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Ecotour: Birding, Hiking and Cave Exploration at Mt. Suswa

The Mt. Suswa Conservation Trust was formed by the community around Mt. Suswa to spearhead the development of tourism activities in the area. The trust lies within Kajiado and Narok counties and overlooks Mt. Suswa. Our drive from Nairobi took a little more than 2 hours to reach the conservation area that is located about 10 kms away from Ewaso Town. The road is not well marked and hence you will need the services of a guide. We followed the dusty road for about 16kms until we reached the main entrance to the conservancy that had a signboard showing Mt. Suswa Conservation Trust. The conservancy’s main base is located about 10kms from the signboard, past Olgumi Village which is named after Olgumi River that supplies water to the local people.

Mt Suswa is also known as Ol Donyo Onyoke and forms a dramatic volcano rising to 2,356 metres within an open caldera landscape in the Rift Valley. This high volcanic mountain has interesting features including; an outer crater that is 10km in diameter, an inner crater that is 5km in diameter, interconnected lava tube caves and steam jets. The outer crater floor has scenic landscapes for walking, driving and camping, while the edge of the inner crater has a splendid view of the vast open plains.

According to our guide, there are over 76 interconnected caves that can be found on its slopes. The caves comprise of lava tube systems, formed in a period of recent volcanic activity, and are totally different from limestone caves. They are believed to have been formed when molten lava, of the correct type and viscosity, flowed down a slope of an ideal angle. The outer layers cooled and solidify, but the core continued to flow, completely to leave behind an empty tube.

Being a volcano mount in the Rift Valley, Mt. Suswa is of great interest to geographers and geologists, especially for school trips. Numerous unusual features can be found and include; lava ropes, benches, lava stalactites and stalagmites and a variety of secondary formations.

The latter are produced by the deposition of minerals dissolved in the ground waters. The secondary formations are exceptionally fine in cave 35A on Suswa where very unusual and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites are found. Numerous numbers of bats can be found here and the caves are rich in guano.

The entrances to the caves are invariably formed by collapsed holes where the roof of the tube has fallen in. The vegetation around these holes is dense and often includes a characteristic palm-like tree (Dracaena), or fig tree. Our guide explained that the caves have a historic habitation by Kenyan freedon fighters, the Mau Mau as a place of hideout.

The indigenous Maasai represent the cultural and economic assets of Mt Suswa, and it is this distinctive human relationship with the land, together with its unique ‘sense of place’ that gives Mt Suswa a competitive advantage and ‘added value’ compared to the nearby Hells Gate and Longonot, where their human habitation is not permitted due to their National Park status.

Our guide explained that baboon troops camp in the cave at night and make quite a performance dubbed as the Baboon Parliament. Giraffes, zebras, impalas and gazelles casually graze on the plains and the crater slopes. For trill seekers, there is a wide selection to choose for rock climbing in and around the inner crater. Rock climbing or mountaineering can also be conducted for groups visiting mount Suswa on a day trip from Nairobi.

As you hike along the crater walls, you can spot quite a number of raptors and grassland birds are in abundance, we were fortunate to see; bustards, secretary birds amongst others. Many birds of prey like eagles, falcons, kestrels, and vultures can be viewed nesting and soaring along the steep walls of the inner crater walls. .

As we departed, we made a brief stopover at one of the steam jets used by local people who form a canopy above the jets to help in condensing and harvesting the water. Our guide explained that there are naturally occurring steam jets on the surface of the Suswa caldera; he stated that research is being carried out to explore how best to embrace modern technology to tap more water for use by the local community.

As we descended down Mount Suswa the beautiful orange sun bid us farewell as we accessed the main road from Suswa town. Contact us via info@beadsafariscollection.co.ke for a day trip to Mt. Suswa Conservancy.

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