The African Peregrine Falcon, Thrive at Their Natural Habitat, Lake Baringo.
Lake Baringo, at the threshold of Northern Kenya, is an oasis in the arid plains. Located at the narrowest part of the Great Rift Valley and surrounded by the Tugen Hills volcanic range on the west and the Laikipia Escarpment to the East, it’s a spectacle. A stunning part of the country, easily accessible from Nairobi, which for years drew many foreign as well as local visitors to its shores.
The lake was around 50 square miles in area until the early 2000s but was steadily decreasing in size, putting excessive pressure on the environment, in particular on the fish and water birds that depended on them. However, due to a dramatic increase in water volume since 2011, Lake Baringo has seen a rebirth. The lake is now teeming with fish, attracting many Cormorants, Fish Eagles and many other water birds.
Tourist numbers still on the increase are nowhere near their historic highs. With little viable arable land and increasing livestock and population pressure along the lakeshore, Baringo depends on tourism more than ever. With the opening of new hotels and lodges, and the recent upgrading of the airstrip, Baringo has huge potential to become, once again, a major tourist destination in northern Kenya.
An adventure Safari to Northern Kenya is never complete without spending at least a couple of nights at Lake Baringo for some fantastic hiking, birding, boating and, of course, fishing. Just a short drive north of the hot springs and flamingos of Lake Bogoria, Lake Baringo is a fresh water lake which has a high silt content and can appear red, yellow, coral or purple, depending on the time of day and the sun’s location. Lake Baringo is a peaceful, wetland oasis surrounded by mountains and rocky hills. A dormant volcano, Karosi, dominates the landscape at the northern end of the lake.
Lake Baringo is perhaps most famous for bird watching, with over 460 recorded birds! The best way to explore is by motorboat. You can also explore in on early morning and evening guided walks, or a full day trip into the bush. The Goliath Heronry on Gibraltar Island is home to the largest population of these incredible birds anywhere in East Africa and is a privilege to see. Other activities you’re certain to enjoy are, a cultural tour of an Njemps village and a visit to the Lake Baringo Reptile Park. The villages on the lake’s shores belong to the Njemps tribe who survive on pastoralism and fishing. You’ll see the Njemps fishing and traversing the lake in canoes called “gadich” made from the Ambatch (balsa) trees that grow around Lake Baringo. Visit the Njemps villages to learn how they create handicrafts, construct their boats, build their homes and smoke their fish.
The lake provides an invaluable habitat for seven fresh water fish species, thus attracting a number of fishing bird as well, one of the most popular is the peregrine falcon. A perfect African fishing bird wish charges to the lake surface from kilometers above. Then the sky is clear, and the lake is still, and the sun shadowing him from the other directions. The Falcon pulled up on the lake’s edge having manoeuvred his way through the Acacia trees that were engulfed by the rising water level of the lake. Unseasonal rains in the month before we arrived had meant that the level of the lake was significantly higher than it has been in recent years, and thus it was not uncommon to see well mature trees completely surrounded by water, creating a nature habitat for the peregrine falcon. For a passionate birder like myself, hugging the shore not only provided an opportunity to count eagles, but also take in the vast array of bird species that Lake Baringo has become renowned for – a sign at Roberts Camp boasting that450 species have been recorded. And it did not disappoint, a number of the highlights included the Madagascar Bee-eater, the African Darter, the endemic Northern Masked Weaver, and my personal favourite the Giant Kingfisher