The Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley covers 8,700 Kms. (5,400 miles) running from Jordan Valley in the Middle East and taking in the whole of the Red Sea before cutting through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and finally reaching the Indian Ocean at Beira near the Zambezi River. It is much more defined in Kenya than anywhere else. That section of the Valley in Kenya, also known as the “Gregorian Rift” after J. W. Gregory, the Great geologist who first described it , is dotted with recent volcanoes like Mt. Longonot (still partially active ), Suswa, Eburu, Menengai, Londian, Kakorinyo, Central and Northern Islands in Lake Turkana. It also contains seven lakes all of which have no outlets. These are Lake Turkana (The Jade Sea ), Baringo, Bogoria, Nakuru, Elmentaita, Naivasha and Lake Magadi. When it rains on the Rift Valley escarpments and on the surrounding highlands, water runs down rivers and streams to the lake basins. The high rate of evaporation is the only major way through which water escapes from the lakes. The evaporation leaves behind a large accumulation of salts and minerals in the lakes. This makes all but two of the lakes (Naivasha and Baringo ) contain high alkaline contents, a factor that makes the highly alkaline soils in and around the lakes turn bones and ivory into fossils. The fossilazation process over the years has made Rift Valley in the country preserve remains of ancient animals and human beings into the form of fossils; thus affording us important information of the ancient past.
The North Coast of Mombasa – Indian Ocean
The coast between Mombasa island and Kilifi 70 kms with long stretches of sun-drenched beaches fringed with palms make the area a tourist paradise. A bridge across Tudor Creek links the Island with the beach resorts which stretch northwards along the coast. Freretown, after the Nyali Bridge, was built by Sir Bartle Frere in 1870 as a village for freed slaves. It was here that the IBEA bought and freed 1422 slaves in 1888. Nearby is Dr. J.L. Krapf�s memorial, a Church Missionary Society Pioneer whose wife and child died and were buried there in July 1844. Further ahead from the bridge is the Nyali Estate which offers a sports club, golf course and some of the finest hotels along the north coast. A private wildlife and forest conservation sanctuary established by Bamburi Cement Company forms the first link in a chain of attractions along the north coast. The sanctuary is established on a depression left when the company quarried the coral limestone for the manufacture of cement. A Swiss agronomist, Rene Haller, helped the company to rehabilitate the devastated environment by establishing stands of forests, shrubs, vineyard, citrus trees, mangoes, bananas and glades alive with various species of wildlife and ponds of fish where Tilapia and other fish species are bred and grown to the delight of thousands of visitors.
Kipepeo Aquarium constructed by Monsieur Allard compliments the Bamburi Quarry Farm. Here, beautiful coral gardens, shells and coral fish are on display for the enjoyment and recreation of the visitors. About 8 km from Mombasa town and opposite Hotel Intercontinental is the newly established Mombasa Marine National Park (10 sq. kms). The Park was established in 1986 for the protection of the areas beautiful corals and coral fishes which form the main attraction. It is enclaved by a 200 sq. km.
From Nyali Beach to Kikambala, the coastal front is strewn with sprawling recreational facilities such as golf courses, beach hotels, fish gardens, coral reef cliffs, and facilities for skiing, scuba diving, goggling, big game fishing trips and sailing in cruise motorboats. Farther on, visitors go through one of the largest sisal estates in Africa – the Vipingo Sisal Estate established in 1934, to Kilifi Creek.
The beautiful Kilifi Creek provides prolific birdlife with the Carmine bee-eater dominating the scene. Water sports include a 15-minute circular flight around the Creek by seaplane – a memorable experience for the visitors. Kilifi town houses an ancient monument – the ruins of 14th century slave trading settlement and a snake park on the southern end.
Before reaching Watamu, one passes through Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve, a preserved remnant of indigenous coastal forest famous for itsindigenous rubber trees, avifauna and butterfly life. It is the only place in the country where the rare Aders Duiker and the Golden rumped elephant shrew live. Unique bird species include Sokoke pipit and Sokoke Scopes owl.
Visitors interested in touring the remote North Coast and Lamu Island will proceed on the Malindi-Lamu road which crosses Sabaki River over a Bridge. On the way they may stop at Karawa to see Formosa Bay – the largest beach on East African Coast with its sand dunes. Further on before Garsen is the Tana River Delta with green riverine forests which support large numbers of water birds and the famous breeding grounds for Herons. Garsen is an important local trading centre where Somali, Orma and Pokomo tribesmen meet every morning to trade in livestock, clothing and foodstuff. While in Garsen, visitors may visit the Tana River Primates National Reserve to see the Red colobus and Mangabey monkeys, before proceeding further on to Mokowe and across the Creek to Lamu Island.
The South Coast of Mombasa – Indian Ocean
The beach resorts south of Mombasa town are dominated by Diani Beach, a large stretch of sand over ten kilometres long and fringed by a calm blue ocean. The Jadini forest adjoining the beach is a favourite haunt for leopard, colobus monkeys, baboons and a great variety of forest birds. Other beach resorts along the coast include Likoni Beach, just across from the Likoni Ferry and Shimoni Beach, almost on the Kenya-Tanzania border.
Major recreational activities organized along the South coast for the enjoyment of the visitors include water-skiing, wind-surfing, scuba diving, goggling and deep-sea fishing. Shimoni, about 120 kilometres from Mombasa is the gateway to the adjoining Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park (28 sq. kms) and Reserve as well as the main centre for the fishing industries along the South coast. It was at Shimoni where thousands of slaves were kept, in a huge cave which you can see today waiting to be shipped to Arabia.
The Marine park, established in 1978, offers the best resorts for goggling as well as the beautiful Coral fish species similar to the ones seen in Malindi and Watamu National Parks. It is reached by boat during low tides. Boat trips to one of the best deep-sea fishing areas-the Pemba Channel or to the Kisite Marine National Park along the edge of the Channel are organized from the Shimoni shoretown. As you sail to the Marine Park, you will see Dolphins play with your boat. From there you may visit the Wasini Island to see its unique moon-like landscapes and old Arab villages.
Lake Victoria – Western Kenya
Lake Victoria (67,850 Sq. Kms), is the source of River Nile. Canoe or boat fishing trips hunting for Tilapia, Nile Perch and several other fish species are some of the main attractions in the lake. The Giant Nile Perch was introduced into the Lake in the 1950s without success. However, when the exercise was repeated in the 1960s, the results were an explosion of the Nile Perch in the lake resulting in the new species eating up all indigenous and the much more delicious Tilapia leaving the local people without their Tilapia delicacies.
Lake Turkana – Northern Kenya
Lake Turkana, “The Jade Sea” is the largest lake in Kenya on the floor of the Great Rift Valley (about 255 by 50 kms). It is an inland sea in the middle of a desert which offers the latest tourist attraction in the country and stretches into Ethiopia in the north where several rivers from the Ethiopian Highlands including the Omo River enter its waters. Like the rest of the Rift Valley lakes, it has no outlet. It’s beautiful, clear and unpolluted water is therefore semi-alkaline but rich in fish, crocodile and birdlife. The regions temperature may rise to 145 F (63 C) and sometimes become a bit uncomfortable especially to visitors.
Count Sammuel Teleki Von Szek was the first white man to see the lake in March 1888. He named it Lake Rudolf in honor of his patron the Austrian Archduke .The name was, however, changed to Lake Turkana in 1975 by the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. The sourthern tip of the lake is characterized by strong violet winds which tear across the lake forming high tides and making that part of the lake extremely dangerous for fishermen. Giant Nile perch grow to over 200 Ibs and may reach 400 Ibs, much to the delight of the sportsfishermen but commercial fishermen look for the more palatable Nile Tilapia which are dried or frozen and marketed in Nairobi and other towns in the country.
The lakes central island, an active volcano, right at the centre of the lake, which sometimes belches out clouds of sulphurous steam and smoke, was established as a National park in 1983 for the protection of the breeding ground for the Niles crocodile. The Island has three lakes -Crocodile lake, Flamingo lake and Tilapia lake. Accessibility is through Lodwar by road to Ferguson Gulf, some 60 kilometres from Lodwar town and then on the lake using hired motorboats from lake Turkana Angling Lodge at the Gulf. The interesting El-Molo tribe once reduced to only 80 souls and described as the smallest tribe in Africa, inhabits two small Islands and Loiyangalani in the south-eastern corner of the lake. The tribe has, however, now multiplied to well over 500 people. They live on fish ,crocodile meat, and on wild animals like Hippo, Turtle and birds.
South Island National Park (39Sq. Kms)
Like the Central Island, the South Island was established in 1983 for the protection of the breeding ground for the Nile Crocodile, the Hippos and its unique venomous snakes – Puff adders, cobra and vipers. It is at the centre of the El-Molo country- a surviving tribe just emerging from the Stone-Age standard of living and whom John Hillaby described in 1964 as the “race that time had forgotten to finish off”.
Accessibility is through Loiyangalani (a place of trees), where the well named Oasis Lodge provides a base and facilities (motor boats) for bird-waching trips to the Islands and for those visitors intending to make camping safaris to Mount Kulal or Mount Moiti to see its mineral springs