The Tinderet volcano (19.9 to 5.5 Ma), located within the Kavirondo rift in Kenya, contains blocks of carbonatite lavas with calcite, minor apatite, fluorite, spinel-group minerals, accessory perovskite and ‘plumbopyrochlore’; nyerereite is present as inclusions in the perovskite. At least four types of calcite are present in the carbonatite lavas; they differ in morphology, composition and origin. The dominant variety is secondary type-II calcite, which is enriched in sodium (up to 1.1 wt.% Na2O) and strontium (up to 1.3 wt.% SrO). The spinel-group minerals are manganese-bearing and include Mn-rich magnetite, magnesioferrite and jacobsite. Oxygen isotope data for bulk carbonatite samples (δ18O = +16.2‰ to +22.6‰ VSMOW) support a low crystallization temperature for the secondary calcite. Petrographic, mineralogical and isotopic data indicate that the Tinderet carbonatites are similar to natrocarbonatites from the Oldoinyo Lengai and Kerimasi volcanoes that have altered and recrystallized to form calcite carbonatites. These data support the hypothesis that some of the Tinderet carbonatites were originally alkali-rich rocks which contained primary nyerereite.