LOITA HILLS AND NGURUMAN ESCARPMENT
Information pictures and diagrams from "East Africa Mountains".
LOITA HILLS AND NGURUMAN ESCARPMENT 2679m
The gently rolling plains of the Serengeti and Masai Mara are bounded on the east by several ranges of forested hills. Beyond these the land drops 1500m dramatically in 2 major steps to the Rift Valley floor and the salt lakes of Magadi in Kenya and Natron in Tanzania. This 1000 sq.km. area is Kenya's last true wilderness. Renowned for its wildlife it is home to numerous troops of the rare Colobus monkey.
To the west of the main road the Loita Hills rise to over 2000m and cover an area of some 200 sq.km. Small patches of forest are often found in sheltered valleys. However the more open, grassy higher slopes are visited by plains animals such as wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, lion, hyena and cheetah. The main ridges offer excellent walking with fine views. Water is scarce and if you are not carrying your own, you have to rely on scattered waterholes. The water from these should be boiled for a few minutes and the sediments allowed to settle. A few Masai live in the area; they are generally friendly and care should be taken not to offend and upset them with snap-happy photography. Avoid camping near well-used Masai paths or manyattas.
Several cliffs are also found in this area. Most of them are very remote. One has been explored - the Lost Aloe Cliff.
East of the main road, and beyond the central hills, lies the Nguruman Escarpment, a flatter area of grasslands, acacia forests and bush. Streams cut across this area then plunge a final 700m down the scarp to the hot and dry floor of the Rift Valley. They flow through unique and enchanted riverine forests, rich in wildlife, particularly birds. Camping by waterfalls and swimming in deep pools creates a total contrast to walking through the dry bushland beyond their confines. The edge of the scarp provides a splendid panorama of the Rift Valley but it can only be safely descended in a few places.
Though the area is a game reserve, it is hoped that wider publicity will establish it as an area of outstanding beauty which needs special protection from the fate of many other East African forests. Great care should be taken at campsites to cover up evidence of fires and to remove all litter from the area. Burying rubbish is totally inadequate as animals will dig it up. The locality abounds in wildlife and special care must be taken when walking not to suddenly disturb a big animal at close range (buffalo are particularly liable to charge).
Nights in the higher hills can be cold and sometimes damp; a tent provides a useful shelter. Jeans or shorts with canvas gaiters are best in the forests where nettle patches are occasionally encountered. Ticks are a nuisance in the lower bush country.
Three routes are described. A circuit in the Loita Hills (3-4h). The Kanunka River Circuit (5h). A north-west to south-east traverse across the Nguruman Escarpment (serious, 2-3 days, drop-off and pick-up are widely separated and remote locations).
Numerous other possibilities exist for superb walks. The Loita Hills circuit can be readily extended. The forested ridges and stream valleys east of Morijo offer endless opportunities for exploration. And the hills immediately west of the 2280m road pass (see below) offer fine open ridge walking.
It must be emphasised that the forested "central hills" separating the Loita Hills from the Nguruman Escarpment are a serious area to enter. Those going into them should be skilled navigators with a fair amount of experience of African wild animals. Alternatively a guide who knows the area should accompany the group; the local Masai are very helpful in this respect.
Access Take the old road from Nairobi to Naivasha, the more westerly, for 58km then turn left and continue for 84km to Narok (last roadside water, petrol and garage). Turn left and in 16km reach a major road junction just beyond the Ewaso Ngiro river bridge. End of tarmac. Take the dirt road left and follow this for 45km on a general bearing of 165 degrees to Naro Osura (chief's office and small dukas, 1840m). The first section of this road can be very difficult after heavy rain. For the first 2 routes below, follow the main road south from Naro Osura for 14km. The last 2km wind steeply and spectacularly out of a valley and onto a high pass (2280m). Good campsites just east of highest point on road, no water. 3.5km south of the pass the road swings to the west; this is the start point for second route. 1.5km further, a valley on the right (no track) leads north-west in one km to a possible campsite and a rock-face just beyond (Lost Aloe Cliff), no water. This is the start of the first route.
For the start of the Nguruman Escarpment walk: 2km north of Naro Osura, and 500m north of a river crossing, a rough track leads off directly east for 17km (note: after 5km a section runs north-east for one km and at 13km a rough section descends steeply). The track now runs south for 4km more to a mission on the Lenkutoto river (1490m, just beyond a small Masai manyatta). In an emergency assistance might be available at the mission. Possible fresh water from the mission or, less good, from the river.
Directions to pick-up point at the end of this route. From Nairobi drive on tarmac for 90km to Magadi. Causeways cross Lake Magadi west to a dirt road which leads west to the Ewaso Ngiro river at the Nguruman Game Outpost (660m), 20km. From here a road north-west follows the Magadi Water Pipeline to the Oloibortoto river; another road goes north then north-west and leads to Kalema and the most convenient pick-up point (9km).
Loita Hills Circuit A fine "horseshoe". Easy walking over open grassy ridges with good views; a few short forest and bush sections. From the Lost Aloe Cliff camp (2240m), described in the access section above, gain a ridge one km to the south-west with a 200m ascent. Now go west-north-west for 3km with 100m of ascents. Then descend one km north-east to manyatta in a slight valley. Ascend 2km north-east to the Subugo summit (2679m), from where a ridge descends gently south-east for 4km. Steeply south-west back down to start in one km. Total time, 3-4h. No good water along the way.
Kanunka River Circuit. This route combines a forest walk with open grassy ridge walking. Cross grassy slopes east-south-east to gain a path running east-north-east to a col (2260m) in the forested line of hills due east of the start point, 45 min. Immediately beyond, ignore the main path going north-east and go down a path south-east to reach the Kanunka river in 30min (2060m), good water. Now east, up through forests (no clear paths) to a grassy ridge, 40min (2240m). Then south-south-east to waterhole, 15 min; turn north and follow good Masai cattle paths north for 3.5km, pass a waterhole on the left (45min) and 200m further on fork left onto a path which is followed down to the Kanunka, then back to the 2260m col (1h30 from second waterhole) and hence the start point. Allow 5h for the circuit.
Nguruman Escarpment The main section of this walk follows the Entosapia River and its associated riverine forests. A beautiful and spectacular area.
From the mission follow the Lenkutoto river for 2.5km (30min), to a track crossing the river (1460m); follow this south. After 3.5km (45min) the path deteriorates and contours along the base of the hills to the west on a general bearing south; the Lenkutoto with its riverine forests swings away east to drop down into the Rift Valley. In 2.5km (30 min) the path drops slightly to cross a dry river/gorge system (1460m). A short climb leads to a ridge with an isolated hillock, below and to the south-west of this hill; on the flat ridge crest, there is a major manyatta (1510m), one km, 20min. From the mission, 9.5km, say 2h15.
Paths now lead west through the valley/gorge cutting through the line of hills. In the gorge the path is just south of the stream bed (water unreliable). At the head of the gorge, where it widens (1600m), take a shallow side valley south and after 600m go up gently south-west to gain a flat, high ridge top, beyond the hill line (1660m), 4km, 1h15. The Entosapia valley can now be seen below to the west and south. Open slopes and good paths lead south and down, past small manyattas to a bushy, dry river crossing in the main valley system (1580m), 2.25km, 30min. Continue south, cross a ridge and drop gently down to a beautiful riverine forest (1570m). This is in a side valley joining the Entosapia from from west. Clear streams and good campsites, 1.75km, 30min. From the major manyatta, say 2h45.
Walk 500m south up and out of this side valley. 2km east-south-east over gentle slopes leads to the main Entosapia river valley (1500m), 1h.
From now on there are frequent good campsites (the best are on tributaries). Good animal trails lead most of the way down the Entosapia. Finding the best route can be difficult and a day should be allowed for this section which leads in a further 8km to edge of the Nguruman Escarpment where the river plunges into the Rift Valley. Onekm before the scarp, the valley is steep-sided and the river is best reached by following the south-west bank to a vehicle track, the north end of which now leads to the river by a short steep path. Fine pools and smaller waterfalls. Small campsite, 1300m. A short walk downstream leads to a point overlooking the great waterfall and the Rift Valley.
Regain the track and follow it south, crossing a stream after 1.5km. In another km the Orkerli river is crossed, possible campsite. After another 2km the track swings east and descends the escarpment steeply. At the bottom of the scarp the land is cultivated; ignore the good track which leads south (to the Oloibortoto) and continue for about one km along a grassy track east to an excellent dirt road and Kalema village (760m), 2h30 from Entosapia.Sample of Map