Updated: Aug 10, 2020
By Gloria Teimuge
This week we are continuing the series of posts highlighting the country of Kenya, brought to you by Gloria Teimuge. Gloria is a public health practitioner and consultant, photojournalist and writer living in Nairobi, Kenya. She is a long-time friend of Spirit in Action.
Kenya is located in the Eastern region of Africa, on the equator with an area of about six hundred thousand square kilometers (225,000 sq miles). The Kenyan coast borders the Indian Ocean to its South East and has charming tropical islands worth checking out, notably the car-free Lamu island! Today, we’ll delve into Kenya’s terrains (eneo la ardhi in Swahili).
Kenya’s landscape is vast and diverse with the terrains ranging from the low coastline (sea level) to mountains, ranges, and escarpments at 5000m (16,500 ft) above sea level. There are many plateaus and savanna grasslands in the middle of that range but you don’t need me to paint a picture for you on that – documentaries about Africa have done an excellent job. Then of course there are deserts, forests, lakes, swamps, rivers, waterfalls, hills, valleys, reefs, and any other byproducts of the mentioned.
Perhaps the most majestic (and rightfully so) phenomenon is the Great Rift Valley. Having lived close to the rift valley growing up, we enjoyed the cool (sometimes cold) highlands weather and rugged terrains for hikes and treks. In school, we learnt about its history & geography, and took field trips to better understand its formation. Friends visiting from other countries made me realize how incredible it truly is, seeing it through their eyes. It feels different when people travel the world to come and experience it. While standing on any of the viewpoint cliffs and sipping on the view of the lay of the land from different angles, you see its remarkable magnificence.
Formed ages ago by fault lines and the shifting of tectonic plates, the Great Rift Valley system is a long and deep valley with escarpments for walls. It’s a stretch of thousands of kilometers traversing 10 countries with two branches; the Western and Eastern Rift Valley. Beginning in Eritrea, the rift stretches through to Mozambique in Southern Africa. In Kenya, it runs from Turkana County in the North to Kajiado County in the South.
This formation gave rise to lakes and rivers that have become a home to diverse wildlife. The valley’s floor and escarpments are geologically active with chains of volcanic hills and mountains, craters, geysers, and hot water springs dotting the landscape. In locations the agro-climatic zones differ. For instance, from Tambach heading down to Lake Kamnarok- the region is densely forested, full of huge soft boulders, has loam then sandy soils and large deposits of the mineral Fluorite.
The escarpments and mountain ranges are rugged with green vegetation and deep dark volcanic soil. Located on high altitudes, these areas are very cold and often foggy. Most of the forests in these regions are of endangered indigenous trees; reforestation and afforestation plans are underway to encourage an increase in forest cover in Kenya. The soil composition in these regions and in most parts of central and western Kenya are loam soils (rich red soils) that are perfect for farming hence supporting agriculture, a great contributor to Kenya’s economy.
The lake regions are mostly rocky or sandy, hot and humid. Usually, there’s a slight breeze shifting the reeds and swaying the boats while cooling off which most people find relaxing. The fine grained sands of the beaches at the Kenyan coast paved with palm trees are a sure way to unwind and chill. Clear blue waters, warm weather and some madafu (coconut water), will get you captivated for sure. Also, you can experience the spectacular bioluminescence in Kilifi! The coast is also home to well-preserved eco-regions such as mangrove forests.
World-renowned Kenyan athletes train in areas along high altitude with the challenging topography. This helps to build their endurance. Towns like Iten, Eldoret, and Nandi have been dubbed as home, city and source of champions respectively for producing dominating race-winners. I remember staying in Iten during my second year of school (for an elective) and constantly feeling the psyche to join the athletes during training. I observed their resilience during practice and consistency to show up regardless (especially during the cold rainy or foggy mornings!); and that explained the importance of discipline in sportsmanship.
Fun activities we love to engage in regularly are hiking, cycling, aquatic sports, safaris, sampling different cultural cuisines, camping, horse riding in the wild, archery, picnicking, fly fishing and visiting museums & culture centers.
Other activities worth checking out include; zip lining, paragliding, riding a matatu, a tuktuk & piki piki, jogging with the athletes, triathlons, adventure sports, desert sports, a homestay in the villages with preserved cultural practices and so much more!
A little info on devolution in Kenya; In 2010, a new constitution mandated the decentralization of Kenya’s national government. Previously, Kenya had eight provinces but according to the new constitution, Kenya reconfigured to forty-seven counties. These counties have their own system of governance; run by governors and legislated by senators. The national government still runs and maintains core functions; however, sectors like agriculture, health and tourism were devolved to the county governments.
I hope this has been enlightening. Until the next article, stay safe & take care.