Menengai Crater is an extinct volcano that offers striking views of Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria and the infamous crater itself. It is a large Caldera that was formed by millions of years of volcanic activity. The highest point, at some 2,300 M above sea level, has a signpost erected by the Rotary Club that shows the directions and distances to several places in the world.
The crater is 238 KM (148 MI) northwest of Nairobi and 222 KM (138 MI) west of Mount Kenya. Though the volcano is dormant, there are hot spots on the floor of the crater where steam jets sometimes fill it with vapour. In the centre of the caldera is a small cone rising above surrounding lava, which shows fumaroles activity. It is not known when Menengai last erupted, although some of the cinder cones on the crater floor still emit smoke.
Apart from the sheer beauty of this crater that has endeared it to thousands of tourists around the world, Menengai has a dark unexplained side to it that even locals are now convinced is the work of evil spirits. People have lost their lives while others have disappeared, never to be seen again.
Some have died through accidents and others have committed suicide while others have strayed and lost direction in the cave only for them to be found hours later unable to explain how they lost their way. The locals even claim to have seen the devil riding a motorcycle! There is also the widespread allegation of a ‘flying umbrella’ that normally appears whenever it rains.
Legend has it that the Menengai Crater is home to many demons and ghosts. This has earned the crater the name ‘Kirima kia ngoma’ which means the place of devils in Kikuyu. It is said that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, ghosts used to farm on a fertile piece of land on the floor of the crater.
Historians say the place was a scene of violent battles between the Laikipia Maasai, who did not recognise the authority of the Laibon, the spiritual leader of the Maasai, against the Ilpurko Maasai. In one battle, it is said, the Laikipia warriors were thrown into the caldera. But despite the eerie stories about the crater, pilgrims from as far as Kisumu, Kakamega and even Mombasa come to pray and fast at the site for days.
We have since developed a number of theories to explain away the supernatural happenings at Menengai:
We have learned that there exists a 5-acre Bhang (cannabis) plantation which was discovered at the crater some time back. We think this may explain the mystery of the missing people. Possibly they may have been killed to protect the illegal crop.
We figured that if there was a cannabis plantation up there, some guys may have helped themselves to a few rounds and somehow got away with it (and these are the lucky ones!). When these guys were found roaming around in a trance, it may have been the effects of the cannabis at work.
Despite all the mystery surrounding Menengai Crater, the site offers an excellent hiking opportunity while taking in the scenic beauty of the Rift Valley. There are hot springs, geysers and mud pots among others to feast your eyes on.
What has been your experience at the Menengai Crater? Do you have any ghost stories to share? We would love to hear them by way of a comment below.