Ol Doinyo Lengai

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Unveiling Ol Doinyo Lengai: East Africa’s Sacred Volcano

Introduction: Discovering Nature’s Fury

Nestled south of Lake Natron, Ol Doinyo Lengai commands attention as East Africa’s sole active volcano. Revered by the Maasai people as the “Mountain of God,” this towering peak offers a window into the raw power of geological forces shaping the region’s landscape.

Geological Significance: A Volcanic Wonder

Rising 2,878 meters above sea level, Ol Doinyo Lengai boasts a storied history of explosive eruptions occurring at intervals of twenty to forty years. Notable eruptions include those of 1966, 1983, 1933, and 2007. Unlike its counterparts, this volcano spews natrocarbonatite lava, devoid of sodium carbonate and potassium, making it a geological anomaly.

Unique Lava Composition: Unraveling Nature’s Chemistry

Ol Doinyo Lengai’s natrocarbonatite lava, characterized by its low silicon content and moderate temperatures ranging from 500 to 600°C, presents a stark departure from conventional magma compositions. Resembling fluid black oil, the lava undergoes a remarkable transformation upon contact with moisture-laden objects, turning stark white.

Summit Craters: Nature’s Dual Persona

The volcano harbors two distinct summit craters, each offering a glimpse into its enigmatic character. While the southern crater lies dormant, shrouded in volcanic ash, the northern summit crater stands as an active testament to nature’s ceaseless dynamism. Plummeting to depths exceeding 200 meters, the northern crater brims with molten lava flows, inviting intrepid explorers to witness its fiery spectacle.

Climbing Ol Doinyo Lengai: A Test of Endurance

Climbing Ol Doinyo Lengai presents a formidable challenge, requiring trekkers to navigate sweltering heat often exceeding 40°C. Despite the arduous ascent, the rewards are ample, with panoramic vistas unfolding at every turn. Ascending under the cloak of darkness, climbers ascend to the summit, greeted by the awe-inspiring spectacle of sunrise painting the horizon in hues of crimson and gold.

Spectacular Views: Nature’s Grandeur on Display

From its lofty perch, Ol Doinyo Lengai offers sweeping vistas of East Africa’s breathtaking landscape. To the north, Lake Natron shimmers in the sunlight, while the western horizon reveals the majestic expanse of the Great Rift Valley. Casting its shadow to the east, Mount Kilimanjaro stands as a silent sentinel, its snow-capped peaks a testament to nature’s grandeur.


  • Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 12km out and back (return trip)
  • Hike Duration: This depends a lot on your speed and it can range a lot due to the extreme slope and terrain. The hike can be completed in about 6-12 hours depending on how long you spend at the summit and your hiking pace.
  • Hike Difficulty: This trail is quite difficult due to the extreme incline. In just five kilometers you will ascend more than 1600 meters and this is at elevation. The hike will reach 2960m by the time you are at the summit so expect to be short on breath. The other difficulty factors are that you will probably begin at midnight or early so hiking without sleep is tough.
  • At the summit it can be freezing so there are also weather factors to consider. It’s short, which means it is mostly a mental battle and most people are capable of achieving it at their own pace. Give yourself a chance and have a ‘no-quit mentality and you will make it I’m sure.
  • Hike Incline: 1600 meters.


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