A unique natural spa in Kenya that uses water vapor as a source of therapy.
By Bob Koigi
In the middle of huge billows of steam and lingering whiffs of sulfur in one of Kenya’s electricity generation stations—about 100 kilometers (90 miles) from the capital, Nairobi—lies a treasure trove; the largest natural spa in Africa drawing visitors from every corner of the world.
Olkaria Geothermal Spa is located in the town of Naivasha, in the Great Rift Valley. The area is synonymous with wildlife but is also home to the Kengen Company, which generates the country’s electricity. Brine, a solution of sodium chloride (salt) and water found naturally underground is tapped by the company to turn the turbines that generate electricity. The brine is condensed and injected back into the ground. Steam lines direct it to the spa, which has three cascading pools that ensure that hot steam leaving the ground at 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit) is cooled before reaching the final pool. The first reservoir, which receives the hot brine, is the cooling pool with the brine now at approximately 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit), and no one is allowed to swim there. This water then overflows to the second pool whose temperature ranges between 50 and 75 degree Celsius 122 (167 Fahrenheit). The pool is more of a Jacuzzi than a swimming pool allowing guests just to sit and savor the moment.
Olkaria Geothermal Spa.
All the pools are surrounded by terraces to ensure people are not in danger of drowning. The third pool is the largest at 230 feet long, 131 feet wide and 5 feet deep with a shallow children’s swimming pool on the edge and temperature ranging from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius (77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit). The entire spa can accommodate up to 400 people at a time. For the visitors who are not interested in taking a full dip but still want to have an encounter with the milky hot water, there are stairs strategically located where they can just drop their legs or choose the level of immersion. Even a 20 minutes encounter with the enchantingly steamy water is enough to experience health benefits, researchers argue. The pool is made entirely of concrete since ceramic tiles cannot withstand the corrosion from the minerals in the brine.
The spa is home to the Kengen Electric Company.
All the pools are surrounded by terraces to ensure people are not in danger of drowning.
Brine contains two natural minerals, Sulphur and Silica, which researchers say have therapeutic and health benefits, such as muscle relaxation for arthritis patients, improvement of blood circulation and treating skin conditions such as acne and eczema. These are some of the reasons why tourists are flocking to this corner of Kenya from as far as South America, Europe, and the Middle East to get a taste of this unique spa now in its third year of operation.
The spa is also equipped with fully furnished changing rooms, a state of the art restaurant with local and international cuisine, a conference room and sun loungers. It is a stone throw away from world class hotels, and cottages overlooking the breathtaking Lake Naivasha voted one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites for hosting impressive flocks of pink flamingos. ■
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