MARAIGUSHU, KENYA - Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax.
This system of caves has become the center of excitement in the village of Maraigushu, near Naivasha, Kenya.
It is not clear where the rumor came from, but some locals here believe white settlers hid gold, mercury and other precious metals in the cave before leaving the area, many years ago.
Local resident Edward Maina says the rumors have brought amateur treasure hunters flooding into town to dig in the caves.
"It’s not long ago that people came and they went to excavate the cave, and we don’t know them. We heard them saying that in the 1800s a white man left treasures inside the caves and closed it off," says Maina.
Residents say the original treasure seekers entered the cave nearly two months ago before being detained by police. Local authorities sealed up the entrance, but excavators broke back in.
While neither gold nor mercury have been brought forth yet, the cave does guard another important resource: water.
Many rely on a natural spring emerging from the cave and local officials, among them Ward Councilor Gaka Mwaniki, worry the digging could disrupt or contaminate the supply.
“There’s nothing. We’ve seen ourselves there’s nothing in those caves, they are excavating for the first time, it’s natural. It’s the water table that they’re interfering with,” says Mwaniki.
Excitement about the cave has gotten the attention of regional leaders, as politicians from nearby Naivasha town accuse one another of sponsoring the treasure hunt and unfairly exploiting unemployed youths by sending them to dig in dangerous conditions.
Local resident James Mbugua Njenga wants the situation brought under control.
“If at all there’s treasure inside there, let the government come and excavate and preserve the water table,” says Njenga.
It might be true, it might be a hoax or it could be part of a political game. Whatever the case, treasure hunters continue to be drawn to the mystery of the caves.