Magadi Lake

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Lake Magadi

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Topic
***** Category: Earth


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Magadi, in the Rift Valley of Kenya, is one of the two most isolated, extraordinary and unforgettable places I have visited in my life -- the other being the Svalbard Archipelago (including the island of Spitsbergen), the most northerly inhabited settlement of the world. In stark contrast to Svalbard, Magadi is boiling hot -- but it feels equally remote. It is said that the first rain of the rainy season does not even touch the ground -- it evaporates while still in the air!

Magadi town is well off the beaten track and can realistically be visited only if one has a private vehicle. It is located in a sweltering hot area, deep in the bottom of the great Rift Valley, 1000 m below Nairobi, where geological activity has led to a high concentration of sodium carbonate and sodium chloride in the lake -- which in addition is hot, so that few animals thrive in the area. Flamingoes love some of the cooler parts of the lakeshore, and nest there peacefully, and the whole area is famous for its bird life.

Magadi is best known for two things which are closely related -- the extraordinary lake, and the extraction of sodium carbonate from the lake by the Lake Magadi Company.

Much of the lake is covered in solid pink soda salt, which gives it an extraordinary appearance, like something out of science fiction. One can see tractors driving on parts of the lake, and workers sweeping up the salt while walking on the salt covering the lake. The sodium carbonate, Kenya’s most valuable mineral, is exported all around the world, especially to Japan, as an essential ingredient for the manufacture of glass. Magadi supplies a major proportion of the sodium carbonate of the world.

The town of Magadi is a well-designed company town par excellence -- one has to sign a register when arriving there, everything is owned by the company, and there is no accomodation for visitors, unless one is visiting company staff. The company has its own private railway line to Mombasa, from where the sodium carbonate is exported. Staff are well paid -- but perhaps that is not surprising, given the location!

St Mathew Secondary School went on an excursion there in July 2007, and some of the Peacocks, who were part of the group, wrote their haiku about it (see below).

Text : Isabelle Prondzynski


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About Magadi Soda

The Magadi Soda Company which is Africa's largest soda ash manufacturer is one of Kenya's leading export earners and employs over 450 people. The company recovers trona from one of the purest surface deposits in the base of the Rift Valley and converts it into sodium carbonate (soda ash).

The operations at Lake Magadi are situated 120kms south west of Nairobi. Product is transported by rail to the Port of Mombasa for onward shipping to the markets.

Soda ash is an essential constituent in the manufacture of glass and important in the production of detergents and industrial chemicals. Over 95% of the company product is exported to its principal markets of South East Asia, Indian sub-continent, Africa and the Middle East.

The Magadi Soda Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brunner Mond Group Ltd. The original Brunner Mond and Company was formed in 1873 and began manufacturing soda ash in the United Kingdom in 1874.

The Magadi Soda company was established in 1911 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Brunner Mond in 1924. In 1926 Brunner Mond combined with other British chemical companies to form Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd (better known by its initials ICI).

In December 2005 Tata Chemicals Limited of India acquired majority shareholding of Brunner Mond Group.


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[Photos © : http://www.magadisoda.co.ke/Gallery.htm]

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


long journey
students at Lake Magadi
educational trip

rolling down my armpits --
hot temperature

~ Khadija Rajab

with green plants --
the place is cool

~ Sebastian Kimeu

Related words

***** Hell's Gate

Rift Valley

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Gabi Greve / Isabelle Prondzynski
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