Lake Natron, Tanzania might be the creepiest destination ever

TANZANIA - 2013/11/03: Sunrise at Lake Masek Luxury Tented Safari Camp in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Serengeti South, Tanzania. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TANZANIA - 2013/11/03: Sunrise at Lake Masek Luxury Tented Safari Camp in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Serengeti South, Tanzania. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

When it comes to the ultimate relaxation experience, there are a lot of options to choose from. But an absolute classic is heading to a lake and chilling out by swimming, fishing, or just quietly enjoying the water. Maybe don’t do that at Lake Natron.

This spot is a bit of a swerve. At a quick glance, it appears to be a lovely African lake. In reality, it’s an absolute death trap that has claimed the lives of untold numbers of animals. And what it leaves behind is even more unsettling.

The power of Lake Natron

Lake Natron, Tanzania
DAR ES SALAAM, SAADANI, TANZANIA – 2020/09/21: A Baobab Tree stands alone in an area cleared of forest with a tractor parked next to it showing the incredible magnitude of the indigenous tree at Saadani National Park.Saadani National Park is Tanzania’s 13th National Park. It has an area of 1062 km2 and was officially gazetted in 2005, from a game reserve which had existed from 1969. It is the only wildlife sanctuary in Tanzania bordering the sea. (Photo by Marcus Valance/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Located in the Arusha Region of the African country of Tanzania, this body of water is part of the larger Lake Natron Basin. It is an incredibly important wetland region that isn’t exactly teeming with wildlife due to its high temperatures and dangerous waters.

That being said, what life does manage to carve out an existence there makes it a key environment. While Lake Natron is not particularly hospitable, the freshwater wetlands around its edges are far more welcoming to a variety of life. Again, that’s part of the lake’s allure.

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Lake Natron has an incredibly high salt content. As the water evaporates, the alkalinity rises and increases the pH levels dramatically. Parts of the lake have been measured to have pH levels of anywhere from 10.5 to 12, which is impressively high.

Lake Natron kills

Animals naturally make their way to Lake Natron for food, water, and to find a place to live. The problem is the incredibly high alkalinity and absurd temperatures in the lake. The impact on wildlife is that it appears to turn them to stone.

The problem is that many migratory birds stop by the lake on their long journies. Due to the still, reflective waters, they regularly crash into the lake. Death comes quickly, and the water causes them to end up in a stone-like state.

Eventually, the water recedes and leaves their preserved remains behind. It is a creepy sight, to say the least. And it claims more victims than just birds. Various mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and even the occasional person have died in its toxic waters.

Visiting the lake of death

Lake Natron, Tanzania
TANZANIA – 2013/10/31: Landscape of Tarangire National Park in Tanzania, East Africa. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Due to the extremely unique nature of the lake and its creepy reputation, interest in tourism continues to rise. The problem is that there is no substantial management mechanism in place for a larger endeavor. There are existing campgrounds nearby, but not much else.

Things are changing, though. You can still make the trip to Lake Natron and check it out. There are various safari adventures that will take you there for bird watching, viewing the Ngare Sero Waterfalls, or seeing the nearly 20,000-year-old hominid footprints around the lake.

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But the big draw will always be the lake of death and the stone monuments it creates to the lives it takes. Whatever reason you go there, just make sure it’s not for the swimming. It doesn’t generally end well for anyone or anything.