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Location Kenya, Rift Valley Province
Central coordinates 36o 17.00' East  1o 52.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 10,500 ha
Altitude 580 m
Year of IBA assessment 2001


Site description This is a shallow alkaline lake, its surface largely covered by crusts of sodium carbonate, 85 km south-west of Nairobi in a low-lying basin on the floor of the Rift Valley. Extensive surface water is present only after heavy rains over the local catchment, when run-off reaches the northern end of the lake via three wadis. Most of the lake is a vast expanse of solid sodium carbonate (trona) and allied salts, some 15–30 m thick. This is mined by the Magadi Soda company, whose factory and associated town are on the north-eastern shore. The lake’s main basin is 29 km wide and oriented almost due north-south; the north-west arm is 12 km long and 2.5 km wide. The lake is surrounded and fed with water by a number of hot springs that feed shallow, permanent lagoons at the northern, southern and western extremities (other springs well up invisibly below the surface). These warm lagoons are carpeted with cyanophytes, which are grazed upon by shoals of the fish Oreochromis alcalicus grahami. The climate is inhospitably hot and arid (mean maximum temperatures c.35°C, rainfall c.400 mm/year), and the vegetation surrounding the lake is sparse, open bushland.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  1994  50,000 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1994  20,000-49,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Saline lakes  100%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
urban/industrial/transport -

Other biodiversity The cichlid fish Oreochromis alcalicus grahami, endemic to alkaline lakes in this part of the Rift Valley, is abundant in the hot springs. The springs also contain a highly specialized microbial fauna, with several endemic species.

References Bennun (1992a, 1993), Brown (1973), Crees (1985), Hughes and Hughes (1992), Nasirwa (1998), Nasirwa and Bennun (1994, 1995), Nasirwa and Owino (2000), Owino and Nasirwa (2001), Oyugi and Owino (1998a,b, 1999).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Magadi. Downloaded from on 11/07/2014

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