Frolick with a Flamingo CongregationLake Natron, Tanzania
It’s deathly toxic to almost any creature unfortunate enough to plunge into its glassy waters, but for one type of critter Lake Natron plays host to the ultimate family reunion. More than a million lesser flamingos – three quarters of the world’s population – stream past the volcanic cones of Gelai and Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God) each year to dip their toes in this Tanzanian soda mud flat.
Stalking the caustic shallows, viscous with salt, they’re safe from the likes of hyenas and baboons as they build mud nests, lay eggs and feast upon spirulina – the blue-green algae that turns the birds pink and the lake cerise in dry season. Visit in November when the hatchlings are beginning to emerge and when the wet season is in its infancy, meaning more wildlife and fewer travellers. The moonscape surrounds and reflections of flamingos littering the 57-kilometre-long lake will overwhelm your SD card, while the bodies of calcified bats and birds that have lost their lives to the stew make for eerie imagery.
- Unlike the wildebeest migration in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, far fewer people know about this million-strong flamingo congregation, so you’ll have unencumbered views
- The sight of other critters that have fallen prey to the deadly waters – bats and other birds – will likely be hard on those with a gentle stomach