Soda Lakes in Kenya : Soda lakes are alkaline, generally shallow, with relatively small inlets and no surface outlets, with PH values ranging from 8 to 12 and they are characterized by the high concentrations of the principal ions such as Na+, HCO–, CO32- and CI–. Kenya is a safari destination that is endowed with many soda lakes formin~g part of the East African Rift Valley system and includes the lakes like Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Elementeita and Lake Magadi, in addition the Lake Turkana is located on the Kenyan-Ethiopian border further north and is described in a separate chapter in this volume.
These lakes are characterized by the steep fault dramatic escarpments, interspersed by volcanoes, steaming Fumaroles, deep gorges, canyons, and the crater on the rift floor, some of which have the gushing geysers and the hot springs attractions to the tourists, and are the setting for one of the Earth’s Kenya wildlife spectacles the feeding and movement of the massive flocks of the flamingos, the alkaline lake waters support a prolific growth of the green algae (spirulina platensis) and the main food of the itinerant Rift Valley population of the lesser flamingos which congregate in the lakes in the great numbers, then historically the lakes were thought to have been one continuous system called Lake Kamatian and the reconstruction of the history of the four lakes based on the dated sedimentary time- series data reveal unique hydrological, ecological and the species richness trends that have fluctuated through time between alkaline and the freshwater conditions.
Soda lakes in Kenya.
Lake Nakuru is the most famous of the four soda lakes, the sky-mirrored pink-frosted shores Nakuru created as a result of millions of flamingos flocking to feed on the lake’s teeming algae is described by many as one of the greatest bird spectacles on earth. Lake Nakuru’s flamingos are a major tourism safari destination making it one of the most visited lakes in Kenya.
Lake Bogoria is less well-known lake Nakuru to its south, the lake is extremely salty and a saline content about twice the density of the sea water, making it the devoid of the most acquatic life, like the other lakes volcanic minerals enrich Bogoria’s waters with algea, providing an ideal environment for hundreds of thousands of the lesser flamingos, that is the expanse of water and the ever present flamingos provide a dazzling and welcome break from the stark arid bush and scrub surrounding.
The lesser flamingo is not the only bird-life frequenting Lake Bogoria, a total of over 500 species of birds have been recorded near the lake, then the significant amount of the raptors stands out: steppe eagles, fish eagles and tawny eagles are present in large numbers, feeding on the abundance of the weak or the disabled flamingos. Though the flamingos are not the major attraction in the lake, but the lake has the geysers, Lake Bogoria is the most volcanic active of the 4 lakes, its shores are fringed by bubbling the hot springs and the gushing geysers.
The geysers and hot springs are marvel and behold, some of the geysers send hot water up to 17 feet into the air, their activity sporadic and appears to depend on the lake levels and resulting water pressure, and some of the geysers and springs are very hot and others are safe to touch but appear to boil because of the carbon dioxide in the water, then a couple of the springs have been cleared as safe for bathing. That makes Lake Bogoria is the most safari destination to the tourists on a Kenya safari, to the Lake Bogoria it’s a matter of carrying the camera for the amazing photographic opportunities and binoculars for a perfect bird watching, this gives the most unforgettable experience that will make you to come back again and again.
Lake Elementaita is one of the less-known ‘soda lakes’ in the Kenya’s Rift Valley, the lake derived its name from the Maasai word ‘muteita’ that means dust place this describes the dusty conditions in the area especially during the extreme hot dry January to March period, the lake is fed by the two small streams flowing from the eastern plateau. The lake is very shallow (< 1m deep) and during the dry season is characterized by the expansive mudflats.
Rather than attracting the flamingos which feed on its algea, the lake basin area has over 400 recorded bird species including quite a number of the migrating bird from northern Asia and Europe, a number of low, rugged, lava-rock islands in the shallows are the nesting site of the Great White Pelican, at hatching time, the rocks are completely covered with the downy grey fledglings of 8000 breeding pairs of birds.
Most of the area is protected, with the conservancies holding a large part of the surrounding lake shore has got the Kenya wildlife safari like the water buck, jackal, leopard, lion, zebra, warthog, gazelle, eland, buffalo, giraffe, cheetah and many others. Lake Elementaita is less than two hours away by the road from Nairobi and offers an excellent safari opportunity to savor the magnificent Rift Valley landscapes such as the lava outcropping, escarpments and ancient volcanic peaks above the soda lake carpeted with the bird life.
Lake Magadi is the southernmost lake in the Kenyan Rift Valley, lying in a catchment of the faulted volcanic rocks, north of Tanzania’s Lake Natron, during the dry season, it is 80% covered by the soda and is well known for its wading birds like the flamingos. Lake Magadi is a saline, alkaline lake, approximately 100 square kilometers in size, that lies in an endorheic basin formed by a graben, the lake is an example of a ‘’saline pan’’. The lake water is a dense sodium carbonate brine precipitates vast quantities of the mineral trona (sodium sesquicarbonate), in places, the salt is up to 40 meters thick and is recharged mainly by the saline hot springs (temperature up to 860 C) that discharge into the alkaline ‘’lagoons’’ around the lake margins, there being little surface runoff in this arid region.