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Craters and caves in Mt. Suswa, Kenya


Mount Suswa, a massive double volcanic crater, is one of Kenya’s least known mountains and conservation areas.

Satellite image of Mt. Suswa

Satellite image of Mt. Suswa

Only 50 km from Nairobi, it is described by many as the best day trip from Kenya’s capital, this little known yet massive double cratered volcano is located very close to it’s well known sister, Mt. Longonot. Though unimpressive from the outside or main Narok road Mt. Suswa is one of the most spectacular mountains of the Rift Valley as it comprises a 12 km across double crater system, a vast network of obsidian caves and a variety of wild animals and plants.

Suswa is a magnificent extinct volcano in the Rift Valley. It is famed for the many caves on its E slopes. All are easy to access, none are too long or complex and no special gear or knowledge is required explore these systems.

josh and Kadonyo suswa

Getting there

Access: Take the old road from Nairobi to Naivasha (the more westerly). After 58 km, just before reaching Longonot, turn left at Mai Mahiu onto a good tarmac road leading to Narok. After 10 km a satellite station is passed on the left; in another 6.5 km along this road a dirt road leads S towards Suswa. Now go 6 km across plains to a Maasai manyatta. Just beyond this a track leads 55W up the slopes of Suswa; it is very rough and fairly steep.

Altitude 2356 m 7,730 feet
Latitude: 1.175°S 1°10’30″S
Longitude: 36.35°E 36°21’0″E

To get to caves

suswa cave entrance

Perhaps the main attraction to Suswa are the volcanic caves – there are over 30 cave entrances that simply plunge into the ground. Caves are located on the outer edge of the outer crater. You may need to ask directions to find them.

The caves comprise of lava tube systems, formed in a period of recent volcanic activity. They are totally different from limestone caves. Lava tubes are relatively rare, and are believed to have been formed when molten lava, of the correct type and viscosity (pahoehoe lava), flowed down a slope of an ideal angle. The outer layers cool and solidify, but the core continues to flow, and in some cases, evacuates itself completely to leave behind an empty tube. Numerous unusual features can be found and include lava ropes, benches, lava stalactites and stalagmites and a variety of secondary formations. The latter are produced by the deposition of minerals dissolved in the ground waters. The secondary formations are exceptionally fine in cave 35A on Suswa where very unusual and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites are found. Many of these formations are quite fragile and great care must be taken not to touch them.

These spectacular caves some 10 m high and wide in many places are a favourite for spelunking enthusiasts. Bring a good torch and lots of batteries. Do not go alone, children must accompany adults, there are dangerous drop offs (over 10 m) in places. The caves are extraordinary, their walls have a bizarre texture like stretched dough from the retreating lava.

Finding the Caves In 5km the edge of the caldera is reached at a meadow. Immediately take a fork L and head south for 3 km (ignore a right turn at 2.5 km) to a big collapse hole (18A) surrounded by shady fig trees at approx. grid ref.113748 on sheet 147/2 01 Doinyo Onyoke (in 1/50,000 national grid pattern for Kenya, DOS type 423, Series Y731). This offers a good campsite but no water. Just before 18A the track skirts right of the small entrance to collapse 9.

18A. Grade Cl. This is the longest cave system. Several collapse holes lead into it. At the upflow end a lower tube can be reached with the aid of an in-situ ladder.

6. Grade Cl. Another long system with several collapses leading into it. At the lower end there are some interesting, steep passages and side tubes to be explored.

6A. Grade C3-. A very interesting cave. The entrance is a tiny hole, located in a small clump of bushes, about 40 m north of 6 and not far from its east end. Gaining entry is the crux.

12. Grade C2. Probably the most interesting cave system of its size in Kenya. It links up with hole 2B. Three earthy crawls lead into a deeper big tunnel; downflow climb to higher level and a short crawl left leads to the most beautiful sections.

MDC. C2. Moby Dick Cave. Tiny hole below bush, 225 degrees and 80 m from entrance to cave 12. A short way in, an earthy drop leads to a narrow resonating tube. Further in other passages are worthy of a visit.

35A. Grade C2-. This cave is located in a large flat clearing, below a rocky scarp. An elevated lava-flow blocks the clearing to the east. Entry is gained via a collapsed, typically-vegetated lava dome, about 20m long (east-west) and l0 m wide. A low arch leads east into a wider and higher passage. A shelf on the left leads into a low crawl passage. After this turn left and go down a lava step into the system proper.

Mt Suwa cave system

Mt Suwa cave system

Mt Suswa Caves

Mt Suswa Caves

The caves are home to bats, birds and hyraxes. Baboons sleep in some cave entrances.

Hiking

After driving across the vast outer crater floor on a good road, the inner crater drops off a few hundred feet. It is a massive crater about 5 km wide and in the center is a massive central plug. The entire area can be hiked, including the inner crater rim and you can hike to the bottom of the inner crater to hot springs – there are tracks but you may need a guide. The summit of the inner crater is called Ol Doinyo Nyokie (the red mountain) at 7,222 ft. Just park at the road head and follow the paths sticking as close as possible to the crater rim. You do not need a guide for this.

suswa

The walk up to the main summit starts from the viewpoint. A steep section leads to grassy ridges with occasional trees. Where convenient keep to the ridge and reach the first summit (2250m) in about 1h. The ridge leading to the main top from here is rough and the going is slow (1h). It is best to return the same way as the complete circumnavigation takes about half a day and involves some very tedious blocky lava crossings in the south-east section of the crater.

Camping

The area is now managed as the Suswa Conservancy and camping is permitted – there are a number of sensational points to camp where one feels totally isolated. Bring all your own water and some to share with the Masai visitors. We took our dogs and camped at the entrance to a massive cave called Lorang’amboli. Our dogs slept in the car due to the hyenas and leopards. You can also camp at a spectacular point amongst tall acacias at the road head overlooking the Inner crater. At Ksh 500 per head for citizens/residents and 500 for camping, and 500 per vehicle this is more expensive than other conservation areas. But the reward is that there is nobody else out there and with no evidence of lights on the entire horizon, the night sky was out of this world. Small animals might raid your camp at night if you leave food out.

Wildlife and plants

We saw a few large mammals; giraffe, thomsons gazelle, zebra, klipspringer. At night we did hear hyenas and we saw a genet. There are rumours of leopard. The caves are full of bats, and you can also see baboons and rock hyraxes. This is a great site for birding. Some plants here are extraordinary, especially around the cave mouths, other wise it’s mostly whistling thorn country with Leleshwa on the lava flows.  We arrived after a long drought when the rains had recently started, the wild flowers were wonderful.

The people

mbwa kali

The local people were very hospitable. Though they will visit your camp and greet you, or even check that your tickets are valid, they were not aggressive as we have experienced in other Masai country. We were asked for ‘Chai’ by a man who claimed our tent was on his land, after reminding him that we’d already paid the conservancy he agreed to help collect firewood for a fee (Ksh 150 for more than we could use in one night). It was very enjoyable listening to the local stories and finding out about the area from the visitors to our camp. Contrary to rumours, security was good and it’s easy to get a night guard for camp while you go hiking or camping (we paid 500/- per day for guide/security). Dogs helped for security.

Roving Rastaman wrote an entertaining blog post about a visit to Suswa in May 2009

For Tickets and information Contact

Pastor Kadongo 0725 233592

David Tuukuo 0722 629 350

Johnson Ole Sipitiek 0722 856 703 johnson.sipitiek@acc.or.ke

Contacts for Guides

Kodonyo 0725 887 890

Daniel 0721 357 415

Tukai 0727 688 019

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May 29, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

22 Comments »

  1. Brilliant Post, Paula.

    Thanks for all the numbers. Was a big fan of Spelunking in the States. Glad to hear there’s a great place (probably better than there) to do it here at home. Big big thanks for the contacts.

    Stumbled and Delicious’d with delight.

    MK

    Comment by Mark Kaigwa | May 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. wow, one of my favorite places some 15yrs ago! nice post! do you have a highres. scan of the second map? (Mt Suswa Caves) It’s not possible to read it.

    Comment by Cedric | June 5, 2009 | Reply

  3. Hi Cedric, no I don’t have any more high res images, click on the links for the original source. Let me know if you understand these maps! I am definitely going back to try and find other caves.

    Paula

    Comment by Paula | June 9, 2009 | Reply

  4. Hallo guys,
    Good to see you on the internet. Thank you for the good work you are doing to sensitise the community on the need to conserve mt. suswa and reap the benefits.
    This is a good step forward. We would like also to see the land issue resolved expeditiously and emicably so that proper conservation begins.
    You owe this great community a great service since you are the founders of RETO society and mt. suswa conservancy trust.
    Good luck and God bless you

    Comment by Pareyio and Gilbert | June 14, 2009 | Reply

  5. This is a great place to be and make a point of visiting it i was there last week and it is wa..wa

    Comment by nicholas tuukuo | October 31, 2009 | Reply

  6. I took my wife and daughter there and they really enjoyed themselves. The two most awesome things there is the animal cave painting on one chamber and the “baboon parliament” chamber. It is amazing how the sharp volcanic rocks in the latter have been polished by generations of baboons asses rubbing on them!

    The Masai peron from the conservancy who guided us into the caves was really good and passionate about the caves. he even invited us into his home afterwards.

    Great trip, well worth the effort!

    Comment by Romeo Rodriguez | April 6, 2010 | Reply

  7. I am in the process of forming a partnership with a school nearby where I can send gap volunteers to teach sport, maths and science. I am about to visit Kenya and was doing some research as to what I can recommend my visitors to see in their spare time whilst they are there (one, two or three terms) This sounds perfect and I shall definitely pack my walking books to suss it out!
    When I was in South Africa, (Port Elizabeth), two years ago and came across my sports coaching placement scheme there, I had an amazing experience in the Baviaanskloof sleeping under the stars and drinking water fresh from the stream and washing in a water fall (very cold – not like you imagine it from the films!) Any more tips on what to visit for gap students would be much appreciated!

    Comment by Jill Golding | July 22, 2010 | Reply

  8. i visited Suswa early this month, and its as enchanting as you described it. Tukai was also wonderful as a guide.

    Comment by B.Munyao | January 23, 2011 | Reply

  9. am sure that mt suswa caves are one of the best areas for hiking in east and central africa maasais you are blessed

    Comment by joshua lemaikai | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  10. I am a local resident of mt suswa area. The caves, the baboons and the volcanic crater nearby all combine to make mt. suswa the most exciting tourist site, I believe in the entire world.I have visited these sites more than 20 times now and still cant have enough of it!

    Comment by Gilbert Matura | March 1, 2011 | Reply

    • So true, I hope to go back again sometime soon.

      Comment by paulakahumbu | March 2, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi !

      We camp with our local friend in Machakos next July. We are looking for non tourist and non expensive nice ”different” things to do in Kenya. Can we put our tent in your shamba Gilbert ? :d

      Does mount Suswa place need 75$ entry fee like Mara ?!!! (for then we cannot afford)

      Greetz
      Mwende

      Comment by Mwende | March 3, 2011 | Reply

  11. I have gone to other places in Kenya but so far nothing equals Mt. Suswa. The scenary around is breath taking and the best experience was visiting the caves. The atmosphere and serenity in Each cave is so mind healing and takes you way out of this world. I am definately going back there in a weeks time.

    Comment by Kharees Mugo | March 7, 2011 | Reply

  12. Hi guys

    I need a bed and a mosquito net in this area. Can some1 sent me an email please ? With a nice idea !! Thanks

    Mwende
    mwende|at|online|dot|BE

    Comment by Mwende | March 16, 2011 | Reply

  13. Hi guys

    Nobody readin this ?

    I need a bed and a mosquito net in this area. Can some1 sent me an email please ? With a nice idea !! Thanks

    Mwende
    mwende|at|online|dot|BE

    Comment by Mwende | March 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Mwende, sorry i could not see this early. Plis try this number; 0720810118, the owner is Joseph Toris.He will direct you on all matters.

      enjoy your visit!

      Comment by Gilbert Matura | March 17, 2011 | Reply

  14. The closest lodging facilities to Suswa that I’m aware of are at Lake Naivasha. Try http://www.sopalodges.com/naivasha/home.html or any other lodge in that vicinity.

    Hope that helps.

    Comment by B.Munyao | March 17, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi
      Sopa is not really a nice priced place, they’re very expensive for rich tourists… But thanks anyway. Am looking in the direction of homesaty, or camping in somebody’s Shamba :d

      But thanks anyway !

      Comment by Mwende | March 17, 2011 | Reply

  15. Last time I was there in January 2011, Suswa Conservancy had some Bandas under construction at the crater. If you call Jeremeiah on 0712244583, he can update you on the status.

    Comment by B.Munyao | March 18, 2011 | Reply

  16. Ah OK thanks ! B.

    Will update here when I get back !

    Greetz

    Comment by mwende | March 18, 2011 | Reply


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