A Guide To Lake Bogoria National Reserve
In the past, Lake Bogoria National Reservewas called Hannington after a bishop who explored the area. When Bishop Hannington saw the lake, he described it as “the most beautiful view in Africa” With the backdrop of the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley, it is a stunning beauty that has always enchanted visitors. The contrast in colours from the grasslands into the lake and the sky can only describe the place as nature’s studio’.
Lake Bogoria was gazetted on November 20, 1973 as a national reserve. It is 10km north of the Equator and 285km north of nairobi. It sits on the floor of the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley at an altitude of 1000m above sea level from which the escarpment forms one of Kenya’s most pictures que backdrops.
It is 107km sq and most of the reserve is occupied by Lake Bogoria, a spectacular sight reflecting searing blue skies and the rose pink of flamingos. It is well known for its hot springs and geysers dotting thesouthern shore of the lake. In the steam jets, an egg can be boiled and cooked in seven minutes!
Sulphur water gushes out of the ground and it is known to have therapeutic value. The hot springs are natural spas and steam baths. The hot spring water geysers are extremely hot – the gushing out water is at boiling point and visitors are forewarned to be Careful.
Facts About Lake Bogoria National Reserve
Altitude: 1,000 – 1,600 meters above sea level.
Area: 107 sq km of which 34 sq km is water.
Location: Rift Valley Province, Koibatek and Baringo Districts.
Distance from Nairobi: 266 km.
Gazetted: November 1973.
Status: the reserve became Kenya’s 3rd Ramsar site in 2001 (Convention of Wetlands of International Importance), and has been designated a World Heritage Site.
Climate: a semi-arid area, the reserve’s rain falls April-May, July-August and October-November.
Vegetation: mainly thorny bushland dominated by species of Acacia, Balanites and Commiphora with patches of riverine woodland containing Ficus capensis , Acacia xanthophloea and Acacia tortilis . The open shore is dominated by alkaline- tolerant grasslands of Sporobolus spicatus with the sedge Cyperus laevigatus around the hot springs. The lower slopes of the Siracho Escarpment are covered by Combretum and Grewia thicket.
Wildlife: greater kudu, cheetah, hyena, jackal and leopard.
Birds: A birding paradise with over 222 species recorded.
Roads: the reserve’s only road is navigable (though potholed) with 2WD to Loburu Springs, thereafter 4WD is recommended and essential if you wish to access the road’s furthest point at Fig Tree Camp. The road used to circumnavigate the lake beyond Fig Tree, but is no longer in use.
Other facilities: there is a Community Environmental Education Centre located at Loboi Gate open 8am to 5pm daily (free of charge).
Accommodation: Lake Bogoria Hotel, Lake Bogoria Lodge.
What to see in Lake Bogoria
Lake Bogoria National Reserve is the home of Africa’s most magnificent antelope, the greater kudu, and of other savannah wildlife: Zebra, impala,Gra nt’s gazelle, Klipspringer, buffalo, dik dik and Patas monkey, among others. Predators include the leopard, cheetah, hyena, mongoose, jackal and Karakul cat.
Lake Bogoria National Reserve has 135 species of birds. Like Lake Nakuru thousands of flamingoes, greater kudu, impala, buffalo, zebras, klipspringer and leopards attract visitors to the reserve. In the recent past, it has become most stable home of the lesser flamingo with a population approaching two million birds. This is in addition to more than 310 resident and 50 migratory species of birds – 374 bird species have been recorded.
Most animals are seen early in the morning or in late afternoon due to the hot weather conditions. It has a closed drainage system, meaning that the water is alkaline supports only microscopic algae with no fish. In 2000, Lake Bogoria was named the third RAMSAR site in Kenya
What To Do At Lake Baringo National Reserve
Birding, boat trips, game watching, picnicking, nature walking,
How to get to Lake Bogoria National Reserve
There are three gates to Lake Bogoria National Reserve, all of them accessible from by-roads off the B4 main road leading to Baringo. The main gate is Loboi Gate, at the lake’s north end. The detour eastward from the B4 is 4 km south of Marigat. A paved road, the E461, heads for Loboi and the gate after a 21 km stretch.
The two remaining gates are southward, taking the east turn off B4 at Mogotio, 59 km south of Marigat. This road covers some 20 km up to Mugurin. One kilometer ahead, the road branches in two. The left track heads on for some 20 km until a right turn-off which leads you to Maji Moto Gate, close to the hot springs. On the other hand, the track at the right, badly damaged and quite steep at some stretches, covers 14 km before reaching Emsos Gate, the southernmost gate, at the reserve’s forest area.
Finally, there is also a scenic route to reach Emsos Gate from Nakuru, climbing from the Rift Valley bed up the eastern escarpment to drop back down again to Bogoria. A good part of this way is only accessible to 4WD vehicles. Leaving Nakuru along the A104 to Nairobi, take the tarmac B5 road northeastward to Nyahururu. Along the way there are several detours heading northward for Bogoria, taking as reference points the towns of Subukia and Solai. If you are not self-driven, you can take a bus or matatu for the paved stretch, but afterwards you will have to walk and it can take as long as two days.
Accommodation And Hotels at Lake Bogoria National Reserve
There are no lodges at Bogoria, just a couple of hotel-style accommodations. Both are located outside the reserve, nearby Loboi Gate. The Lake Bogoria Hotel offers a hot water pool. Nearby is the Papyrus Inn, belonging to the same owner as the Papyrus Annex in Baringo. You may camp at the garden here for a modest fee.
If you prefer a lodge-style place, the best choice is to stay at one of the Lake Baringo lodges. From there you can arrange a day trip to Bogoria.
Camping at Lake Bogoria National Reserve
Lake Bogoria National Reserve hosts three camp sites, all south of the lake and all without facilities, so bring your own supplies. The one you will hear about is the Fig Tree Campsite, a place shaded by the figs, traversed by a clear water stream and with a natural jacuzzi, a cool haven within Bogoria’s high daylight temperatures. The access to the site is a winding rocky narrow track. The Acacia Campsite, obviously placed underneath the acacias, lies at the rocky lake shore and has latrines. Finally, the Riverside Campsite does not have even water.
There is also the chance to camp by the Loboi Gate, as well as at the Papyrus Inn garden.
About Lake Bogoria
Lake Bogoria is a saline water shallow located at the northern region of the Kenyan Rift, 25 km south of Lake Baringo. The reserve, managed by Baringo/Koibatek County, comprises the lake and adjacent lands, with 107 km². In the Colony days 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.
If Baringo is 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 Lake Bogoria is far from outstanding for its mammals’ wildlife, the paramount objective for most tourists.
Still, the scenery at Lake Bogoria makes it one of the most spectacular sights in the whole Kenya. J.W. Gregory, the English geologist who travelled the region in 1892, 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, whics and steam jets. The close-up geysers, the pink brushstrokes of the flamingoes on the lake, and farther 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.
Lake Bogoria Chemistry
The water contains sodium, carbonate and bicarbonate ions, with a pH of 9.5 to 10.5. The lake chemically stratified, even though it has a depth of only 12 m. The surface layer has a salinity of 60 g/l TDS, and the bottom layer of brine with a salinity of about 90 g/l TDS.
The surface water is periodically oxygenated by dilute inflow, whereas the bottom waters remain anoxic. More than a million flamingoes have been recorded on the 36 sq km lake.
The largest earthquake in the Kenyan Rift (magnitude 6.0) occurred 25 km from Lake Bogoria.
Geothermal Activity at Lake Bogoria
Lake Bogoria has the most spectacular geothermal activity in Kenya. Most springs occur along fault lines. Many boil constantly, and some show periodic geyser-like eruptions. The spring waters are sodium bicarbonate, with total dissolved solids of 26 g/L TDS, and pH of 7.1 to 9.9. The fumaroles discharge steam, C02, and minor H2S and CH4.
Lake Bogoria Hot Springs
Around Lake Bogoria are some 200 hot springs with water temperatures from 39 to 98.5° C. Nearly all these springs are very close to the lake or – even inside the lake.
There are several larger groups of hot springs around Lake Bogoria, in four of these groups are known geysers.
Lake Bogoria hot springs in general have high content of CO2 gas – this is one additional reason for wild boiling of the springs.
Some 60 hot springs with 6 geysers are located in Loburu. Further south is Chemurkeu group with 40 springs, including 4 geysers. At the south-eastern end are Koibobei springs with at least 3 geysers. At the eastern side are Losaramat springs with 17 springs, 3 geysers among them. Together – at least 16 geysers. Since 1975 here have been registered at least 18 geysers, but several have disappeared now.
All geysers are located very low – almost in the level of lake or even below it. As the level of lake changes, some geysers are inundated and stop their activity but some others start to explode. Whole colonies of specific microorganisms are linked to these hot springs and geysers.
Lake Bogoria: The place of the lost tribe
The most dramatic yet the least-visited of the Great Rift Valley lakes, Lake Bogoria is a sinuous pewter-blue ribbon of mirrored water often pink-frosted with over a million flamingoes. On its western shores erupt the devilish spouting geysers and bubbling cauldrons of Kenya’s most spectacular volcanic springs, to the east it is bounded by the forbidding walls of the towering Siracha Escarpment, and to the south by gentle groves of fig trees and golden-green acacias, in whose shade linger the rare and beautiful greater kudu.
Lake Bogoria: The best place to see the ‘King of the Antelopes’
Bogoria is one of the few sanctuaries in Kenya where you may be fortunate enough to catch an early morning or late evening glimpse of the rare greater kudu. Abundant until 1960 when its numbers were decimated by rinderpest, this large, slender grey antelope is distinguished by a pair of magnificent spiral horns and six to eight prominent vertical white stripes on either flank. Extremely shy and preferring to rest in the shade during the heat of the day, the kudus can best be spotted amid the acacia groves of the Sogomo Causeway, immediately adjacent to the Acacia Campsite (turn left by the sign reading ‘Saragi Escape Route’).
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The Bogoria cast
On the plains to the north of the lake, Burchell’s zebra, impalas, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, and warthogs can be seen grazing the shoreline though the majority of the reserve’s larger animals tend to concentrate south of the hot springs.
Nimble klipspringers and gregarious rock hyraxes inhabit the steep rock faces, and delicate pairs of Kirk’s dik-dik quiver amid the dense thorn bush. Around the hot springs and the campsites are plenty of vervet monkeys and olive baboons whilst along the roads you may have sightings of large monitor lizards and massive meandering leopard tortoises. The reserve also hosts a small herd of buffaloes, while its predators include leopards, spotted hyenas and mongooses.
Lake Bogoria: Pink paradise
The only constant alkaline habitat in the Rift Valley, Lake Bogoria provides a major feeding site for its itinerant population of an estimated two million lesser flamingoes, which increasingly since the 1990’s tend to frequent Bogoria’s waters rather than the more polluted waters of Lake Nakuru.
Promenading the shoreline in shifting lines of mature pink and immature white, they can be seen scything their beaks to and fro to sift algae from the water. Some stand on one leg, others chug through the water like ducks or upend and kick their shocking pink legs in the air; all murmur, honk and mutter in incessant dialogue, and overhead cyclamen and black flight formations arrow in, tiptoeing briefly on the water before fluttering to an elegant landing.
Lake Bogoria: A lake of shifting shades of blue and green
A grey-blue ribbon of water that appears almost oily in its passivity, the 16 km long, 1-4km wide, 5.4 – 10m deep Lake Bogoria is fed by the Sandai (or Waseges) River, which rises on the eastern scarp of the Rift Valley; also by its own hot springs. Like most of the Rift Valley lakes, Lake Bogoria has no outlet and this coupled with the searing heat of its climate causes intense evaporation.
The resultant alkaline water provides the ideal habitat for the blue-green algae, Spirulina, which is the staple food of flamingoes. Consisting of three basins and two ‘necks’ of land, the lake is bordered for the length of its eastern shore by the starkly furrowed walls of the Siracha Escarpment, which rises 610m above its mirrored waters.
Lake Bogoria: An insane vision of hell
Bogoria has around 200 hot springs in total but the largest and most spectacular collection erupts along the lakeside at Loburu, some 9 km from Loboi Gate. Characteristically signs of declining volcanic activity, hot springs are an indication that molten rock (magma) lies not far below the earth’s surface.
Boiling up from beneath the precariously shallow crust of the earth at temperatures from 94-104°C, the diamond-clear water is scalding hot to the touch and wreathed in billows of steam. Bursting into bubbling pools and boiling waterfalls, many of the ochre-brown depressions centre on sulphurous rock sculptures from which angry geysers blow jets of boiling water several meters into the air.
Surreally set against the pink of the flamingoes, the petrol-blue of the lake and the forbidding mass of the escarpment, and punctuated by the bizarre spectacle of visitors boiling eggs in the writhing waters, the scene resembles a vision from an insanely beautiful hell.
Lake Bogoria National Reserve: Twitchers’ treat
Lake Bogoria National Reserve boasts over 222 species of birds. Common ostrich are plentiful on the lakeshores as well as blacksmith’s plovers – both of which nest here. Around the reserve’s three permanent swamps, black-headed herons, hadada and sacred ibis abound, but due to its high salinity the lake attracts only a few water birds, such as Cape teals, Egyptian geese, black-necked grebes, hamerkops and storks. Most easily spotted are the brilliant blue lilac-breasted rollers (above) and the magnificent grey-crowned cranes.
Lake Bogoria: Titles old and new
According to local legend, Bogoria is known as ‘the place of the lost tribe’, because it was here that the God, Chebet, punished the Kamale tribe for their inhospitality by invoking a deluge, which drowned the village. The reserve became Kenya’s 3rd Ramsar site in 2001 (Convention of Wetlands of International Importance), and has also been designated a World Heritage Site).
Lake Bogoria National Reserve Contacts
Attraction Type: Wildlife
Category: National Reserve
Region: North Rift
City / Town: Baringo
Telephone: 254 720 316760254 720 650869
Entrance Fee: Yes