Travel info for visiting Lake Bogoria in Kenya

A permanent stream of flamingos

Address

Bogoria Lake, Baringo County, Kenya

GPS: 0.25591134897843, 36.100723806357

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Visiting Lake Bogoria, will allow travellers to experience one of the three most important lakes in the Great Rift Valley, along with Lakes Baringo, Nakuru and Elmenteita, all in Kenya. Nestled in a 107 km² nature reserve, this alkaline lake with its high mineral content is home to one of the world’s largest populations of lesser flamingos (the smallest species of flamingo). The lake is of great cultural and spiritual value to the Endorois people, who have been custodians of the area since ancient times.

Surrounded by an arid landscape and hills at the foot of the Siracho Escarpment, Lake Bogoria is located in an active volcanic region resting on a series of faults and grabens (tectonic trenches). Geologically, it is the only lake in the Great Rift Valley with geysers and hot springs on its shores. It is shallow, extends over 34 kilometres and has a maximum width of about 3 kilometres at an altitude of 1,000 metres. The wetlands of Lake Bogoria attract a steady stream of millions of flamingos throughout the year to feed on nutrient-rich shrimp and algae. This impressive colony of migratory lesser flamingos and flamingos is highly dependent on the salinity of the water. The water of the lake is so rich in salt and minerals that it becomes caustic and prevents, for example, any fish species from thriving. In addition to this population of pinkish-white birds, almost 400 different species of birds regularly visit the Lake Bogoria ecosystem. They arrive in large numbers to enjoy the thermal waters, which are free of potential predators.

The inhabitants of the area attribute Bogoria’s thermal water to healing skin problems. Inhaling hot water vapours is also said to be good for the human body. Also, it is not uncommon to see villagers using the geysers that surround the shores of Lake Bogoria to cook eggs or boil corn. In recent years, the lake has tended to gain in water volume while the activity of the numerous geysers and hot springs has gradually decreased. As a result, the habitat of the flamingos has been severely degraded and their food resources have decreased (they consume cyanobacteria present in the microscopic blue-green algae called spirulina). The activity of geothermal power plants, installed near Bogoria, could be the reason for this phenomenon and is of concern regarding the future of flamingo populations.

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  • The impressive number of pink flamingos among the abundant birdlife; the very photogenic character of the lake
  • The geothermal activity of Lake Bogoria (mainly on its western shore); Kenya’s only sanctuary of hot springs, fumaroles and geysers
  • The extraordinary natural ability of flamingos to survive in this hostile environment; their natural elegance and perpetual dance movements; the brilliant colour of their plumage
  • The population of gazelle, zebra, impala, leopard, greater kudu, warthog, caracal and baboon roaming around the Lake Bogoria National Reserve
  • An ecosystem well supplied with wetlands and birds all year round (including the protected species of Black-necked grebe, African spoonbill, Malagasy pond heron, Goliath heron, great white pelican, African skimmer, common sandpiper, ruff, wood sandpiper, little grebe, Common greenshank…)
  • The papyrus swamps in its northern part; the acacia and fig tree forests
  • The steep plateaus of the Siracho escarpment; the Waseges-Sandai, Emsos, Loboi and Mogun rivers in Lake Bogoria National Reserve
  • An exciting place for volcanologists, geologists and ornithologists
  • Kesubo Swamp (ideal place for birdwatching); the other Great Rift Valley lakes; the Aberdare Range (160 kilometres-long)
  • For a long time, Lake Bogoria area was inhabited by a small tribe of Maasai cousins called the Endorois. Driven off their land in 1973 by the Kenyan government, they have recently won the right to reclaim the shores of the lake and to be compensated for the damage suffered by the decision of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2010.
  • It is the presence of a shallow magma chamber under Lake Bogoria, almost 2,000 metres below ground, which encourages the presence of geysers. Flamingos are able to live in these extreme conditions thanks to their tough skin, scales on their legs, long beaks for filtering algae and glands for draining excess salt.
  • Lake Bogoria is twice as salty as seawater. The lake is endorheic meaning that its basin is closed and water cannot dissipate to the surface. Nevertheless, it is connected to Lake Elementeita (or Elementaita) and Lake Nakuru by a complex network of groundwater. Its waters contain a significant number of microbes and micro-organisms from which enzymes are produced by the biotechnology industry. These resources are then used in textiles (dyes), cleaning products (detergents) and pharmaceuticals (antibiotics).
  • The lesser flamingo population in Lake Bogoria has increased in recent decades following the temporary drying up of Lake Nakuru in the 1990s. When Lake Nakuru returned to its normal water level, there was a surplus of water in this lake, which led to a new exodus of flamingos to Lake Bogoria (due to the decrease in alkalinity and the lack of available food).
  • The lesser flamingo breeds in a total of six wetlands worldwide, five of which are in Africa (Lake Bogoria has not been included since the 1980s). The areas concerned are wetlands with extreme living conditions: Lake Natron (Tanzania), which accounts for 75% of the world’s lesser flamingo population, as well as Aftout Es-Saheli (Mauritania), Etosha Pan (Namibia), Sua Pan (Botswana), Kamfers Dam (South Africa) and the Great Rann of Kutch (India).
  • Hundreds of pieces of stone tools have been found at some 15 archaeological sites around Lake Bogoria. These remnants could correspond to an ancient stone-cutting workshop from the time of Homo sapiens, some 200 000 years ago.
  • Kenya has four other alkaline lakes in the country: Lake Magadi (the saltiest), Lake Nakuru, Lake Elementeita and Lake Turkana.
  • Plastic is the most damaging cause of pollution to the survival of migratory birds and their habitats. In 1993, water pollution in Lake Baringo led to the death of 20,000 lesser flamingos.
  • The main entrance to Lake Bogoria National Reserve and the lake is at Loboi Gate in the northern part (the Emsos Gate allows entry from the southern part).
  • For your safety, do not go beyond the restricted areas of Lake Bogoria. The ground is covered in boiling water and may collapse under your weight. The water temperature can reach 70°C in places.
  • It may be worthwhile to hire a guide to learn more about the Salt Lake, its role for the local community, the flamingo population and the wildlife of Lake Bogoria National Reserve.
  • Some parts of the protected area can be explored by bike (bring enough water with you).
  • On the way back, stop at Kesubo Swamp in the north, which is home to a wide variety of bird species (one person saw 96 different species in just one hour, a record for the country).

Where to eat

  • Java House
    (the coffee is excellent)
  • Sunjeel Food Palace
    (indian cuisine)
  • Trout Tree
    (perched in a tree)

Where to go

  • Loburu Geysers and Hot Springs
    (group of geysers)
  • Lake Baringo National Park
    (for birdwatchers)
  • Kerio Valley
    (spectacular landscapes)

Where to stay

  • Fig Tree Campsite
    (a change of scenery guaranteed)
  • Lake Bogoria Spa Resort
    (comfortable and well-equipped)
  • Island Camp Baringo
    (in the middle of Lake Baringo)