Lake Eyasi is a seasonal shallow endorheic salt lake on the floor of the Great Rift Valley at the base of the Serengeti Plateau, just south of the Serengeti National Park and immediately southwest of the Ngorongoro Crater in the Crater Highlands of Tanzania. The lake is elongated, orientated southwest to northeast, and lies in the Eyasi-Wembere branch of the Great Rift Valley is approximately 95 miles (155 km) southwest of Arusha. At an elevation of about 3,400 feet (1,040 m), the lake covers an area of about 400 square miles (1,050 square km) and occupies the bottom of a bowllike depression in a region of volcanic activity. The walls of the lake are purple lava enclosing a broad expanse of white alkaline shallows with some fresh water at depths below 33 feet (10 m). The lake has no outlet; its main inlet is the Sibiti River on the southwest. The lake drains an area of about 25,300 square miles (65,500 square km). Greater and lesser flamingos inhabit the lakeshore in vast flocks.
The Hadzabe bushmen live in this region, as do the Datoga and Mbulu tribes. A visit with the bushmen is worthwhile and they will graciously show you where and how they live and hunt. They subsist entirely off the bush and by bow hunting. Everything they use is made from local materials, including their bows which are strung with giraffe tendon, and their arrows which are coated in lethal poison. Their language resembles that of the Kalahari bushmen tribe (who were featured in the 1980 film ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’) with clicking noises used. The Datoga and Mbulu people are pastoralists, like the Masai people.
The scenery of Lake Eyasi differs dramatically from that of the surrounding areas. Compared to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Highlands this area seems downright tropical. Palm trees border the lake and make homes for birds such as Fischer’s lovebird. Other trees in this area include the umbrella thorn acacia and sandpaper bush. The weather is nearly always very hot and intense, as the lake is located on the floor of the Rift Valley, the oldest rift in the world. The rift is thought to have opened over 65 million years ago, shortly after dinosaurs became extinct.
Lake Eyasi’s water levels vary greatly between the rainy and dry seasons. During the dry season, the lake is virtually nonexistent and animals are forced to share what water is left, which makes for easier wildlife viewing. The lake can get quite deep during the rainy season and it attracts hippos who like to cool off in its brackish waters.
Bird lovers will be in paradise here, as the lake attracts vast numbers of birds of all sizes and colors. Some main birds to be found here include Africa spoonbill, flamingos, gray-headed gulls, great white pelicans, pied avocet, and yellow-billed storks. The main fish found in the lake are catfish and lungfish.
What to do in Lake Eyasi is particularly suited for exploring on foot, and a day or half-day hikes are highly recommended. It is also possible to go on a hunting trip with the Hadzabe or to visit the other tribes. Almost any time of year is a good time to visit Lake Eyasi with only April and May being questionable as they are when the long rains occur.