NGORONGORO HIGHLANDS, LAKE NATRON AND LENGAI
11-days trekking and wildlife safari to the Ngorongoro Highlands and the Rift Valley, Tanzaniahttps://kiafricaadventure.com/ngorongoro-highland-trekking/
About this tour
The highlands of Ngorongoro are home to some of the world’s most spectacular sights: misty forests and rolling hills, ancient craters and the red blazes of Maasai who inhabit this beautiful land. The trek begins at the rim of remote Empakai Crater, a forested crater with an emerald green lake at its bottom. The first day’s hike is around the lake at the Empakai crater floor, then the next day the trek begins in earnest, from Empakai Crater downwards into the highland meadows to a small Maasai village called Nayobi. We spend the night camping in an Acacia grove atop the Rift Valley escarpment, with magnificent views of Oldony’o Lengai, the ‘Maasai Mountain of God’. On the third day we continue down the Rift Valley escarpment wall to the base of Lengai, where we camp for two nights in an area called ‘Engare Sero’, meaning “endless water” in Kimaa, the language of the Maasai. There is a clear, cool waterfall emanating from a fissure in the escarpment wall, and year-round a clear river flows into the barren, parched plain surrounding Lengai. That evening there is an option to hike Lengai (an active volcano). The last day we hike into the Engare Sero Gorge, to the waterfall, and later walk the shores of Lake Natron, a giant alkaline lake in the Rift Valley chain of soda lakes.
Program for the journey:
Day 1: Arrival / transfer to Arusha
Pick-up from airport and transfer to the hotel. Meeting of the group, presentation of the program and group dinner. Overnight at a uniquely designed and owner-managed lodge just a few minutes from Arusha town.
Day 2: Arusha – Lake Manyara – Ngorongoro Highlands
Elephants passing a safari vehicle (Lake Manyara Natl. Park)
Elephants passing a safari vehicle (Lake Manyara Natl. Park)
We depart across the Maasai Steppe into the vast Tanzanian bush, passing mud and stick Masai manyattas (dwellings) along the way. At the Makyuni junction we toward the famous soda lake Lake Manyara, as we approach the Rift Valley escarpment, an impressive 600 m wall that snakes thousands of km as a volcanic rift through East Africa.Lake Manyara, located at the bottom of this rift, is fed by water from the highlands above. We enter the lush park – a kingdom of undisturbed forest with giant fig trees, tamarind, mahogany and albezia. The Park offers enormous topographical variety and abundant wildlife: monkeys, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, ostrich, elephant, hippos, bushbuck, aardvarks and the occasional leopard, while the lake attracts over 380 species of birds such as flamingoes, pelicans, storks, cormorants, Egyptian geese, and spur-winged geese.monekys while elephants can often be seen on the slopes of the escarpment amongst the baobab trees.
We have a picnic lunch in the park, then in the mid afternoon we depart into the Ngorongoro Highlands. The landscape changes dramatically to one of fertile wooded hills and farms. After 1 hour we reach the the entry to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The paved road ends and we proceed toward the crater, into a lush and verdant rainforest. After 30 minutes we reach the rim of the crater and gape down onto the vast crater floor below. The sight of it is unforgettable.
Day 3: Morning game drive in Ngorongoro – hike to Olmoti volcano
We start early to watch the sunrise into Ngorongoro crater. We proceed onto the crater floor (1 hr drive) for a second game viewing drive with picnic lunches. After lunch, we drive to Olmoti volcano (ca. 1.5 – 2 hr) and hike to the crater rim, to peer out over the grassy plains of crater floor. Here you’ll find herds of shy eland, along with gazelles and zebras interspersed with Maassai cattle. We hike down to waterfalls at the inner crater, and back to find dinner ready and our camp set up.
Day 4: Hike from Olmoti to Empakai
Today, we hike mostly through open grassland and the spectacular, vast Embulbul depression bounded by geologically interesting fault scarps that divide the different volcanic massivs around us. We pass Maassai bomas, large Maassai herds of cattle, as well as zebras, gazelles and other animals. By mid afternoon we suddenly arrive at the rim of Empakai crater, where breathtaking views onto its caldera lake from high above await us. During the day, thousands of flamingos are often present at the lake; from high above they are just tiny red dots. By the time we arrive at the campsite on the rim, the camp will be already set up (our vehicles can drive ahead).Note: This is a long but very easy and scenic hike, but if you wish you can drive half way (or all) with the car (total walking distance ca. 20 km, ca. 6 hrs walking time.)
Day 5: Full day at Empakai crater
We have a full day to explore Empakai Crater. Following a narrow trail we descend on foot into the thickly forested Empakai Crater. As we descend through the vines and over roots, we get glimpses of the emerald green soda lake which covers about a quarter of the crater floor. The lake is a haven for flamingoes. We have a picnic lunch by the lakeside, and then hike around the lakeshore and back to camp (4-6 hours total). Hot showers will be available, and then dinner, as we listen to the flamingoes pass overhead on their nightly journey toward Lake Natron. Oldonyo Lengai glows in the afternoon sun, poking its steep sloped top above the depths of the plains which surround its base well below the Rift Valley Escarpment, our next destination.
For the walk to Empakai Crater floor, carry your own picnic lunch box in your daypacks, to enjoy at the lakeside. This evening each person will need to prepare a “light” bag for the donkey trek portion of the next etappe.
Day 6: Hike from Empakai crater to the Rift Valley rim
We depart from our camp around 10am. Donkeys will carry your light bag (for one night only), plus the sleeping bags and sleeping pads to the next campsite. The walk leads us upwards along the crater rim, then steeply downward steeply on a foot trail along a ridge looking out over the highlands to the north. The top of Ol Doinyo Lengai juts into the sky, its steep slopes piercing the horizon created by the highlands atop the Rift Valley Escarpment wall. Along the road we pass Maassai women walking to the crater rim with donkeys in search of long grass to cut for their cows, and for roofing for their bomas (huts). We walk down into the small village of Nayobi, a center of trading ‘center’for the local community. We continue on a cattle trail downward into scrub-woodland and groves of yellow barked Acacia (Fever Trees).
The private campsite is set under yellow-barked acacia trees, with a stunning view of the top of Lengai. You arrive at about 3pm to the campsite for snacks and drinks. The Maasai trekking guide carries a VHF hand-held radio for emergency contact uses. You will carry your own picnic lunch box in your daypacks, to eat en route.
Day 7: Hike into the Rift Valley, base of Ol Doinyo Lengai Mountain After breakfast, set off early, we continue our trek into the Rift Valley: First, we follow the edge of the escarpment wall. Lake Natron shimmers in front of us, while the massive stratovolcano Lengai is close by on our right, a deep chasm of air between the steep escarpment walls and the steep slopes of Lengai. The trail turns sharply downward along an ancient trading route to the foot of Lengai… (for centuries the Maasai on the lower plains have traded their goods with the Maasai in the highlands). We stop midway along the trail to eat lunch in the shade of a canyon. The temperatures grow quite hot, and areas of shade are oases from the heat. Once we reach the base of the escarpment, we’ll be picked up and driven over to our camp (ca. 45 min drive).
1) You will carry your own picnic lunch box in your daypacks, to enjoy en route. You trek to the bottom of the escarpment, where at the pickup point, the passenger vehicle(s) will meet you and take you to the your private campsite.
2) At the Lake Natron campsite, you have the option to upgrade to stay in the luxurious tented lodges instead of the tent.
Day 8-9: 2 full days at Lake Natron: waterfalls, the salt lake, Lengai volcano, Maassai etc
You have two full days to explore the exceptionally interesting area around Lake Natron: the lake itself area with its pink flamingoes and the salt flats. The theme here is definitely “pink”. In the heat of the afternoon we explore an area called ‘Engare Sero’, meaning “endless water” in the language of the Maasai. There is a clear, cool waterfall emanating from a fissure in the Rift Valley escarpment wall, and year-round river flows into the barren salt flats. We hike into the Engare Sero Gorge to the waterfall. where we can take a refreshing bath (water-shoes required, and swimsuits!).
Day 10: Return to Arusha – night in Arusha
Transfer to Arusha (ca. 2 – 4 hrs), end of service
Day 11: Departure or extension program
We bring you in time for your connection to the airport or to the starting point of your own extension.
Tour Price: US $ 2700 per student for the group of 5 and above
All accommodation (prices based on shared room/tent) in hotel (2 nights in Arusha), guesthouse (1 night at Lake Manyara) and in camps (8 nights)
All transfers according to program: 4×4 in good condition, equipped with animal guide books, driver guide, max 5 clients per vehicle, roof-hatch access and window seats for each guest (i.e. max two clients per seat row)
No km limitation for excursions in the visited areas
Supply vehicle (to carry the camp) from 3+ pax
Two game safaris in Ngorongoro
Full board, all meals from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on last day
3 liters of bottled drinking water per person per day
Cook(s) and camp hand(s) to prepare all your meals, set up & break camps
Full camping equipment incl. spacious dome tents, thick matresses and liners, dining tent, table, chairs, washing water basin, towels
Private services of a professional English-speaking safari guide(s) and a Maassai walking guide
Donkeys and donkey handlers
An armed Ngorongoro Park Ranger for the walks in Olmoti and Empakai Crater
All park fees and camp fees (Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, Lake Natron + transit fees) and eco-tourism fee
Flight/ticket (+attached costs) to/from tour destination and transfers to Arusha if necessary.
Transports from and to airports can be arranged separately at a small extra cost (depending on location)
Single tent/room supplement
Visa & vaccinations
Tips for local staff
Generally, the level of difficulty on the hikes on this tour is easy to moderate, with distances of up to 20km during a day (but with the possibility to shorten part of it by car…), maximum climbing efforts of 5-600 m.
The trek is suitable for people of many ages and abilities, but minimum age recommended is 10 years. The daily trekking time ranges from 4 to 6 hours, and trekkers are only required to carry a daypack. Donkeys carry the loads from Empakai to Lengai. Accommodations are in mountain tents with sleeping bags and ridge-rest sleeping pads. Meals are eaten in lighted mess tents with backed chairs, around a camp table. Toilet tent(s), (with sturdy metal framed proper toilet seat(s)) are used at Empakai and Acacia camps. At Lake Natron, toilet and shower facilities are provided. We send along our own cooks to prepare all the meals, and everyone can expect expertly prepared, delicious food.
The trek up Oldony’o Lengai is a serious physical challenge, suitable only for those who are prepared to hike up steep slopes (about 40 to 45%), ascending over 6,000 feet of elevation (almost 2,000 mt.). We use VHF radios for emergency communication (with a vehicle we keep at the base of the mountain during a trek), and use a mountain rope in case needed. We also supply energy food for the trek. (lots of energy is needed!)
Accommodation is based on double room or tent occupancy. For details, please look at the notes on the itinerary above.
• Camping at Empakai (day 1): Special (private) campsite inside NCA, no facilities
• Camping at Elerai Forest, Acacia Camp (day 2): Special (private) campsite as per agreement with Nayobi village, no facilities
• Camping at Lake Natron Bush Campsite (Days 3 and 4): Improvised camp at an undisturbed place in a wild, natural environment, completely exclusive to the group, as per arrangement with Ngare Sero village.
Clothing: Please take different kinds of clothing: during transfers in jeeps, as well as during the trekking through the highlands, light and comfortable clothing is recommended. To protect you from the dust, a scarf or head-shawl is very useful. For trekking etappes, climbing Lengai as well as exploring the active areas in the crater of Lengai volcano, you are required to wear sturdy leather boots that well cover your ankles. You will need different layers of clothing to adjust to the changing circumstances.
Checklist: Here below you will find the list of the most important items you should bring along for this tour:
– 1 warm fleece jacket
– 1 rain/wind jacket shell
– 1 pair trekking boots (medium weight, waterproof)
– 1 pair of camp shoes
– 1 sun hat
– 1 pair UV-blocking sunglasses
– Personal documents (passport, flight ticket, pocket money, insurance certificates etc. as well as fotocopies of these stored in a secure place)
– 1 soft (no hard frame or wheels) duffel bag (porters will carry)
– 1 daypack
– Plastic bags of different sizes (to protect clothes against rain)
– 1 head lamp or torch (with extra batteries and light bulb)
– 2 One-liter water bottles, or substitute with hydration pack
– Sun block. We suggest the highest possible SPF rating
– Water purification tablets / or filter/pump. We recommend tablets as the best and most fool-proof way to purify water.
– 2 bandanas (for dust)
– Water shoes
– First Aid Kit
– Personal medicines