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Lake Bogoria, Rift Valley, Kenya

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Lake Bogoria in Kenya's East Rift Valley has several natural phenomena that make it an ideal destination for eco-tourists. The extremely salty lake has a saline content about twice the density of sea water, making it devoid of most aquatic life. What does grow in this salty semi-desert lake near the equator are the algae that the Lesser Flamingos eat as the mainstay of their diet. Several hundred thousand of the lovely birds wade in the shallows, taking wing in unison in a giant pink cloud when startled. But this is only one of the main attractions at Lake Bogoria; the second are geysers. More geysers and bubbling hot springs rim the lakeshore than any other place in Kenya. Tucked neatly beneath a rift escarpment, the lake has no outlet so all water escapes through evaporation. Water is fed into the lake primarily by rainfall, seasonal streams, and the waters bubbling from many springs. The shoreline and surrounding area are stark and arid with low brush and scrub, except for an acacia woodland at the south end and a papyrus swamp north of the narrow lake. The expanse of water and its ever-present flamingos provide an unexpected and welcoming scene after traveling across the arid landscape.

One of the large 'soda lakes' making up the Kenya Lake System of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Bogoria is less well-known than Lake Nakuru to its south. Bogoria, Nakuru and Elementaita are all saline lakes that provide food and refuge to the Lesser Flamingo. All three lakes lie along the rift and share some water via underground fault lines. Lake Bogoria lies farther to the north and is more out-of-the-way for travelers. It also has less tourism-related development than Lake Nakuru, having been proclaimed a national reserve in 1970. The Lake Bogoria National Reserve is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service and encompasses the entire lakeshore. One State-owned lodge has been opened, and three camping areas are provided, but few other amenities have been offered in the immediate area until recently. As more facilities are being developed in the area, more commercial safari treks are coming to Lake Bogoria to view the flamingo, buffalo, zebra, impala, leopard, warthog, dik dik, and the rare kudu antelope.

The geysers and hot springs are a marvel to behold. Some of the geysers send hot water up to 17 feet into the air. At least ten geysers are active most of the time, while up to 18 have been recorded. Unfortunately, these geysers are not as reliable as 'Old Faithful'; their activity is sporadic and appears to depend on lake levels and resulting water pressure. As the lake expands with the rainy season, some geysers and springs are covered by the lake, while others may become more active. Many of the springs are underwater most of the time, with their location only revealed due to the high levels of carbon dioxide producing a patch of tell-tale boiling water. Some of the geysers and springs are very hot; others are safe to touch but appear to boil because of the carbon dioxide in the water. A couple of the springs areas are marked as safe for bathing, which visitors enjoy immensely. Recently, a lodge near the lake bored a well to access the hot springs for a spa, and scientists noticed that even that small disruption affected the volume of the springs. The hydrology of the rift region is continuously under study to better understand exactly how these eruptions occur.

The Lesser Flamingo is not the only birdlife frequenting Lake Bogoria. A total of over 500 species of birds have been recorded near the lake. The large population of raptors stands out: steppe eagles, fish eagles and tawny eagles are present in large numbers, feeding on the abundance of weak or disabled flamingos. The cycles of nature, life and death are apparent in this harsh and unique landscape, and opportunities for nature photography are everywhere here. Because Lake Bogoria is about 150 miles north of Nairobi, the reserve is seldom crowded. As more lodging facilities are built near the entrances, this likely will change. Some have already established a reputation for excellent facilities with all amenities, such as the spa facility previously mentioned. Others are attempting to develop natural history tours in the area among native people. Many indigenous people have been crowded into smaller areas by the increasing numbers of wildlife and nature preserves and parks, living in poverty with few resources. Several international groups have mounted efforts to see that native people benefit from the tourism dollars generated by their former tribal lands.

Several other reserves and parks are located near Lake Bogoria. Lake Baringo is a large freshwater lake less than 40 miles to the north. Lake Baringo National Park offers several lodge facilities, with fishing and boat excursions available on the lake. Not far away, the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy protects a large number of native wildlife, while several forest preserves extend to the edges of the Aberdare National Park. Aberdare covers the highlands of the Aberdare Mountains and offers extensive wildlife viewing, camping, trout fishing and bird watching. A lodge or camp near Lake Bogoria is perfect for branching out into the surrounding area to view the unusual topography and animals of the Great Rift Valley. The area can easily be reached by car, and plenty of tourist services are eager to arrange both lodgings and day excursions. Some tour services make a special attempt to provide a part of their profits to improving the living conditions of the native people. Kenya and Lake Bogoria await your exploration.

*Statistics listed are estimates as lake size and depth change frequently.


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