Menengai Crater

Summary

Distance from Nairobi                    About 180km
Starting Point                                   Menengai Crater Viewpoint
Ending point                                      Menengai Crater viewpoint
Walking Duration                            4 hours

Terrain Dirt trail to the caldera floor, and a very steep scramble back up the escarpment
The spectacular Menengai Crater (actually a caldera) draws visitors from far and wide with its massive circular rim, plunging cliffs, and the rugged terrain on the caldera’s floor. Situated on the outskirt of Nakuru town, about 2 hrs drive from Nairobi, it is easily accessible for a day hike or day out from the city.

The Menengai caldera is estimated to have been formed about 8,000 years ago, with numerous post-caldera volcanic eruptions giving rise to cones spread throughout the caldera’s floor. At its highest, the caldera walls rise to a staggering height of 500m from the floor.

Globally, Menengai is considered to be one of the largest volcano calderas. In Africa, it is only surpassed by Ngorongoro crater, while in Kenya, it is the largest with a diameter of 12km at its widest and 8km at it’s narrowest.
Route Description

Visitors to Menengai Crater typically drive or walk 8km from Nakuru town to the highest point on the rim of the caldera, the Viewpoint, at an altitude of 2278m above sea level. As you gain height while ascending the slope to the Menengai crater rim, a glance backwards is rewarded with a fantastic distant view of the glimmering Lake Nakuru on the edge of Nakuru town. Once you get to the Menengai Viewpoint, the sweeping views of the expansive caldera are pretty impressive. Sadly, this panorama has lately been marred by newly drilled Geothermal wells, and a web of steam pipelines and earth roads crisscrossing the caldera floor. These are part of the infrastructure for a new Geothermal power plant built in Menengai to boost Kenya’s power production capacity. It seems the unrelenting march of technological advancement has little regard for natural beauty.

For the adventurous souls, a hiking trail starting from the Viewpoint weaves its way steeply downward to the caldera floor. A few Maasai herdsmen often drive their livestock to this desolate part of the volcano, otherwise there are no settlements down there. Presumably, the local scary folklore keeps most people afraid of venturing into the bowels for this enormous, mysterious, ominous geological formation.

After a short flat section, the climb out of the caldera begins at the lion’s head cliff, and quickly morphs into a sharp ascent for a whopping 500m to the top. It will take you 4 hours, give or take some minutes, for the round trip back to the Viewpoint.


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