An internationally recognized Ramsar wetlands site since 2002, Lake Baringo remains a peaceful oasis in the dry-thorn country, rich in birdlife and with a captivating character entirely its own. The waters are heavily silted with the red topsoil of the region, and they run through a whole range of colours every day from yellow to coral to purple, according to the sun’s position and the state of the sky. On the lakeshore are villages inhabited by the Il Chamus (Njemps) people, who live by an unusual mixture of fishing and livestock-herding, breaking the taboo on the eating of fish, which is the norm among pastoralists. Speaking a dialect of Maa – the Maasai language – these fishermen paddle out in half-submerged dinghies made from the spongy and buoyant saplings of the fibrous ambatch tree that grows in profusion around the lake.
Lake Baringo is fresh water (Naivasha being the only other non-saline Rift Valley lake), so its fish support a wide variety of birds and there are also sizeable populations of crocodiles and hippos. Though you rarely see much more than ears and snout by day, hippos come ashore after dark to graze; on a moonlit night their presence can be unnervingly obvious, though even in pitch darkness they’re too noisy to be ignored. Although it used to be commonly understood that Baringo crocodiles were too small to pose a danger to swimmers, what constitutes a dangerous size in a Nile crocodile is perhaps a reckless debate. A regular local swimmer was badly mauled in 2008 so swimming is certainly highly inadvisable.Read More
Birdwatching at Lake Baringo
Birdwatching at Lake Baringo
Baringo’s 458 species of birds are one of its biggest draws, and even if you don’t know a superb starling from an ordinary one, the enthusiasm of others tends to be infectious. Former Baringo ornithologist Terry Stevenson holds the world record “bird-watch” for 24 hours – 342 species. Baringo’s bird population rises and falls with the seasons (the dry season is the leanest time for birders), but the lakeshore resounds with birdsong (and frogs) at most times of year. It’s surprisingly easy to get within close range of the birds – some species, such as the starlings and the white-bellied go-away bird, are positively brazen – so you’ll find rapt amateur photographers lurking behind practically every bush. There are some interesting areas just south of Lake Baringo Club, where you should see some unusual species such as the white phase of the paradise flycatcher, grey-headed bush shrike, violet wood hoopoe and various kingfishers. Hippos commonly graze here, too, even in daylight hours. Wherever you’re staying, an early-morning, birding boat trip along the lake’s reedy shore is likely to be on offer, possibly in combination with a visit to the Goliath Heronry and one or two hippo and croc haunts. Afternoons can profitably be used for a trip out near the main road under some striking red cliffs, an utterly different habitat where, apart from hyraxes and baboons, you can see several species of hornbill, sometimes the massive nest of a hammerkop (wonderful-looking birds in flight, resembling miniature pterodactyls with their strange crests) and, with luck, the rare Verreaux’s eagle.