Kenya is a beautiful country, but while it is most known for her wildlife and beaches, there are other areas that will take your breath away. These picturesque landscapes can be found in all areas of the country, from the lowest areas by the sea to the roof of the country, Mt Kenya.
Popularly known as Hell’s Kitchen, Marafa Depression is a sandstone canyon outside Malindi Town. The place is locally known as ‘Nyari’ meaning ‘the place broken by itself’.
Marafa Depression is a series of gorges and gullies that have become part of local legend, told in the same fashion as that of Vasco da Gama’s visit to the region.
Beautiful hues combine to create a magical gorge that locals call Nyari, or a sacred depression despite the creepy name given to it by a white visitor — Hell’s Kitchen.
A local myth states that people who lived here long ago angered the gods by using milk to bathe since there was no water nearby. As a punishment, the gods killed them all. The red colour is said to symbolise the blood while the white colour represents the milk.
Another legend has it that once there was a village. Villagers received a vision a miracle was coming and to vacate. Everyone moved except an old woman. The village vanished with the old woman inside.
Scientifically though, the depression and the resultant colours are due to erosion of the soft sandstone, creating the depression interspersed with rocky outcrops – some 30 metres tall. The best time to visit Hell’s Kitchen is late afternoon, especially for sunset enthusiasts.
The different colours of the sandstone are particularly striking during sunset.
Found in Marsabit, Chalbi is foreboding with a ghostly atmosphere that makes even the strong-willed wither with apprehension. Sand is everywhere one looks, a lot of sand.
And mirages that held the false promise of water in the distance. These have been the cause of deaths to the unwary traveller exhausted in the parched land.
This is one of the areas that has quickly become a favourite for thrill seekers. With the ease of access to the North after the construction of the Isiolo-Moyale Road, nowadays many tour firms and travel groups include Chalbi Desert as part of their Northern tourism circuit experience. Others offer it as a standalone road trip experience.
You can even do it as a group of friends, but you need a four wheel vehicle and a good guide, getting lost is a reality. Roads are almost non-existent, and the sandy terrain means vehicle tracks are quickly covered up or lost. Venturing offroad requires someone familiar with the lay of the land, or retracing your steps will be a nightmare.
This black outcrop of molten rock in the Tsavo is as a result of volcanic eruption a few hundred years ago. Like many happenings that people struggled with, local myths linked it to the devil, complete with fire and brimstone.
Tellingly, the hellish landscape got the name ‘shetani’. With Chyulu Hills in the background and Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance, it is a scene that wills one to pause and take it all in.
Lake Ellis, Mt Kenya
Enough of the low lying landscapes, Lake Ellis on the Eastern slopes of Mt Kenya takes the cake.
A favourite for hikers and adventure seekers on four wheel drive monsters, the breathtaking lake sits at 3,470 metres above sea level on Mt Kenya.
It is serves as a stopover for hikers and is a popular site for sport fishing for those climbing Mt Kenya from the Chogoria Gate.
Other lakes on Mt Kenya include Alice, Rutundu and Michaelson.
Lake Rutundu became known around the world when Britain’s Prince William proposed to now Duchess, Kate Middleton.