(As the mountain lies outside the conservation area no national park fees are payable.)
Ol Doinyo Lengai, the ‘mountain of God’, is Tanzania’s only active volcano. It is north of and outside the Ngorongoro Conservation area in the heart of Masailand, to the west of the road to Lake Natron. This active volcano is continuously erupting, sometimes explosively but more commonly just subsurface bubbling of lava. It is the only volcano in the world that erupts natrocarbonatite lava, a highly fluid lava that contains almost no silicon, and is also much cooler and less viscous than basaltic lavas.
The white deposits are weathered natrocarbonatite ash and lava and these white- capped rocks near the summit are interpreted by the Masai as symbolizing the white beard of God. The last violent eruption was in 1993 and lava has occasionally flowed out of the crater, indeed there were minor eruptions as recently as 2007 and 2008. Only physically fit people should attempt the climb, note that the summit is frequently wreathed in clouds.
Although it is possible to climb the mountain, the trek up to the crater is an exceptionally demanding one. In parts of the crater that have been inactive for several months the ground is so soft that one sinks into it when walking. In rainy weather the light brown powdery surface turns white again because of chemical reactions that occur when the lava absorbs water. Climbs are frequently done at night as there is no shelter on the mountain and it gets extremely hot. The gradient is very steep towards the crater rim. A guide is required and you are strongly advised to wear sturdy leather hiking boots to protect against burns should you inadvertently step into liquid lava. Boots made of other fibres have been known to melt. Another safety precaution is to wear glasses to avoid lava splatter burns to the eyes.
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