A part of the extensive lands, first owned by one of Kenya’s best-known pioneers, Lord Delamere, the non-profit Soysambu Conservancy is dedicated towards preserving this previously private and still pristine wilderness. Featuring volcanic hills, rolling plains, and dense acacia woodlands, the Conservancy also includes a substantial part of Lake Elmentaita, the ancestral home of thousands of flamingos and their attendant cast of pelicans, cormorants, waders and storks. Within the shelter of the crater, wander large herds of buffalo, within the acacia thickets graze the rare Rothschild’s giraffe, and across the plains bound an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of plain’s game. Long protected from the impact of mass-tourism, the Conservancy also provides sanctuary for a wide range of predators, including the shy and secretive leopard.
World Heritage Status
The Kenya Lake System of the Great Rift Valley was added to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Heritage List in 2011. The citation reads;
‘The Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (Kenya), a natural property of outstanding beauty was the first to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List during the current Committee session. It comprises three inter-linked relatively shallow lakes (Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elmentaita) in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya and covers a total area of 32,034 hectares. The property is home to 13 globally threatened bird species and some of the highest bird diversities in the world. It is the single most important foraging site for the lesser flamingo anywhere, and a major nesting and breeding ground for great white pelicans. The property features sizeable mammal populations, including black rhino, Rothschild’s giraffe, greater kudu, lion, cheetah and wild dogs and is valuable for the study of ecological processes of major importance’.
Soysambu Conservancy fact file
1,775–1,950 metres above sea level
Soysambu Conservancy is 19,433-hectares (48,000-acres) while Lake Elmenteita fluctuates seasonally between 19 km² and 22 km²
Within the eastern limb of Africa’s Great Rift Valley approximately 130 km northwest of Nairobi and 27km from the Nderit Gate of Nakuru National Park.
Over 15,000 wild animals, including Rothschild Giraffes, Buffaloes, Leopards, Hyenas, Jackals, Elands, Zebras, Impalas, Thompson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, Defassa Waterbucks, Reedbucks, Warthogs, Steinboks, Klipspringers and Colobus Monkeys
Over 450 species, 80 of which are waterfowl, with over half a million birds visiting annually.
To the east lies Lake Elmenteita, to the west Lake Nakuru . The dormant volcanoe Oldoinyo Eburu lies to the south and Menengai to the north.
A soda lake lying in the bottom of the eatern arm of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Elmenteita fluctuates in size between 19 sq km and 22 sq km).
The Kenya Lake System of the Great Rift Valley was added to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Heritage List in 2011.
Soysambu features remnant volcanic features such as lava flows, craters, plugs and craters. Close to the lake are areas of tall bamboo grass and sedges while further inland are areas of yellow-barked Acacia, green Warburgia trees, and pockets of Euphorbia candelabra.
The conservancy was set up in 2006 as a non-profit organisation, dedicated to the conservation of the area’s wildlife species and their habitats. The conservancy is also committed towards supporting the local communities that surround it.
In the vicinity
Lake Nakuru National Park, Lake Naivasha, Hells Gate National Park, Mount Longonot National Park, The Menengai Crater and the Eburru Escarpment.
Hyrax Hill Prehistoric Site and the Kariandusi Museum prehistoric site where stone handaxes and cleavers were discovered in 1928 by Louis Leakey.
About Lake Elmenteita
Lake Elmenteita, also spelled Elementaita, is a soda lake, in the eastern limb of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, about 120 km northwest of Nairobi, Kenya. Elmenteita is derived from the Masaai word muteita, meaning “dust place”, a reference to the dry and dusty quality of the area, especially between January and March. In the south-to-north sequence of Rift Valley lakes, Elmenteita is located between Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru. At the southern end of the lake lie the “Kekopey” hot springs, in which the Tilapia Grahamii breed. The reedbeds nearby are fishing grounds for Night Herons and Pelicans.
Over 400 bird species have been recorded in the Lake Nakuru/Lake Elmenteita basin. Elmenteita attracts visiting flamingoes, both the Greater and Lesser varieties, which feed on the lake’s crustacean and insect larvae and on its suspended blue-green algae, respectively. Tilapia were introduced to the lake from Lake Magadi in 1962 and since that time the flamingo population has dwindled considerably. The tilapia attract many fish-eating birds that also feed upon the flamingo eggs and chicks. Over a million birds that formerly bred at Elmenteita are now said to have sought refuge at Lake Natron in Tanzania. The lake’s shores are grazed by zebra, gazelle, eland and families of warthog.
The lake is normally very shallow (< 1 m deep) and bordered by trona-encrusted mudflats during the dry seasons. During the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, Lake Elmenteita was at times united with and expanded Lake Nakuru, forming a much larger dilute lake. Remnants of the former joined lake are preserved as sediments at various locations around the lake basins, including former shorelines.
forests that include:
The geology of the Lake and its surrounding area
The lake was formed 12 million years ago when the emergence of the Great Rift Valley caused a series of inland drainage basins to be formed. As a result, the rocks of the region are mostly volcanic whilst the soils are fragile, highly porous and highly susceptible to erosion. The ecological balance of the lake is constantly under threat thanks to the drastic fluctuations in water level that occur due to little-understood interactions between hydrology, meteorology and geology. Meanwhile the populations of algae, invertebrates, fish and flamingos can only survive under very specific conditions, which means that any change in water level and/or composition has a drastic impact on the entire biosphere.
About the Great Rift Valley
Lake Elmenteita lies on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, the single most dramatic feature on planet earth. A unique geological phenomenon, the Kenyan Rift is only one small part of a massive continental fault that runs 6000 km from Jordan to Mozambique. The Rift enters Northern Kenya through the jade-green waters of Lake Turkana, slices a wedge through the centre of the country and exits south of Lake Natron into the vastness of Tanzania.
Flowing like molten lava from north to south the rift is up to 100 km wide in some places and features walls that tower 3,964 metres above sea level. Elsewhere the valley floor rises from little more than 200 meters to around 1, 900 meters above sea level. Evidence of the terrifying power of the force that changed the earth can be found in the 30 active and semi-active volcanoes that stud the floor of the Rift and in the boiling springs that bring sodium carbonate bubbling from deep within the bowels of the earth and turn the Rift valley lakes into bitter pans or blistering soda flats.
The first European to investigate the Rift and the man who gave it it’s name, was John Walter Gregory, who in 1893 deduced that this cataclysmic rent in the face of the earth was formed ‘by the rock sinking in mass, while the adjacent land remained stationary’.
History of the area
This area seems to have been a popular haunt for the peoples of the Later Stone Age, many of whom were buried around the area. Research has revealed that their bodies were smeared with ochre, tied into a hunched position and buried in a shallow grave surrounded by beads and ornaments. A large fire was then lit above the grave, which reduced the bodies to charcoal.
The fresh water springs to the south of the lake are thought to have been a regular stopping off point for the ivory and slave trading caravans that travelled to and from the coast into the heart of Africa. It was here too that the local Tugen tribes were in the habit of ambushing the passing caravans. The early explorers also used the springs to fill their water bottles.
Guests are required to pay a contribution towards the upkeep of the private Soysambu Conservancy.
Price per person per day: Non-Resident (adult) $40 (child $20 and student $20).
East African Resident (adult) Kshs 1,000 (child Kshs 500 and student Kshs 100).
A relevant invoice will be supplied upon your departure.