A Guide To Lake Magadi Kenya
Deep in the heart of Southern Kenya’s Maasai land is the unearthly Lake Magadi. This 104 sq km soda lake is completely surrounded by vast natural salt flats. These sweltering hot plains prevent any animals reaching the alkaline lake at its centre.
For this reason, thousands of flamingo descend on the lake each year to nest on elevated mud mounds at the lake’s edge safe from any potential predators.
Freshwater springs at the Lake’s shore attract a host of other birds.
A journey to Magadi is to enter another world. The baking salt plains stretch into horizons of shimmering heat haze, while the shallow lake heaves with the pink waves of nesting flamingo. The otherworldly atmosphere is compounded by the intense heat and the isolation.
Magadi is often the final destination for treks from the Nguruman escarpment or the Loita hills.
Proximity to Nairobi means that trekkers can leave the heat of Magadi behind and ascend 1000 metres to the highland cool of the capital.
Lake Magadi is an amazing unique and serene destination for nature lovers, bird lovers and adventure camping tourists. Endowed with a wide variety of bird species, the lake’s spectacular geographical landscape to the northern part serves as the main attraction to many visitors in search of pristine camping grounds in vast wilderness.
Lake Magadi is well known for its wading birds, including flamingos and Pelicans. A number of wildlife is also found around the lake; this includes giraffes, antelopes, ostriches, zebras, wildebeests, hyenas, and a few lion families are only seen very early in the morning or at night when the temperatures are low. Elephants and buffalos can be seen at the conservancy to the south of the lake.
The Lake occupies the lowest level of the vast rift valley depression, approximately 100 square kilometers and its bed consists almost entirely of solid or semisolid soda; crispy caked crust, dyeing the waters vivid pink. This is the southernmost lake in the Kenyan Rift Valley, lying in a catchment of faulted volcanic rocks, north of Tanzania’s Lake Natron. During the dry season, the lake is mainly covered by soda (sodium carbonate).
A single species of fish, a cichlid Alcolapia grahami, inhabits the hot, highly alkaline waters of this lake basin and is commonly seen in some of the hot spring pools around the shoreline, where the water temperature is less than 45°C. An amazing view of the lake that fascinates many travellers is on top of a hill next to the bird rock where many bird species gather for warmth in the early and late hours of the day.
A causeway that crosses the lake provides access to the area west of the lake to Nguruman Escarpment where visitors can enjoy amazing landscape view and swim at the pool below the escarpment’s waterfalls. Trekking up the escarpment takes about an hour preferably early morning when the temperatures are low.
Lake Magadi is featured in Fernando Meirelles’s film The Constant Gardener, which is based on the book of the same name by John le Carré,.
Lake Magadi Kenya Township
Lake Magadi township lies on the lake’s east shore, and is home to the Magadi Soda factory, owned by Tata India since December 2005. This factory produces soda ash, which has a range of industrial uses.
The lake is featured in Fernando Meirelles’s film The Constant Gardener, which is based on the book of the same name by John le Carré, although in the film the shots are supposed to be at Lake Turkana.
A causeway that crosses the lake provides access to the area west of the lake (Nguruman Escarpment). Recently accommodation for tourists is provided in air conditioned canvas tents.
How to get to Lake Magadi Kenya
Main road access to Magadi is directly from Nairobi by bus, matatu or private transport, via Kiserian. Many trekkers hike to Magadi from the Nguruman Escarpment and the Loita Hills.
A Map of Lake Magadi
Getting Around Lake Magadi Kenya
Private vehicles are the best way to access Lake Magadi and Olorgasalie.
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What To Do In Lake Magadi
Lake Magadi has a number of wild animals to see: most common wildlife includes the giraffe, wildebeest, zebras, antelopes and gerenuk. Other animals can also be seen at specific times of the early morning and late evening around the lake and in the conservancy – this includes hyenas, lions, buffalos and elephants. This is because, the temperatures during the day are so high and some of these animals go in hiding to escape the heat. You need to plan in advance with tour guides to be able to see them. Night game drive is also possible to see the nocturnal animals.
Hot Springs Bath
The hot springs serve as a key attraction to many visitors to Magadi. This is a natural basin curved depression on the ground with bubbling hot waters. The water is believed to have medicinal value to the skin curing ailments such as skin rushes, pimples and acne, dry skin conditions and also helps in strengthening the bones in the body. A late evening or early morning bath is a thrilling massage-like, best experience one can have. (During the day it can be too hot with the overhead sun)
Trekking and Hikking – Landscape Viewing
On an overnight safari, hiking can be planned on the northern part of the lake – little lake Magadi. Little lake Magadi is a detached small lake from the main lake with an island in the center. This area is pristine and the landscape is just so beautiful. Tourists would trek and hike around the lake identifying the different bird species, the eggs on the ground and to the northern hot springs for egg boiling. The waters here are too hot to touch. In most occasions, tourists would sit around the rocks for steam bath which massages your body and bones. Remember, the area is humid and hot: wear closed rubber shoes and have enough drinking water.
Star Gazing – Night Bonfire With Nyama Choma
Magadi sky is in most times blue clear. Visitors on camping safari are able to see the stars at night identifying the various starts and also the Milky Way pattern. Plans are currently underway to include professional astronauts with equipment’s to be able to view the stars.
This can be organized for visitors on an overnight safari. Visitors would be entertained by traditional Maasai dance and music by the warriors as they enjoy the mouthwatering nyama choma prepared in traditional style. On request, tourists can participate in slaughtering and roasting the meat the traditional way.
The lake is endowed with a number of bird species such as flamingoes, water ducks, pelicans, white stalk, marabou stalk, black smith pullover, eared avocets, black wing stilt among many other…
During the rainy season, the lake received thousands of flamingoes from the breeding grounds of Lake Natron which is close by.
Cultural Maasai Boma Visit
On request, tourists can visit local traditional Maasai bomas commonly known as manyattas: the visit has to be organized early in the morning or in the evening when the cattle’s and goats are in the homestead. You can have an opportunity to learn about the lifestyle of the community, their beliefs and also participate in milking of the goats and cows.
Breakfast or dinner can be organized in the cultural bomas.
What To See At Lake Magadi
Lake Magadi holds some remarkable wildlife, landscape and birding sights that you have to see them to believe.
The variety of birds in Lake Magadi is made possible by the favorable climate, diverse habitats and geographical features that make it a suitable migratory route for birds.
The lake is endowed with a wide variety of birds including flamingoes and pelicans among hundreds of other bird species.
Often dubbed “All of Kenya in one region” certainly Magadi’s landscape is among the most scenically diverse and dramatic on the African continent. The northern part of the lake towards Ngurumani escarpment is scenic and the landscape is amazing.
This is a great destination for hiking and exploration of the breeding grounds for birds. Camping is also appropriate around the lake.
Game to be encountered includes giraffes, wildebeests, Somali Ostrich, Beisa Oryx, Zebra, long necked antelopes, the Gerenuk.
Other wild animals though rare to be seen during the day include the hyenas, lions and elephants in the Shompole conservancy.
Accomodation At Lake Magadi
Lake Magadi Tented Camp
The tented campsite situated just on the shores of the lake offers a breathtaking scenery at sunset with the shadow of the Ngurumani escarpment and the sun rays reflecting on the surface of the water. The mining dredges on the lake also form an amazing sight at night with the lighting of the waterlines to the factory.
The tents are self-contained; have a bed with white clean fresh beddings; the walls and roofs are made of canvas. All tents are fitted with air conditioners. Room service is available 24/7.
A bonfire place set towards the shores of the lake; cool soft wind blows across this area in the evening as visitors enjoy music and dinner as well as drinks and beverages from the bar counter set on the side. (max 30 doubles or 15 singles)
The annex is a situated at the sports club an ideal sport for couples and families. The rooms are self-contained, made of ceramic tiles, has a reading table and fitted with Dstv. Compared to the tents, the annex has bigger bed with mosquito nets (though mosquitos are very few around)
Shompole Wilderness Camp
About Shompole Wilderness Camp
Shompole Wilderness camp is strategically located under huge fig trees on the shores of River Ewaso Ngiro; that runs down the Great Rift Valley into Lake Natron, providing an amazing view of the river cascading down stream; the ideal location of the lodge offers you the opportunity to interact with nature up close and personal. Shompole Conservancy is located on the Kenya – Tanzania border and is half way between Amboseli National Park and the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Fun things to do:
Game drives (day and night), walking, tracking in the dust, baboon walks, tubing, walking with cattle, sundowners, bush meals.
Great place to see the Great Rift Valley, flamingoes, Masai culture, nocturnal mammals.
About Lentorre Lodge
Lentorre lodge is located at the foothills of Nguruman escarpment; the lodge is among Kenya’s newest Luxury Safari sensation, built on a spur overlooking the vast untouched wilderness of the Olkiramatian and Shompole group Ranches.
The lodge rooms embraces the surrounding bush opening up to the warm African breeze with an un-spoilt view of the wilderness looking down to the ever changing shades of Mt. Shompole. Each room has its own dedicated plunge pool and luxurious en-suite bathroom. Hot and cold water feed power showers and luxurious mosaic bathtubs open directly into the bush.
Lake Magadi Safari (tour) Packages
Jaza Train To Lake Magadi
About Jaza Train
In effort to spice up and create a unique adventure in safaris to Lake Magadi, the Jaza train project a partnership of the Magadi Soda Foundation and the TATA Chemicals rail operations department, travelers can now enjoy an amazing and fun train ride from Kajiado to Magadi: a 3 hours drive in a distance of about 130 kms. Previously, the train cabins were used to transport workers maintaining the railway line.
Safari Package By Train
It is possible to book the train and join in another circuit such as:
Train ride to Magadi and drive to Lake Natron Train ride to Magadi and drive to Nguruman for camping etc.
Currently, the train ride is one way to Magadi and safari back is usually by road: we are however looking at options to have the train ride two ways to avoid the current potholed Magadi Nairobi road
Lake Natron Safari: Flamingos
Lake Natron is the breeding grounds to millions of flamingos which migrate to Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria and Lake Magadi. The lake which lies at the boarder of Kenya and Tanzania is an amazing destination to bird watchers as millions of flamingos spread across the entire lake forming a pink skyline to the horizons. When totally silent, you will hear the squeaking-noise of the birds in millions.
Hill Of Red Roses
A view point of the lake known as the hill of desert red roses can be accessed by hiking to the top. A breathtaking view of the flamingos at a distance, river Ewaso Ngiro snaking its way to the Lake through the green grassland with wildlife scattered across the valley is a camera shot not to miss!
Safari to Lake Magadi can be organized for individuals and groups with overnight stays at Lake Magadi or better still camping at the shores of the Lake Natron. Accessibility and the road status to lake Natron from Shompole past lake Magadi is dusty and rocky at some point and only four wheel drive and land cruisers can access with no so much trouble. Having a local tour guide from around the area is highly recommended.
Nguruman: Entasopia Falls Safari
About Nguruman: Entasopia Falls
Nguruman escarpment lies between Lake Magadi and Maasai Mara National park. The escarpment provides a rich water resource at its foot where many locals engage in agricultural activities mainly for export. From Magadi, you will be surprised at the lush green and cool environments different from the dry hot arid environments around Magadi.
The escarpment offers an amazing view below of the plains stretching to a distance of over 100km to Lake Magadi and Lake Natron. A waterfall at the top of the escarpment has a great picnic and camping grounds overlooking steep forested valleys with a lot of birds and natural flower scents. Wildlife exists in the area and it is highly recommended you are accompanied by a professional well trained guide.
To a height of about 1500m above sea level, it takes about 3.5 hours’ trekking to the rocky top of the escarpment. Hyena footprint and buffalo trucks can be seen along the way. Camping can be arranged at the top of the escarpment. Tentatively, you will need 3 days for this safari with day one travelling to the foot of the escarpment, day two trekking and day three journey back. Overnight stay at Lake Magadi is recommended to visit the flamingoes course way and the hot springs which is a relieving massage to your muscles after the hard activity.
Day Trips To LAke Magadi
About The Safari
Day trips to Lake Magadi can be organized for groups and individual visitors from Nairobi. This safari is mostly suitable for short stay travellers and budget travellers: Though not as enjoyable as an overnight safari, day trips safari would entail the following activities:
- Road trip to Magadi en-route Olorgesailie pre-historic museum.
- Game drive and Bird watching
- Hiking to the view point of the lake
- Hot springs bath
- Swimming at the sports club
- Goat roasting and nyama choma.
Kindly note that, with the overhead sun during the day, the hot springs may feel to be too hot and most day trippers may not actually take a bath in the springs but only feel with their hands and legs. Take plenty of water before entering into the hot springs.
These trips can be organized anytime of the week. The rates are different depending on the size of the group.
Olorgesailie Museum/Lake Magadi Safari
Olorgesailie prehistoric museum is Located along Magadi road, an hour’s drive and 70kms away from Nairobi. Olorgesailie pre-historic site is world renown as the “factory of stone tools” and the only place in the world with the largest number; the site has excellently preserved biological and cultural evidence about the evolution of man. Activities around the museum include the museum visit, bird watching and mountain climbing on Olorgesailie Mountain. It takes about 2.5 hours climbing on this mountain. Unless doing mountain climbing, a visit to the museum should take not more than 3 hours and later drive to Lake Magadi for overnight, hot springs bath and bird watching.
Lake Magadi Contacts
On self-drive, take the Magadi road from the junction Bomas of Kenya and galleria towards Rongai and Kiserian. Proceed for about 3 hours (87kms from kiserian) along the road – you will pass Ole Tepesi Centre, Olorgesailie prehistoric museum, Esonorua and Kamukuru shopping centers. At the check point road block, the guides ill direct you to the sports club where you will get a guide and pay for your entrance.
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