John and I went to Suswa this weekend. Suswa is a shield volcano with a double crater and lava tube caves! It takes about 3 hours to drive there in a car.. and probably about 1.5 hours on a piki. We took a car. You have to drive down from Kijabe all the way into the middle of the valley. Once you reach the outer crater you have to drive for another hour or so before getting to the inner crater. The road inside the crater is full of rocks and pot holes, but also beautiful views. As we drove up towards the inner crater we could look back and see a huge expanse of the valley with Longonot in the distance... very nice. There is a lot of vegetation along the outer crater, along with plenty of wildlife. Apparently Suswa used to be full of wild animals, even lions! Not anymore though- now there are mainly just gazelles, birds, snakes, and apparently some hyenas and leopards (but we didn't see any of those). It's very much Masai land out there.. we passed tons of them on our way in. Our Masai friend Samuel lives in a village inside the Suswa conservancy.
We camped on the edge of the inner crater, on a cliff overlooking the lush, green center. It was fantastic. The sunset was amazing, as was the night sky.. we saw some crazy lightning beyond the rise of opposite side of the crater. It looked like the world was ending! All sorts of bright flashing colors of light. The stars were bright and the sky was clear- all of the southern hemisphere constellations were there for the finding. I could make out the Southern Cross, Orion, and Cassiopeia. We woke up just after sunrise, but the morning was also really pretty... Pink, purple, bluish light. The African sky is so alive.
In the morning, we cooked some breakfast over the campfire, packed up our campsite, then drove down to the famous Suswa caves. Without our friends leading the way, I never could have found them. There are hardly any signs and the roads are hard to follow. There are several collapses acting as different entrance points into the network of caves. We parked next to the biggest collapse and climbed down into it. One of the Masai guided us through several of the most interesting caves. The highlight for sure was the bat chamber, a huge dome full of dead air, feces, insects, and tens of thousands of sleeping bats. We had to walk pretty deep into the cave in order to reach this particular "room"... so it was pitch black and smelled purely of feces- no air flow contaminating that specimen. And the tiny bugs jumping up into my nostrils were a nice touch as well. John was ready to get out of there real quick ;)
We loved Suswa. We've decided that next time we'll be traveling by piki... and climbing up to the peak of the inner crater rather than down into the caves.