There are lots of companies that organize day excursions out of Nairobi and I have been yearning to go, but I had never gotten round to it until last month. I follow one of this companies on Twitter, @FunTravelKe and after seeing a poster for an upcoming trip to Magadi I decided that they would be the first I review.

Poster

 

What attracted me to the trip was 1. It was rather cheap at only 1500 shillings ($14) and 2. I had never been to Lake Magadi.

Monday the week of the trip I called one of the numbers on the poster, to inquire if there was any room left. I paid for the trip later that day via MPesa after which I got an SMS confirming that they had received my payment and that I should await more information regarding the trip.

Come Saturday, day of the trip I was up earlier than usual. The bus was to be there at 7:45 am and depart at 8:30 am. I got there with more than enough time to spare, I managed to shop for snacks and even got to go browsing at the nearby Maasai Market.  By the time I got back the bus still looked empty so I asked what time we’d leave. I was informed that we would leave at 8:45 whether or not everyone had shown up. 8:45 came and went, in the end we left an hour after the indicated departure time.

Lake Magadi_Bus1

 

So far things had obviously not gone according to plan but I was still excited, we made one stop to pick up someone just before Kiserian and another for a loo break at Olepolos Country Club.

Lake Magadi_Raod3

 

I was aware the road to Magadi was bad but nothing had prepared me for what was to come. From Kiserian the road is very narrow and there are potholes after every meter.

Lake Magadi_Road

 

Lake Magadi_Road1

 

Given our choice of vehicle, progress was painfully slow. The organisers had promised great views of the Great Rift Valley but there really was not much to see on the way there. In most of the places the earth looks like someone sucked it dry. As usual there are people and animals resilient enough to call the place home. You will pass a few Maasai villages. A few people tried to stop us; we only stopped for one boy who was herding cattle. He was very specific about what he wanted, juice and biscuits.

Five hours later we arrived at our destination. For a five hour journey the view was underwhelming to say the least. You will first spot the lake from afar, it is a large shallow mass with barely any water, and you wonder why it is called a lake. As you approach it your disappointment is confirmed, it looks no better up close. You begin to wonder if you endured that horrid journey for this.

Lake Magadi

 

Lake Magadi_salt

 

Lake Magadi is a saline, alkaline lake, approximately 100 square kilometers in size that lies in a basin formed in the middle of 2 faults. The lake is an example of a “saline pan”. The lake water is dense sodium carbonate brine.

Lake Magadi_Trona

 

Lake Magadi_Trona1

 

Lake Magadi was not always so saline. Several thousand years ago (during the late Pleistocene to mid-Holocene), the Magadi basin held a freshwater lake with many fish, whose remains are preserved in the High Magadi Beds, a series of lacustrine and volcaniclastic sediments preserved in various locations around the present shoreline. Evidence also exists for several older Pleistocene precursor lakes that were much larger than present Lake Magadi. At times, Lake Magadi and Lake Natron (in Tanzania) were united as a single larger lake.

Lake Magadi4

 

Lake Magadi5

 

Lake Magadi6

 

Fun fact:T he final scenes of the movie  The Constant Gardener, based on John le Carre’s novel, were filmed on the shoreline of the lake, when in fact the location in the story was Lake Turkana.

Lake Magadi1

 

Lake Magadi2

 

Lake Magadi3

 

We drove into the town after stopping at the guard station. To get into the town itself you need to drive on a causeway across the lake. There is a rather unpleasant smell from the factory that fades as you get further into the town. The town owes its existence to Magadi Soda Company which produces soda ash.

Lake Magadi_Magadi town

 

Lake Magadi_Magadi Town (2)

 

After paying for the tickets we stopped by the Sports Club, ordered food then we drove off to the hot springs. I had thought it would be walking distance but it was yet another long drive. We had picked up a guide, the road to the hot springs has no signs and in some places you will have to drive on the lake so to be on the safe side just get a guide.

Lake Magadi_Sports Club1

 

Lake Magadi_Sports club2

 

Lake Magadi_Sports Club

 

The hot springs were the most exciting part of the journey. They are just hot enough to be tolerable, it also helped that we had gotten there later in the day and the weather was not as hot. We found some guys there; they informed us that the hot springs cure all kinds of diseases, e.g asthma. I wouldn’t know how.

Lake Magadi_Hot springs

 

Lake Magadi_Hot springs1

 

Lake Magadi_Hot springs2

 

If you decide to take a dip be prepared to look super ashy afterwards, the salt will leave a white cast on your skin

Right next to the hot springs there are smaller ponds of water  that are home to the Lake Magadi tilapia is the only fish species that survives (and thrives) in the highly alkaline (pH 10) and waters of Lake Magadi

Lake Magadi_fish

 

We did not spend too much time at the springs. Carry money to buy jewellery from the Maasai women, a bracelet goes for ksh. 100 ($0.9).

Lake Magadi_Maasai Women

 

I was able to spot a couple of baboons and some flamingos.

Lake Magadi_baboons

 

Lake Magadi_Flamingoes

 

Despite having ordered the food at the Sports Club before we had left for the springs we still had to wait a while before it was brought. I ordered fries and chicken wings, my friend ordered ugali and beef. There was nothing special about the food, I’d describe it as edible . Each meal cost 350 bob ($3)

Lake Magadi_food

 

Swimming had been part of the itinerary but on arrival we were told to pay an extra ksh 500 ($4.5). I wouldn’t lay the blame squarely on the organizers but it would have been nice if they had found this out beforehand as the fee I had paid for the trip had the cost of swimming included. I really wasn’t bothered at this point; all I could think about was the long journey back.

Lake Magadi_Swimming pool

 

Lake Magadi_swimming pool1

 

The changing room wasn’t the cleanest; the floor was wet and dirty. Carry a pair of slippers if you want to swim

Lake Magadi_Sports club changing room

 

After my meal I was ready to leave but I seemed to be among the minority. Most people were quite content to sit in the bar and watch football. After waiting for a while my friend called the organiser to ask if we could hurry things up.

Lake Magadi_Sports club bar

 

We ended up leaving at 6:30 just as the sun was setting.  The journey back seemed even longer. We made a couple of stops but the most annoying one was when we stopped so that one of the guys could go to his house and change clothes.

Lake Magadi_Sunset

I ended up getting home at 11pm, tired to the bone. Fortunately I didn’t need to go back to the CBD as where I live was just off the route we used.

Would I travel with them again? Probably not. They seemed to have no regard for people’s time and there is nothing I hate more than someone wasting my time.

 

Charges

Hot springs entrance:

Residents/citizens Kshs 500 for adults Kshs 350 for kids

Non- residents Kshs1000 adults Kshs 500 for kids

Students  Kshs 100 for primary Kshs 200 for secondary

Saloon cars Kshs100

Off-road vehicles Kshs500

Buses/trucks Kshs1000

Tour guide fee Kshs1000

 

Tips

Dress for warm weather.

Carry water, lots of it. Bring a cooler box along too unless you don’t mind drinking warm water. You can buy refreshments at the town but you will need some for the journey.

On your way there is no network more often than there is.

An overnight stay is probably better than a day trip, you’ll have more time to explore the lake and its surroundings.

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14 Comments

  1. October 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm — Reply

    Wow – I would have been really annoyed to find out there was an additional fee for swimming after the fact! Doesn’t sound like a very well organized tour. Love your pictures!
    Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor recently posted…Meeting Bloggers In Real Life | The Gypsy Kramer CrewMy Profile

  2. October 11, 2015 at 5:10 am — Reply

    Thanks for the honest review. The tour seemed quite cheap but possibly not by African standards? An interesting trip nevertheless. I would be annoyed to sit around and wait while people watched football.
    jan recently posted…About Townsville and the feetonmyhometown Instagram Challenge ReligionMy Profile

    • November 12, 2015 at 12:49 pm — Reply

      The trip was cheap, even by Kenyan standards. Trust me I was annoyedbut there was no other way for me to get out of there so I just had to persevere.

  3. October 12, 2015 at 9:31 pm — Reply

    Your photos of the lake are actually quite beautiful, if in a stark and dramatic way. Still one can tell you were making the best of a situation you weren’t enjoying. hope your next adventure is better!
    eileen g recently posted…Taking a Break From History in WilliamsburgMy Profile

  4. Keniamoja
    October 13, 2015 at 11:04 am — Reply

    Sorry the trip did not live up to your expectations, but the photos of the Lake against the cloud backdrop is breathtaking.

    • November 12, 2015 at 12:47 pm — Reply

      Thanks. I know better now and next time I make the trip (if I ever do) I’ll be fully prepared.

  5. October 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm — Reply

    Very nice photos and I like honest reviews. I feel you on that timing, I would have strangled someone if I went through the same. 🙂
    KC recently posted…The Moon Houses, Lamu – A Long time ComingMy Profile

    • November 12, 2015 at 12:47 pm — Reply

      I was very tempted to but I restrained myself.

  6. October 22, 2015 at 7:58 am — Reply

    Sorry the trip was a disappointment. I absolutely hate when people have zero regard for my time as well. Beautiful sunset shot though!
    Dana Carmel recently posted…Comment on The Boutique Traveler & the Perks of Tour Guides by KemkemMy Profile

  7. December 9, 2015 at 9:13 am — Reply

    Great photos!
    Another option for Lake Magadi is to take the train. Sometimes Lake Magadi Adventures (they are on Facebook) have weekend trips and it sounds great with hot springs, game drives, nyama choma (mbuzi). Last year I traveled by car to Lake Magadi but that trip by train is on my to-do-list. Really enjoying reading about your trips. Kenya is a beautiful country and so diversified!

    • December 13, 2015 at 11:04 am — Reply

      I have also been meaning to go to Magadi on the train and hopefully spend the night there this time. Thanks for reading the blog Arnold.

  8. SAMUEL
    January 20, 2016 at 11:43 pm — Reply

    My adventurous, traveling psychy has in the recent past wondered how this trip feels like having seen it advertised numerous times. Glad to have an honest opinion from someone before hand as much as am beginning to have second thoughts favoring a self-driven trip. on the lighter side though, those as some very beautiful photos you’ve posted. Not much of a disappointment amid the poor organization. 😉

    • February 2, 2016 at 11:48 am — Reply

      If your car can handle it then a self drive is not half bad. The best part is that you will be on your own schedule

  9. Njuki Mate
    March 28, 2017 at 8:45 am — Reply

    I am surprised you did not enjoy yet your photos show the place is fascinating. Perhaps you were expecting too much due to the advert or the poor time keeping aggravated by the terrible road.

    Regards paying extra for swimming, it appears to me from the first picture as if sh1500 was exclusive of swimming fee.

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