An internationally recognized Ramsar wetlands site since 2002, Lake Baringo is a peaceful and beautiful oasis in the dry-thorn country, rich in birdlife and with a captivating character entirely its own. Depending on lake levels, the waters are either heavily silted with the topsoil of the region and appear a rusty red or streaky yellow or (if the lake is full of fresh water that has run down from the catchment areas in the hills) it runs through a whole range of colours from coral to purple to a brilliant aquamarine, 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.
Like Lake Nakuru and the other Rift Valley lakes, Baringo has experienced unprecedented flooding since 2012, which reached a peak in mid-2014 when the surface area of the lake was believed to be over 300 square kilometres, well over double its pre-2012 dry season level. Schools, farms, even whole villages were submerged by the rising water, and many thousands of people displaced and forced to higher ground. The 2015 rainy season proved to be drier in comparison and at the time of writing waters had receded about 10m from their 2014 record high.