Lake Bogoria The Most Beautiful View in Africa
If tourism in Kenya has recently diversified from the traditional big five norm to increasingly attracting more visitors because of its plentiful birdlife, Lake Bogoria is, or at least it was until few years ago, a place where the visitor can enjoy the spectacular African scenery in full solitude. Except for ornithology lovers, who don’t forgive the pilgrimage to Baringo, this region is quite off the most common itineraries, specially the one-weekers. The reason is that Bogoria is far from outstanding for its mammals’ wildlife, the paramount objective for most tourists.
Lake Bogoria is a saline water shallow located at the northern region of the Kenyan Rift, 25 km south of Lake Baringo. The reserve encompasses the lake and adjacent lands, with 107 km². In the Colonial Kenya under the lord’s rule the lake was known by the name of its discoverer, the Kampala bishop James Hannington, who in 1885 was the first European to see this place while he was heading for his diocese following Thomson’s route. This would be the glory day for the priest, but also his last journey, since upon reaching Lake Victoria he was murdered by order of the cruel king of Buganda, Mwanga II.
Still, the scenery at Lake Bogoria makes it one of the most spectacular sights in the whole Kenya. An English geologist who travelled the region in 1892, J.W. Gregory, blessed the site as “the most beautiful view in Africa”. He wasn’t off track. The lake displays a superb scenery of bluish hills populated with dry bush, grasslands and riverine forests, framing the calm water shallow pinned with flamingoes. Beyond the eastern shore, the soil rises abruptly to 600 m in the Laikipia Escarpment. At the opposite edge, the earth forms strangely coloured swampy crusts, which break up in deep gaps spitting stinky sulphur waters and steam jets. The close-up geysers, the pink brushstrokes of the flamingoes on the lake, and further away the dramatic backdrop of the Laikipia Escarpment, everything in Bogoria conveys an unrivalled scenery. But watch out, don’t get too close, the signposts warning “Stop – danger zone – go back” are serious: the earth collapses under your feet and underneath there is boiling water.
You really don’t go to Lake Bogoria to look at animals. There are plenty of places in Kenya, never mind the rest of Africa where the game viewing is far better. Spotting the odd zebra or buffalo wandering around on the water’s edge is a bonus, although there are good herds of greater kudu. What most people do is what I did – stop off en route up the Rift Valley to visit the extraordinary bubbling Loburu hot springs on the western shore of the lake. Be very careful how you go as the super-heated mud here can kill. Other worldly pools bubble gloopily and a series of geysers shoot steam 2.5-3m (8-10 ft) into the air. It is highly dramatic and scenically stunning, the rich colours of the volcanic minerals like an artist’s palette against the Rift Wall. It is also very smelly, with a strong odour of sulphur hanging in the air.
About 260 kms (162 miles) north of Nairobi), just about on the Equator, Bogoria is one of the smallest of the string of shallow brackish soda lakes that line the Rift Valley. No more than 3m deep, it has no outlet and is fed purely by rainwater pouring off the escarpment, so the size and salinity of the lake varies hugely from season to season. Like the other soda lakes along the line, it has no fish, but is rich in blue-green plankton that is the favourite food of flamingoes, attracting flocks of thousands to the area in season. With them come many other lake birds and predators from fish eagles to batteleurs, While the isolated wooded area at the lake’s southern end is home to leopards, klipspringers, gazelles, caracals and buffaloes, an increase in human activity means that the greater kudu is increasingly elusive. You can explore on foot or bicycle. If you’d like a guide, enquire at Loboi gate.
Lake Bogoria shores are always crowded with tourists using all means to check water temperature, about halfway along the lake, people boil eggs with the hot springs and geysers spew boiling fluids from the earth’s insides. If you’re here early in the morning, you may have the place to yourself.