A Guide To Lake Elementaita

Lake Elementaita is a small (18sq km) soda lake in the eastern sweep of the Great Rift Valley. Lake Elementaita is surrounded by spectacular country that played an important role in the early colonial history of Kenya. This was the estate and stronghold of Lord Delamere.

Today Elmenteita is a peaceful and low-key place, lying in the shadow of an impressively peaked hill known locally known as the ‘Sleeping Maasai’.

Lake Elementaita attracts many visiting flamingo, and it shores are grazed by zebra, gazelle, eland and families of warthog. The lake and its surrounding forests are perfect for long walks and birding…

History of Lake Elementaita

Lake Elementaita lies in the shadow of a hill locally known as the ‘Sleeping Maasai .The Lake attracts many visiting flamingo, and along the shores graze zebra, gazelle, eland and warthog.

Elmenteita is derived from the Masaai word muteita, meaning “dust place”, a reference to the dryness and dustyness of the area, especially between January and March. The town of Gilgilis near the lake. In the south-to-north sequence of Rift Valley lakes, Elmenteita is between Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru. The major NairobiNakuru highway (A104 Road) runs along the nearby escarpment affording motorists a spectacular vista towards the lake.Today the lake is a protected area due to its birdlife fame and also it has been named as one of the heritage sites together with the Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria by UNESCO.

At the southern end of Lake Elementaita are the “Kekopey” hot springs, in which the Tilapia grahami breed. Very popular for bathing, the local Maasai claim that it can cure AIDS. The reed beds nearby are fishing grounds for night herons and pelicans.

The Lake Elmenteita area saw its first white settlement when Lord Delamere (1879-1931) established Soysambu, a 48,000-acre (190 km2) ranch, on the western side of the lake. Delamere gifted the land on the other side of the lake to his brother-in-law, the Honorable Galbraith Lowry Egerton Cole (1881-1929), part of whose “Kekopey Ranch”, where he is buried, is preserved today as the Lake Elementaita Lodge.

Soysambu ranch is still occupied by Lord Delamere’s descendants, including the controversial Thomas P. G. Cholmondeley who has been instrumental in setting up the Soysambu conservancy. The conservancy covers 2/3 of the shoreline and is home to over 12000 wild animals.Lake Elmenteita has been a Ramsar site since 2005

How to get to Lake Elementaita

Main road access to Lake Elementaita is directly from Nairobi by bus/Matatu or private transport. The main highway continues to Nakuru. The nearest town is Gilgil. Elmenteita is a one and a half hour drive from Nairobi. There is an airstrip in Naivasha, with charter flights available. Lodges and camps here can organize transfers from Nairobi to Naivasha.

If you plan to make a day trip to Lake Elementaita from Lake Nakuru National Park, the easiest way is to leave the park through Nderit Gate, beyond Lake Nakuru Lodge. This track dies at the D320, which runs southward (right) heading for Elmenteita town, where it joins the D321.

This is a good area to explore on foot. Lodges and Camps here can organize local excursions.

A Map to Lake Elementaita

What to see in Lake Elementaita

Flamingos usually visit Lake Elementaita, though in much smaller numbers than in Lake Nakuru. Some fishing birds can also be found here, such as pelicans and herons.

In the old days there was also a hippo colony, but it disappeared due to the droughts, that occasionally have completely dried up the lake.

Lake Elementaita
Lake Elementaita

Activities to do at Lake Elementaita

  • Bird watching
  • Swim in the Kekopey hot springs
  • Nature walk around the shoreline
  • Game watching
  • Camping under the stars.

Where to stay at Lake Elementaita

Nearness to Nakuru offers the chance to stay at one of the lodges at Lake Nakuru and make a day trip to Elmenteita. Nevertheless, this lake has its own lodging choices:

Lake Elementaita Lodge:

This lodge, now belonging to Jacaranda Hotels, is an ancient farmhouse built in 1916 which belonged to the settler and farmer Lord Galbraith Cole. His brother was Berkeley Cole, friend of Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton who was featured in the movie version of ‘Out of africa’.

The facilities are surrounded by beautiful gardens set on a vantage point over the lake’s landscape. The quality of the restaurant is above average. Politeness of the employees reaches surfeit.

Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp:

The former Delamere’s Camp is since July 2011 the latest addition to the Serena collection. The camp hosts 24 luxury tents, all with views of the lake. Since it is located within the private Soysambu Wildlife Conservancy, access is only through reservation or by prior arrangement.

Elementaita Flamingo Camp & Cottages:

This is the most basic and affordable lodging option around the lake. It houses five tents and three cottages with a total capacity for 22 guests. There is a signpost on the main road leading to the property.

There is self camping available at Elementaita Flamingo Camp & Cottages.

Lake Elementaita Neighborhood

Gambles Cave

Near Lake Elementaita there are several prehistoric sites. In fact, frequently every new ground perforation brings to light remains of sorts, indicating that this area was densely populated in the old days. The best known place is Gambles Cave, 10 km southwest of Elmenteita town.

Best Time to Visit Lake Elementaita

Elementaita is a wondrous location to visit anytime during the year, but we recommend that you visit during the dry seasons that occur from July to October, January and February. The reason that we recommend these times is that the water sources are limited, so the animals gather around the few remaining fresh watering holes. As a result, wildlife viewing is better, and you get to see a variety of species interact in a relatively small area.

Another reason to plan your adventure-loving trip to Lake Elementaita during the dry seasons is that the logistics of your activities are not impacted by wet roads that can be difficult to traverse during the rains.

Lake Elementaita Video