Mount Longonot National Park, Crescent Island Game Sanctuary, Hell’s Gate National Park, L. Nakuru National Park, Bonjoge National Reserve

National Parks and Reserves in Kenya

41. Mount Longonot National Park

Mount Longonot National Park. Image courtesy of Lonely Planet

The famous Rift Valley floor commencing in the Naivasha area forms part of the structurally and topographically diverse Great Rift Valley. Among the numerous volcanic cones and craters, scarps and studs, the highest tip is formed by Mount Longonot which rises abruptly to 9,107 ft (2776 ms) to exemplify the contrast of scenery and ecology. The fetching landscape of this bulky and pitted dome lying isolated in the spacey Rift Valley also doubles as the most exalted hiking-trails in Kenya. Longonot is derived from the Maasai idiom “Oloonong’ot” translating to “the mountain of many spurs or steep ridges”. All in all, 52 km2 around the Mount Longonot was gazetted, in 1993, as the Mount Longonot National Park. It offers the avid hiker a breathtaking experience culminating at its crater forest with unbridled views of Lake Naivasha, Njorowa Gorge and outwith. It takes on average 6 hours (round-trip) to scout Mount Longonot. Major wildlife sighting includes buffaloes, elands, bushbucks, zebra, giraffe and gazelles. A small cover charge (Citizens – 300, Residents – 600 and Non-Residents – USD 26) is paid to enter the park. It is found 90 kms from Nairobi via Mai Mahiu-Nairobi Road.

42. Crescent Island Game Sanctuary

Crescent Island Game Sanctuary

If you have never done this you will find it a totally different experience from game watching from a vehicle. To reach the Island, turn into Moi South Lake Road 5 kms east of Naivasha Town and after 5.2 kms turn right at the Sanctuary Farm. Once on the farm follow the signs for “Crescent Island” which is 2.8 kms from the main road.  It’s peninsular is accessible by boat from east or west, with many hotels including Naivasha Country Club, Hippo Safaris, Naivasha Resort, Sopa Lodge, Simba Lodge, Carnelleys, Elsamere and Fisherman Camp offering boating trip. There are many budget-friendly hop on hop off boat taxis that take to the island. A small entry fee to Crescent Island is charged on arrival (Citizens and Residents – Shs 800 and Non-Residents – USD 30. Child rate are half the rates). Crescent Island is in excellent surroundings and on the Island there are many varieties of game and over 300 species of birds. It has more animals per acre than any other game sanctuary in Kenya. Located on the eastern fringe of Lake Naivasha, it was separated by declining water-level, in the 1930’s, to form the partially submerged island. At low water levels it gets increasingly isolated.

43. Hell’s Gate National Park

Hell's Gate National Park in Nakuru County. Image Courtesy of Inspirock

Just 10 kms from the turnoff to Moi South Lake Road the first of two entrances to the favoured Hell’s Gate National Park is reached, along Gorge Road. The 68 km2 park, more proper the Njorowa Gorge, typified by sheer faces carved from sheets and plugs with steep and deeply incised stratified rock faces and steam-jets, is a most picturesque place. On arrival, Fischer’s Tower at the northern end of the Njorowa Gorge, from which Stone Age man hewed blocks for the making of his obsidian implements, offers a remarkable rock sight. Scenically, some of the most impressive features of the Njorowa Gorge are two lava plugs known as Fischer’s Tower and The Horse or El Barta (its original Maasai name). Fischer’s Tower is roughly conical, terminating in a point, while El Barta is cylindrical with a blunt rounded crest. Other notable geological features include: Hobley’s volcano and the dandy column cliffs at the northern edge of the Njorowa Gorge.

Most notable as the only park in Kenya where callers may opt to walk, ride, hike or drive, it offers quite a lot of thrilling activities. Most popular is trekking the alluring Njorowa Gorge that runs across the park. Here, the fine-textured gorge wall aiming for the south-end alters colour from purplish, maroon and reddish brown. The reddish colour is due to erosional oxidation hastened by the large surface areas of these porous rocks. Other interests include the Obsidian Caves, Central Tower, Hell’s Gate Viewpoint, Observatory Tower, Mervyn Carnelley Raptor Hide and wildlife viewing. There are three camping sites in the park: Endachata Campsite, Naiburta Campsite and Oldubai Campsite. The popular Ol Karia Geothermal Spa is located on the western end of the Hell’s Gate National Park at KenGen Olkaria Geothermal Plant II. It is easier to get here through the Olkaria Route located 20 kms from the turnoff to Moi South Lake Road, passing Fisherman’s Camp, the Elsamere Nature Reserve and the Oserian Flower Farm.

44. Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park. Image courtesy of Hansel Travel

Lake Nakuru National Park is on account of its beauty, diversity and popularity the upcountry counterpart of Nairobi National Park. At 188 km2 – enclosing the lake bed and the 60 km2 surrounding riparian – it’s a fairly small park but far important than its size suggests. The Lake itself, 45 km2 at 5,776 ft. lying in a graben bound by the Lion Hill and the Mau Escarpment, is one of the world’s great attraction for ornithologists. Its parkway runs through the lush woodland before emerging at the lakeshore marked by a shimmering pink band, about 20 yards wide. It is the epic line made by hundreds of thousands of flamingos. And these are by no means all. More than 300 other species have been classified in the park, all which combine to make a unique and gratifying birding experience.

Lake Nakuru is a shallow pan which never fills to a depth of more than a few feet. The lake is a little deeper at the “Hippo Pools” at the north-eastern corner allowing the precarious survival of a small hippo population. The water is saline in the extreme, due to the rapid evaporation of the shallow water body. In fact, “there have been prolonged periods in this century when it contained little if any water at all. The whole of the alkaline lake bed was exposed to the sun and formed a blindingly white expanse. Daily, for months on end, this was swept by strong southerly winds which picked up the dust and drove it as a dense white soda smog across Nakuru Town and right up the Rift towards Solai”. There are three useful observation points – Lion hill, Baboon cliff and Out of Africa hill – overlooking the lake. They offer lovely scenery and game viewing opportunities.

To enjoy its wide ranging beauty and ecological diversity – from its lake, forests, marshlands, open grassland, its cliffs and bush habitat, with over 70 mammal species and 300 bird species – trippers can choose to camp at one of thirteen camping sites operated by Kenya Wildlife Service, or, for a touch of class and luxury, stay at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge or at Lake Nakuru Lodge. The latter, located at the south-eastern corner of the lake offers accommodation for 120 in family rooms, cottages or suites. Park entry fees: Citizens – Sh. 800, Residents – Shs. 1030 and Non-Residents – USD 60. The most common route into the park is via the main gate, 4 km from Nakuru Town Centre. It is also possible to enter the park from the main Nairobi-Nakuru road via Lanet Gate. The Nderit Gate is used by trippers accessing the park from Masai Mara or L. Elementaita.

45. Bonjoge National Reserve

Bonjoge National Reserve atop the Nyando Escarpment in Nandi County

Although there is very little that separates the underdeveloped 21 km2 Bonjoge National Reserve from its rugged landscape, plans are underway to perk-up its infrastructure and revamp its wildlife. The Bonjogi National Reserve is situated atop Nandi Escarpment, 15 kms north of Kisumu City, and is more scenic than faunal, making for a pleasurable goal for a hike. “Bonjoge N. Reserve consists of millions of rocks and boulders that litter the landscape, rich birdlife and a wide array animal species including Olive baboons, Colobus monkeys, bush duikers, jackals, vervet and de-Brazza’s monkeys among many more” – Hidden Gems of Kenya.  The 5 kms ascent through the park, sometimes steep, takes adventure-makers to its summit, the famed Nandi Rock, with distant view of Lake Victoria and Kisumu City. What little wildlife there is to be seen here is made-up-for by the birds. A good pair of binoculars will better the Bonjoge experience ten-fold.

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  1. Lake Baringo National Reserve, Lake Bogoria National Reserve, South-Western Mau National Reserve, Rimoi National Reserve, Lake Kamnarok
  2. Mount Kenya National Park, Mwea National Reserve, Bour-Algi Giraffe Sanctuary, Rahole National Reserve, Arawale National Reserves
  3. Boni National Reserve, Ruma National Park, Bisanadi National Reserve, Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Shaba National Reserve
  4. Amboseli National Park, Kakamega National Reserve, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve, Watamu Marine National Park, Malindi Marine Reserve
  5. Kisumu Impala Sanctuary, Ndere Island National Park, Mwingi National Reserve, South Kitui National Reserve, Shimba Hills National Reserve
  6. Diani-Chale Marine National Reserve, Kisite Mpunguti National Marine Park and Reserve, Dodori National Reserve, Kiunga Marine National Reserve, Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park
  7. Chyulu Hills National Park, Ngai Ndeithia National Reserve, Malka Mari National Park, Losai National Reserve, South Island National Park
  8. Marsabit National Reserve and Park, Sibiloi National Park, Meru National Park, Mombasa Marine National Reserve and Park, Nairobi National Park
  9. Mount Longonot National Park, Crescent Island Game Sanctuary, Hell’s Gate National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Bonjoge National Reserve
  10. Masai Mara National Reserve, Aberdare National Park, Samburu National Reserve, Maralal Game Reserve, Lake Kanyaboli National Reserve
  11. Kora National Park, Tana Primate National Reserve, Tsavo East & Tsavo West National Parks, Mutejwa National Reserve
  12. Mount Elgon National Park, Saiwa Swamp National Park, Central Island National Park, South Turkana National Reserve, Nasolot National Reserve