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  1. #1
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    Default Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Does anyone have more information on the Ewaso Nyiro Riverbank Campsite in the Ngurumani Conservancy near Lake Magadi please?
    Gerrit Laubscher

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    I have absolutely no current information, but many years ago when we were based in Nairobi for a while we used to regularly head into the Nguruman and Shompole conservancies (Maasai-run) and camp in various places along the Ewaso Ngiro. Beautiful part of the Rift Valley with great birding, some wildlife, you can access the Kenyan tip of Lake Natron from there.
    Tony Weaver
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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Quote Originally Posted by lirritma View Post
    Does anyone have more information on the Ewaso Nyiro Riverbank Campsite in the Ngurumani Conservancy near Lake Magadi please?
    I have been going to Lake Magadi - when it was a really remote and inaccessible place (despite being not that far, as the crow flies, from Nairobi) - since I was a child. I used to go down to stay with a school friend whose father worked at Magadi Soda Company. I remember vividly many a long rough drive down there in the 1960s and 1970s in my father’s Peugeot 403/404s. And once when a VW Beetle behind us rolled. The road down to Magadi was tarmaced sometime in the 1980s/1990s.

    However, I haven’t actually been down to Lake Magadi since about 2008 when we camped at Olorgesaile and did circumnavigate Lake Magadi through what is now known as Shompole. There have always been places to camp along the southern Ewaso Nyiro (as opposed to the northern Ewaso Nyiro), but these are now community conservancies and fees need to be paid.

    I don’t know about the campsite you are asking about, but I can ask my contacts. I’m pretty certain it won’t have any facilities and is more than likely to be just a piece of Africa. But it is an amazing part of the Great Rift Valley - hot, hot, hot.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2023/04/20 at 01:46 AM.

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    I went to the southern side in January. Lots of nice spots along the river. No infrastructure at all. I went through a guy called Joshua - 0721847477, who was very helpful and reliable. Conservancy fee to Shompole conservancy was 2000 KSh per day including camping.
    Last edited by chf; 2023/04/20 at 02:08 PM.

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    OK, a bit self-indulgent, but here's a piece I wrote for Out There magazine 25 (yikes!) years ago about the area. It sounds as though very little has changed, and the directions I give will still be valid: Undedited from the original...



    OUT THERE
    OFF ROAD: MAY, 1998
    EPIC ROUTES: LAKE MAGADI

    JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH

    Story and pictures: Tony Weaver

    Blurb: Stuck in Nairobi? There's a little-known route just outside the Kenyan capital which takes you from the cool heights of the escarpment into one of the hottest places in Africa. Tony Weaver reports.

    TEXT:

    NAIROBI takes a bit of getting used to. There's a game reserve in the suburbs where lion, buffalo, rhino and giraffe roam free; hyena howled at night in our garden on the Ngong Road; a man was walking his Staffie in the suburb of Langata when a leopard leapt from the bushes and left him with an empty leash.

    Almost every overlander gets stuck in Nairobi at some stage: It's the best place in East Africa for vehicle repairs, visas, supplies and night life -- you can dance the night away at the Carnivore, and when the music dies, lion can be heard roaring in the distant night. But despite the contrast of city and wild Africa, it can also be a frustrating place -- East Africa beckons, but you have to wait another week, another fortnight.

    There's a little-known piece of epic Africa an hour or two's drive from the city: Lake Magadi and the Nguruman Escarpment.

    Take the Magadi Road to Kiserian and then on to the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment. From this cool, 2,130m high vantage point, there is a breathtaking view into the sere depths of the Rift Valley.

    Then, in just 80km, the road plunges nearly 1,600m into what would be a hell hole if it weren't so devastatingly beautiful. On the valley floor, 580m above sea level, day time temperatures often soar above 40degC, but just 30km to the west, on the 2,300m high Nguruman Escarpment, it can be bitterly cold on the same day.

    The tar road ends at Magadi, a bleak little town, with everything owned by the Magadi Soda Company. Every year, 300,000 tons of soda ash are produced here, making the lake one of Kenya's prime sources of foreign exchange. Magadi is distinguished by its golf course with brown greens made from compressed sludge and machine oil, and, we were told, a "wild" recreational club.

    We didn't stick around to find out the truth.

    There are two exploration routes in the Magadi area: Both are on land communally owned by the local Maasai, and run by them as one of the most progressive and innovative conservation projects in Kenya.

    Heading to the left as you enter Magadi, past the golf course, the road descends into an untouched section of the lake, and into the Shompole Group Ranch. After paying a nominal fee, you enter an almost untouched piece of Maasailand.

    All the local tribespeople are part of the profit-sharing scheme, so there are none of the hassles and insecurities associated with similar communal areas around the Maasai Mara, where tourists have been robbed in the past. Here, you are a guest of the people.

    Lake Magadi is an almost terrifying spectacle: The lake changes colour from brilliant white to cerise pink, cobalt, indigo, deep scarlet and soft pastels as the light changes. The waters are so alkaline that if you wade in, your skin begins to blister and peel off in chunks.

    And yet this hostile environment sustains an astonishing variety of life. Lake Magadi and Lake Natron, just a handful of kilometres south in Tanzania, are two of the principal East African breeding grounds for greater and lesser flamingoes. They come here in their hundreds of thousands, excavating cones of mud 20 to 40cm high in which to lay their eggs. The mud reaches temperatures of 55 to 65degC, and keeps the eggs safe from predators.

    Lake Magadi is also home to one of Africa's toughest fish, tilapia Grahami, which live in the hot springs on the fringes of the lake in water with a salinity of 40% and a temperature of 39degC.

    The track southward winds in and out of the salt flats, and after heavy rains, stick to the high ground, as parts of the lake fringes become bottomless bogs.

    Then the land fans out into the Ewaso Ngiro Plains, where the river of the same name spreads delta-like, forming a main channel with a network of channels and swamps and some of the best birding in East Africa. Beware of cotton mud here after rain. The banks of the crocodile-free Ewaso Ngiro are shaded by huge, spreading acacias, and every second tree hides a perfect camp site.

    Then the valley narrows, to a point where you have the imposing bulk of Shompole, an extinct volcano, on your left, and the river on your right. There is a nerve-racking section of about 300m where capsizing into the river is a real possibility, then you round a bend and the full magnificence of Lake Natron, the least known of all the Rift Valley lakes, spreads before you.

    You are now in Tanzania, but the chances of being bust for an illegal crossing are so remote that it would be foolish to come this far without exploring further. The track curves around the base of Shompole and gets very rough, but with careful driving, is navigable.

    Shompole itself is best left unclimbed: Its summit is 1,564m above sea level, and it rises 960 metres from its base to the peak. Paul Clarke, in his guide "The Mountains of Kenya", says of Shompole: "Heat, dense wild sisal and thorn bush make this the most unpleasant mountain in this guide. A recent party spent 22 hours of crawling and walking on a return trip to the summit. If you are bagging all Kenya's mountains, save this one for last and hope you don't ever make it."

    Lake Natron is a spectacular sight, always tinged pink by the combination of soda and vast flocks of flamingos, with a rugged escarpment rising to 2,043m straight from the lake bed. It was here that legendary wildlife film makers, Bernhardt Grzimek, and his son, Michael, nearly died on January 9, 1959. Bernhardt tells the story in their book, "Serengeti Shall not Die."

    They had landed their single-engined Fieseler Stork on the hard salt flats on the edge of Natron with the intention of filming nesting flamingos. In the middle of the night, a ferocious storm struck the lake. As lightning slammed into the ground all about them, gusts of hurricane strength wind threatened to flip their 'plane onto its back. The waters were rising and with the salt crust becoming ever more waterlogged, the 'plane was beginning to sink.

    At the height of the storm, Bernhardt wrote, Michael fell asleep. "I felt like placing one of his cool hands on my knee and covering it with my own. This might have woken him up, however, and in any case men are not expected to stroke their children's hands, only mothers do that."

    They escaped, just, and the next morning, flew back to their base in the Ngorongoro Crater. That afternoon, Michael flew off to track animals. He collided with a griffon vulture, and plunged to his death. He is buried on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, under a simple memorial with a plaque that reads "He gave all he possessed for the wild animals of Africa, including his life."

    On the Shompole Group Ranch, the Maasai people are determined to turn their area into a showcase for the wild animals of Africa. "We want our community to benefit from the wildlife populations which live on our land. If we cannot benefit from them, then the demand for land in Kenya will make conservation very difficult ... hence we are developing locally-managed tourism aimed at the visitor who would like to visit an area unspoilt by mass tourism," their pamphlet says.

    The other leg of this project is reached by turning right in the village of Magadi instead of left, and heading across a series of dykes spanning the soda works to the Nguruman Escarpment. After 25km of lake shore and open plains, the gravel road reaches the Ewaso Ngiro River and a ranger checkpoint.

    Here you can either head up or down river on rough tracks and find a camp site -- there is a great camp site beside a series of rapids about 9km upstream -- or cross over the river and into the foothills of the Ngurumans. (Wherever you camp, beware of lions).

    Crossing the river, head through the village and follow the track until you cross a river that could be a trout stream, into a bulldozed clearing and set up camp. From here, there is a wonderful hike upriver, through canopy forest of cedars and yellowwoods, past enticing swimming pools, in total contrast to the dusty heat of the plains below.

    Another track, very rough and hazardous, heads south (left) from the village climbing steadily for about 25km into the Ngurumans onto the Lorsuate Plateau. Here the track dies, although intrepid drivers could try and take things further – we gave up. Better to make a base camp, and explore further on foot.

    Old maps show this track heading over the Ngurumans to Entersekera, into the Loita Hills and down into the Maasai Mara, a distance of about 60km, but we were unable to find it, and old Kenya hands told us this route hadn't been used in years.

    The Shompole and Nguruman ranches are not just about wild travel and rough roads: The local community are very welcoming, and you can spend the night in a manyatta, where the dancing is the real thing, not the staged stuff outside the Maasai Mara where the morani (warriors) sing (this is true) "look at that fat sweaty American, he is ogling the girls' tits". You can go donkey trekking with the morani, drink fresh ox blood and milk, and buy original beadwork at source.

    The Magadi Basin and the Ngurumans give you a glimpse of a vanishing Africa, a glimpse seen by the Grzimeks and the Blixens of this world. It is a glimpse now only available to the privileged few, and, because of a small group of Maasai in an isolated valley, it is not a glimpse that is dying.

    FACT FILE:
    FACILITIES:

    There are a handful of designated campsites with very basic facilities. Bush camping is preferable.

    TIME NEEDED:

    If you're the frenetic "been there, done that" type, you could "do" Lake Magadi and surrounds in two days. Anything from three to ten days is needed for a thorough exploration.

    ROAD CONDITIONS:

    There have been exceptionally heavy rains in Kenya this year, so, even those roads which once were good may now be nothing more than rugged 4X4 trails. The access roads are all good, but some of the tracks are very tricky, especially after rain.

    OTHER PLACES:

    Some 56km from the Langata/Magadi Road junction is the Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site, discovered by Louis and Mary Leakey in 1942. Louis Leakey described this site as "the most significant in the whole world of Aechulian hand axe culture" and provided some of the earliest evidence of man becoming a hunter. Camp site and bungalows.

    WILDLIFE AND BIRDING:

    The valley is part of the Serengeti/Ngorongoro/Mara ecosystem and is rich in wildlife on a seasonal basis: Besides lion, leopard and cheetah, there are species like zebra, gerenuk, klipspringer, oryx, zorilla, wildebeest, and, in the higher forest areas, elephant, buffalo and colobus monkeys. More than 250 bird species have been listed here and include a number of lifers.

    HEALTH:

    Malaria is endemic. Heat and sun stroke are very real dangers, as is snow blindness if you spend too long on the salt flats without good sunglasses.

    FURTHER READING:

    The only detailed guides to the area we found were two books only available in Nairobi. The first is the eccentric, but invaluable, "On Safari: 40 Circuits in Kenya" by Philippe Oberle (self-published) and the excellent "Where to Watch Birds in Kenya" by Ray Moore (TransAfrica, Nairobi). Good general guides to Kenya include "The Rough Guide To Kenya" by Richard Trillo (Penguin) and the "Spectrum Guide to Kenya" (Camerapix/Struik).

    This article is dedicated to the memory of my friends and colleagues, Patrick Wagner and Herman Potgieter, and all those on board the Pilatus which crashed into the Ngong Hills overlooking Lake Magadi on February 13, 1998. Lala salaama, safari njema.
    Tony Weaver
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    Previously
    1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line 3.5l V8; 1968 2.25l Land Rover SII; 1969 2.6l SIIA; 1973 2.25l SIII
    1983 Toyota HiLux 2l 4x4

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  10. #6
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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    OK, a bit self-indulgent, but here's a piece I wrote for Out There magazine 25 (yikes!) years ago about the area. It sounds as though very little has changed, and the directions I give will still be valid: Undedited from the original...



    .
    Always a pleasure to read these pieces you post now and then. The part with the thunderstorm reminds me of our ordeal in Magadi December 2018. Stuck in a horrible electrical storm surrounded by lighting strikes close enough to see the trail of sparks inching closer. Floods blocking any exits, tents floating, deafening thunder. I've actually never been that terrified. Seeing and feeling your hair raise up right before the lightning strikes wondering if its going to be your car struck this time is something. Using the olkiramatian route out and getting horribly stuck. Sourcing a goat for dinner and being harassed by lions all night... make it out to the main road finally. Only to get cut off by rock slides and flooding. Oh... Magadi...

    But I paint a bad picture. Growing up for a good number of years we would cycle kiserian to magadi at least monthly and have had many uneventful visits there .

    I would still be cautious in these heavy rains. Its surprising how you can easily get cut off and stuck there...

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Quote Originally Posted by atakanmerdin View Post
    Always a pleasure to read these pieces you post now and then. The part with the thunderstorm reminds me of our ordeal in Magadi December 2018. Stuck in a horrible electrical storm surrounded by lighting strikes close enough to see the trail of sparks inching closer. Floods blocking any exits, tents floating, deafening thunder. I've actually never been that terrified. Seeing and feeling your hair raise up right before the lightning strikes wondering if its going to be your car struck this time is something. Using the olkiramatian route out and getting horribly stuck. Sourcing a goat for dinner and being harassed by lions all night... make it out to the main road finally. Only to get cut off by rock slides and flooding. Oh... Magadi...

    But I paint a bad picture. Growing up for a good number of years we would cycle kiserian to magadi at least monthly and have had many uneventful visits there .

    I would still be cautious in these heavy rains. Its surprising how you can easily get cut off and stuck there...
    It is such great news that I might now be able to retire from this forum - leaving Kenya and East Africa in the capable hands of our Kenyan friend, atakanmerdin - and, I hope, other more recent resident “Wageni”.

    Safari njema.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2023/04/27 at 01:37 AM.

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Quote Originally Posted by chf View Post
    I went to the southern side in January. Lots of nice spots along the river. No infrastructure at all. I went through a guy called Joshua - 0721847477, who was very helpful and reliable. Conservancy fee to Shompole conservancy was 2000 KSh per day including camping.
    Thanks chf. I've also got hold of Joshua. So it looks like we are on the right track.
    Gerrit Laubscher

    Angola sempre

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    chf

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Alternatively you can reach out to Leonard - 0724 327 639 - who manages Lentorre lodge and is also well connected in the area.

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Quote Originally Posted by lirritma View Post
    Thanks chf. I've also got hold of Joshua. So it looks like we are on the right track.
    Are you in Kenya at the moment? If so, we are hoping for a trip report.

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Quote Tony Weaver : Take the Magadi Road to Kiserian and then on to the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment. From this cool, 2,130m high vantage point, there is a breathtaking view into the sere depths of the Rift Valley.

    This is known as Corner Baridi. Baridi meaning cold in Swahili. It’s a great spot for the “fundi” birders - as is all down the road to Magadi.


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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Are you in Kenya at the moment? If so, we are hoping for a trip report.
    Actually living in Nairobi now. Noticed that you were here recently so please give us a shout when you are around again. Will put a report together.
    Gerrit Laubscher

    Angola sempre

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    Quote Originally Posted by chf View Post
    I went to the southern side in January. Lots of nice spots along the river. No infrastructure at all. I went through a guy called Joshua - 0721847477, who was very helpful and reliable. Conservancy fee to Shompole conservancy was 2000 KSh per day including camping.
    Joshua is a dear friend and an invaluable contact for the area! Great recommendation!

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    Default Re: Ewaso Ngiro near Lake Magadi

    I'll step out and beg: we still need you here, WW !!!
    And new Kenyan forces, like atakanmerdin, are of course always more than welcome and appreciated.
    Last edited by ortelius; 2023/04/27 at 09:22 PM.
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