For a camping blog I just realized I haven’t written about camping in a while, I won’t be winning any awards for focus that’s for sure. So my next 3 articles will be on trips I like to call ‘shorts’. These are places that are easy enough to do over a weekend from Nairobi and are also tame enough to do if you’re a first-time or occasional camper, so join me as I seek to lubricate your journey into one of Kenya’s most famous holes.
Mount Longonot National Park
There’s enough info on the web about Mount Longonot so if geology and strato-volcanoes are your thing then Google is your friend.
An interesting fact I did discover was that the mountain erupted as recently as 1860, in geological terms thats like 2 seconds ago! Interesting to imagine your great-grandfather might have been just going about his business, heard a massive explosion, turned to your great-mother and just went “Aw, f**k!”.
But there’s nothing to fear any more, there was a scare that the mountain was be coming active a few years back but it turned out to be a rainwater ditch. Way to go geologists.
Mount Longonot National Park is located in Nakuru County so if driving from Nairobi, quite easy to get to the park using the Mai-Mahiu route to the floor of the Rift Valley. 14kms from Mai-Mahiu look for a board on your left indicating the road to the park gate. Total trip should take about 1hr 45min hrs.
Using public transport might be a bit more of a bother although these days there are quite a number of tour companies and hiking groups that organize day trips to the mountain so you might want to look into that first.
After all payment protocols observed at the Kenya Wildlife Service gate (you can pay by cash no cards) Because the campsite is so close to the gate, about 200m so, I hung around the entrance looking to kill some time by murdering some minutes.
I met Daniel who is part of a youth group that does guiding, team building up and around the mountain plus they also run a shop to supply climbers with drinks and snacks. Story is the same as we’ve heard here before, started with 100 members now have 20, they had a website that crashed, tourism is low….among other challenges. I’m not dwelling on that this time around, but it was a nice chat.
They have shelters for meal prep or just for hanging out which is always much appreciated when the sun’s out or in case of rain. As you can see from my photos it wasn’t exactly bikini weather. A table would be nice though.
Seems this is where picnic benches retire to when they are no longer useful. Honestly KWS, I know budgets can be tight but I don’t think a few planks of wood and some nails are going to break the bank.
However the campsite does have have proper toilets and showers and there is water available on tap so major plus there.
All in all a pretty sweet place to set up camp. With this park being so popular for hiking and day-trippers it’s awesome that if you decide to stay the night there’s a high possibility of having it all to yourself.
What I Saw
Early morning i was woken up by the “Ngaang, ngaaaang” of a Canter truck (I don’t care if you have a Masters in Creative Writing there’s no other way to describe this sound).
They were setting up for a wedding later in the day (so cool that people use these spaces for functions) so that was was my cue to pack up get moving.
Although high use of such facilities comes with some down-sides. How the hell does someone miss an entire bin? I spent some time cleaning up some of the trash on the sides, the campers code (and common sense) dictates “Leave your campsite as you found it, or better”.
Drove to the road-head where hikers actually start going up the mountain, you can see the track on the left.
This is another possible place to camp, it’s much more open with plains game all around. But wait there’s more………
……. from the road-head if you take the track that leads to the right in a few short km’s you come to this.
Now THIS is a campsite, its higher up with great views across to Lake Naivasha. Obviously I only found this out as I left and the ranger was like “Oh you didn’t know about that other campsite? It’s so beautiful!” A curse on you Mr. Ranger. But this site I would only advise for experienced campers as there are no facilities.
I continue my short drive around the park, bonding with nature and such things of that nature.
Those who follow me on Instagram might remember this famous photo (in my head) I posted a while back, yup that was from this trip. It shows the interesting behaviour of the male bird during breeding season where he sees his reflection as another male cutting in his action.
This park is small but it’s actually pretty cool. It’s possible to see Hells Gate National park from here (we’ll be headed there in a bit).
- Park contacts are 050-50255 (no mobile no!) or firstname.lastname@example.org (gmail address?)
- For guiding or crater camping call Daniel on 0723-192957 or 0713 – 949886.
- When either camping or hiking PLEASE carry your trash with you. Because of the high traffic this is one of the parks that really suffers from littering.
- Even though there are no predators or large animals in the park (except buffalo) use common sense while walking in the park. Respect the animals.
- Tents and other equipment can be hired on-site (Enquire before)
In 2014 approximately 50,000 people visited Mount Longonot. And while this may seem low, in the past 4 or so years the number has been steadily climbing. For a park that has no accommodation part of this rise can be attributed to the recent major interest in outdoor activities amongst Kenyans.
I believe the park management can easily increase revenues by converting day-trippers into campers, this would be perfect as most climbers aim to start their climbs early morning to avoid the heat. There are so many ways you could sell this e.g “Sunrise from the Top! Camping IN the crater”, that’s the thing with camping it’s so easy to jazz it up because campers simply don’t need much.
The mountain is 21,000 years old, a bit of lipstick on the old cow wouldn’t hurt.
***A big thank you to Daniel and to rangers Paul and Joshua of Kenya Wildlife Service. For more information and costs visit the KWS website here. For hiking information Jambo Nairobi has a great article with loads of info.***