When was the last time you felt like the coolest person on the planet? How about at an exclusive, brilliantly executed, all-inclusive festival in the wild plains of Tanzania?

When a friend of mine caught a glimpse of a flyer advertising a weekend of music and adventure next to Lake Natron we were seriously tempted. I mean who doesn’t want to go dancing in the shadow of an active volcano? It did, however, seem a little bit suspect as we were not quite sure if it was for real. It’s quite easy for someone to put up a fancy website, take your cash and then disappear into the bush, and this was a virgin initiative. Luckily, my friend’s local contacts were able to confirm that this wasn’t an elaborate con and we decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but that was half the fun. I’m naturally a planner but learning to let go meant that feeling of uncertainty could also be exciting and liberating. Our motto was ‘we will find out when we get there’.

A flurry of group chat messages and we were set, we had tickets, wings, wheels and tents sorted. Easy! Wait wait wait wait… ‘This Is Tanzania, Suckers’ (T.I.T.S)! Things never go that smoothly. Of course, not only did our flights get cancelled at the last minute but we also had to hastily re-arrange another driver and vehicle for the four of us. Fortunately, I’m fairly used to this, I was prepared for such a scenario and had every confidence that we would make it. Positive thinking!

I spoke too soon… two and a half hours into the drive to the camp we were facing an interesting obstacle. The rainy season had turned a dry river bed into a riotous torrent of water. Things just got serious.

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Raging river

Scary times

However, fortune favours the brave right? Enter stage left, our pal Espen, a.k.a Mzungu Kichaa, one of the performers at the festival, who was ahead of us. As a gentleman, we let him take his vehicle across first, just to know it was safe. He conquered the beast! Hurrah, we were impressed with the hen it was our turn…..

Watch the crossing here

Yessssss! We survived!!! You heard our whooping and cheering, right?

Three hours later and we checked into Lake Natron Tented Camp, aka Moivaro, our home for the next three nights. We were welcomed by Gee, the Spanish camp manager, who immediately satiated our needs for red wine and cold beer. A lovely simple three-course meal was presented under the clear starry sky and we unwound from the long journey by the pit fire.

WIFI was only available for a limited time at camp and we found we had no regular cell phone signal at all, so it was a back to basics weekend, going ‘old school’ on arrangements and coordinating adventures. It was a nice surprise really, no distractions and added to the sensation of remoteness.

After an amazing breakfast, we were keen to see what our motto of ‘we will find out when we got there’ actually meant! A representative of the Natron 100 festival came to our camp and explained everything.

We were the first to get our festival bracelet, hand made by local Maasai women and one of only one hundred available. This entitled us to participate in the free activities over the weekend, including rock climbing and abseiling, waterfall hikes, viewing flamingoes and fossilized footprints of early man. It even included free wine and beer, evening meals during the Friday and Saturday evening concerts, AND a Sunday brunch! Wow, a package and a half!

Natron 100

The Tickle Tent

We decided that we should go and check out the free fish foot spa option over at the Lake Natron Camp, where the musical entertainment would be happening later that night. I was suitably impressed by the large Bedouin-style tentickle space that would be the main stage, edged with a chill out area full of soft couches and cushions. We followed the little stream that wandered through the campsite over to a shaded lounge area where we dipped our toes in for a ‘natural’ pedicure. I was puzzled as to how the fish became keen on eating crusty feet crumbs but boy, were they enthusiastic!

Fish eating the dead skin on my friend's feet

Hungry fishes

We soon made friends, as a lovely German couple and a Norwegian guy who also lived in Tanzania joined us by the water. We bonded over some afternoon alcoholic beverages and silly card games.

Before long it was time for a quick change into festival wear and then down to the special pre-event show. The local Maasai women gave us an amazing traditional song and dance performance as we sipped our complimentary sundowner drinks and ate our BBQ bites.

As the sun set a dusky hue cloaked the surroundings; the volcano loomed to our right, wildebeest and zebra roamed free to the left and a scorpion scuttled around our feet. Truly spectacular and a lovely welcome to the festival!

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Camels in the African bush

This is not a mirage and no, they didn’t get lost either!

Back under the tentickle, I loved the Ibizan style beats DJ Porini played in the opening set, just my cup of tea. The bartender shouted over and pointed out some camels behind us. What, camels, in Tanzania? For a second I thought that the drinks may be spiked but no, there they were, a little family of camels casually loping past us. Bonkers, but absolutely true.

Just to add a little more drama to the proceedings, a huge thunderstorm blew in, with incredibly theatrical flashes of lightning illuminating the whole night sky. You couldn’t make this stuff up, wondrous wild beasts and wicked weather; it was turning into quite a display.

A guy came over to where we were sitting and started complaining that no one was dancing. In situations like this, you don’t need to ask me twice, so I dragged him up on to the dance floor and we started the party. Soon a couple more festival peeps had followed our lead, and we enticed a couple of the Maasai ladies to join us. A rare opportunity to let our hair down and rave with these amazingly tough women seized and owned.

We were given some proper musical treats that evening from a variety of performers, the highlight being an acoustic set by our friend Mzungu Kichaa. With another full day ahead of us we sloped off to bed at a very respectable 11 pm.

At 5 am the next morning I was super tired but also amped to see the famous flamingoes of Lake Natron. They can number in the millions, and even appear to ‘dance’ which is best seen at first light. Unfortunately, our driver had decided that we were not the early bird type and didn’t come to pick us up at the agreed time. Our driver said he didn’t think we would be awake but we suspected that a bottle of gin he bought the day before may have been the real excuse!

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Flamingoes at Lake Natron

Pretty in Pink


The surrounding valley of Lake Natron

Wow.


Ol Doniyo Lengai volcano

The volcano watches over the valley

So two hours later than we had anticipated we saw the flamingoes, even though they were quite far away. We checked out the footprints that are thought to be around 11,000 years old situated close to the festival site. They were discovered only recently in 2006 and were pretty cool to see.

Footprints captured in the volcanic ash

Footprints captured in the ash

Feeling rather tired from rising so early, we headed back to our camp for breakfast and a lazy day relaxing in the freshwater swimming pool. A helicopter landing at the camp briefly disturbed us, which turned out to be Chinese tourists on a photography trip stopping by for lunch. The local wildlife came to take advantage of the clear waters. The cheeky monkeys stole leftovers, free roaming goats quenched their thirst and birds took refreshing dips into the pool. In particular, the kingfisher that flaunted the iridescent blue flash on his wings was spectacular.

We decamped over to the other site for our second evening of entertainment and again we were not disappointed. Other festival goers raved about their afternoon activities and seemed to have a thoroughly good time in the waterfalls and abseiling. We loved the performance by Maia von Lekow, who was followed by Smadj, a Tunisian dude playing some very interesting music with unusual guitars. After a busy day, the party began to flag a little and the sofas became very popular napping nests. Our hosts quickly spotted this and came to the rescue with complimentary coffee for everyone. I really was touched by how thoughtful they were to do this, perfectly timed too!

Then came my favourite part of the weekend. I was really enjoying the tracks that DJ Lox was letting loose on us and I took some time to really soak it all in. I stepped out of the tentickle, still close enough to hear the music and be in the party, but also able to see the night sky winking back at me. I was in the moment so clearly, just seeing, hearing, feeling and sensing this unique event. I definitely felt that this was something really special, and definitely super cool.

I rejoined the crowd and after a good few dance-offs we snuck off to bed around 3 am. We returned to the festival for the last time on Sunday morning for the farewell brunch. It seemed that we had formed a new family, and as the mimosas were flowing a relaxing afternoon was tempting us to stay. We had no option and said a huge thank you to our hosts before hitting the road.

The view over the plains from the camp fire circle

Camp fire’s burning, camp fire’s burning

Considering the location and that this was the first ever Natron festival I was seriously impressed with the execution. Everything went really well; including the activities was genius, the setting was magical, it went off with a thunderous bang on time, it was well thought out, the wine didn’t run out….the only drawback was the food on the second evening wasn’t up to par, but it didn’t detract from our enjoyment at all. I left with a big smile on my face, pleased that we took the gamble and experienced a badass party in the wilderness.

Thanks to Laura Minde for capturing the video (I had my eyes closed) and Lily An for some of the photos.

Check out my reviews of other nice places to visit in Tanzania, including Amani Forest Camp, Dar es Salaam and Tides Lodge in Pangani.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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