Oldoinyo Lengai Mountain “ Mountain of God”
In the heart of Africa Safari emerges the active volcanic mountain known as Oldoinyo Lengai, translating from Maasai to “Mountain of God.” Such a name would signify a volcano of immense power.
The summit of this strato-volcano is 2962 meters above sea level and affords direct views into the caldera of Tanzania’s only officially certified active volcano, and the world’s only carbonatite volcano; records of eruptions have been maintained since 1883.
It is located in northern Tanzania lying just south of Lake Natron in the Rift Valley, in the heart of Maasai country, and is locally regarded as a sacred mountain. Looking north from its summit crater, the hot barren salt flats of Lake Natron stretch into the distance.
To the south stretch the crater Highlands and the Ngorongoro Game Reserve. The eastern horizons are dominated by Kilimanjaro and to the west, the forested escarpments and hills comprise the western slopes of the Rift Valley. Every seven years Lengai erupts and plumes of smoke billow out of the crater.
Facts about Oldoinyo Lengai
The Tanzanian volcano, sprouting over 10,000 feet tall in the middle of a plain, is the only active volcano on Earth spewing carbonatite lava instead of silica, a rare chemical makeup that yields some bizarre results. The lava that flows from Ol Doinyo Lengai is uniquely cool: At “only” up to 950 degrees Fahrenheit, it is nearly twice as cold as silicate magma.
This relatively cool temperature colors the lava black and grey in daylight, instead of glowing the quintessential red (except sometimes at night). When the lava is hardened, it solidifies as a unique shade of white. And since the magma can cool and harden in seconds once it makes contact with this atmosphere, it sometimes shatters in mid-air and sprinkles down the slopes.
Unlike the silicate magma of most volcanoes, composed mainly of silica and oxygen, the carbonatite lava emitted by Ol Doinyo Lengai contains alkali elements such as calcium, sodium, and potassium (this lava is so sodium-rich that it’s a “natrocarbonatite”).
Aside from the unique temperature and color this yields, the lava emitted by Ol Doinyo Lengai is also known to be the least viscous and most “runny” in the world. The lava is not just spouted from the main crater either; little peaks on the volcano’s surface called “hornitos” spew the wacky stuff as well.
For all these reasons, the volcano is a favorite among scientists, as it’s easier to study than its dangerously hot counterparts—in fact, it’s sometimes called a “toy volcano.” It’s so relatively safe that reportedly a hiker once fell into the volcano once, and while burned, managed to survive.
What to do in Oldoinyo Lengai?
It is possible to walk across the crater floor. The ascent of Oldoinyo Lengai is demanding on account of the daytime heat, lack of water, steep and unsuitable slopes of ash and crumbly rocks, and considerable height gain. Normally you can start ascending to the summit early in the morning and reach the summit at sunrise.
Short and a warm jacket are suitable for the ascent, also long trousers are good as the summit before dawn can be cold. The access route from the North West allows an early descent to be made from the summit in the morning shadow.
Standing at 2,878 meters above the Soda Ash Lake Natron, the Mountain of GOD is famous to the Maasai community that inhabits the area, Mountain Ol’doinyo Lengai is situated in the Ngorongoro highlands and the African Rift valley about 120 kilometers Northwest of Arusha, Tanzania.
Since the past ancestors, the Holly Lengai has been used by Maasai for their prayer to their GOD known as NGAI. Ol’doinyo Lengai is the only active volcano in the world that erupts natrocarbonatite lava which is cooler than other lavas about (510 degrees C) compare to the temperatures of basaltic lavas (1,100 degrees C) with less silicon.
The Mountain frequently does minor eruptions and forms cone-like structures to its crater base.
Is it possible to see Lake Natron while on Oldoinyo Lengai?
While on the summit of Mountain Ol’doinyo Lengai one can sight clearly the Soda Lake Natron which accommodates and consist of good nesting sites for different bird species especially the Flamingos, pelicans, and geese more than 350 different types are recorded to date.
The summit facts for Oldoinyo Lengai
Unlike the other two highest Mountains, Lengai takes about six to seven hours to the summit crater. Also, the Mountain is an ideal place for a walking safari escorted by the Maasai guides with weapons tourists can sight wild animals like an olive baboon, velvet, monitor lizard, hyenas, lion, leopard, jackal, Grant’s gazelle, impala, and zebra.
Nearby are the Maasai BOMAS which gives you a chance to interact with the indigenous and learn about their cultures, taboos, and traditions.