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Tourism on Lengai

Page history last edited by Frederick Belton 13 years, 3 months ago

It’s really only been since the mid 1980’s that any sort of tourism has existed at Lengai. People climbed it occasionally during the early to mid 20th century but several years would sometimes pass between climbs.  Lengai began to become more frequently climbed in the mid 1980’s.  With the documentation of the unique natrocarbonatite lava by Barry Dawson in the early 1960’s, more people became curious to see the world’s strangest volcano. People like Celia Nyamweru and Maurice and Katia Kraft made camping expeditions to the crater, and gradually the Lake Natron region became a destination for the intrepid tourist, many of whom traveled to that region especially to climb Lengai.

In the late 1990’s when I began to visit Lengai there was a steady trickle of people who climbed to the crater on day-trips, but many visitors were discouraged by reports of banditry in the region.  After 2000 tourism around Lake Natron significantly increased, which led to more and more people climbing Lengai.  During a continuous 30 day period that I stayed on Lengai (29 June - 29 July, 2004) I counted 243 tourists in the crater plus 110 Tanzanians who went along as guides and porters. The count included my own expedition group.  Many of the others were people who were on day trips and who had never been on a volcano before. I consider a “tourist” to be any non -Tanzanian person who climbs Lengai, regardless of their reason for doing so. My tally is probably a little low because I’m certain that I failed to count a few people.  These figures do not include the people who attempted to climb but did not reach the summit for some reason. July is one of the most popular months to visit Tanzania, so the number of visitors in my survey is probably much higher than it would be in a rainy month like April.


During the explosive eruption of September 2007 -  June 2008 the number of people climbing Lengai fell sharply due to the dangerous activity and the difficulty of the alternate climbing route into the South Crater. The Pearly Gates route was unsafe because it was highly exposed to the activity, in fact there were times when anyone on the route would surely have been killed by the eruption.  The alternate route that terminated in the South Crater was safer but was more steep and difficult than the Pearly Gates route. Many groups did not succeed in reaching the summit by that route.


Climbers have now returned to Lengai for one day climbs but few are camping at the summit since there is no longer easy access to natrocarbonatite lava.  There also seems to be some decrease in visits due to the global economic downturn, according to a safari company based in Arusha.

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