Often overlooked by people rushing from Lake Naivasha to Lake Nakuru, the area around Lake Elmenteita and up into the lower foothills of the Aberdare range offers some off-the-beaten-track destinations such as Kariandusi prehistoric site and other activities, including first-rate wildlife viewing, which take advantage of the pretty, lightly wooded hills and lush valley of the Malewa River. In addition, several top-end lodges provide an intimate alternative to their more touristy cousins around lakes Nakuru and Naivasha.

The name of this shallow soda lake derives from the Maasai Ol muteita (“place of dust”), reflecting its tendency to shrivel to a huge white salt pond. Elmenteita’s setting is spectacular and primeval, framed by the broken caldera walls of several extinct volcanoes, which resemble a reclining human figure. The Maasai know these peaks as Elngiragata Olmorani (“Sleeping Warrior”) – a name that is ironically fitting, since the lake and its lands were expropriated from the Maasai at the start of the colonial period by Lord Delamere (the caldera is now also known as “Delamere’s Nose”). You can get a good view from the big “parking lane” viewpoint – if you survive the occasionally desperate assaults by curio sellers.

The lake itself is a good site for flamingos, especially since Lake Nakuru has been out of favour, and sees an estimated four hundred bird species in all (eighty of which are waterfowl). Pelicans can always be found here, and Elmenteita is the only breeding ground in East Africa for the great white pelican, which nests on some rocky islands in the lake. Like Lake Nakuru, Elmenteita has no outflow, and its accumulated alkaline salts make it uninhabitable for all but one species of fish, the indomitable Tilapia grahami. Nearly all the land around the lake is now part of the private, fenced Soysambu Conservancy, which occupies the original farm of colonist and aristocrat Lord Delamere, and is accessible from the camps and lodges around the lakeshore.

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