After eventually leaving the house, dodging truckers on the highway and navigating the treacherous spindly road down the escarpment of the rift valley, we were finally making good headway towards where we hoped Mt Suswa was. Armed with a small section of 1:250’000 map and a compass I could at least direct Peter to drive in its general direction. Hopefully i can attribute the fact that we were given next to no information about how to get to the conservancy as the reason to why we got lost! We stopped to ask a policeman who told us exactly what we had been told earlier: “take any dirt road before Suswa town, and if you get lost ask a Masai.” I was beginning to wonder if anyone knew how to get there… We took the advice and turned off the highway at the first dirt road we came across, and sure enough, after a few turns here and there, checking the compass, and following with my finger what looked like a dirt road on the map, we came across a battered old sign wit flaking green paint. It read Mt Suswa Conservancy ⇒ 5km. It didn’t matter that it was old and decrepit, or even that one of the chains had rusted through so the arrow now pointed up at the sky. What mattered was that we had found it, Mt Suswa. One of Kenya’s most amazing geological features, one of her most under appreciated treasures.
Details about suswa
I was unable to find any geological information on suswa, or her caves (lava tubes). Apparently 15km of caves have been explored and over 30 entrances found. However, without a doubt there are much more. Any caver/splunker who seeks adventure and the unknown should visit this magnificent volcano.
The caves were incredible. We had arrived quite late in the afternoon and a conservancy “scout” (a young Masai and his dog) showed us a nice camping spot very close to one of the cave sites. Apparently they were the most popular caves, and when we finally mustered up the courage to plunge into the darkness, we discovered why.
An earthy smell filled the caves, we noticed it from the moment we entered, and felt it grow softly in intensity as we delved deeper and deeper into the darkness. The ground was soft and cool, so cool in fact it seemed to permeate through my boots and send shivers down my spine… yet it was not cold. The first thing i noticed was green, quite deep in the the cave. I had discovered small shoots searching for light, little figs with their big broad leaves, probably planted by the bats above. The second thing that startled me was when we scared a bat nest. Hundreds of bats poured out of a single hole in the roof, a seemingly never ending stream of black wings filled the cavern with flutters and shrieks. In awe we stared until the last one fluttered away. We explored the caves with cheap torches form Nakumat and one headlamp, and resultantly it was hard to see anything that was not close. In one of the caves I luckily spotted a hole in the floor leading to the cavern below. We realized we were not necessarily walking in a cave, but a caved-in section of roof! Also at another time in our exploration our steps became hollow, and the ground vibrated when we walked.
Suswa is definitely a hidden gem. She seems so unimpressive compared to her smaller sister Mt Longonot, but when you drive into her outer crater, her massive size truly is overwhelming. The outer crater edge stretches all around you, and the inner crater stands proud before you, almost like a little Longonot. We parked the car on the edge of the inner crater, about two hours of hiking from the peak, and left it with one of the “scouts” because of rumors regarding safety. The hike was not hard, and quite adventurous because there were no established trails. Following animal tracks we slowly, but surely made our way to the top. Finally, drenched in sweat, we had made it over the perilous rock formations, a bubbling sea of molten lava frozen in time. We sat at the peak for a while, savoring our achievement along with cheese and avocado sandwiches, looking out across Kenya, glad we had not chosen to visit Longonot instead!
I placed two geocaches on Suswa, but sadly not one at the peak. I forgot to carry the kit! However there is one at the entrance to the caves we visited and another at the viewpoint. Both are great places to camp.
To be honest, we did not know what to expect when we went to suswa. We had herd rumors that the volcano was dangerous… you can fall through hidden/overgrown cave entrances, or that the Massai in that area are generally not helpful, harassing and dangerous. Its one of the reasons why we took two of our dogs. The fact is that we discovered the opposite. The Massai were more than helpful and were much nicer than anywhere we have ever visited. We made friends with a young Massai boy and shared stories. We heard hyenas at night though, and were told they had raided a Boma (Massai village) under cover of darkness.
We all loved Suswa, and know that anyone who visits her will love her too.
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