Home – Safari – 6 Days -national-parks-donkey-hike -to-lake -natron
Our Safari Overview
This 6 -day safari combines the highlights of the National Parks, with an unforgettable hike from Empakaai Crater to Lake Natron (25km). You will experience diverse wildlife (including opportunities to see the Big 5) in some of the most breath-taking landscapes. The 2 day hike will take you from Empakaai Crater, along the Rift Valley Escarpment, accompanied by Maasai Guides and donkeys, camping under the stars in the bush. You arrive on foot at Lake Natron. This is untouched Tanzania at its best.
You will be collected from the airport by a Cubs Expeditions representative and driven to your accommodation in Arusha.
The drive from the airport passes through many roadside villages, giving you a sneak preview of Tanzanian daily life and culture.
You will have a chance to rest and recharge before the start of your adventure tomorrow.
In the morning you will be collected from your accommodation by your safari guide. The drive to Tarangire National Park takes approximately two and a half hours, along good tarmac roads. The journey will take you through gently rolling hills with scattered acacia trees. You will pass many Maasai people in their colourful dress walking on the roadside and herding cattle. The Park is named after the Tarangire River which runs through it. This ‘river of warthogs’ is the only source of water for wildlife in the region during the dry season. The Park is well known for its elephant families, which can often be seen congregating by the river. You may also see giraffe, bushbuck and hartebeest. These animals are closely followed by a range of predators, including lions and leopards. The Park also boasts more than 500 species of birds, so binoculars are a must! After a picnic lunch inside the park, you will drive to your accommodation in Karatu for dinner, stories and relaxation.
The drive from Karatu to the gate of Ngorongoro Conservation Area takes about 30 minutes. When you first see Ngorongoro Crater, it looks like a forgotten world. Concealed by the steep volcanic walls is a pristine wilderness including sweeping savannah, pockets of acacia woodland and glistening lakes and swamps. The Crater was created when a large volcano exploded and collapsed in on itself two to three million years ago. The Crater provides you with the best chance of seeing the endangered black rhino, which can sometimes be spotted in the open grasslands.
After you have explored Ngorongoro Crater, you will drive to Empakaai Camp (approximately 2.5 hrs). The road to Empakaai Crater follows the Ngorongoro Crater Rim for some time. Rich green rolling hills, with Maasai villages peppered across the landscape. Tonight, you will camp next to the Crater Rim. The views of the Crater and lake are stunning. This is true bush camping: no washrooms, no running water, no electricity. But – staring up at the stars accompanied by the sounds of the bush and the crackling of the fire is something you will never forget. Your crew will set the tents and start preparing dinner. This is where you will meet your donkeys, who will accompany you until you reach Lake Natron. In Tanzania, donkeys are a lifeline for communities. They help with water, firewood, land cultivation and transportation of produce to the market. They will be excellent companions.
Dawn rises and the view of Oldoinyo Lengai is quite magical. Oldoinyo Lengai is an active volcano and means ‘Mountain of God’ in Maa (the language of the Maasai). This morning, you will hike down onto the Crater Floor. The path snakes back and forth along the steep sides and the descent takes around 40 minutes. The Crater floor is incredibly beautiful and peaceful. The only sounds are the melodic tinkling of Maasai cow bells, bird symphonies and the wind in the trees.
After the hike into the Crater, you will continue towards Lake Natron. You will pack up camp, and hike with the donkeys and guides following a route that takes you through picturesque Maasai villages and rolling hills. You will walk approximately 17km today. The approach to Acacia camp is through a wonderful forest of yellow-bark acacia trees. Once again, Acacia camp is bush camping. The donkeys have their own enclosure or ‘boma’ which helps to keep them safe in camp throughout the night.
You will have an early start today. The distance to Lake Natron (vehicle pick-up point) is 8km, but once you descend the mountain, the temperatures rise significantly, so it’s best to walk during the morning. This part of the hike takes you through some of the most incredible scenery. There is very little evidence of human habitation, and you feel truly alone with nature. It is a rare experience to stand on top of mountain with a 360 degree view, and hear very little except the wind and the occasional birdsong.
The climb down the mountain is steep and can take up to 90 minutes. The terrain is mostly rock face and scree, so be prepared for some aching calf muscles the following day! It is worth stopping regularly during the descent to abosorb the surrounding landscapes, and feel the power emanating from Ol Doinyo Lengai. Often described as having a lunar beauty, Lake Natron offers something a little bit different. The vehicle will meet you at the road and drive you to camp.
Accommodation: Lake Natron Tented Camp
An early start is advised here. Being on the shore of Lake Natron as the sun rises is something you will never forget. Lake Natron is often described as having a lunar beauty. The lake gets its reddish colour from salt-loving organisms and algae. Amazingly, 2.5 million flamingos make Lake Natron their home and it is one of their only breeding grounds.
You will have a chance to experience these incredible birds and then return to camp for breakfast.
After breakfast, you will return to Arusha. Drive time approximately 4hrs.