What is the Menengai Crater and why should I hike it? If you want the answer to this my friend – read on!
As you leave Nairobi’s built-up hustle and bustle and venture north into Kenya’s interior, a whole new world opens up. A world of open savannahs and wildlife-filled lakes, smaller towns and cities full of friendly residents. And just on the outskirts of one of these cities, you’ll find a wonder called the Menengi Crater.
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What Is The Menengai Crater?
The Menengai Crater is a shield volcano. For all you fellow volcano nerds out there, a shield volcano basically has runny lava, which causes a gently sloping structure after eruptions.
And here is some extra volcano knowledge, The Menengai crater actually has one of the biggest calderas in the world! A caldera is a hollow that forms after the emptying of a volcano’s magma chamber. If a large volume of magma erupts over a short period of time, the ground surface collapses in on itself and leaves a large sinkhole.
This crater formed about 200,000 years ago, but geothermal activity still continues in the area. Menengai actually boasts a geothermal project, using a steam gathering system to provide energy – a pretty awesome idea if you ask me!
Where is the Menengai Crater?
The Menengai crater is actually part of the Great Rift Valley. This is a 7,000-kilometre stretch running from Lebanon in the north, to Mozambique in the south. Here is where two tectonic plates, the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate are slowly splitting apart, causing huge trenches and faults, and plenty of tectonic activity. There are over 100 volcanos in The Great Rift Valley, and most of these remain uncharted and shrouded in mystery to this day.
The Menengai Crater itself is located 10 km, or 6 miles North of Nakuru, which is the fourth biggest city In Kenya. Nakuru is around 98 miles, or 158 Km from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
How To Get To Menengai Crater
If you are travelling from Nairobi, you’ll first need to make your way to Nakuru. The best way to go is by road, and there are several different options to choose from.
Travel by Matau
The cheapest way is to get a Matau. A Matau is a local form of transport used in Kenya, kind of like a cross between a taxi and a bus service. The matatus generally operate on different routes and make request stops along those routes as you go.
The Matatu’s that runs from Nairobi to Nakuru is run by Mololine. You’ll be able to find one of these Matatus from the opposite end of the Odeon cinema in Nairobi. The journey should take about 3 hours and will drop you off in the centre of Nakuru at a big hub where loads of Matatus meet – quite like a bus station.
Once in Nakuru, you’ll need to hire a taxi or matatu to take you to the Menengai Crater viewpoint as there isn’t a regular route that runs here. It’ll have to wait for you, or you can schedule with the driver for them to come back later to pick you up.
Depending on whether you want to privately hire a whole Matatu, or buy a ticket on a public bus running a regular route, the cost will vary. Although both options are still really affordable. For example, taking the Matatu all the way from Nairobi to Nakuru will cost around £10, or over £30 to hire the whole vehicle.
Travel by car in Kenya
You can easily hire a car in Kenya to get you around, but a word of warning, it will not be an easy drive.
I learned this lesson well during the 4 months I spent living in Kenya. The mixture of chaotic fellow road users, hoards of motorbikes, and dusty and bumpy conditions won’t make this a relaxing jaunt.
You can hire a car from either a big global provider or use a small local company based within a city for cheaper rates. I do however recommend a car that would be good offroad if you are leaving the cities.
Menengai Crater Entrance Charges
To enter the Menengai crater you will have to pay a charge fee upon arrival. Make sure you have cash on you (and bring some extra cash for the shop too.)
If you are a non-resident adult, the last time I checked the entrance fee was about 796 Kenyan Shillings, which is about £5.50. It’s cheaper for children and also for residents to visit, at around £2 each.
You’ll have to pay KSH 200 to enter the Menengai Crater.
How To Hike Menengai Crater
The Menangai crater hike I recommend doing starts right at the very top, where the viewpoint and little shop are, and brings you right down into the heart of the crater. All in all this walk should take a few hours to do.
As you can see in the picture below, there is a pretty evident and well-worn path laid out. All you need to do is follow this all the way down and presto, you’re in the crater.
The route can get a little scrambly and tight in places, so if you are afraid of heights I do not recommend this trek. As you trek down the slopes and into the caldera, make sure to admire the beautiful views over Nakuru town in the distance.
So when speaking with a local guide, I was told what Menengai translates to. It means a place of dead bodies. In local legend, the steam rising from the bottom of the crater is said to be the souls of defeated Masai Warriors. I think that’s a pretty beautiful way for people to make sense of the geothermal activity here, back in the days when the science behind this phenomenon wasn’t well understood.
How difficult is it to hike?
You need to have some level of fitness to hike the Menengai Crater. The walk itself can be steep in places, and some sections can be quite narrow and close to the edge. Hiking for about 4 hours in the hot Kenyan sunshine isn’t for the faint-hearted either. But a reasonable level of fitness will be enough for you to take on this volcanic hike.
What to pack when hiking Menengai Crater?
Here is a list of things I recommend you bring with you to hike the Menengai crater:
- Plenty of water and fluids
- Snacks and a packed lunch
- A comfortable backpack
- Good hiking shoes, or trainers
- Sunglasses/ sunhat
- ID/ Passport (as you may be asked this on entry)
- A working phone
- Cash to pay for entry, for transport and for the little shop near the viewpoint.
Things To Do Near Menengai Crater
There are plenty of things to dear near the Menangai crater, and most of these I’m sure I will write future posts on, so stay tuned for more content from Kenya. Here are a few suggestions of things to do before or after your Menengai Crater Hike.
- Visit lake Nakuru to see the Flamingos
- Explore Hell’s Gate National Park In Naivasha
- Go into Nakuru town for some dinner and an explore
- Visit Lake Elementaita
- Go camping in Kenya near a lake
- Go to the Equator Line
- Visit Kembu Cottages for organised activities and awesome accommodation
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please do share this on Pinterest to help others find it, or save it ready to use for your future adventures.
I love hearing from readers so please do leave a comment or get in touch on social media and tell me about your adventures! Happy exploring!