The Menengai Crater is one of the largest surviving volcanic craters in the World. Located on the northern side of Nakuru town in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, the crater is the site of an extinct volcano and the origin of many mysterious folk laws and legends. In Swahili, Menengai literally means “a place for dead bodies”.
Locals believe that evil spirits haunt the crater. There have been stories of people disappearing without a trace or losing direction and wandering aimlessly for hours and days in a trance-like state. The latest unusual mystery of the crater is a ‘flying umbrella’ that’s said to appear whenever it rains. Although these stories make the crater somewhat of an enigma, it still attracts many visitors with its endlessly sweeping views.
In hindsight, deciding to take a group hike from the lofty viewpoint into the mysterious depths of the crater was a tad ambitious. An adventure fuelled lapse of judgement if you will. The casual sun-filled walk we hoped to embark on turned out to be a gruelling 4-hour sweat bath. Those with a faint heart turn away now. As the descent continued, the path became narrower and steeper. A long fall down from the cliff edge was but a slip away and considering the ground was made of loose stones and pebbles, a slip seemed very likely. Just as I peered over the edge, gazing at the fatal drop and questioning If I’d made a mistake that could cost me my life (yes I am that clumsy), a cry came from another member of the group who had a petrifying fear of heights.
Volunteering to take her back up to the top of the crater was the best decision I could have made. The rest of the group continued the hike as we clambered back up, battling against the sweltering Kenyan heat. Upon reaching the summit we were exhausted. As we waited for the rest of our group to return, feelings of regret began to niggle at me. Had I missed out on something truly spectacular? An hour passed, then another. There was no sign of the rest of the group. We continued waiting at the wooden stalls at the viewpoint that sold soapstone ornaments and souvenir trinkets. Finally, the members of our group began to emerge from the trail one by one. Sweat was pouring off of them. Soaked through, panting with red faces, they returned victoriously. I was curious to hear what lurked in the depths of the mysterious crater. It turns out, the only thing the group saw was a lone hut and a couple of sleeping Maasai. Not quite as bewildering as I’d imagined.
Menengai crater is a spectacular place to visit. If you enjoy hiking and like a good challenge, I suggest you attempt the hike from the viewpoint into the crater. You can hire a guide to aid your hike, a smart move as it was pretty easy to take the wrong path. Entrance to the crater cost 200 KSH for a local and 600KSH for a tourist.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my visit to Menengai. If you have visited anywhere similar, or actually managed to reach the bottom of the crater (unlike me) I would love to hear from you in the comments section.