This is one of several energetic treks which transverses some of Tanzania's most magnificent game country from the cool and partly forested Ngorongoro Crater to the eerie moonscape and dry heat of Lake Natron in the Rift Valley. These treks usually include visits some or all of the following National Parks Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, however, all hikes start with a game veiwing safari across the Ngorongoro Crater. The hiking stats proper at a tiny Maasai village lying just below Olmoti Crater in the heart of the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands. From this village there is a walk to the Empaakai Crater.
From here the main part of the trek to Lake Natron begins in earnest.As these treks have become popular several alternatives are now available: the first is to relax at the shady Ngare Sero Campsite and visit Lake Natron itself. The temperatures here can often exceed 40°C - few animals can survive here and here the flamingo has become adept to the harsh conditions and has made the lake its home, nesting on the salty surface on mounds where slightly cooler air prevents the eggs becoming hard boiled.A second choice is a hard slog ascending the active volcano Ol Donyo Lengai, 2878m (9650ft), in the heart of Maasai country, and regarded as a sacred mountain by the local people.
From the summit looking to the north are the hot barren salt flats of Lake Natron stretching into the distance, beyond lies the Kenyan border. To the south stretch the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands. On a good day, to the east is the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro and to the west the forested escarpments of the Great Rift Valley. This climb is for the physically fit only, the climb is sheer and the rocks underfoot are unstable and crumble. There is no shade on the mountain and protection from the sun is crucial.
This climb is not for the faint hearted.Like clockwork every seven years Lengai erupts and plumes of smoke billow out of the crater. At other times it is possible to walk down into the crater to the edge of the molten lava.
The third option is a walk to the dramatic source of the Ngare Sero River which provides a welcome relief from the hot plains that surround Lake Natron. On the return journey the drive passes the Engaruka ruins. Make time to explore the 15th century site composed of several villages with a complex stone-block irrigation canal and intricate agricultural system.Essential equipment needed for a hike across the Ngorongoro are a light day pack with you, a tough pair of walking boots, a sun hat offering neck protection, sun glasses, sun cream, water bottle, tough trousers or shorts and shirt made of a light material (if wearing shorts take long socks or light (preferably) canvas gaiters). A walking pole or two would be useful for the ascent of Lengai..
For more information on hiking in Tanzania and Tanzania's National parks contact the Tanzania information Hub http://www.tanzania-info.co.uk and for tourist information http://www.betheladventure.co.
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By: Ian Williamson