Since 1902

Tourist sites breathe life into ‘valleys of death’ in North Rift

Samich Resort built along the Elgeyo escarpment in Nyaru area. PHOTO BY: KEVIN TUNOI

Legend has it that the awe-inspiring Elgeyo escarpment in the North Rift was a revered area where barren and unmarried women were banished because they were considered a bad omen and a burden to their families and the society.

It was also believed that the escarpment, owing to its biting cold and marauding wild animals, would decimate the ‘outcasts’ from the face of the earth.

It is also on this perilous cliffs that senior members of the community who were tired of living and death had taken long to take them, would ‘kill themselves’ by jumping down the escarpment in a traditional ritual known as shew.

But decades later, the escarpment is increasingly turning into a goldmine following a rush by investors to set up magnificent tourist hotels and resorts.

This has led to skyrocketing land prices along the scenic ridge.

The escarpment is a training zone for athletics and is home to some of the country’s renowned athletes.

It attracts urban dwellers who camp at the prestigious resorts during vacations. Because of the scenery and altitude of the region, it is ideal for tourists with a keen interest in sports like paragliding.

Landmark hotel

The region also bears the iconic Kamaring Stadium, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1957.

Perched on the escarpment top is the magnificent Kerio View Resort near the athletic famed Iten town. Another landmark hotel is the Samich Resort in Keiyo South.

The Kerio View Resort was established about two decades and is sitting on undulating piece of land with manicured lawns decked with flowers. It was the first of its kind on the escarpment.

The recreational facility is constructed by a meticulous woodwork of architecture and offers a scenic view of the entire beauty of Kerio Valley in its enormity.

The resort is home to thousands of splendid species of trees and ornamental flowers.

According to Jean-Paul Fourier, the owner of the Resort, both domestic and foreign tourist visits have increased steadily owing to a spirited campaign to open up the Western Circuit. “Both international and local tourists come to see what lies deep in the region away from the beautiful beaches at the Coast or other tourism destination which many are accustomed to,” he says. From its raised verandahs, a wide picturesque of the entire Kerio Valley extending to the Tugen Hills can be seen. Lake Kapnarok, the mighty curves of Kerio River and Rimoi game reserve can also be seen at the resort.

This is why Fourier named the resort ‘Kerio View’ because the patrons get to feel the valley from the comfort of their rooms.

Fourier reveals he fell in love with the rich grandeur of the escarpment abounded with flora and fauna and an amusing cultural heritage of the locals. This, he says, contributed to his motivation to establish the resort.

“Between the months of October and February we have full bookings from paragliders who find the Kerio ridge exhilarating. This region is conducive for paragliding because the skies are clear with ideal wind speed for the sport,” he said.

At Samich Resort, it took the management over three years to lay a meticulous lawn after a tedious landscaping.

From the valley, an imposing magnificent view of the resort can be seen; “At dawn just before the magical spectacle of the rising sun over the Elgeyo escarpments, lodgers get the opportunity to view the silhouette of Mt Kenya and Mt Longonot, which gradually fades in the blue horizon as the day breaks,” says Thomas Adega, the manager.

Besides its scenic opulence, the region is also a cultural attraction centre that hosts local and foreign lodgers.

“Tourists get a chance to enjoy the best traditional delicacies like mursik (Kalenjin traditional sour milk), boiled and peppered meat, and the special honey beer commonly known as Kipketiin,” says Adega.

The hotels host prominent personalities, local and foreign athletes and attract tourists from all round the world.

The investors are now worried of illegal charcoal burning and deforestation which have taken a toll on the valley.

Zachariah Kokoi, a Keiyo elder, says the escarpment is one of the most tranquil recreational places in the North Rift.

It stretches across the Elgeyo Marakwet County.

“The air here is clean thus there is rush for establishment of tourist hotels away from the conservative regions like Coast,” he says.

Joseph Kwambai, another elder says their beautiful bit of culture and serenity are the most attractive.

“At the crack of dawn, the occupants are treated to the cooing and chirping of birds that perch indigenous forest on the escarpment as the day breaks. There is also different baboon species inhabiting the escarpment,” he said.