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Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > January-March 2018 (81) > KENYA’S RIFT VALLEY LAKES

KENYA’S RIFT VALLEY LAKES

ESSENTIAL GUIDE

A DESTINATION ON A PAGE BY PHILIP BRIGGS. PHOTOGRAPHS BY ARIADNE VAN ZANDBERGEN

It may be less celebrated than the wildlife-rich plains of the Masai Mara and the idyllic beaches of the tropical coastline, but Kenya’s majestic Rift Valley surpasses both as the country’s most rewarding all-round destination for active travellers. Hemmed in by 1000m-high basaltic cliffs, the Rift Valley supports a classic East African landscape of open savannah punctuated by a string of seven absolutely gorgeous lakes of various shapes and sizes. Walking and game-viewing opportunities abound, but the region also offers scintillating birdwatching, some thrillingly tortured volcanic landscapes, and a scattering of paleontological sites littered with stones and bones documenting the hunter-gatherer lifestyles of our earliest hominin ancestors.

Each of Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes is different in character. The welcoming freshwater expanses of Naivasha and Baringo rank among East

Africa’s finest general birdwatching sites, with the former also offering a rare opportunity to hike unguided amid plentiful large mammals. By contrast, shimmering Nakuru and Bogoria — hyper-saline, algae- saturated sumps fed by mineralrich springs and lacking surface outlets — regularly host millionstrong flocks of flamingos to form a breathtaking avian counterpart to the Serengeti-Mara wildebeest migration. Altogether more extreme are the vast salty flats of Lake Magadi, which lies on the southern border with Tanzania, and the austere majesty of windswept Turkana — the world’s largest desert lake — as it nudges north across the border into Ethiopia

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