South of Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, sits the extinct Mount Longonot volcano. This domineering volcano has pride of place in the Longonot National Park, and lords over the landscape below. The national park was created to protect the volcano that rises from the floor of the Rift Valley.
A circular ridge of steep jagged rock surrounds the floor of a caldera that’s carpeted with thick, green forest. General game such as the Thomson’s gazelle, zebra, buffalo and Grant’s gazelle populate the forested floor.
The major drawcard of the area is the commanding views from the highest points of the volcano, which offer some of the best aerial views of Kenya—particularly on a clear day. The walls of the volcano are ideal for a challenging hike, and draw-in experienced mountaineers who revel in the various viewpoints.
Flat landscapes interrupted by the indigo hues of the Mau Escarpment, the distant Lake Naivasha and undulating Rift Valley terrain, provide a picture-perfect setting in one of Kenya’s most sought-after scenic destinations.
Longonot National Park is extremely accessible for visitors and is only about 20 kilometres away from the centre of Naivasha and 90 kilometres north of Nairobi. The closest domestic airport is Wilson Airport, serviced by Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
There is no accommodation inside the park, however, there are major tourist hotspots within an hour of the entrance to the park. Nairobi is 1.5 hours drive away and is home to hotels of international standing.
It is possible to hike Mount Longonot year-round, but the best time is from January to April and September to December. This period of time is considered the dry season.
It’s the sweeping views of Kenya and the challenging hiking that attracts visitors to Mount Longonot National Park. However, it is also an area known for its birdlife—in particular the bearded vulture. Raptors are also in abundance, many of which nest in the rock crevices of the volcano wall. In fact, there are over 100 bird species in the area.
On the vegetation thick slopes, there’s evidence of buffalo, eland, bushbuck, klipspringer, and eland. It’s also not uncommon to spot the comical black and white colobus monkeys. Thomson’s gazelle, zebra, and giraffe are primarily found dwelling on the forest floor. Lions and leopards are in the area but are rare to spot.
It is possible to hike Mount Longonot year-round, but the best time is from January to April and September to December. This period of time is considered the dry season. The rest of the year experiences short bursts of rain, which can put a damper on the hiking and game viewing experience.
Hiking is the main attraction at Mount Longonot. Keen and fit hikers descend upon the area to take advantage of some of Kenya’s most astounding views. There’s the main trail that extends from the floor to the rim, offering a steep ascent to the viewpoints. While hiking, visitors are urged to look out for large raptors nesting in the crevices of rocks.
Cycling is another option of viewing game in Mount Longonot National Park. Guided cycling tours take place on the lower parts of the volcano, which means ample opportunity to spot plains game.
Birdwatching, gentle nature trails, and thrilling rock climbing activities are a few unique ways in which to enjoy the landscape and game viewing of the area.
There is no accommodation inside the park. However, there are major tourist hotspots within an hour of the entrance to the park. Nairobi is one and a half hours away, and home to hotels of international standing. This is an option for visitors wanting to take a day trip into the park. There is one campsite located on the outskirts of the park.
The majority of the accommodation for the Mount Longonot is centralized around Lake Naivasha, which offers everything from homestays to resorts and small boutique bed and breakfasts.