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Lake Elmenteita, not just a bird watching paradise

The small lake in the Rift Valley is rich in history and scenery

19-01-2024 by redazione

Located between Lakes Naivasha and Nakuru, although small, Lake Elmenteita (also known as Elemantaita) is one of the most important in Kenya's Great Rift Valley, as it is the breeding and feeding ground for many rare and endangered bird species. The area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and included in Kenya's protected areas in 2011.

Elmenteita is nestled in the eastern part of the Great Rift Valley and offers idyllic scenery: hills and valleys slope gently down to its shores where large herds of buffalo, water antelope, eland, zebra, giraffe, gazelle including the rare greater and lesser kudu, find abundant grazing in the more than two and a half thousand hectares that make up the wildlife sanctuary, just over an hour's drive from Nairobi and forty kilometres from the more famous Lake Nakuru National Park.


During the dry season, the black lava islands are the only suitable nesting and breeding site for the Great White Pelican in the Rift Valley region.
Due to the small size of the lake, fluctuations in the water level affect its salinity. As a result, conditions change, making it an unstable place for flamingos to rely on for food. Nevertheless, the lake is a paradise for bird lovers, as it is home to more than 450 species, including migratory birds.


Lake Elmenteita is part of the Soysambu Conservancy, established in 2007, and is about 30 km from Lake Nakuru. The freshwater lake is located on private land, but visitors are allowed to enter. Birdlife is also abundant here, with flamingos in particular and it is possible to come across zebras, gazelles, eland and warthog families. The lake and its surrounding forests are ideal for long walks and also for enjoying a splendid view of the Rift Valley.


The Maasai have roamed the area for centuries and the name derives from their name Ol muteita meaning 'place of dust'. The first settler to reach the Lake Elmenteita area was Lord Delamere in 1897. As well as one of the proponents of British colonialism in East Africa, Delamere was a pioneer in agriculture and in 1906 he settled permanently on Lake Elmenteita, where his descendants still live today.


The landscape around the lake is varied, with craters, lava flows, caps and other remnants of the area's volcanic history. There are also strange geometric patterns created by erosion of the very porous soil. Towards the southern end of the lake are the hot springs of Kekopey, a place thought to be an ancient trading post involved in the ivory and slave trade of yesteryear.
Today, locals depend on the hot springs around Kekopey for domestic freshwater supply, subsistence irrigation and to water their livestock.

TAGS: lago elmenteitarift valley kenyariserve kenya

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