Kajiado County

Discover Kajiado County

View of a watering hole at Amboseli National Park.  Photo Courtesy
View of a watering hole at Amboseli National Park.  Image Courtesy

Brief Overview of Kajiado County

About 15 kms west of Nairobi City lies the four-peaked Ngong Hills whose name is derived from a Maasai term “Ol Doinyo Lamwea” meaning “source of stream rising from near the foot” that marks the unofficial border between Nairobi and Kajiado. From Ngong Hills, overlooking the Rift Valley, the terrain sharply falls and the golden rolling savanna begins its unswerving domination, southbound into Tanzania and stretching away east to Ol Doinyo Sabuk National Park. The right-angled triangle-shaped Kajiado County borders Tanzania along its longer side and is flanked by the Nairobi-Mombasa Road or A104 Uganda Road on the hypotenuse from the northeast (Mai-Mahiu), to the south (Tsavo), for 231 kms.

The monotony of the rolling savannas in Kajiado County, typified by dry river beds, liberal clumps of thorny acacia and rough grasses, are only interspersed by its series of volcanic hills.  This dry type savanna which dominates much of Kajiado County offers little vegetation to support the valuable livestock of the native pastoralist Maasai Community, who hold an undisputed sway on these plains. The cattle tracks that cut deep in the solid rock of Kajiado are evidence enough that the Maasai have been roaming these plains for a very long time. Although the rock in Kajiado is soft, it must have taken a few hundred years to cut two feet or more in depth. The Maasai are an allegory of Kajiado’s splendor.

At the southwest quarter of Kajiado County is to be found a game watcher’s and photographer’s untame paradise.  Amboseli National Park, with the magnificent backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, is one of the most favored game parks in Kenya. Its generally dry climate means that its routes are passable almost all the year round. Game watchers can easily observe as wildlife gathers in the shimmering swamps to drink or get treated to the awe inspiring spectacle of elephant herds roaming the magnolious plains. Amboseli is the crown-jewel of Kajiado County.

Salient Features of Kajiado County

  • County Number 34
  • Area – 29101 km2
  • Altitude – 2500 ft
  • Major Towns – Ngong, Kajiado, Namanga
  • Borders – Narok, Nakuru, Nairobi, Kiambu, Makueni, Machakos, Taita

Brief History of Kajiado County

In 1883, Joseph Thomson – the Scottish explorer – became the first European to cross the vast unexplored plains of Kajiado County.  Soon after, Britain and Germany struggled for hegemony of this area, leading to a zany sub-division of Maasai Plains. The northern Maasai plains were placed under British rule and the southern Maasai plains were under Germany, by the 1904 and 1911 treaties. As an outcome, the native Maasai community witnessed their premium grazing areas being taken over by the settlers. All in all, the Maasai saw a reduction of about 40% of their land or 70,000 km2. As with every citation of colonial land policies in Kenya, this was meant to develop European culture and leadership and promote and enclave societies rather than serve the interests of the Maasai.

View from the summit of Ngong Hills near Nairobi.  Photo Courtesy
View from the summit of Ngong Hills near Nairobi.  Image Courtesy

Places of Interest in Kajiado County

1. Ololua Nature Trail

Straddling the border of Kajiado and Nairobi Counties, Oloolua Nature Trail is an exceptionally blissful walking trail comprising a 5 kms walking trail through the unblemished Oloolua Forest which was once used by the Mau Mau brigades during pre-independent Kenya. The 400-acres Oloolua Forest is also treasured for its beautiful waterfalls draining into the Mbagathi River, its caves, and its bamboo forest rest-point. It is this river which offers the major attraction to the nature-lover as it gently courses along the thick tropical Oloolua Forest, curving graciously alternated with rocky rapids, and with the wooded fringes forming canopies of deep shade that offer welcome relief and practicality. The Trail’s headquarter is at the Institute of Primate Research (IPR), a non-governmental organization under the guranty of National Museums of Kenya, that undertakes research on bio medical and animal welfare. The Institute also carries out a host of educational activities centered on ornithology, entomology and geology. It is located about 500 metres from the corner of Bogani East Road and Karen Road.

2. Rongai-Kiserian Valley

This is found 17 kms from Nairobi via Langata and Magadi Roads, taking a left turn near Hashi Energy Petrol Station onto a murram road that terminates at the Maasai Gate to Nairobi National Park. Nestled between Ngong Hills (west) and Athi-Kapiti Plains (east), and along the southern limits of Nairobi National Park, the Rongai-Kiserian Valley which is graced by numerous hotels is one of the idealized weekend getaways for many residents of Nairobi and its environs looking for a day or two restful repose away from the city. To others, adventure is name of the game, and day-trippers who do not fancy peace and quietude in their fleeting hours at Rongai-Kiserian participate in one or more invigorating high adrenaline interests found here, to include, a walk across Rolf’s Place high rope bridge, the Diguna High Ropes Park, paint-balling or a jaunt to Kitengela Glass House.  By evening, the Rongai valley provides tranquility. Other notable establishments along the 7 kms route to Maasai Gate include the Osoita Lodge, Oseki Farm, Nyati Hill, Maasai Lodge, Leleshwa Getaway, and Silolo Sanctuary.

3. Kitengela Glass House

Equal part quirky and sentimentalist with a dash of colour everywhere you look, the fairyland Kitengela Glass House set in the plains abutting Nairobi National Park is a delicately created mosaic of houses, elegant sculptures and glass art – all designed from recycled glass and metal scraps.  The centerpiece at Kitengela Glass House is the planetarium dome Anselm’s glass studio where all the glass magic is performed. There’s plenty of wacky-kooky touches at Kitengela Glass House and its off-centre beauty arises from the organized chaos that alternating from beautiful glass windows, novel structures, statues and uniquely designed African inspired cottages. Also of interest at Kitengela Glass are the star-beds which offer a first-rate view of the cosmos and plentiful wildlife easily spotted from the comfort of Kitengela Glass House. It is located 9 kms off Magadi Road.

Spatial Location of Kitengela Glass House in Kajiado County
Spatial Location of Kitengela Glass House in Kajiado County

4. Rimpa Estate Wildlife Conservancy

Names and places rarely strike as canny a compeer as does at the Rimpa Estate Wildlife Conservancy located midway between Ongata Rongai and Kiserian via Magadi Road. If for no other reason its names should suggest a visit. ‘Rimpa’ is the Maa equivalent of paradise and pleasantly enough sited at the foot of Ngong Hills. So much so, that it was the setting of several scenes in the oscar-winning 1985 film “Out of Africa“. Owned and run for decades by the Ole Siens Family, who are immensely dedicated to restoring a devout balance between people and nature while promoting social and economic improvement, the pleasurable 40-hectares conservancy, with very friendly hosts, has memorable mountain views and beyond-money tranquility. It’s also the best of both worlds at Rimpa, with the farm rearing cattle juxtaposed with a sanctuary that harbours giraffe, zebra, antelope and plenty of avifauna. A small cover charge is payable for a day pass – either for picnics, camping, game drives or hiking trips. It is found 6 kms from Ongata Rongai via Magadi and Rimpa Roads, and 4 kms before Kiserian Town.

5. Ngong Hills

Topologically Ngong Hills are remnants of an old volcanic cone thought to have had an original diameter of 11 kms prior to being cut by the Rift Escarpment. In 1885, Joseph Thomson, who passed through Ngong Hills on his route from Ol Doinyo Orok to Ngong, described these as “a hallmark of Kenya’s beauty”. Over the years, Ngong Hills have received lots of high-praise for their rare beauty, to include the exotic descriptions given by Karen Blixen in her book Out of Africa. A joyride over the four-peaked Ngong Hills, hundreds of feet above the plain of the Rift Valley, offers a memorable drive over one of the knockout landscape in Kenya.  The scenic jaunt over Ngong Hills also beholds great views of the Kapiti Plains where one can catch a glimpse of prolific plains-game freely roaming the lowlands.  The paucity of wildlife, depending on the season, is compensated for by the beauty of the area. The drive is best approached from the southeast. That is to say, you drive out on Magadi Road through Kiserian and over Ngong Hills.

6. Finch Hatton’s Monument

The rather hard to situate Finch Hatton’s Monument, at Ngong Hills, marks the final resting place for Denys Finch Hatton – the aristocratic big-game hunter turned conservationist and avid safari-guide, who died in 1931 after his private plane crashed at Voi. Denys Finch Hatton is known in other circles as the lover of Baroness, Karen Blixen (the celebrated penman of the globally-famous novel Out of Africa) after her divorce from Baron, Bror Blixen-Finecke. In accordance with his wishes to be buried in Kenya, Karen Blixen chose this locality at Ngong Hills which years past had been a romantic spot where they often retreated for picnics. “A large obelisk marks his grave, inscribed with a line from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, one of his favourite poems. The inscription reads ‘He prayeth well, who loveth well/Both man and bird and beast’ – Lonely Planet.  Finch Hatton’s Monument is located about 4 kms from Kiserian, near Matasia, up the hills, deep inside leafy Upper Matasia. It’s about 8km from Ngong Town.

7. Kompass at Ngong Hills

The drive to Kompass atop Ngong Hills leaves one with the overall impression of a wild and beautiful Kenya. In fact, many of its revelers claim that Kompass at Ngong Hills is one of the most spectacular sites within easy reach of Nairobi. Until a few years ago, the only way to take in the beauty and diversity of Ngong Hills was a hiking adventure to the summit. The addition of Ngong Hills Wind Power Station by KenGen, commissioned in 2015, signaled huge changes in the northern foothills of Ngong Hills. Now, this area of the hills, with superb views, is opened up by a network of motorable roads. One of the biggest attractions is, of course, the contemporary Kompass – a place to enjoy the view in more ways than one. For the adventurous, there is a heart-stopping zipline going from one hillside of its humps to the next. Then, there’s mountain-biking, paint-balling, hiking and archery. For the romantics and take-it-easy, there is more than one comfy sitting area both indoor and outdoors, a cafe and pub; all with fine views. From Kiserian, taking a turnoff right to Forest Line Road through Matasia, it is 19 kms to the Kompass via Ngong Town and then Kahara Road. The usual and fastest route to Kompass from Nairobi is via Ngong Road through Ngong Town.

Spatial Location of Kompass at Ngong Hills in Kajiado County
Spatial Location of Kompass at Ngong Hills in Kajiado County

8. Kiserian Dam

Kiserian Dam is an out of the common site just outside Kiserian Town along the Kiserian-Isinya Road – which eventually links to A104 Namaga-Nairobi Road at Isinya, 40 kms away. The 17 ms-high Kiserian Dam, commissioned in 2014 with a price tag of Shs.1 Billion, to serve almost 235,000 residents of Kiserian and Rongai with a sustainable source of water, adds much to the beauty of the area around Kiserian Town. Towards this, an afforestation program was initiated on location to further their efforts of creating a beautiful landscape. Visitors here walk around the reservoir to appreciate its design and structure, and scout the treatment plant to learn on the changes water goes through from source to tap. The great procession from Kiserian Town to Lake Magadi, 79 kms away, passes through the southern edges of Ngong Hills and abruptly rolls down hill to meet and merge with the Rift Valley until the valley of the bushed grassland set hard on a flat lowland is reached. About 8 kms from Kiserian, as you round the sharp bend, Corner Baridi is reached, which get its quirky name from the unrelenting strong wind converging here. Higher up the Ngong Hills, on the southern edges, is the venerated ‘Champagne Ridge’ overlooking the spectacle of the Rift Valley.

9. Pec Nature Camp

Originally known as Olooseos Adventures and reestablished in 2014 as the Pec Nature Camp, this beautiful fun-filled 18-acres adventure base was remarkably a painstaking transformation from a former wasteland to a pretty wonderland.  For first-time visitors to Pec Camp it’s hard to tell the landscape is not primitive and indigenous, and thanks to the care and precommision taken to rehabilitate it this deserving destination, in spitting distance of the four grand humps of the Ngong Hills, is loaded with exciting outdoors activities including a bio-diversity park, a pretty picnic site, ziplining, a high ropes arena and a climbing wall. “It is a spacious indigenous adventure camp, picnic, team building and nature park”. It is located 34 kms south of Nairobi at Corner Baridi and 6 kms from Kiserian.

10. Olooltepes Picnic Site

Just around the corner from Kiserian Dam, along the Kiserian-Isinya Road and opposite Olooltepes Total Petrol Station, sits Olooltepes Picnic Site a budget-friendly family-oriented hangout to enjoy a day away from the city. The site is in lovely surroundings of bush county within sight of the picture-postcard Ngong Hills. Facilities include: day-long barbecue, restaurant, children play area with assorted gizmos, capacious well-kept ground, walking trails and bar. The sunset is glorious! It’s a perfect place to round off a great trip to Rimpa Estate Wildlife Conservancy, Kiserian Dam and Corner Baridi. It lies 35 kms from Nairobi via C58 Magadi Road. Using public means, head over to Railways Station and take the bus no. 126 to Kiserian. From Kiserian it is 7.1 kms to Olooltepes Picnic Site.

11. Enkaji Osiwo House

Perched on the very edge of Champagne Ridge on the Ngong Hills, overlooking a most pleasurable landscape, is the compact but very cozy 2-bedrooms Enkaji Osiwo House. A heady place that conjures up all that is wild and romantic about Ngong Hills. This snuggly house, with big views, features one bedroom upstairs and another downstairs and is tailored as a intimate romantic escape. The deck is the star here. Sitting here, you glimpse the ever-changing pageant of Ngong Hills, and for all the toil of getting here from Corner Baridi, where the bitumen road ends, this is a worthy reward and one of the most memorable sunsets and star-gazing experiences. In addition to Enkaji Osiwo House, on a comparative exploit, are The Cave, The Castle, and Fawlty Tower which are 3 holiday homes spread across 10 acres of African bush and located 12 kms from Corner Baridi. Other hidey-holes along Champagne Ridge include Miti Mbili, Raha Mstarehe, Olohoro Onyore, Oloika Cottage, Rangi Saba, Twiga Tano, and the Sidai House.

12. Ole Polos Country Club

This makes an excellent destination for a long day out of the city. In any case, the host Maasai throw down a pretty good braai (nyama-choma), which is the the main interest here. “Wash it down with cold Tuskers as you gaze over the Rift Valley and you’ll be close to heaven”. With not too much extra trouble – commuting or driving – one can reach Ole Polos located about 15 kms south of Kiserian Town and also enjoy blissful walks around the area that offers pleasant views. Other notable nyama-choma eateries at Kitengela, Kiserian and Rongai include Arusha Meat Den, Nasinya Grill, The Ofis, Texas Choma Zone and Kibz.

Spatial Location of Ole Polos Country Club in Kajiado County
Spatial Location of Ole Polos Country Club in Kajiado County

13. Mount Olorgesailie

Magadi Road, south-westerly trending, travels from the north-western region of Kajiado County past Ngong Hills and Olorgesailie Museum to Lake Magadi. 28 kms from Kiserian Town, near Masai Village, the volcanic eminences of Mount Olorgesailie and Ol Esakut stand sentinel over the peneplain landscape. Mount Olorgesailie, the higher and more spectacular of these two dormant volcanoes set on the edge of the Rift Valley, rises to 1,760 ms. Save for the scotching heat, which at Olorgesailie is amplified by the strong reflection of the whitish surface and the encroaching dust, Mount Olorgesailie is a delightful hiking destination, best tackled during the early morning hours when the sun is not too high over-head which commences with walking the spectral dried river bed of the Ol Keju Nero. Flowing only seasonally through the depression west of Olorgesailie, this river has cut back impressive scarps. Then, there’s Lake Kwena, a seasonal lake which is a thriving habitat for large colonies of vultures. Further along, views of the overlain Ol Doinyo Narok formation and the Kerichwa Valley, fading south to end up at Olorgesailie Pre-Historic Museum and the Rift Valley, are amusing.

14. Masai Village

No tootling of Kajiado County would be complete without paying homage to a Maasai Village, to see their Maasai traditions in action, at one of many cultural Manyattas which are notably plentiful around the Amboseli National Park.  The Maasai Community are known the world over for their unscratched culture and some the most guarded traditions.  Famous as herders and warriors, who once dominated much of the wide-ranging savanna plains of East Africa, the Maasai are now confined to a fraction of their former range. But, they have not strayed far from their traditional ways of life and prefer to remain nomadic, moving as their needs necessitate.  As the economy grows, their open plains are shrinking, and the Maasai may one day soon find it more difficult to roam the open plains. The Masai Village at the foot of Mount Olorgesailie offers a chance to interact with one of the most fascinating cultures in Africa. The Masai, sometimes spelt as Maasai, also answer to the epithet “Maa” meaning the Maasai speaking tribe.

15. Olorgesailie Museum

12 kms past Mount Olorgesailie, at Oltepesi, is a momentous landmark among the archaeological sites of Kenya. At this site, a respectable size of tools made by the pre-historic man some 200,000 years ago remain exposed and are visible to visitors. First excavated in 1919 by geologist John Gregory and subsequently in 1942 by Louis Leakey, Olorgesailie Museum is best known for its enriching and fascinating pre-history of man. The site itself is on a dried lake basin thought to have existed about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Fittingly eke-named the tool factory, it exhibits many of tools associated with the Middle Pleistocene Epoch. Unique to the Olorgesailie Museum is its looping elevated walkway, which goes appreciably close to the excavation site exposing lots of interesting artefacts. It makes for an intriguing final destination on an afternoon’s vivify joyride across the humps of Ngong Hills down to the Rift Valley. The more ardent adventurer may wish to continue down to Lake Magadi 35 kms past the exit to Olorgesailie.

It is possible to stay the night at the Olorgesailie Museum where there are bandas equipped with basic furniture, from where trippers can make a visit to Baboon Camp, where baboons congregate in the evening, just 1 km from the campsite or enjoy hiking Mount Olorgesailie and birding.

16. Lake Magadi

Famous for its amazing scenery and plenitude of birds, notably of its thousands of flamingos, the lunate 100 km2 Lake Magadi occupying a large alluvium filled valleys caused by large faults is also the southern most of Kenya’s Lake System in the Rift Valley. At most times, it is marked by a long shimmering coconut-ice white band, upto 80 yards in width. On close inspection this is seen to be trone, the deposit from which soda ash is obtained – which mixes with beds of clay to a depth of 50 ms. Also unique to Lake Magadi is that in the midst of a full algae bloom its waters run red, mostly in the dry season, yet, even without the bonzer colour change, it’s a wildly beautiful site. In the wet season, most of the outlying troughs, including Little Lake Magadi, become waterlogged and swampy, and may even contain shallow lakes for a few weeks. Other interests include the hot springs and natural spas found along its shoreline, driving across the causeway, or dropping in on the Lake Magadi Tented Camp. Those with an hours to spare can explore Little Magadi Town – a fully-functioning town originally developed by Magadi Soda Company as a place where its employees could live in relative comfort. The larger and identical Lake Natron sits 28 kms south of Magadi near Shompole, and 79 kms from Kiserian. “The road is surfaced but temperatures are high and chances are that driving at midday will produce an ill-temper. Yet the lake itself is a fine experience. You can drive across a causeway build by the Magadi Soda Company and ponder what would happen if you slipped into the trona, which, looking like snowy ice, crusts a very murky slippery liquid below”.

Above Magadi – Flying With the Flamingos of Lake Magadi

17. Nyiri Desert

Sometimes known as the Taru or Nyika Desert, this encompasses large parts of Amboseli National Park, stretching northerly to the fringes of Nairobi National Park and southerly to Kenya-Tanzania border.  Its aridity is caused by the rain shadow effect of Mount Kilimanjaro. Remarkably, Nyiri Desert hosts a variety of game including kudu, impalas, and giraffe.  Conspicuous at Nyiri Desert are the baobab trees fondly dubbed Africa’s wooded elephants. After the rain, Nyiri Desert blossoms with variegated flora. It is located 80 kms east of Lake Magadi.

18. Shompole Conservancy

Just a short 28 kms drive south from Lake Magadi sits the inter-territorial 141 km2 Shompole Conservancy, shared between Narok and Kajiado Counties. Set between Amboseli National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve and made up of two community ranches – Olkiramatian and Shompole – this wilderness is teemed with spectacular wildlife. Its location enables holiday-makers to pack many exciting experiences which elsewhere in Kenya will require considerable travel. As a bonus, Shompole is also strategically located between Lake Magadi (north) and Lake Natron (south); two of the famous lakes seen in the southern Rift Valley and the largest hatching spots for the lesser flamingos in the world. Shompole Camp, a small and exclusive camp of only 6-luxury tents, nestled in the shade of the giant fig trees along the banks of the South Ewaso Nyiro River, offers an intimate experience of one of the most beautiful wilderness landscape in Kenya. Other highlights include game safaris, scouting the Shompole swamp, tubing, kayaking, canoeing or walking along River South Ewaso Nyiro, walking with baboons, hiking Shompole Hill or Nguruman, and excursions to the Lakes.

Spatial Location of Shompole in Kajiado County
Spatial Location of Shompole in Kajiado County

19. Shompole (Ngare Ng’iro) Swamp

Shompole or Ngare Ng’iro Swamp is found within the Ewaso Ng’iro South River floodplain in the Ngare Ng’iro plain. The river flows through this swamp before eventually draining into Lake Natron. The weather in Shompole is marked by a high ambient temperatures and low, bimodal rainfall. Mean annual rainfall varies from 300 to 800 mm. Although this is an arid/semi arid area, Shompole Swamp, along with the Ewaso Ng’iro South River, provides sufficient water for domestic use and for livestock watering. Its significance is highlighted by the fact that during the dry spell, Shompole Wetland is virtually the only grazing land available for livestock. It’s also home to prolific of faunal and floral species.

20. Olkiramatian Conservancy

This is found just a short hop north of the main Shompole Conservancy and was brought together by the association of Maasai landowners to put their land to sustainable use. “Deep in the plains of the Great Rift Valley, beyond the volcanic lunar landscape surrounding the soda lakes of Magadi and Natron, at the heart of Olkirimatian Conservancy, lies the oasis of Lentorre Lodge. Nestled in this natural amphitheater, Lentorre provides uninhibited views of Mt Shompole, Ol Donyo Gelai and the active volcano Ol Donyo Lengai”. Lentorre comprises of four large villas that hold either a double or twin bed configuration, a family villa and the honeymoon villa. The Lodge has a maximum capacity of 16 guests.

21. Nguruman Escarpment

Due west of Shompole Conservancy, among the fine foothills of the Nguruman Escarpment, there is an explosion of splendorous craggy wonder covering the western frontier of Kajiado with Narok, and from the boundary with Tanzania northerly to Mau Complex. The Nguruman Escarpment, gathering the western scarp of the Great Rift Valley, is a belt of dissected country, about 16 kms wide, extending along the western border of Kajiado. From near Mount Suswa, 160 kms north of Shompole, the Nguruman proceeds as the Mau Escarpment before it terminates near Mau Narok, as it forms part of the forested Mau Highland. A popular hiking destination, with many ways to it, Nguruman Escarpment offers lordly view of the Rift Valley. Entasopia Falls is one of Nguruman’s most sought treasures. Ol Doinyo Lengorale, its southernmost hillock, immediately south of the Pagasi River, is one of its best-liked trails. It is found 83 kms from Kiserian.

22. Entasopia Falls

Away from the plains of Narok, the life-giving brown and muddied water of the South Ewaso Nyiro River, sometimes spelt Uaso Ng’iro, flows in a graben valley with Nguruman Enkorika Scarp or Nguruman Escarpment as its western wall on its journey to Lake Natron, the final destination. As it negotiates the course, leaping over one of the abrupt ridges of the Nguruman Escarpment, it forms the wildly-pretty Entasopia Falls nearby Oloibortoto. Originally known as Hayton’s Falls, this is a spell-binding corner of paradise reached along a veritable journey of ecological display – starting at the windswept plains and culminating in the jungly wooded areas near the Falls. Depending on the starting point, it takes on average six hours (round-trip) to hike up Nguruman and reach Entasopia Falls.

23. Lake Natron

The roomy 1,040 km2 Lake Natron along the Kenya-Tanzania Border is globally famous as the largest hatching location for the lesser flamingos, where 2 million flamingos are hatched (75% of the world population), in one of the great natural spectacles in Africa cited by David Attenborough as the “greatest ornithological spectacle on earth.”  Lake Natron, 35 kms south of Lake Magadi, mirrors many of its geological oddities to include the white trone lining and the epic pink line formed by thousands of flamingos. It’s watered by the South Ewaso Ngiro River rising in the Mau Highland and terminating at L. Natron’s northern shore via a large swampy delta at Shompole. Travelling to Lake Natron is rated too low and often sold short, and the few who make it here are dumbfounded by the beauty of the area. One of its superb sights is that of Ol Donyo Lengai, Africa’s highest active volcano known simply and soberly to the Maasai as the Mountain of God.

24. Mount Suswa Conservancy

Sometimes known as ‘Ol Doinyo Nyukie’, the dormant volcanic dome of Mount Suswa, popular for its 12 kms long double crater, rises to near 8,000 feet at the summit. 16 kms to the north sits Mount Longonot, another volcanic dome with an breathtaking 9 kms wide caldera set at 9,000 feet. Mount Suswa’s vegetation is, generally speaking, semi-arid, composed of stunted thorn bushes (whistling thorns and Acacia) and patches of grass; but, river and stream beds are often marked by lines of trees and seasonal rivers such as the South Ewaso Nyiro, Siyabei and Kedong, which have thicker vegetation along their banks. On the central island block and in the annular trench, the vegetation consists of more evergreen smoggy woodlands. Suswa is shared mainly by Narok, Nakuru and Kajiado Counties. A small part of the eastern side falls within Kiambu County.

It is possible to drive up Mount Suswa as far as the foot of the outer caldera wall, although a four-wheel-drive vehicles is necessary. The main Nairobi-Mai Mahiu-Narok Road, that winds across the northern part of Suswa, is the most popular approach. Mount Suswa has many memorable sights, to include: Ol Doinyo Nyukie or the “red mountain”, which is a remnants of the highest point of Suswa – a separate cone on the southwest side of the inner caldera. On the eastern side of Mount Suswa, are located its famous lava tunnels and geysers first reported by Hobden in 1962, which extend for several kilometres into the mountain, and provide a rare audit of mountain geology. North of Suswa, sits the mystifying Mount Longonot alongside numerous ash and cinder cones and hills rising above the Akira plains. Wildlife is plentiful here, particularly on the plains around Suswa, where many varieties of antelope and zebras can be seen.

25. Masai Ostrich Farm

It’s a 161 kms run to the border town of Namanga from Nairobi down Mombasa Road for 26 kms, then taking a right turn through the interchange to Athi River and Kitengela towns onto the Great North Road (104 Cape to Cairo) heading to Amboseli National Park and Tanzania. An alternative is to take Mombasa Road from Nairobi for 124 kms to Emali, and then turn right. Either way it is a jaunt across a dry bush country. Along the first, Kitengela Town is found 5 kms from the interchange. Only a dusty little centre two decade ago, with only a handful of stone-built houses, it’s one of the fast-growing towns in Kajiado, spanning a few kilometres. 10 kms past Kitengela and taking a right turn onto the Enkasiti Road for 10 kms, you find Masai Ostrich Farm. This fun-filled 200-acres farm is worth a visit by the intrepid with the courage to try new adventures.  This offers guests a chance to take a ride on their native ostriches, that also seem to enjoy the experience. Guest can also enjoy feeding the ostrich, visiting the Kitengela Conservation Area, or enjoy a weekend stay at the homely Masai Ostrich Lodge.

26. Kitengela Conservation Area

This stretches north of Kitengela area and the A104 Cape-Cairo Road towards Nairobi National Park and west towards Mount Olorgesailie and Lake Magadi, and forms part of the Athi-Kapiti Plains. Established in 2008, to engender the sustenance and perpetuity of wildlife in Nairobi National Park, the protected Kitengela Conservation Area – populated with black rhino, Cape buffalo, olive baboons, eland, Maasai giraffe, giraffe, eland, impala, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, waterbuck, warthog, lions, cheetahs, hyenas as well as a bunch of other smaller carnivores – aims to prevent any further degradation of this area which is a vital dispersal zone. It also aims to find sustainable solutions that allow the local Maasai and wildlife to coexist in this fast-growing and blossoming county. 

27. Kitil Bamboo Farm

33 kms past Kitengela Town, midway between Kitengela and Kajiado Towns, at Isinya, an area off the main road had been made into a thriving residential and commercial community. One of the especial commercial enterprises at Isinya is Kitil Bamboo Farm. This is reached by taking a left turn across from the turnoff to Isinya-Kitengela Road. Unique to the biotechnological oriented Kitil Bamboo Farm is that it exploits various uses of bamboo as an effective alternative to the conventional timber, offering useful insights to the underrated bamboo.  Callers to Kitil Bamboo Farm get to learn about some practical uses of the bamboo and the various species of it thriving at its nursery, and also a chance to sample the cooked bamboo shoots that are big-eats in Asia.  Isinya is 63 kms from Nairobi.

28. Kajiado War Memorial

Hot and dusty but with a much improved road network, Kajiado Town – 77 kms from Nairobi – is the seat of Government for Kajiado County and the unofficial capital for the Maasai who are the dominant inhabitants. Its name (Kajiado) is derived from the Maasai idiom “Olkeju-ado”, translating to “the long stream”. Kajiado River cuts through the ridge southwest of Kajiado Town to drain the eastern side of the Lemillebbu Hills and the western side of the Ngoragaishi Hills. The importance of Olkejuado answers to the simple fact that no rivers flow perennially, and in the dry seasons water is obtained by digging in the bed of the Kajiado River. Excepting the low-lying encircling hills, much of the land around Kajiado Town is relatively flat, slopping westward towards the Turoka Valley and Rift Valley. One of the few places of interest in Kajiado Town is the Kajiado War Memorial. Begun in 1915 as the Kajiado Hospital Cemetery, it was renamed Kajiado War Memorial in 1916 after seven outlying WWI graves were brought into the cemetery, then containing 19 graves of soldiers who died in service between 1914-1921. It holds a total of 26 commonwealth graves set in an open ground behind the Kajiado Hospital (3 kms south of the railway terminal).

29. Kenya Marble Quarry

The Kenya Marble Quarries Company Ltd has for almost 95 years exploited the ‘basement system limestones’ nearby Kajiado Town and Turoka for agricultural lime and statuary marble. Founded in 1923, this became the foremost company in Kajiado District and colonial Kenya to have mined marble and manufactured limestone, first as a British E.A. company, that later changed ownership to the Lakhani’s – an Asian family that has owned and operated the quarry hitherto. It was granted leases by the Maasai Native Council. The Kenya Marble Quarry is found 15 kms west of Kajiado Town at Karero, via Elangata Waus-Magadi Road.

30. Olelek Ranch

This unsung foxhole, off the beaten track, yet, only 10 kms from Kajiado Town on a good murram road, offers fine bush experience. At the heart of the 16 acres Olelek Ranch sits Olelek Ranch House, a charming, double-storey Spanish-style lodge with seven bedrooms (sharing two bathrooms). It has a capacious shared lounge with a fireplace, dining area with a complete kitchen, outdoor rest area with barbecue pit, a plunge pool with uninterrupted views of the un-fenced and un-tamed wild back-country, and an outdoors fun park. Olelek has launches for hiking, biking, and birding. Places of interest nearby include lake excursions to Magadi, hiking adventures at Ol Donyo Orok and, of course, game watching at Amboseli National Park and its surrounding wildlife conservancies. The road to Olelek Ranch turns off near the Kenya Marble Quarry (which sits about 5 kms south) and goes through thick tract of bushland and patches of forest to the site.

31. Magadi Train

Although Nairobi-Mombasa railway passes through the northeastern quarter of Kajiado County no rail stations were built on this stretch of the track. Magadi railway, which splits off the Nairobi-Mombasa line further east at Konza, links Kajiado with Turoka Valley (on the floor of the Rift Valley) and Lake Magadi. The on-and-off classic-oriental Magadi Train, taking a winding and scenic route from Kajiado Town to Lake Magadi – passing through Turoka Valley, the Rift Valley and forth to Magadi – is perhaps the best way of getting to the lake. First operated in 1915, Magadi Train which is owned and operated by Lake Magadi Adventures – the tours and safaris outfit of Magadi Soda Foundation – was a philanthropic gesture with an aim of giving back to the local community. Most recently revived in August 2015, it offers a memorable trip to Lake Magadi. In recent years, Magadi Soda Company has restored its passenger train service operating plying Kajiado Town and Konza. The train trolley is a one cabin train with three sections and a capacity of 24 passengers, and the fun joyride from Kajiado Town to Lake Magadi, a distance of 130 kms, takes roughly three hours.

32. Olomaiyana Bush Camp

The beautifully-appointed and secluded self-catering Olomayiana Bush Camp, set on the Maparasha Hills in Bisil with sights of the golden savanna plains and Mount Kilimanjaro, is a fairyland of unprecedented peace.  Set up on 80-acres, Olomayiana Bush Camp is comprised of only 2-cottages, 3-tented camps and a beautiful camping ground embodying a genuine “wilder-side-of-life” getaway.  Among the highlights are its infinity pool with uninterpreted views of the of the primitive plains.  The camp is also close to the lauded Amboseli National Park, 126 kms away, and is located about 31 kms south of Kajiado Town around Bisil.

33. Ol Doinyo Orok

Quite unmistakable a stone’s throw away from the Kenya-Tanzania boundary at Namanga, is the eminence of Ol Doinyo Orok which rises to 2548 ms and 1190 ms above the surrounding flat country. Also dubbed as the Namanga Hill, this conspicuous triangular range trends northerly from Namanga into the interior of Kenya akin to a harbinger pointing north to Kenya. From Namanga, 57 kms from Kajiado Town, holiday-makers aiming for Amboseli National Park take a sharp turn left, easterly heading to the park. Ol Doinyo Orok is much-liked as a hiking destination visited by hundred of hikers each year. The hiking trail itself goes past a montane forest, patches of exotic flora, rivers, caves, viewing ledges and Maasai bomas before reaching the summit. The Enkamuka Peak, its second highest, on the eastern side, is the most favoured landing. It takes on average 7 hours (round-trip) to complete the 9 kms hike up and down. Native guides are available at Maili Tisa lying 13 kms before Namanga and 150 kms from Nairobi.

Spatial Location of Ol Donyo Orok in Kajiado County.
Spatial Location of Ol Donyo Orok in Kajiado County.

Paradise Gallery is a community-run curio shop helping Maasai women market their products locally and in the diaspora found at the border town of Namanga. Here, an impressive display of wood carvings, art, geometric beads ornaments and the atypical Maasai kikoys. The gallery which has been in existence for 15 years is also a convergence launch for hikers to the nearby Ol Donyo Orok Hills.

35. Mount Kilimanjaro

Granted that Mt. Kilimanjaro sits just over the Kenyan border, in Tanzania, the appeal of this magnificent haunt caps the beauty of the southern area of Kajiado County. Rising 19,340 ft. (5,895 ms) from the game plains of Kenya-Tanzania boundary, the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro provides a knockout landscape. It is the highest mountain in Africa as well as being one of the highest volcanoes in the world. Kilimanjaro has two main peaks. Kibo is the main attraction, being the true summit of the mountain. Mawenzi rises east of Kibo to a height of 16,980 ft., and is of particular interest to the serious climber. Whether you are an active potential mountain climber or a mere beauty lover, Mount Kilimanjaro is a must. The walks take through a fairlyland of forest and waterfalls among the colourful, happy Chagga people who give the traveller as warm a welcome as can be had in any part of East Africa. The ascent of Kibo can be made from many different routes, but the common ways are from Moshi (on the Tanzania side), and from Loitokotok (on the Kenyan side). The best months for climbing Kilimanjaro are January and July in a round trip of five or six days.

36. Amboseli National Park

The 392 km2 Amboseli National Park is especially held dearly by photographers against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and its flat terrain. Administered by the local Maasai through Kajiado County Council, Amboseli expands over the dry savanna plains and contains enormous wildlife resources. The park derives its name from the Maasai’s equivalent of “dry river bed” in reference to Lake Amboseli – which over dry weather is smooth enough to drive across and only forming the shallow Lake Amboseli in the rain season. The smooth lake bed makes it easy to drive across to one of Amboseli’s useful observation points, consisting of a small hill that overlooks the major swamps, simply known as the “Observation Hill”. Moreover, it is equally easy to get lost crossing the dusty lake bed, and to avoid getting lost it is advised to follow the tracks. Amboseli National Park is famous for its elephants, buffaloes and rhino population. For accommodation, there is something for everyone at Amboseli. From Namanga, it is a 70 kms drive to Meshanani Gate. Via Emali, it’s reached through the Kimana (Olkelenyiet) Gate, which is a 231 kms drive from Nairobi.

Map of Amboseli National Park Courtesy of Expert Africa
Map of Amboseli National Park. All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa

37. Lake Amboseli

The 20 kms long featureless dusty plain of Lake Amboseli, which sustains only few inches of water in the course of the rainy season, between March to July, is quite an extraordinary component of Amboseli National Park; not least for the remarkable distortion of land-forms by the heat haze, which at times makes it difficult to distinguish between the mirage and the actual surface of the water. Amboseli National Park has a tremendous concentration of big game especially around the waterholes frequented by rhinos and elephants. It’s also one of East Africa’s best location for viewing the cheetah.  The perfectly flat surface of Lake Amboseli, which provides a nimble and comfortable line of communication in dry weather, becomes completely impassable to vehicles during the rain season.

Lake Amboseli. Published by Kenya FPV

38. Kimana Sanctuary

In extent, this is about 23 km2 and its nearest point is roughly 6 kms east of Amboseli National Park. It is a vast savanna with low-lying hills and is “a key corridor that links Amboseli National Park with the Chyulu Hills Reserve and Tsavo National Park, providing wildlife with a route through the narrowest part of the space between two settled areas”. The sanctuary has good concentration of game including Thompson and Grant’s gazelles, zebra, eland and a thriving population of warthogs amongst other game. Kimana Sanctuary is communally owned by 480 local Maasai, who in 1996 had the vision to set-aside this land as the very first community conservancy in Kenya. The beautiful Kimana House, a self-catering 4-bedroom which sleeps up to 8, is a budget-friendly hideout that is surrounded by indigenous woody and nearby the river bank. It is reached via C102 Emali-Oloitoktok Road near Isineti Shopping Centre, 80 kms from Emali.

39. Sidai Oleng Conservancy

Sidai Oleng Conservancy, established in 2012 with an area of 28 km2, is owned and managed by the Maasai community from the Kuku Group Ranch. Its name translates to “very pretty” or “very good”, an idiom that answers to its pleasing location between Amboseli and Chyulu.  It sits astride the Kimana Sanctuary, with Mount Kilimanjaro occupying much of its southerly views. “Sidai Oleng actively engages the native Maasai community with education and advocacy programs that grows their personal sense of purpose and value in preserving, even restoring their land. In addition, it employs local Maasai warriors from different villages as scouts and vigilant protectors of both the wildlife and the ecosystem”. The only development within Sidai Oleng is the five-acres research center constructed using local and natural material, with a camp ground for 50.

40. Selenkay Conservancy

Formerly Eselenkei Group Ranch, the 52 km2 Selenkay Conservancy is situated immediately north of Amboseli National Park. It is focused on the conservation and preservation of both the wildlife resources and the gallant Maasai ancestry of Amboseli. Selenkay is community-owned under Eselenkei Group Ranch. The area is also an important dispersal area and corridor for wildlife migrating out of Amboseli. Ergo, Selenkay is home to impressive wildlife including elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, gerenuk, impala, oryx, lesser kudu, zebra, jackal, hyena, bat-eared for, wildebeest, giraffe, warthog, among others, in addition to being a veritable birding area. Porini Camp in the only lodge at Selenkay Conservancy. “The camp is built and operates on low impact, limited to 18 guests at a time. The guest tents and staff quarters are made out of beige and green canvas tents that blends in with the surroundings. Natural vegetation within is undisturbed. Paths ways are naturally aligned with sand to demarcate the way.” From here, callers to Selenkay can enjoy unlimited safaris within the conservancy or in the adjoining Amboseli National Park. It is located 16 kms north of Amboseli Park.

Selenkay Conservancy is big on eco-friendliness. Guests are briefed upon arrival by the manager on the various existing activities of the camp and environmental conservation such as on water. A room leaflet is strategically placed on the guest bed with elaborate information on the water, energy and waste management and the community integration.

41. Chyulu Hills

These are best seen along the 125 kms stretch of C102 Emali-Loitoktok Road. It travels parallel to A104 Kitengela-Namanga Road lying 42 kms away from it due west, and it terminates at Ilasit Border Point with Tanzania just 2 kms from Oloitoktok Town at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. The Chyulu Hills National Park, epitomized by the epic crest of the hillscape, plenty of game in its wooded savanna and variegated flora gamut that covers the peripheral region between Amboseli National Park and Tsavo East National Park.  The park itself mainly occurs on the eastern flanks of these hills, in Makueni County, and is operated by Kenya Wildlife Service. The western flanks of the Chyulu Hills, in Kajiado County, are occupied by sizable conservancies and Massai Group Ranches. The lower parts, on both side, are typified by expansive grassland while the higher reaches are dominated by woody thickets. “The western frontier of Chyulu Hills is part of the wildlife conservation region that includes luxury lodges owned by several Maasai Group Ranches with the money raised from tourism helping to maintain the environment and the rich Maasai traditions.” – Africa Geographic

42. Mbirikani Group Ranch

The 1,113 km2 Mbirikani Group Ranch, located in a second-to-none grandiose landscape – between Tsavo East and Amboseli National Parks, at the doorstep of the Chyulu Hills and with views of Mount Kilimanjaro – is a place of timeless beauty, that would be the envy of any top-tier safari destination. At the heart of Mbirikani Group Ranch is the exquisite Ol Donyo Lodge, one of only 15 Unique Lodges of the World in Africa by National Geographic – which goes a long way to caption the beauty of this area. Its other awards include The Safari Awards, Travel+Leisure and Robb Report. The Ranch is communally owned and run by 4,500 members of the Maasai Group Cooperative as a way to better manage the communal grazing land which also hosts varied wildlife. “On a hillside that rises above this arresting scene of Chyulu Hills is Ol Doinyo, a collection of thatched bungalows perfectly positioned to take in stunning natural displays” – Nat Geo.

43. Lake Chala

The enchanting colours of Lake Chala, glistening from a turquoise blue to jade green at different times of years, makes it one of the most phenomenal lakes in Kenya. Although still an untravelled destination, the 4 km2 Lake Chala set in a rocky crater at the border of Kenya and Tanzania has been described as a place of stellar tranquility and serenity. Popular things at Lake Chala include spotting its bountiful avi-fauna, swimming, fishing some of its endemic fish species and camping. A trip to this site is easily combined with a visit to Lake Jipe, found 35 kms south, through the Tsavo West National Park and where trippers can enjoy game viewing in transit. Lake Chala is found 19 kms south of Oloitoktok Town. There are two ways of getting to Tsavo East National Park from Oloitoktok: via Oloitoktok-Ilasit border through Tarakea, Mwikaa and Holili in Tanzania and back to Kenya via Taveta; or eastward heading via C103 Oloitoktok-Tsavo Road.

44. Crystal Caves at Lake Chala

“Missionary, Charles New, the first European to explore Lake Chala in 1871, was briefed by his guides to listen for the lowing of cattle, the crowing of cocks, the thudding of pestles and mortars and the grinding of flour mills which, they said, were the sounds of the people who lived in the crystal caves at the bottom of the lake. He was also warned to take care because sometimes the people at the bottom of the lake got lonely and came up to look for company.” Lumo Wildlife

45. Selengai Stones and Wells

Little is known and even less written about the Selengai Stones and Wells, yet, these are disconcertingly listed as a National Monument. Look where you may, but this twin sites are more phantom than reality. The only information to go by about Selengai is that they were both gazetted as a National Monument in 1935.

View of Lake Magadi.  Photo Courtesy of Mutua Matheka
A long view of Lake Magadi.  Image Courtesy of Mutua Matheka

Geography of Kajiado County

The noteworthy physical features of Kajiado County are its plains, valleys and occasional volcanic hills. Altitude ranges from 500 ms above sea level at Lake Magadi to 2500 ms above sea level in Ngong Hills. Kajiado County is divided into three major ecological zones – Rift Valley, Athi Kapiti Plains and Central Broken Ground.  The Rift Valley has important physical features such as Mt. Suswa and the Lake Magadi which has substantial deposits of soda ash that is commercially exploited.  The Athi Kapiti Plains are consised mainly of gently undulating slopes, which become rolling and hilly as you near the Ngong Hills. The Central Broken Ground is an area stretching 20 to 70 kms wide from the northeastern boarder, near Tsavo, to the southwest, at Namanga and Amboseli.

Land Use in Kajiado County

Land in Kajiado County is mainly used for livestock rearing and crop growing. Pastoralism is predominant throughout. There’s a significant change in the land use in the urban areas, where industrial and commercial use is growing rapidly.

Highlights in Kajiado County

Kajiado County has numerous touring attraction sites that include the globally famous Amboseli National Park, part of Tsavo, Lake Magadi, Ngong Hills and Chyulu Hills. Amboseli National Park attracts over 130,000 visitors annually. Other tourist attraction sites include Lake Amboseli, which is mainly seasonal and very alkaline, Mount Kilimanjaro, the superb grassland and plains and the well conserved Maasai culture and tradition which have been very popular with international tourists. The views of Mount Kilimanjaro provides stellar scenery.

Population of Kajiado County

Kajiado County had a population density of about 31 people/ km2 in 2009 and was expected to increase to 46 people/km2 by 2017.  It has an estimated annual population growth rate of 3.5%, with Kajiado’s population in 2012 estimated at 807,069.  The 2012 projected urban population in Kajiado was 191,827 which is 23% of the total population. The main towns in Kajiado County are Kitengela, Rongai, Kiserian, Ngong, Loitokitok, Namanga, Isinya and Kajiado.  Kajiado North, with a density of about 1369 people/km2, is the most densely populated.

View of catwalk viewing ledge at Olorgesailie Museum.  Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor
Catwalk ledge at Olorgesailie Museum.  Image Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Airports in Kajiado County

Kajiado County has seven airstrips with at least one in each Sub-county, at Kajiado Town, Loitokitok, Olooloitikosh, Ngong, Magadi, Daraja and Amboseli.

Roads in Kajiado County

Kajiado County has a total length of roads of 2,344.2 kms of which 300 kms is tarmac roads. The five major tarmac roads in the county are Emali-Loitokitok, Namanga-Athi River, Isinya-Kiserian, Magadi-Mbagathi and Kiserian-Ngong.

Climate in Kajiado County

Temperatures in Kajiado County oscillate, both with altitude and season. The highest temperatures of about 34C are recorded around Lake Magadi, while the lowest of 10C are experienced at Oloitokitok near the eastern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The coolest period is between July and August, and the hottest months are between November to April. Rainfall is concentrated in the months March to May and October to December. “The prevailing climate in Kajiado is known as a local steppe climate, and there is little rainfall throughout the year”.

Kajiado County Distance Chart
Kajiado County Distance Chart

View of the suspended rope bridge at Rolf's Place in Rongai-Kiserian Valley.  Photo Courtesy
Rope bridge at Rolf’s Place in Rongai-Kiserian Valley.  Image Courtesy

National Monuments in Kajiado County

  1. Selengai Stones
  2. Selengai Wells
  3. Olorgesailie Site

Kajiado County Map

Kajiado County Map