Berna's travelblog Marco Bernasocchi's adventures blog

A longer way to Serengeti – Or the one where we cross the rift valley to Lake Natron

After organizing the permit for Ngorongoro (involves making a deposit in a bank, getting a receipt and going to an hidden office to charge a chip card with the amount you deposited at the bank) and buying the last needed stuff in Karatu We drive back Mto Wa Mbu, turn left and we are on gravel, supposedly we are about to encounter many hours of bad road. When we draw a rough itinerary, we didn’t want to do twice the same road, so we looked into alternatives to the classic northern circuit which goes directly to Serengeti after Tarangire. I had seen a while ago on a National geographic some pictures of petrified animals at a place called Lake Natron, a highly alkaline lake in the rift valley. Incidentally, Lake Natron also lies on a side path to Northern Serengeti that goes through the great rift valley.
Despite most outfitters told us the road is very bad, the guys at fortes deemed it as passable, so we go.
It is a very long drive, but the scenery is stunning. We cross plenty of tiny Masai villages, vast plains dotted with zebras and all around are hundreds of volcanoes. You can almost feel that it is a very active tectonic area.
The road to lake Natron is more than passable, actually most of the time it is good gravel with some short passages of sand or hard rock. The main difficulty is certainly not being “assaulted” by necklace sellers when stopping for paying the tree communities transit fees [note to older self: 12 pencils are not enough for tree gates].
After roughly 5-6 hours we pass a recent looking solidified lava field and by the little vegetation on it I guess it is 3-4 years old. Ten minutes after we are at Engaresero. Wow, we didn’t know that the village was directly under a still active volcano. And guess what, they propose you to hike it to go see the fumes… we pass, it’s way to hot during the day and the ascend looks long and boring.
Searching for the campsite we suddenly spot a dromedary. Wait a sec, this is no dromedary-land. Puzzled, we keep on driving toward the lake and finally end up at luxury tented camp near the lake. Now it’s all clear, the dromedaries have been imported for carrying the tourists.
One of the guys working there shows us around a bit since there are no guests today. Really nice, but not really our budget range.
At the campsite I try to figure out where the petrified birds are, but nobody seems to know, not even the helicopter pilot that does scenic flights. Pity, we conclude that probably the pictures were taken on the Kenyan side of the lake.
After a nice dinner with a cool bat (literally) hanging around, I go ask a large group if they have any information on the Serengeti’s migration current whereabouts. The guide is a Spanish man that has been guiding in Tanzania for over 10 years and now has started his own company. He is super kind and gives me a lot of suggestions on where we could still see the migration and where to go in central Serengeti without ending up in the main tourists traffic.
Great, there is hope, ten day before the migration was still in Serengeti.

After a visiting some 120000 years old hominids footprints, a breakfast with amazing view and a stroll to Lake Natron we start driving direction north-west. As soon as we get back to the main road in Engaresero, two Masai stop us telling us that we need to go to the community office to register. We go and it turns out that on top of already having paid 1$ each to drive in the community, 20$ each for sleeping and 10$ for 4 branches of wood, they want us to pay a nowhere advertised 30$ activity fee each. We don’t like it. Not the paying bit, but the fact that they are trying to rip us off. Finally, our feeling are confirmed when they agree that 25 dollars in total is enough. Pity, it is a nice place, and the incident ruined a bit the feeling but it is quickly forgotten. And as we see the faces of the two guys when we accept to give them a ride to the town center we are all laughs again… did I mention Eliane was the one driving!? :D

After the town, the road starts climbing up the west side of the rift valley, steeper and harder it is now super fun to drive and our Land Cruiser keeps on delivering… big time :)
We stop at a beautiful corner with amazing views on the valley and the immense extremely shallow lake, we step of the car, take some pictures and then just enjoy.

The road to Serengeti is longer than we thought, and we do encounter some bad sections (much worse than going to Lake Natron) but all is really beautiful.
Finally, around 15.00 we arrive at Klein’s gate, the northernmost entrances to the Serengeti if you are not coming from Kenya (from which we are only 10 Km away).
It’s funny how, when you spend money for something you like you are happy to spent said money. And so we had 812 $┬áless but in exchange got permission to spend four nights camping and driving around in Serengeti!!!

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