Kenya is a spectacular destination for birders. Learn which species you can expect to see at Lake Baringo as I tell you about my experience there.  

Lake Baringo is home to 450 species of birds and thus a paradise for bird-watchers.  There are two activities that provide excellent birding opportunities. A walk up to the escarpment overlooking the lake or a boat ride on the lake.  The walk takes you through scrubland where you can see woodpeckers, ostriches, and we even saw a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl. But I think the boat ride is really special and the birds we saw that morning were incredible.

Pied Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher

When to go?

We set off at 7 am so we could make the most of the waking activity on the lake.  Within a few minutes, we saw a Pied Kingfisher posing perfectly on a branch, followed by a Fish Eagle that just caught a fish!  There he stood proudly on a tree with a fish held firmly in his claw. A beautiful Malachite Kingfisher tried to retreat into the bushes but wasn’t quite quick enough. We spotted an African Jacana picking its way through the foliage on one area of the lake is covered in water lilies. The hippos also greeted us with grunts as we passed them.  A flock of Eurasian Swallows flew in and arranged themselves on a dead tree protruding out of the lake. Local fishermen prefer working early in the morning and we saw quite a few in their dugout canoes (not what I would like to be in when hippos are around!)  

There’s an island in the middle of the lake and as we drew closer, we saw the mansion of a nest that Hamerkops built, unfortunately, we didn’t spot the residents.  One fisherman feeds the Fish Eagles for the visitors each morning, so we watched the spectacle of a Fish Eagle swooping in for the catch. We continued around the island and there we found two Water Thick-knees paddling in the shallows.  The island is rocky on one side and we were lucky to see some rock hyraxes and a monitor lizard basking in the sun. We also saw two Madagascar Bee-eaters in a tree and a Long-tailed Cormorant perched on a rock drying its wings. As we returned to the camp, the boat came close to shore where Lesser Masked Weavers were busy building nests.  Finally, just when we thought we’d seen enough, a Pied Kingfisher appeared from nowhere, dove into the water in front of us and emerged with a fish! Spectacular!

African Fish Eagle at Lake Baringo, Kenya
African Fish Eagle at Lake Baringo, Kenya

Go to get there

Lake Baringo is about a five and a half hour drive from Nairobi.  There’s an entrance fee payable at a gate as you enter the road that travels along the lakeshore. Don’t worry it’s only $2/per person and $1/per vehicle.  The boat ride charged per hour (I’d recommend going out for two, about $60 USD) for a maximum of seven people on the boat. Local guides are available, which you can arrange with your accommodation so you can go out early the next morning.  Save breakfast for when you get back.

Your accommodation can also help you arrange nature and bird walks for around US$8 per person.  There’s a reptile and tortoise park in the village and Kabernet Museum. For basic accommodation, I suggest Robert’s Camp where you’ll find a campsite, restaurant, bar, and a cottage for family groups.  Don’t camp too close to the water though as hippos and crocs roam freely at night. On one visit we stayed in the cottage and found a tent on our verandah in the morning after the occupants got a nervous of the hippos grazing fairly close the previous evening!  Looking for something more luxurious? Samatian Island Lodge was nominated Africa’s leading private island resort a few years back!

Tracey Bell
Author

Tracey Bell is the director of OTA - Overland Travel Adventures, a tour company based in Kenya operating tailor-made tours throughout East Africa. Tracey started travelling in 2002, working and backpacking through the USA and Europe. After working as an Analyst with the Department of Defence in Australia for four years and studying a Masters degree, a sharp career turn led her to tourism. She led tours in China, Russia and Central Asia and since 2010, has been travelling and working in Eastern and Southern Africa. She loves to travel and is passionate about encouraging others to travel.

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