A long time ago Jude and Kat drove up to Lake Baringo, but Jon had not been there yet, so when Joel came to visit us we decided it was the perfect opportunity to make it a long weekend and make the long drive up again. Lake Baringo is one of the many rift valley lakes in Kenya, but unlike most, this one is a fresh water lake (the only other fresh water lake in the rift valley in Kenya is Lake Naivasha).
The lake is very well known for its amazing birdlife, as well as Nile crocodiles and hippos and we made the most of it by taking several bird watching boat trips. One of our favourite birds was the white morph of the African Paradise Flycatcher. The male bird is extremely pretty, but never sits still so it was incredibly hard to take a photo! Another favourite was the Northern Carmine Bee-eater, another very brightly coloured bird that we saw for the first time. We liked it so much we even bought a limited print art work as our leaving Kenya pressie to ourselves 🙂
We also went for a run on Ol Kokwe island where we were staying and were joined by the local kids, who were running in thongs or barefoot! They were very keen to show us the local ‘sights’, including the poor leopard tortoises they use as temporary chair in the bush… but we were also given some local berries they eat as a sweet, shown how they fish for termites and taken to their local gym / playground / soccer field. It was a great way of seeing a bit more of the island we were staying on. Unfortunately the hot springs were a bit far to run to before sunset, so we visited them on one of our boat trips. You could have a lovely bath sitting in the lake in the run off waters from the springs. Just watch out for crocodiles… Unfortunately due to the rising waters of the lake, a lot of the hot springs are now under water.
The cause of the rising waters of Lake Baringo and most of the Rift Valley lakes remains a mystery and has caused a lot of problems with houses, lodges and schools all disappearing into the waters. Some skeleton structures remain visible making the shoreline appear like a ghost town. The other problem is that it has flooded all the locally growing balsa trees which grew close to the lake’s shoreline which means the local fishermen can no longer find balsa wood nearby to make and repair their boats.
The boats are called ‘gadich’ and the local fishermen from the Njemps tribe make them from balsa wood (ambatch). They can still get a little bit of the balsa wood in the swampy areas in between Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria, but it is harder to get to and not a huge supply. The boats look extremely flimsy, but the fishermen are able to string out nets and check them later in the day from their tiny boats. We tried to paddle one, it was quite a challenge but manageable, unless you weigh more than the fisherman who made the boat because then it simply sinks when you try to sit on it.
On one of our boat trips (not in a gadich!) we stopped off at an island which is part of the Ruko Conservancy. The Ruko Conservancy is a great initiative between 2 tribes (Njemps and Pokot who were always fighting over grazing land) to keep the peace. They re-introduced Rothschild’s giraffe onto the island and want to introduce more species that have locally become extinct. Check out the story on how they moved the Rotschild’s giraffe from the Soysambu Conservancy (where we did a lot of mountainbiking with the Rift Valley Oddysey) to the island in the Ruko Conservancy, it is quite an interesting sight! As there are no predators on the island, it is a lovely place to stretch your legs and go on a walking safari.
Lake Baringo has quite a few fish eagles and our tour guide had brought a fish with him on one of our boat trips, to try to entice the fish eagle to come and grab it from the water. He stuffs a bit of balsa wood into the fish to make sure the fish stays afloat and throws it near the boat. We were lucky as the fish eagle was very interested in our fish and immediately flew down from the dead tree he was perched on, stretched his talons and with perfect precision picked up the fish and flew straight back to his dead tree to enjoy his free meal. It was quite spectacular to see this happen from so close!
We decided to drive home via Lake Bogoria, known for its huge numbers of flamingos at the right time of year. Unfortunately we weren’t there at the right time of year… we were told we should come back in August. We still drove through the National Park and found some smaller flocks of perhaps a few hundred flamingos, enjoyed checking out the steamy and bubbling geysers on the lake’s edge and were lucky to spot some greater kudu bums disappearing into the bush!