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Exploring Kenya’s Rift Valley Lakes
The Great Rift Valley, stretching from Lebanon to Mozambique, is formed by diverging continental plates. The East African Rift, east of Lake Victoria, slices dramatically through Kenya, containing stunning freshwater and saline lakes, volcanoes (both active and extinct) and breath-taking wildlife. Here’s a lowdown on the lakes of Kenya’s Rift Valley…
Lake Turkana is the largest and northernmost of the lakes, spanning the border across into Ethiopia. It is the world’s largest permanent desert lake and third largest salt lake by volume. Levels fluctuate wildly year on year as the sun is fierce while there is no outflow of water. Turkana’s shores are populated by thousands of Nile crocodiles and hundreds of native and passing migratory birds. Surrounding the colour changing water is an arid and volcanic wilderness.
An off-the-beaten-track destination, this fresh water lake is renowned for its semi desert setting, traditional Njemps fishermen and rich bird life. Over 470 different species have been recorded there – on one occasion more than 300 in a single day.
34km long by 3.5km wide, the saline Lake Bogoria is shallow at around 10m deep and at times home to one of the world’s largest populations of lesser flamingos. The lake and its surroundings have been protected since 1973 as a National Reserve that also includes Kesubo Swamp to the north and the Siracho Escarpment to the east. The lake is famous for geysers and hot springs along the bank of the lake and in the lake itself.
Like Lake Borgoria, Nakuru is a saline lake with an abundance of algae that attract a vast quantity of flamingos. The area is protected as a national park, to which both black and white rhino and Rothschild giraffe have been introduced. The Lake contains warthogs, baboons and other large mammals such as waterbuck as well as being a great place to see leopard and other predators.
Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake, the name derives from the Maasai name Nai’posha, meaning “rough water” because of the sudden storms that can arise. Nearby is Hell’s Gate National Park, one of the few national parks in Kenya that can be explored wholly on foot. An hour by road from Nairobi, Mount Longonot is a dormant volcano located just southeast of Lake Naivasha and is itself a national park. A trail runs from the park entrance up to the crater rim, looping around the crater. The circuit is around 9km but very steep, so the hike takes around 5 hours. A forest of small trees covers the crater floor, and small steam vents are found spaced around the walls of the crater.
Where to stay in the Rift Valley
Loldia House is located on the northern shores of Lake Naivasha, under a canopy of acacia and giant fig trees. The four bedroom main house sits near to three individual cottages that are spread out atop a hill with glorious views of the lake. During the day, resident birding guides lead daily boat excursions and guests can take day trips to Lake Nakuru and Hell’s Gate.
Our Governors’ Flying Safari is a great way to experience two of the Rift Valley Lakes with stays at Lake Naivasha and Lake Victoria.