I vaguely remember hiking around or on Suswa Hills in my teenage years, or before that, but that memory didn’t prepare me for the magnificence that is the Mt. Suswa Conservancy. The photos you might find online, blog posts (like this one) and even videos don’t do the place justice.
In preparation for our trip, I read several articles and blogs from people or groups that have visited. The conservancy isn’t listed on the KWS website, so one needs to do their research before going, here are some of the main observations worth noting before you go;
-You will pay a set conservancy fee per visitor and for the vehicle you go with. You will get an official receipt from your guide.
–It is generally very dusty and hot, but parts of the mountain area get cold, for example inside the caves and at the various viewpoints.
-You will need a guide. It’s more convenient to arrange this in advance. I will put the contact of our guide in this post should you want to contact him directly.
On to the journey; the trip is longer than implied by google. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half to reach Suswa Town, where we picked up our guide. Suswa Town is developing fast and according to our guide, they expect it to advance even faster as the railway line passing Suswa is being constructed. Suswa Market day is on Wednesdays where vendors from all over Kenya come to trade, so it’s worth noting that there is increased traffic from the town to the conservancy on this day.
The drive from Suswa town up the mountain took us about 2 and a half hours to the caves, but we also stopped a lot for photography. Once we got off the main road, we noticed the importance of having a guide because there aren’t always clear roads, there is no signage at all and there are several plots of privately owned land that you can’t really pass through.
I did my research before going, saw lots of photos and videos of the caves and yet my mind was completely blown. You will not find the caves on your own, our guide told us where to park and we looked around wondering what attraction he has brought us to.
There are several rules you need to follow:
-No littering. This is a natural habitat for several different species of animals.
-Do not take any souvenirs. The caves and lava tubes have existed for hundreds of years yet there are visitors who have given themselves the honor of breaking off pieces of the cave walls to take home. Please don’t.
-Always stay behind the guide (I forgot this rule at some point and almost stepped onto nothing while in the caves, there are different layers of caves so some floors are thin and there are openings with a drop of over 10 meters )
I am a bit claustrophobic, so generally don’t enter confined underground places, but this was a once in a lifetime experience, and I wasn’t going to be left alone at the entrance, nope nope nope. It’s a bit tough if you have the same issue, I couldn’t breathe properly (I’m asthmatic too), but it was 100% worth it and you know what, I would do it again…I think.
The cave tours include visiting the leopard corridor where leopards sometimes bring their fresh kills. There is a historic wall painting from several centuries ago. You will also see or hear some of the thousands of bats that live inside the caves.
A major attraction is also the ‘Baboon Parliament’. There is even a short documentary done by BBC on it. The baboon parliament is a huge underground cave where a troop of 35-45 baboons congregate to socialize, play and sleep in the evening. At the center of the cave is a large rock referred to as the speaker’s rock, where the baboon in charge addresses the rest. According to our guide, once the head baboon sits on this rock, the other baboons start to congregate and listen. This is also the spot where the leader of the troop sits in the morning and wakes up the rest of them. The floor is covered in baboon poop, giving the cave a very strong aroma that I haven’t experienced elsewhere. The walls of the cave are also discolored from the baboon urine. It’s quite a sight to behold!
There are several hiking options while at Suswa. Its advisable to discuss this with your guide before arriving, based on the type of group you have traveled with. According to our guide, there are 3 main hikes one can do;
- 16 km hike from the foot of the mountain to the main viewpoint.
- 24 kms from a bit higher up the mountain, around the crater, to the peak and back.
- Unclear kms, but begins at the main campsite, to the peak and back and it takes about 4 and a half hours total.
I did a good amount of research before going to Suswa, this included finding the contacts of a few guides and reaching out to them. I ended up going with a Mr. Jeremiah, who is a senior guide and was born in Suswa, raised in Suswa and now lives inside the outer rim. I highly recommend him for several reasons; his knowledge base on everything is very impressive, from the geography of the whole conservancy, to his knowledge on all the wildlife and his hospitality. He and his wife invited us to their home for tea; unfortunately we ran out of time but will have to go back! I’ve put down the numbers of 3 guides I spoke to before my visit;
If you want to camp, there is an official campsite, but you can also speak to your guide in advance and he may be able to recommend other areas where you can camp.
Overall, this was an unforgettable experience and I can’t wait to go back! When you get home you will find yourself covered in 3-4 layers of dust, but the memories all make it worth it!