Lake Elmentaita: Camping in Kenya’s Stunning Great Rift Valley

by Bex

Lake Elmentaita is a little oasis in the heart of Kenya. Located on the tectonic rifts that stretch across the country, Lake Elmentaita is a soda lake. No, no, it’s not filled with cola. But I can understand the confusion, I too had never heard of a soda lake before. It basically means that this lake is very strongly alkaline on the PH scale. Funnily enough soda lakes are also usually very high in dissolved salts, making them ‘hypersaline’. This makes soda lakes some of the most extreme aquatic environments on earth.

You would think that means soda lakes are barren wastelands where nothing can thrive, but actually, the opposite is true. The ecosystems in soda lakes are densely concentrated and unique, making these environments important to protect and study. That is why the lake has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During my four-month stay in Kenya, I spent a particularly memorable trip camping on the banks of Lake Elmentiatia. I want to share this adventure with you, in the hopes of helping others capture the enjoyment I found here at this ‘fizzy lake’.

Where is Lake Elmentaita?

Lake Elmentaita is located about 120 kilometres from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The closest city is Nakuru, which is the fourth largest city in Kenya. This area of Kenya is part of what’s known as the Great Rift Valley, which stretched 7000 kilometres across the continent and into the middle east, and is where two tectonic plates are slowly moving apart, causing a huge ‘rift’ that is slowly growing every year.

How to get to Lake Elmentaita

If you are travelling from Nairobi, you’ll be best off taking a matatu, which is a small public minibus. You are able to privately hire these buses for a negotiated fee, and doing this may be the easiest way to reach the lake as it doesn’t fall on the main route covered by the Matatus.

Just make sure to negotiate a fee in advance before you set out on your journey. You can also arrange your pick up in advance with your driver. What I tended to do during my time spent volunteering in Kenya was once we found a matatu driver we liked, we took the contact details and could arrange trips with them in advance like you would a taxi. This worked pretty well for us, so why not give it a go.

Campsites near Lake Elmentaita

Oasis Eco Camp

During my time at Lake Elmentaita, I stayed at Oasis Eco Camp. This sweet little camp is directly on the banks of the lake, and I’m not even kidding you, was where I saw the best and most vivid sunset of my life.

There are different types of accommodation to rent at the camp, so don’t worry if you don’t have your own tent. As there was a rather big group of us staying, we hired several of their safari tents. Mattresses were provided for us, which added an extra level of comfort during our stay. The tents were only really where we slept, as all the facilities such as toilets and showers were separate and on-site.

Hiring a whole safari tent is about 4000 shillings a night, which works out at around £30. If you are on a tighter budget and have your own tent, you can pay 500 shillings or about £3.50 for a pitch.

There are also some cute little cottages on site which can be rented. These have their own facilities and proper beds to sleep in, with prices starting at around 5000 shillings or £34 per night.

In the evening at the campsite, we enjoyed huddling around the campfire, and looking up at the stars, enjoying the twinkling night sky without the light pollution of a huge metropolis.

Visit the Oasis Eco Camp website here for more information and to book.

Lake Elmentaita sunset
safari tent

Things to do near Lake Elmentaita

Bird Watching On Lake Elmentaita

Lake Elmenteita is a paradise for bird watching! For starters, there are over 400 different species of bird here, 13 of which are globally threatened. The lake is also the only breeding colony in East Africa for Great White Pelicans. If you love flamingos, then this is also a perfect place to come to spot both greater and lesser flamingo varieties, which come to chomp down on the insects, crustaceans and algae found at the lake. If you want to see how many birds you can spot, I recommend you download this checklist of birds for Lake Elmentaita from the Soysambu Conservancy here.

Lake Elmentaita flamingos

Lake Elmentaita Hot Spring

Due to the geothermal activity in the part of Kenya, Lake Elmentaita is actually home to some hot springs. We took a short walk from our campsite around the banks of the lake, in search of the hot springs. After we had been walking for a while, we glanced over at the water and realised there was a section where steam was rising up into the air. Ah-ha! Walking over to the water, and dipping my hand into the lake, I was surprised to feel the temperature was like bathwater. It was nice to come here as evening was rolling in, and the sun glowed burning orange over the lake.

Go Swimming at a local Lodge

Around Lake Elmentiaita, near the town of Gilgil are plenty of lodges with swimming pools. These lodges allow visitors to come and stay for the day and use their pool for a small fee. We visited Zeituni Lodge a short drive away, to spend an afternoon relaxing by the poolside, enjoying the Kenyan sunshine.

Zeituni Lodge Kenya

Visit Nakuru Town

Not too far from Lake Elmentatia is the town of Nakuru, a great place to visit to get a feel for city life in Kenya. There are plenty of restaurants in the town, making it a great place to go out for a meal. If you are looking to buy some gifts for people back home, or some beautiful African fabrics, Nakuru is also a great place to visit.

Nakuru kenya

Explore Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru is another great place to come for birdwatching, as like Lake Elmentaita, it is a soda lake with an abundance of algae attracting many incredible species to its shores. This lake has been a national park since 1961, and the surrounding wooded and bushy grasslands are also home to many more incredible creatures – from Rhinos to Lions. For more information about visiting Lake Nakuru, visit the Kenya Wildlife Service Website here.

Lake Nakuru Kenya

Hike Menengai Crater

Want to hike down into the biggest volcanic crater in Kenya? Of course you do! Menangai crater is about 6 miles outside of Nakuru and is a great place for a day hike. It was so good I wrote a whole separate blog post about it.

Check out my guide to hiking the Menegai crater here.

Things to do near nakuru

Cycle Safari at Hells Gate National Park

Visiting Hells Gate National park was one of my highlights during my four months in Kenya. It’s the perfect place to spot wildlife, and have a go at something a little more adventurous like rock climbing or a cycling safari. Give it a go and see how many animals you can spot.

Hells gate national park

Thank you for reading this post all about camping at Lake Elementaita. If you liked this post, please do share it on Pinterest to help others find it, or use it as inspiration for your next adventure.

I always love hearing from readers so please do leave a comment, or send me a message on social media to tell me all about your adventure, or ask me any questions you may have.

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