Do You Know Where To See Pretty Pink Flamingos In Tanzania
Thousands of tall, pink feathered, and skinny-legged creatures gracefully standing on the lake shores is a spectacular sight. It is hard to miss flamingos; it is even harder not to be captivated by their striking beauty. And the good thing is there are various regions across Africa where you can see huge flocks of pink flamingos in their natural habitat, especially in East and Southern Africa. So, are there flamingos in Tanzania? Yes, Tanzania is home to millions of wild pink flamingos. In Tanzania crater lakes and shores of Rift Valley soda lakes are great habitats for these migratory birds. The best places to see flocks of flamingos are in Northern Tanzania including Lake Manyara, Lake Natron, Empakai Crater, and Lake Magadi in Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Ndutu, and Momela Lakes in Arusha National Park. Of the six flamingo species found in the world, only two species live in Africa- the Greater and the lesser flamingos. And Tanzania is lucky to have them both in their abundance. Usually, both species live and move together in colonies comprising hundreds to thousands of flamingos. The easiest way to tell the two flamingo species apart is from their height.
The Greater Flamingos
The Greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is the tallest of all the flamingo species. On average, an adult flamingo height ranges from 1-1.5 meters. They weigh between 1.8-4 kg. Greater flamingo’s wing length is 1.4-1.8 meters.
The Lesser Flamingo
As their name suggests, lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) are noticeably smaller in size and height compared to Greater flamingos. The height of lesser flamingo averages 95 -110 cm. lesser flamingos weigh between 1.1-26 kg. Much like with the rest of Africa, the lesser flamingos comprise the largest percentage of Tanzania’s flamingo population. Flamingos are said to acquire their beautiful pink color from the Blue – green algae or Spirulina they feed on. The less they feed on these algae, the less pink they are!
Best Time to See Flamingos in Tanzania
Flamingos can be seen in Tanzania year-round. Regardless of when you visit Tanzania, there are high chances of spotting flamingos around the various soda lakes. However, the peak flamingo season in Tanzania is from November to May. During this time of the year, you can witness enormous flocks of Tanzania’s pink flamingos. Outside of the peak season flamingos are fewer and tend to move to the center of lake. But given that flamingos are migratory birds, they move to and from the various soda lakes in Tanzania during this period. Simply put, the best time to see plenty of flamingos for each location depends on their migratory pattern. So, if you want to see them in their thousands, it is best to keep their migratory pattern in mind.
Flamingo Migratory Patterns: What Determines Where and When to See Flamingos in Tanzania
As noted earlier, wild flamingos are mainly found in salty and shallow lakes. They thrive well in saline conditions. There are three key factors that dictate on when, where and the number of flamingos you can see in a particular location. These are:
- Availability of Food
In the wild, flamingos mainly survive on algae and brine shrimp which are abundant in mineral-rich waters of alkaline lakes. Once the salinity of the lake is interfered with following changes in climate, the habitat becomes hostile for algae growth. As a result, flamingos fly away to other salty lakes in search of pastures.
- Fluctuating Lake Water Levels
Salinity of lake waters is dictated by rising and receding of water levels, which in turn affects the survival of algae. When the water levels rise, the salinity in the lake is lost, while as when the water levels fall, the lake becomes acidic. This imbalance leads to the death of algae and shrimps. Loss of algae equals to loss of flamingos.
- Breeding Season
During their breeding season, flamingos fly to their breeding grounds. In Tanzania, Lake Natron is the main flamingo breeding ground. So during this season, most of the flamingos move to Lake Natron to mate, nest, hatch and breed. They will stay here for 3-4 months before migrating to Lake Manyara in Tanzania and Lake Bogoria in Kenya, amongst other salty lakes in East Africa.
Best Locations and Peak Times to Find Wild Flamingos in Tanzania
Lake Natron is the best spot to find plenty of flamingos in Tanzania. Did you know Lake Natron is the largest breeding ground for lesser flamingos in Africa? Yes, close to three million lesser flamingos come here to hatch their eggs. The best time of the year to watch flamingos in Lake Natron is between the months of September and December. During the month of September, the flamingos are building their nests and laying eggs. From November to December, the flamingos are hatching. Overall, December is considered the prime time since a lot of chicks are already hatched. Designated as an important Global Ramsar Site, Lake Natron lies in Northern Tanzania. It is a shallow hyper-saline lake measuring 56 kilometers in length and 21 kilometers in width. It is only three meters deep at its deepest point. Its PH can rise up to 10. The Lesser flamingos are well adapted to the high alkaline levels, thanks to the toughened scales on their legs! The extreme alkaline nature of the lake combined with the high temperatures in the area favors the growth of spirulina, which is the main source of food for flamingos. Lake Natron makes a great home for lesser flamingo’s breeding because of two main reasons. One, the hyper-saline water of the lake acts as a natural barrier that keeps predators such as large cats and birds away from their eggs and chicks. Secondly, Lake Natron has plenty of cyanobacteria which can sustain them throughout the entire breeding season. Depending on the season, water levels and time of the day you visit Lake Natron, its color can range from deep red or pink to orange. The climate around Lake Natron is hot and humid. Temperatures can reach as high as 60ºC. Therefore, the best time to visit Lake Natron is during the early morning hours or late afternoon.