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Exploring Kenya: Five Places You’ve Probably Overlooked
By: Mama Mgeni
Think You've Seen it all in Kenya? Here are the Top Five Places You May Have overlooked
Okay, you’re a veteran expat in Kenya. You’ve off-roaded in the Mara. You’ve sailed on a dhow through the waters of Lamu. You’ve photographed elephants grazing in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park. Indeed, you may think you’ve seen it all - but there’s more to Kenya than the annual wildebeest migration. Here are a few places most expats haven’t ticked off their bucket lists. (Added bonus – ALL of these destinations are possible with small children in tow!)
1- Menengai Crater
Menengai Crater, just a 30-minute drive from Lake Nakuru, is probably not on your typical list of tourist destinations in Kenya. But it should be. Menengai Crater is a massive, largely defunct volcano, with one of the largest calderas in the world. The caldera is now overgrown with lush forest, but from the lip of the crater you can see the distinct pattern of lava flows. In the early morning hours, we also spotted active steam vents, spouting vapor into the cool morning air. We stayed at Maili Saba in a safari tent perched on the edge of the caldera. Standing on the rim of this crater, we felt like we had reached the end of the Earth.
2- Champagne Ridge
Fifty kilometers southwest of Nairobi lays Champagne Ridge in the Ngong Hills, boasting unparalleled views of the Great Rift Valley. Champagne Ridge was a popular spot for settlers during the British colonial period, and there are many beautiful old houses at which you can spend a lazy, windy weekend. We chose Miti Mbili, a gorgeous little house on the edge of the escarpment that is almost completely windmill-powered. We loved wandering along the ridge to a sundowner spot where we sat, sipped on a beer, and enjoyed the beauty of the Great Rift Valley.
3- Lake Baringo
A bit further afield, Lake Baringo is the northernmost lake in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Abundant with birdlife, there are over 470 bird species that call Lake Baringo home. We chose to pitch a tent at Robert’s Camp, which proved to be more adventurous than expected when we were woken in the wee hours by the terrifying sound of hippos munching grass just a few inches outside our tent. We also took a boat safari with a local guide, giving us a chance to get a picture-perfect shot of an African Fish Eagle plucking a fish from the lake with its impressive talons. Okay, it’s staged – the local fish eagle population has been trained to respond to a high-pitched whistle – but we came away with an amazing photograph and a fun story to tell our friends.
4- Fourteen Falls
Another little-known favorite is Fourteen Falls, outside Thika Town. My husband suggested this idea for a day-trip one Sunday, and I was happily surprised by the quick, easy drive up the Thika Highway. We enjoyed a meandering walk along the river and down the falls, at the bottom of which we took a boat ride across the foamy Athi River to a small island mid-stream for a better view. We packed a picnic lunch and spread a blanket out by the river to enjoy the views. Our young daughter got a big kick out of the resident stray dogs, looking for lazy picnic leftovers.
5- Mount Suswa
A true hidden gem, Mount Suswa is an excellent destination to add to your wish list, especially (and really, only) if you like camping. Another inactive volcano in the Rift Valley, Mount Suswa boasts a unique double-caldera, with an outer crater surrounding a second, inner peak. We hired a local Maasai guide to help us find the road up to the crater, but its isolation is a big part of Mount Suswa’s appeal. We took a zigzagging hike along the outer crater rim and enjoyed exceptional views of the volcano. The next morning, we drove around the caldera to find Suswa’s famous lava tube caves and hiked down into the caverns, which were full of bats, stalactites, and some interesting cave drawings of dubious origins. Not for the faint of heart, and not for those without a 4WD, Mount Suswa is a badge you’ll wear with honor.
If you’ve been living in Kenya for a long time, you’ve probably hit many of the country’s most famous destinations. But there are plenty of secret hideaways in Kenya on the road less traveled. So get your Land Rover out of the garage, off the city streets, and get it dusty.
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Contest Comments » There are 25 comments
Jesse wrote 9 years ago:
Great suggestions as Kenya has a lot more to offer than Masai Mara. The Rift Valley is rich in its flora and fauna and I encourage those living in Kenya to check out these 5 (and other equally good but unknown) sites.
Gabriel Soll wrote 9 years ago:
Not shockingly, this is an amazing snap shot of part of the world I am missing out on. The post makes me want to travel even more than I already did!
Carmen Sheehan wrote 9 years ago:
Love it!! Great stuff. I'm recommending it to all my friends who are headed that way.
Sandi wrote 9 years ago:
Reading Mama's blog is like reading a travel journal with a twist. Her blog is always entertaining and contains beautiful photos. I anxiously check it often to see what she's come up with to entertain me next!
Lorena wrote 9 years ago:
great tips mama mgeni! very useful and handy for travellers with little children; avoiding the "touristic routes" and still enjoying the magic of kenya...good ideas, looking forward to explore them in the future!
Der Miller wrote 9 years ago:
These places sound great! I was just in Kenya and had a great time but my trip would've been A-may-ziiing if I had known about these hidden gems.
Dee M wrote 9 years ago:
I have wanderlust just reading this. Very jealous of you living so close to such incredible places!
Leigh Quarforth wrote 9 years ago:
Mama mgeni writes beautifully and her hidden gem suggestions could resonate with anyone, not just expats!
Love this blog entry - very helpful! Except I hated Fourteen Falls - but maybe we just had a bad day. Well written and insightful - like all of your blog posts!
Tess wrote 9 years ago:
I LOVE Mama Mgeni's blog and this is a great example of her engaging writing style, interesting and qualified, tailored information. She really knows her audience and I get lots of ideas from her blog.
Kristine wrote 9 years ago:
Being an American and having the great fortune of visiting Kenya, I have not been to any of these places. I promised my son when he was old enough to appreciate the experience we would go back. Thank you for these great tips!!!
Faith wrote 9 years ago:
This is a great summary! Even local Kenyans would LOVE these ideas.
Lindsay wrote 9 years ago:
I love Mount Suswa. What a great blog to inspire us to travel all over beautiful Kenya.
Even though I did not love Fourteen Falls, I LOVE this blog entry as well as everything else on Mama Mgeni's blog. Well written and insightful - I love her perspective on raising a family in Kenya. Keep up the good work!
Dennis wrote 9 years ago:
A thoughtful blog with an interesting perspective. It's always a pleasure to learn more about a part of the world that I've never been to. I look forward to future posts about life, travel, culture and family.
Anne wrote 9 years ago:
Love Mama Mgeni! Great parenting and travel tips, and makes me miss Kenya all the more. Love the book reviews too!
Marieke wrote 9 years ago:
Great suggestions! Though I have travelled in Kenya, it is always nice to know about other exciting places, and I'm super keen to try some of Mama Mgeni's blog. On the whole she writes very engaging blogs, which are interesting to both expats and general visitors! Awesome!
Meg wrote 9 years ago:
Great, wonderfully written blog! As a mom with small children, I appreciate the perspective on raising children abroad, as well as discovering hidden gems and off-the-beaten path destinations. I hope to visit Kenya sometime soon and visit some of the recommended sites! Keep writing, Tara!!
Karen wrote 9 years ago:
Thanks for these great ideas - we'll definitely check some of these out with our own little toddler!
Caroline Osabinyi wrote 9 years ago:
Hope mama mgeni wins..I will check those places out especially because some are child friendly
Sara wrote 9 years ago:
I'm loving the travel tips. How refreshing to hear about not so far flung places that you probably glanced over or never even heard of. There's so much to explore and enjoy off the tourist route in Kenya. Thanks Mama Mgeni for these suggestions!
Nile wrote 9 years ago:
Great blog! Lots of info. We're coming in March...maybe we can see some of the five :)
Joan wrote 9 years ago:
You make a Nana proud :) I always enjoy reading all of your blog posts.
Mama Mgeni\'s Mama wrote 9 years ago:
That's my girl. Love her blog posts. Read them all the time. Looking forward to visiting some of these places when I'm there next :)
JC wrote 9 years ago:
Such an informative blog and a lovely voice on all topics Kenya! Do you happen to know a family photographer who can do portraits in my home?