The Rift Valley Lakes


In Kenya's section of the Rift Valley there are eight lakes, two of which are fresh water and the remainder alkaline. By far the largest of these lakes is Turkana (formerly Rudolf) which has an area of 6405 sq km. Lake Logipe is a seasonal lake just south of Lake Turkana. Further south are Lakes Baringo, Bogoria, Nakuru, Elmenteita, Naivasha, and Magadi. The largest of these is Baringo with an area of 130 sq km. Baringo and Naivasha are the two fresh water lakes. Five of these lakes lie in the central region and are described in this section.

Lake Baringo

Lake Baringo lies in the solitude of the semi-desert, a haven of peace and beauty in harsh, rugged but majestic surroundings. Its beauty derives as much from an overwhelming sense of repose with nature as its scenic distinction. Until a few years ago Baringo was considered well off the beaten track. Indeed this was explorer's country. J.W. Gregory, who travelled on foot from Mombasa a 100 years ago formulated his theory of the creation of the Rift Valley from evidence found at Baringo. Earlier the slave caravans passed this way and the remains of Fort Baringo built to try and abate this outrage are still visible.

Hippo and crocodile are plentiful, the latter considered harmless by the local people, the Njemps who fish, standing in water up to their shoulders, whilst crocodile bent on the same mission, swim quietly by. But visitors are entranced by the multitude of birds. Four hundred species have been listed in the area and the Goliath Heronry on a rocky islet in the lake (known locally as Gibraltar) is world famous. Bird-watching, on foot or by boat, is only one of several leisure activities available. Others include fishing, water sports, or a visit to a local Njemps village where traditional crafts and dancing are enjoyed.

Lake Bogoria

Gregory, the geologist mentioned above, first set eyes on Lake Bogoria in 1892 and described the scene as "the most beautiful view in Africa." The late Leslie Brown, a world authority on birds, and birds of prey in particular, wrote "I have been there when the spectacle of flamingos and other birds around the lake was of a sublime magnificence."

It is a wild area; the lake itself set at the bottom of a trough at the base of a sheer 600 m wall the Ngendelel escarpment. Hot water geysers and fearsome fumaroles are found on the western shoreline evidencing the turmoil below. In the middle of the day the heat can be oppressive but there is a wonderfully cool camp site—Fig Tree where a mass of giant figs create a cool haven and a limpid stream of fresh water adds to the oasis ambiance.

Game is far from plentiful but strangely this is the most likely place in Kenya where visitors can find and photograph Greater Kudu. The attraction of the lake apart from its scenic magnificence is the opportunity, usually there, to see tens of thousands of flamingo and a multitude of other water birds.

Special thanks to the Kenya Association of Tour Operators for helping GORP develop Kenya parks information.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 30 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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