View southwards across Lake Magadi, in southern Kenya; Oct 1978.

There are many things to see here.  First, the eastern side of Africa is disintegrating, and the cracks along which this break up is taking place are the rift valleys.  Here we are on the fairly flat floor of one of the rifts, and the hills in the far distance, right of centre, are the Nguruman Escarpment, which is the rift valley’s western wall.  Everything in the landscape between us and those distant hills is new crust – volcanic lavas and ashes – that has been forced up from inside the Earth to seal the widening cracks in its surface.

To the left of Nguruman is a very distinctively shaped hill – it looks as if its had a chunk bitten out of it: this is Shombole volcano, near the border with Tanzania.

Just in front of the left hand side of Shombole some smoke is rising from a promontory.    The lake’s soda is mined, and this smoke is rising from the soda factory in Magadi town.  The volcanic rocks of the area are rich in soda, which is leached out of these rocks by rain.  This soda is carried in solution down into the lake by streams and springs.  But, since the lake has no outlet, its waters are lost only by evaporation, leaving the soda to accumulate and form a solid crust on the lake’s surface.  The redness of the soda near the lake’s shore is caused by red algae that thrive in the highly alkaline water – the water is so alkaline that it starts to dissolve human skin when in contact with it – fingers dipped into the water start immediately to feel soapy as their skin dissolves!

This photo was taken in the dry season, and the foreground is occupied by dry, brown acacia bush.  After rain, this landscape will become temporarily green again.

I very much enjoyed Lake Magadi.  It was an easy day’s drive from Nairobi, it was fascinating geologically, and it was a very wild and exotic area (though I have a feeling it is rather less wild now).  Its at low altitude, and it was always very dry and very hot – and the air was always pervaded by the acrid stink of the lake’s soda.  A wonderful and very, very real place; when I was there, all those years ago, there was absolutely no advertising, no hype, simply raw and really quite exotic nature.

Click onto the image to open a larger image in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens and polarising filter; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO.


I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.



    • Yes, it is good. But times have moved on, and some places are less wild now >>> but then people / nations have to move on too, and it would be entirely selfish to restrict their progress simply to satisfy our “wild idylls”. 🙂


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