EXPLORING MT SUSWA LAVA CAVES – KENYA’S DOUBLE CRATERED VOLCANO

Let it be known, I am probably the 2nd laziest person in the world – Gaetano takes 1st place – when it comes to outdoor activities. Actually, before we started filming Travel Diaries, I thought nature walk lovers were high on cheap drugs. Why else would they constantly try regal me with stories about peculiar insects, untamed greenery, dirt trails, sweat…Erm no thanks. Four years later, I sit here (yes I’m still mildly lazy) a changed woman. There is something about nature that is so therapeutic, so spiritual, it changes your perspective on life and nature walks have become an important fix for me.

Mount Suswa's inner crater - 2,356m (7,730 ft) Pic: danielmountsuswa.wordpress

Mount Suswa’s inner crater – 2,356m (7,730 ft) Pic: danielmountsuswa.wordpress

Only 50 km from Nairobi, Mt Suswa is often described as the best day trip from Kenya’s capital and comprises a 12 km across double crater system, a vast network of obsidian caves and great hiking opportunities. Located very close to Mt Longonot

Map - Suswa location

Map – Suswa location

IMG-20120721-00988

Entrance to one of the caves. Pic: Peter Chonka

View from inside the cave. Pic: jambonairobi.co.ke

Mount Suswa has an extensive network of easily accessible lava caves. This lava tube cave system comprises more than 70 collapsed holes and is considered to be the world’s most complex braided system of lava tubes. Their ecological impact on the caves has been the source of many studies and scientific papers. The entrances to the caves are invariably formed by collapse Holes where the roof of the tube has fallen in. None of the caves are too long or complex and no special equipment or knowledge is required to tackle the systems, just ample flash lights and a dust mask

Exploring one of the caves. Pic: Peter Chonka

IMG-20120721-00986 They comprise of lava tube systems, formed in a period of recent volcanic activity, and are totally different from limestone caves. Relatively rare, they are believed to have been formed when molten lava, flowed down a slope at an angle.

Like a natural work of art! Pic: Peter Chonka

The outer layers cool and solidify, but the core continues to flow, and in some cases, evacuates itself completely to leave behind an empty tube. Numerous unusual features can be found and include lava ropes, benches, land a variety of secondary formations. Many of these formations are quite fragile and great care must be taken not to touch them.

Lava stalactites. Pic: underatree.overblog

Lava stalactites. Pic: Peter Chonka

One interesting location in the caves is the Baboons’ parliament where a large troop of Baboons take shelter at night from their predators. The Baboon troops’ arrival in the evening coincides with the departure of the local bat colonies, creating two way traffic. It is said that if you peer down the opening in the roof early in the morning, you will find the troop’s leader perched on a pile of rocks at the centre of the chamber, seemingly addressing the rest of the troop perched on ledges high up the walls of the cave. It was featured in a BBC documentary

Watch clip here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00639mr These rare volcanic lava caves are home to large populations of bats that are believed to travel up to 30km in search of food at night before retreating to the caves in the morning. In the day, these bat colonies can be seen hanging from the roofs of the caves.

Bat colonies at Suswa Caves. Pic: jambonairobi.co.ke

Bats hanging above. Pic: underatree.overblog

Skeleton of a bat still hangs from the ceiling. Pic: underatree.overblog

The gentle sloping sides of the outer flanks and most of the surrounding thousands of hectares is home to the Maasai, and we visited their manyatta homestead to find the village had gathered for a circumcision celebration

Celebrations underway

Maasai morans in high jump dance. They compete to see who can jump higher

Just hanging out

A bit of an awkward moment, may be just for me, finding warriors braiding each others hair!

A bit of an awkward moment, may be just for me, finding warriors braiding each others hair!

They really took to my nephew David

If you would like to book an excursion at Suswa, whether to explore the caves or hike, you can contact Joseph the guide who took the Travel Diaries crew around – Call him on 0728 023 122 Definitely recommend it!

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