The Great Rift Valley, Lake Natron & Ol doinyo Lengai

The Great Rift Valley stretches from northern Ethiopia to Mozambique in the south, a distance of about 5600km. The valley is created by two tectonic plates moving apart causing the valley floor to drop down leaving intact and fragmented valley walls or escarpments. The prominent escarpment in this area lies to the west. Volcanoes and craters of different ages are scattered around the valley. Oldoinyo Lengai (Mountain of God) is the only active volcano in Tanzania. Volcanism around the Great Rift Valley produces soda (Sodium Carbonate), which is washed down by rain and ground water. 

Lake Natron sits at the lowest point of the valley in East Africa at an altitude of 600m or 2000feet above sea level.  Here the water evaporates leaving behind very high concentrations of soda. Algae and zooplankton thrive in this water, which in turn supports great numbers of flamingos. The combination of remoteness and the hostility of the soda mud-flats provides the flamingos with a relatively safe area to breed and rear chicks. The lake is also surrounded by scattered springs, some of which are fresh enough to provide drinking water for many species of animals, large and small. Lake Natron Camp is located at one of these springs. 

You will be staying in a truly ancient and unique environment where man possibly evolved. 

The Maasai

The Maasai are an indigenous African ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Due to their distinctive customs, the way they dress and residence near the many game parks of East Africa, they are among the most well-known African ethnic groups internationally. 

They speak Maa a Nilo-Saharan language related to Dinka, Nuer, Turkana, and Songhai. The Maasai population has been estimated as 841,622 in Kenya with a total population of over 1 million. Estimates of the respective Maasai populations in both countries are complicated by the remote locations of many villages, their semi-nomadic nature and they’re being the only ethnic group allowed free travel over the Kenyan-Tanzanian border.

Maasai society is patriarchal in nature with the elders deciding most matters for each Maasai group. The laibon (spiritual leader) acts as the liaison between the Maasai and God, named Enkai or Engai, as well as the source of Maasai herblore. The Maasai are mostly monotheistic in outlook, but many have become Christian under the influence of missionaries. 

Traditional Maasai lifestyle centres around their cattle which constitutes the primary source of food. They also believe that God gave them his cattle to watch over. Women can only marry once in a lifetime, although men may have more than one wife (if enough cows are owned, they may have more than one at a time).

In the area of Lake Natron there are Maasai bomas spread around the area, but the main central village is several kilometres away to the west at the base of the escarpment. The village is named Ngare Sero. which means dappled water or black and white water.

 This village gets its name from the river flowing out of the escarpment through a spectacular gorge that is both arid and lush. The source of the Ngare Sero River is ground water originating from the Ngorongoro highlands.

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