Kenya Safari Guide | Exploring the Great Rift Valley

Hot-air ballooning in Great Rift Valley from Governors CampHot-air ballooning in Great Rift Valley from Governors Camp

Exploring the Great Rift Valley is a magnificent adventure. Experiencing the depth and scope of this remarkable geological feature and its many attractions will be the highlight of any safari holiday.

Just north of Nairobi on the A104 highway you'll reach the start of the Great Rift Valley. The views are spectacular as the valley drops away and you can literally see for thousands of miles to the horizon. The arid valley floor forms a great corridor which is flanked by mountains and deep forest.

Once you descend into the valley your adventure begins! You'll see amazing lakes and volcanic formations plus a wide variety of birds and game. Here is an overview of some of the attractions to be found along the way travelling north through the valley:

Mount Longonot National Park

Mount Logonot is a rather impressive volcano rising out of the plains. The actual crater is huge and once you have climbed up the slopes you can look down into it and see a lush forest that covers the crater floor. The hike is rewarding for the wildlife you can see while climbing and the wonderful views of Lake Naivasha from the top.

Apart from hiking, you can also enjoy rock climbing, biking, bird watching and game viewing.

Hell's Gate National Park

Hell's Gate takes its name from the giant red cliffs which stand on either side of natural hot spring geysers in the park. This national park near Lake Naivasha is also well known for its Raptor and Eagle nesting grounds, extinct volcanoes, rock climbing and gorge walks.

Hell's Gate is a wonderful environment for cycling through game rich areas - you can hire bikes locally and explore a range of tracks and roads. Wildlife in the park includes Buffalo, Lion, Eland, Giraffe, Leopard and a great variety of bird species.

Lake Naivasha

Lake Naivasha. Great Rift ValleyThis beautiful freshwater lake is a superb birding destination. Naivasha is surrounded by forest and the water is a natural magnet for wildlife. Hippos and Buffalo favour the shallows while Giraffe can be seen amongst the Acacia trees. This is a popular weekend getaway spot and top activities include hiking, rock climbing, fishing and boating. Near the western shore of Lake Naivasha is another small water body called Sonachi or Crater Lake.

The water is a bright green colour and there is a well stocked game sanctuary around it with numerous walking trails. Birdlife is also excellent here and you can even see Flamingos. Activities available include boating, horse riding, game drives and historic explorations.

See Lake Naivasha accommodation and tours

Lake Elementeita

This soda lake is closely linked to Lord Delamere, one of the first pioneers of the colony of Kenya. The lake is situated in a fertile region and you can often see wildlife on the shore and Flamingos on the water. There are hot springs and forests in the surroundings. Popular activities include birding and walks.

Lake Nakuru National Park

A favourite location for massive flocks of Flamingos, this is where you can view a 'sea of pink' as the birds cluster together and move about on the water en masse .A diverse range of habitats surround the lake which is great for game viewing and exceptional birding. It is not unusual to see a Rhino on the shore with Flamingo-filled lake waters in the background. The lake forms the centre piece of the national park which is home to Black and White Rhino, Rothschild Giraffe, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah Buffalo and Zebra.

See Lake Nakuru National Park accommodation

Lake Bogoria National Park

If you can imagine cobalt blue skies framing a pink lake, then you will be thinking of thousands of Flamingos at Bogoria which is a soda lake. This is a volcanic area and you can spot hot water geysers and freshwater springs on the lake shore.

It's a bird watchers haven off the beaten track but you can also see game including the rare Greater Kudu antelope in the surrounding grasslands.

Lake Baringo National Park

This is the second of the freshwater lakes in the Great Rift Valley (after Naivasha), and most welcome it is in the very dry northern frontier of Kenya. The lake has lots of fish and therefore attracts a great variety of water birds such as Cormorants and Pelicans and of course Fish Eagles - there are at least 450 bird species recorded at the lake.

Hippo and Crocodile also do very well here. Boating and fishing are popular attractions and the park makes an excellent stopover on the way to the far north.

Lake Turkana

This is the last of the freshwater lakes in the Great Rift Valley and the largest desert lake in the world. Turkana is actually more like an inland sea. A scenic flight over the water is really the only way to appreciate its vastness. The colour of the water is a sparkling blue-green colour.

There is a lot to see and do in this truly isolated area - highlights include archaeological wonders and wildlife (Koobi Fora and Sibiloi National Park), Central Island National Park, boating, fishing, birding and unforgettable cultural interaction with some of Kenya's most exotic and remote tribes.
Read more about Lake Turkana

by Heather Willowmore

African Safaris Guide to South and East Africa
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