Mount Suswa, located about 60 KM from Nairobi, at the heart of Maasai land in Narok, presents a very mild hiking challenge not because it is a meek mountain but because most of the organised tours only go as far as the external crater rim. Rarely does any expedition scale the higher points of the summit where more exciting stuff like the Mount Suswa Caves are to be found.
We left Nairobi quite early in the morning and had our first stop just outside Narok town, close to the Longonot earth satellite station. The two big antennas at the station are named Longonot 1 and Longonot 2.
The first one was built in the 70s and the second in the 90’s. Both antennas belong to the Intelsat satellite network and provide telecommunication across the Indian Ocean region, East Africa and the Atlantic Ocean region.
The spot presents a nice opportunity for some good contrasting photos of the satellites providing a fantastic backdrop for the Maasai cattle – a blending of the hi-tec with the age-old heritage of pastoralism.
After a 15-minute drive from the stations, we arrived at the gate to the Mount Suswa Conservancy that controls access to the mountain to begin our hike.
Immediately you begin the walk from the gate, you notice you are really in Maasai land. Along the path we could see typical Maasai houses each with a cattle shed. We also spotted several Maasai kids looking after livestock.
The Savannah landscape is a bit dry with some bush and acacias seen in the horizon but otherwise the scenery induces feelings of peace and freedom from stress – a place to recharge one’s batteries.
The Mount Suswa Caves, which are basically lava tubes, were formed by volcanic activity. A lava tube is a tunnel formed when the surface of a lava flow cools and solidifies while the still-molten interior flows through and drains away.
When you get inside one of these tubes you begin to appreciate the volume of lava flow that went into forming the tubes with beautiful patterns all over the walls. We were informed that there are more than 30 caves spreading for many kilometres.
We spent a couple of hours walking inside one of the lava tubes, admiring the stalactites and stalagmites all over. At some point our guide asked us to switch off our torches and we were suddenly submerged in an eerie darkness for several minutes.
I cannot give adequate justice through words to the strange feeling one gets being so deep in the ground, hearing no sounds and seeing no light!
After that humbling experience we switched our torches back on and continued deeper into the caves to encounter thousands of bats hanging on the top of the caves – luckily asleep! The major concern here will not be an attack by bats but the strong smell of the guano (their faeces). So remember to carry a mask if you plan to go there.
After this, we headed back. As we stepped out of Mount Suswa Caves, just at the entrance, our guide showed us the location of the so-called baboon parliament. We are told that baboons gather at this location to spend the night, enjoying the comfort and the security provided by the cave.
To be honest I thought that this was just a story to impress a mzungu but a Google search for the term ‘baboon parliament’ popped up several credible stories including this BBC documentary.
As an added bonus, our guide showed us the spot in the cave where the 1955 classic movie, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, was shot. Just for fun I tried watching the movie but in my opinion, it is a really bad movie. I would not recommend it at all. It is really boring – you are better-off sticking to the hiking!
We were also told of this one cave full of natural Maasai ceramics used in special ceremonies. We did not venture there but may be that is a good reason to come back to explore more of the mysterious caves of Mount Suswa. As we left to begin our 1 hour walk back to the crater, we were proud of ourselves for having made it to the rim.
From the rim the view is impressive. We were able to capture great shots of the circular valley surrounded by near-vertical slopes and the 2,600 M summit. To circumnavigate the crater would take half a day, so we shelved that for another day and instead settled down for our packed lunch while taking-in the amazing landscape.
On our way to Nairobi, we made a stop-over in Narok to grab some nyama choma and crown a great hike with the famous Kenyan sausage – Mutura. We could not have derived so much value from our tour had our guide not had a good understanding of the place. Make sure your guide is conversant with the area otherwise a trip to Suswa would not be enjoyable.
I would love to hear your comments on your Mount Suswa Caves experience if you have been there.