Nkunga: The crater lake hidden in a forest that is home to elephants

By: IRENE MURITHI

Hidden under the canopy of the huge and indigenous Lower Imenti Forest, about 10 kilometres from Meru Town, is the once revered sacred Lake Nkunga.

The panoramic crater lake has been protected by the people for decades. The lake was only accessible to the traditional rainmakers when they went to appease the gods.

Legends and myths hold that the water mass was the home of a mystical seven-headed dragon ‘Nkunga’, which could swallow whoever dared go anywhere near the lake.

The dragon was believed to guard the water source and help keep the forest safe from deforestation.

The mouth of Nkunga is said to have been at a nearby hill, Maitei, with its body stretching underground through the lake all the way to the Nyambene Hills.

Lake Nkunga is surrounded by a thick forest on its edges, punctuated with natural springs.

Its splendid beauty embraces you the very moment you walk down the rocky paths that lead to the lake.

The sacred lake stretches her arms wide open welcoming visitors to its tranquillity and serenity. The green carpet that surrounds the lake provides a calm resting place for those who visit this sacred place.

Most often, you might come across a herd of elephants taking a bath in the lake before disappearing into the forest.

The lake was formed as a result of volcanic action that left a bowl-shaped crater in the forest. The volcanic bowl has since filled with rain water to form the lake.

The total area occupied by the lake is about 96 acres.

The lake also gets water from underground wells that keep it full throughout the seasons.

Over the years, papyrus reeds have overgrown inside the lake covering the surface but efforts have been done to reclaim it.

It is also a source of water and fish for the local community.