In 1892, the famous English geologist JW Gregory said Lake Bogoria was "the most beautiful view in Africa" – he’s not wrong. At the foot of the Laikipia Escarpment lies Lake Bogoria, a 32 sqkm volcanic soda lake just 8m deep - the perfect environment for 2 million flamingos, all feeding on the blue-green algae that they find so delicious. The shallows lake looks pink, due to the sheer number of flamingos standing in the water, and the whole area is richly coloured by volcanic minerals. Visit the western shores to marvel at the supernatural landscape of swampy crusts, hot springs, bubbling pools and wild geysers that shoot steam 3m high every 3 minutes. It’s weirdly dramatic, a scene from another world. Bird watching is excellent in the riverine forest surrounding the lake and, if you visit in the evening, you’ll see the park’s large herd of greater kudu coming out to play.
Many raptors hunt the abundant flamingos at Lake Bogoria, including the Steppe Eagle and Tawny Eagle - you could see up to 8 of these eagles in a single tree. Also look out for the African Fish Eagle hovering and diving down on the flamingos – although there are no fish in the lake, this eagle has adapted its diet to the environment and it’s an expert flamingo killer. The Maribou stork is another fearsome predator that has an intriguingly calm method of stalking flamingos – it singles out the weakest flamingo and follows it on foot, waiting for the right moment to go in for the kill.
The flamingos can’t drink the lake water as it is too alkaline, so they fly to the northern end of the lake to drink at Kesubo Swamp - a small, swampy stream with freshwater springs surrounded by papyrus, wild fig trees and acacia woodland. If you are keen to see more of Lake Bogoria’s 375 species of birds, you’ll find many of them here like little bee-eaters, yellow-billed storks, water dikkops and African spoonbills. Apparently, the swamp holds the Kenyan record for the largest number of bird species seen in one hour – that’s 96!
The swamp is also a great spot to see other predators hunting the flamingos, including prolific black mamba snakes and troops of baboons. If you visit this stream in the evening, you are likely to see the shy greater kudu collecting to drink. You may also encounter the odd zebra and water buffalo. Be prepared, there are plenty of crocodiles and hippos in this swampy area too.
In the surrounding bush grassland and forested areas there are a few spotted hyenas, cheetahs, jackals and leopards, but these are more tricky to spot.
You can self-drive around parts of the lake in a car, or even a motorbike, to see the pink carpet of flamingos and stunning scenery. You can park at the hot springs and walk to get closer to the thermal pools, but be very careful where you stand as the water and mud is boiling. Stop off for a bite to eat at the Loburu Picnic Site which overlooks the geysers – probably the most unusual and atmospheric location for a picnic. In the evening, visit the northern end of the lake at Kesubo Swamp for the best chance of seeing the greater kudu. You can also take a bird walk at Kesubo swamp with one of the resident birding guides – it’s great to learn how to identify the birds from their different calls.
The locals believe the lake’s vapours have healing properties that can alleviate breathing and skin problems. If you are going to inhale the vapours, take care as the steam is very hot. You might also see the locals holding sticks with eggs in bags on the ends – they are boiling the eggs over the hot geysers.
Just outside the park at the northern end of Lake Bogoria, there is a good hotel with a natural thermal swimming pool. Here, you can book a room in the main building or a cottage in the pretty grounds. Importantly, this hotel sells ice creams! Also outside the park, at Loboi Gate, is an Inn which offers pleasant rooms, or camping in its gardens for a small fee. Apart from that, there are 3 campsites in the park itself, all set in beautiful surroundings in the southern area. Facilities are sparse at the campsites so take your own food and water – one campsite has no water supply, but one has a latrine, and one has a natural jacuzzi which is so welcome after a day in the heat. For something more upmarket, stay at one of the Lake Baringo lodges 25km up the Rift Valley and arrange a day trip to Lake Bogoria.
There are large numbers of flamingos present for most of the year, so it’s best to coordinate your trip to Lake Bogoria with your other safari destinations.
The easiest way to see Lake Bogoria is as a day-trip from Lake Baringo (25km away). Alternatively, if you’re travelling up the Rift Valley from Lake Nakuru, stop-off at Lake Bogoria en route to Lake Baringo. From Nakuru, Lake Bogoria is about a 3 hr drive along the Baringo road. If you prefer to fly, there’s a very basic airstrip for charter planes.