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Hell's Gate
Lake Baringo species list
By Kenya Birds.
Mount Longonot National Park
Oldoinyo Sapuk National Park
Mwea National Reserve
Safari glossary
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More parks: Central Kenya
Most safari-goers come to Kenya to visit the main parks in the southern and central parts of the country. They offer the best wildlife and have infrastructures for safari tourism making them comparatively easy to visit. These main parks are:
Masai Mara NR
Lake Nakuru NP
Samburu & Shaba NR
Aberdare NP
Mount Kenya NP
Nairobi NP
Lake Naivasha
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More parks to visit
These areas also have other parks, which may not have wildlife good enough to be of interest to most safari-goer, but may attract visitors that are looking for places off the beaten track or places offering special features.

The parks and areas described below are all such alternative places to go. They have by far fewer visitors than the main parks, and generally offer a less developed infrastructure. The roads may be very poor, the options for comfortable accommodation fewer or absent, etc.

Hell's Gate National Park
Hell's Gate National Park (68 km2/26 sq mi) is a hot, barren and rocky area just south of Lake Naivasha. You may visit the park by foot to experience rock walls, 25 m/80 ft high volcanic cones, ravines, hot springs and views of Lake Naivasha.

Hell's Gate has quite a lot of mammals, even though many of these are small species. Among the larger mammals are giraffes, elands, klipspringers and mountain reedbucks. The park has many birds of prey, and you may see up to 25 or 30 species in a day. Black eagle, lammergeier and lappet-faced vulture are some of these birds.

There are no lodges or tented camps in the park, but the lodges of Lake Naivasha aren't far away.

Hell's Gate map.
Hell's Gate map
Lake Baringo
Lake Baringo (130 km2/50 sq mi) is situated north of Lake Bogoria in the Great Rift Valley, roughly 5 hours' drive from Nairobi. It's set in a dry region, but the areas closest to the lake are comparatively lush. The fresh water of the lake is reddish-brown, coloured by the topsoils of this area. Some mammals may be seen around the lake, but it's mainly a good area for bird watching, where you may go birding by foot or by boat. Some 450 bird species have been recorded, including black eagle and various shrikes, bee-eaters, herons and storks. A rock in the lake is famous for its goliath herons. You may also see hippos and crocodiles.

Camps and lodges
Samatian Island Lodge is a small lodge on a private island in Lake Baringo. The lodge has five spacious cottages (one for families), built with open walls that are covered by mosquito nets at night. All rooms have ensuite bathroom and veranda with a lake view. The stone, wood and design result in a nice tree house atmosphere. There is a dining area, a lounge and an infinity pool facing the lake. Many activities are offered, for example fishing, boat and canoe trips, and tours around the lake and to Lake Bogoria.

Web site:

Roberts' Camp is a lakeside campsite (i.e. for camping), situated on the western shore of Lake Baringo, that also offers accommodation in basic tourist class cottages and bandas. There is a pub and restaurant. The camp offers activities such as bird watching and outings in the area.

Web site:

Lake Baringo Club is a tourist class hotel/lodge situated on the western shore of Lake Baringo. It has some 50 rooms with ensuite bathrooms, restaurant, bar, lounge, swimming pool, conference facilities and gift shop. Activities offered are guided bird walks and boat trips.

Island Camp is a nice tented camp set on Ol Kokwe Island, which is the largest island in Lake Baringo. The camp has 23 normal furnished safari tents with private bathrooms and verandas. There is also a larger honeymoon suite. There is a restaurant, a bar and a swimming pool. The activities offered include excursions by foot and boat, birding, fishing, cruises and water sports.

Lake Bogoria National Reserve
Lake Bogoria National Reserve (107 km2/41 sq mi) is found south of Lake Baringo, but is unlike Baringo not a freshwater lake but a soda lake. The national reserve includes the lake and some land surrounding it.

The landscape is wild and barren, and temperatures are often very high. The western lakeshore has steaming hot springs, while the 600 m/2,000 ft rock walls of the Ngendelel Escarpent face the eastern shore.

Lake Bogoria is, like the other soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley, favoured by flamingos. Tens of thousands of these birds can sometimes be seen on the lake. Also other birds, including water birds, can be seen. The mammal wildlife isn't very good, but this park, in particular the eastern lakeshore, is probably the best place in Kenya where to see greater kudu.

Camps and lodges
Lake Bogoria Hotel, or Lake Bogoria Spa Resort, is a tourist class hotel situated in Lake Bogoria National Reserve, and has some 20 rooms in the main building, and some 20 in bungalows. There is a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, conference facilities, and a swimming pool.

Lake Magadi
Lake Magadi (approximately 100 km2/39 sq mi), situated close to the Tanzanian border in southern Kenya, has the highest soda content of all Great Rift Valley soda lakes. Soda is even extracted for commercial use.

The lake is shallow and the water undrinkable, but it contains microorganisms that attract birds, mainly flamingos. Other birds found around the lake are pelicans, herons and African spoonbills. Lake Magadi is the only place in Kenya where chestnut-banded plovers are observed regularly.

The Lake Magadi area cannot be compared to the true safari parks as to wildlife. The landscape surrounding the lake is very hot and barren, and mainly suits wildlife adapted to such an environment, such as gerenuks, oryx and caracals. Ostriches, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, lions and cheetahs are rare visitors.

There are no lodges by the lake, but a fairly good road from Nairobi allows for day tours to the area. The distance is roughly 100 km/60 mi, with Olorgesailie en route. Also see Shompole below, where very good accommodation is available.

The crater rim of Mount Longonot.

Mount Longonot National Park
Mount Longonot National Park (52 km2/20 sq mi) is, like Hell's Gate, found just south of Lake Naivasha, a 1.5-hour drive from Nairobi and en route to Masai Mara. It's the highest (2,776 m/9,108 ft) volcano in the Kenyan part of Great Rift Valley. Barren slopes lead up to a 3 km/2 mi wide crater rim, from which steep crater walls lead down to the forested crater floor. The floor has some wildlife of African buffalos, baboons and vervet monkeys.

The only way to visit the crater is to climb the mountain. It's a tough 4–5-hour climb, but the Great Rift Valley views from the rim are rewarding. From there, you can reach the crater floor by following narrow paths and climbing through thickets. You need to hire a local guide for escort and for finding your way on the mountain.

Mwea National Reserve
Mwea National Reserve (68 km2/26 sq mi) is some 100 km/60 mi north-east of Nairobi, and is a park of interest mainly to bird watchers. It is fairly unexploited and lacks accommodation, but there are some roads for game viewing.

Most of the park is covered by thickets, broken by forest patches. Nearby dams attract many water birds and waders, and the park itself has many birds of prey. Some wildlife is present, including elephant, African buffalo, lesser kudu, hippo, waterbuck, bushbuck, impala, warthog and crocodile. The mammal carnivore family is represented by jackals, genets and mongoose.

Accommodation is available in hotels and camping sites outside the park.

Ol Doinyo Sapuk National Park
Ol Doinyo Sapuk National Park (18 km2/7 sq mi) is situated 80 km/50 mi north of Nairobi, and protects a forested mountain (2,146 m/7,041 ft). You can drive to the summit (4WD is required) to get a good view of the park and the surrounding plains. Africa's two highest mountains, Kilimanjaro (in Tanzania) and Mount Kenya, may be seen in clear weather. You may also do a three-hour walk up to the summit, provided you hire a park ranger for escort.

The wildlife isn't very impressive. African buffalos, bushbucks, blue monkeys and vervet monkeys are the most common mammal species. Leopards inhabit the forests, but are rarely seen. Bird watchers may see hawks, turacos, bee-eaters, orioles, trogons and various sunbirds. Many butterflies can be seen during the rainy seasons, i.e. the flowering seasons.

There are camping sites in the park, but no lodges or tented camps.

Olorgesailie National Monument
Olorgesailie National Monument (0.2 km2/0.1 sq mi) is a prehistorical settlement situated 70 km/43 mi south of Nairobi, along the road to Lake Magadi. Groups of pre-human Homo erectus lived in this area 750,000 to 1,000,000 years ago. A museum displays hand axes and other stone tools, as well as fossilized bones from prehistorical animals.

Shompole is a conservancy (140 km2/55 sq mi) in southern Kenya, on the border to Tanzania. The conservancy occupies the floor of the Great Rift Valley west and south-west of Lake Magadi, and east of the Nguruman Escarpment. Masai Mara is some 80 km/50 mi to the the west, and Tanzanian Lake Natron is just south of the border. The conservancy is surrounded by a Maasai group ranch (565 km2/220 sq mi) that provides a dispersal zone for the wildlife and a buffer zone to human settlement.

The area has a spectacular scenery that includes the rift valley escarpment, the soda lakes Magadi and Natron attracting flamingos, volcanic mountains, gallery forests along the river, plains, and wetlands on the flats north of Lake Natron.

The rift valley floor in this part of Kenya (and in northmost Tanzania) is semi-arid, but Shompole has permanent water in the Ewaso Nyiro River flowing from the north to Lake Natron, and in a reliable groundwater supplied from the hills west of the Nguruman Escarpment.

The wildlife in the area includes giraffe, eland, wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, serval, bat-eared fox, honey-badger and more.

Camps and lodges
Shompole Lodge is a stylish luxury lodge on the edge of the Nguruman Escarpment, overlooking the Great Rift Valley. It's designed in a very contemporary style with an African touch. There are six rooms and two suites, all with ensuite bathroom, plunge pool and views of the rift valley. The rooms are fully open, having no windows or doors, but are covered in mosquito nets at night. The lodge has a dining and lounge area and swimming pool. In addition to the rooms and suites, there is also a villa sleeping four people and offering privacy, private dining and a private swimming pool. The main activities offered at Shompole are day and night game drives, bush walks, mountain biking and fly camping.

Web site:

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Page updated 25 January 2010