About 10 kilometres north of Nakuru Town sits the Menengai Crater, a massive shield volcano with one of the biggest calderas in the world.
It is the largest volcano caldera in Kenya, and the second largest in Africa.
Reports indicate that the volcano was formed about 200,000 years ago, and the caldera about 8,000 years ago. The caldera floor is covered with numerous post-caldera lava flows.
The Menengai volcano is considered one of the best-preserved, Krakatau-style calderas in the world and has very little sediment in the caldera, a thick mass of lava boulders and inaccessible ridges.
The highest point on the crater offers panoramic views of Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria.
Historical records indicate that different Maasai clans fought for pasture on the slopes of the Rift Valley, and that the crater was a major battle ground.
SOULS OF THE DEAD
It is believed that it is here that the Ilaikipiak morans were defeated by the Ilpurko during one of the battles.
The vanquished were reportedly thrown over the edge of the crater, hence its name, the Maa word for “the dead”, which describes the fumaroles in the crater, believed by locals to be the souls of the dead warriors trying to get heaven.
Some people the crater is a a very spiritual place, and people come from far and wide to spend time praying there.
It is surrounded by lush forest and is protected by the Kenya Forest Service, and is also home to several flowering plants and grasses.
Its unique scenery is a favourite with photographers who, while atop the crater at eight kilometres, can get great shots of Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria and breathtaking sunsets.
The area is also good for hiking, trekking, biking, camping, and picnics.
During last year’s World Tourism Day celebrations, the county government chose hiking at the Menengai Crater its symbolic activity. Thousands participated in the exercise.
“Nakuru has a lot to offer in terms of tourism attractions, and the Menegai Caldera is just one of them,” said Deputy Governor Erick Korir.
Tourism Executive Raymond Komen said the county had resolved to promote the crater as a national heritage to make it an internationally recognised tourist attraction.
This is in line with the county government’s campaign to promote various sites to spur local tourism and also entice international tourists to visit them,” Mr Komen said.
However, the crater also has a dark side and been associated with some inexplicable events. Many people are said to have disappeared after visiting the area, while others returned totally confused.
Legend has it that the crater is home to many demons and ghosts, which is why the Kikuyu refer to it as Kirima kia Ngoma (place of devils).
A number of strange things are said to happen in the crater, such as people disappearing without a trace, while others lost direction for hours, or days, only to be found wandering around in a trance.
On May 6, 2003, a 31-year-old Catholic priest, Michael Kabutu, drove to the crater and plunging into the 485-metre gorge.
Reports later emerged that he had been suspended from his Mogotio Parish under unclear circumstances and had been asked to go and reflect about his vocation.
In 2012, a student on a weekend adventure slid and fell into the crater. But he was lucky because he was rescued by then-Nakuru Municipal Council fire brigade.
And in 2015, a primary school teacher hired a boda-boda rider from Nakuru Town and, on reaching the crater, leapt to his death.
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