In 1892, the famous English geologist JW Gregory said Lake Bogoria was "the most beautiful view in Africa" – and 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 a huge population of Flamingos, all feeding on the blue-green algae that they find so delicious. The shallows of the lake appear almost completely pink, due to the sheer number of flamingos standing in the water. Close up, you can appreciate the fantastic range of colours as the birds stand out remarkably well against the rich turquoise waters, 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 and boiling water 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.
Besides the incredible numbers of flamingos, there are also hundreds of other bird species as well as a very good representation of raptors.
The raptors of Lake Bogoria hunt the abundant flamingos, and you can expect to see plenty of 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. There are no fish in this lake due to the alkalinity of the water, and the Fish Eagle has adapted its diet to the environment and become an expert Flamingo killer. The Maribou Stork is another fearsome predator that has an intriguingly calm method of stalking the hapless Flamingos – it singles out the weakest one 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 poor Flamingos are also under threat from several other predators, and if you visit the swamp, you could witness an attack by Baboon, Hyena or even Crocodiles.
If you visit this stream in the evening, you are likely to see the shy Greater Kudu collecting to drink and 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 Hyena, Cheetah, Jackal and even Leopard, 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 – a great local tradition.
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 usually large numbers of Flamingos present here for most of the year, and when conditions are unfavourable for algae production at Lake Nakuru, the numbers swell even more as Lake Nakuru’s Flamingo population migrate here to find a better food supply. Since year-round viewing is good, 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 2 to 3 hr drive along the Baringo road. If you prefer to fly, there’s a very basic airstrip for charter planes.