea unless you live in the area. We had to take a bus bound for Loliondo which was booked from Karatu and Arusha, by the time it got to ‘kona engaruka’ they could only sell tickets for standing passengers. Going forward was the only option so despite the screaming warning sound of my subconscious we boarded the bus accompanied by our tour guide. Hanging on the hand rail with my face facing the window which my fellow passenger seemed aversed to, my mind was engaged with the beautiful tablelands, the plains and the conversation whose topic switched between politics, culture and tourism.


In hardly an hour, our ride came to a halt when we got stuck in the mud; it took several volunteers about 2hrs to dig us up and create a bridge of twigs that allowed us out. But we ended up spending a further 2hrs when a smaller bus (same company) which was tailing us found itself on the same sticky situation and another 1hr following a tyre burst. The locals were okay with the inconvenience, it is common occurrence to be stuck on the road for one reason or another, vehicle fault being most common.
I could’ve been angry but I wasn’t. I was amazed and humbled by the patience that the locals had. Most of them were coming from the city, heading home to visit family. They know they have to go through possible stranding but they do it anyway. It made me remember how my mum had to journey for 3 days to get to her hometown in Bukoba, for family.

Shrinking lake, missing flamingoes.

We finally arrived at Ngare sero at around 3pm, 5hrs late than predicted, hungry and hot. The local guide took us to a nearby guest house and for a walk around the village after which we were too tired to do much else.
The next morning, we started the real tour; a walk to lake Natron followed by a further 2hr walk to the falls. The sight was breathtaking, we were surrounded by hills and thin tall grass.


Oldoinyo lengai

To get to the lake, we had to jump water puddles, cross streams and sink in the stinky stinging salty mud while holding back the fear of coming face to face with a predator. We saw several old animal bones, a cat’s foot print and hoove prints going one way behind a hill and staying there. Was there a lion? We can’t be certain but we sure are glad we didn’t find out.


The lake seemed shrunken and had fewer flamingoes than I had seen on national geographic. The heat was almost unbearable and my sandles gave in to the mud . We stood by the shore for about 10 minutes then hitched a ride to the bridge where we would start our hike to the falls.


Ngare sero falls are well hidden between a rocky rift making getting to it a physical challenge. We had to climb boulders twice our height, cross a river with a sinking sandy bed and tolerate the mid day heat.
Dipping my feet in the cool waters while listening to the soothing sounds of rushing water made the hike well worth it. The walk back to the village felt much easier after that.

Courteous culture; man in the wild.


Sunrise: view of the village from our room.

The people of Ngare sero are generally courteous, kind, helpful, friendly and polite. They bend over backwards to please you; a jewellery seller custom made our rings and the cook at a nearby restaurant made us a meal despite the fact that she had closed for the day.
We did run into a difficult situation though when we were about to leave after getting a lucky ride back to Mto wa mbu, the guest house manager decided that we owed him 15,000 per person sharing for a room he offered for 10,000 the previous night which took a lot of translating to get to an understanding.


Can you see the sand storm?

All was made up for with the ride back; we passed by manyatas, goats grazing with zebras, girraffes crossing the road, eagles feasting on a gazelle and ‘shimo la Mungu’ accompanied with amazing guide stories.
When we finally got back home, we wanted to do it again!

We ended up spending 170,000 Tshs excluding food and drinks.


Grazing around the lake is a threat to it’s flora and fauna.

Tips for smart travelling to Ngare sero:
1. If you plan on taking public transport then board a bus to Loliondo from Moshi, Arusha or Karatu to get a sit.
2. Stock on water,bread and favourite snacks; you can find yourself stuck on the road. Plus there’s no bread at the village.
3. Pack sunscreen and all weather boots.
4. A hand fan, an umbrella and face mask may come handy.
5. Be prepared to help out!


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