Lake Baringo is one of Kenya’s hidden gems, wedged in between the tall plateaus of the Rift Valley lies a muddied water paradise. The journey to get there from the country’s capital, Nairobi, is a long and sometimes arduous five hour drive through what is mostly very slow traffic on the Trans East African Highway, which can leave you feeling utterly defeated on arrival. The view of the lake from the top of the escarpment will however, always rescue you from any depth of despair towards the African traffic.
Travelling up through Baringo county, you could be forgiven for believing the lake to be nothing but a myth, as you drive through miles upon miles of semi-arid, dry and dusty, desert. The only thing for the herdsman to feed his goats on are the prickly and defensive Acacia thorns that reign supreme over this land and have done for generations. You would wonder why anyone lives there at all. As harsh and cruel as the drought often is, the rains prove to be just as dangerous; turning dry riverbeds, or Lughas, to torrential rivers in a matter of hours that wash away bridges, cars, and on one occasion an excavator, towards the lake. Nature really has no mercy in Baringo.
Accommodation on the lake is limited to one of the three hotels or a campsite on the mainland lake shore. For the more adventurous there is a luxury tented camp on what is fondly nicknamed “Teddy Bear” island in the middle of the lake; and for the downright wealthy out and about there is even an option to rent out an entire island to yourself, including catering staff, boat use and a swimming pool. Always a nice escape from the crocodiles that peacefully roam the lake.
There are activities around the lake to suit everyone; from fishing off the lake shore and gazing at the fish eagles that hunt around you to swallowing large gulps of water learning how to water-ski behind a boat, driven by a very enthusiastic expert who cannot quite comprehend your complete ineptitude. Whilst the wildlife is limited, there are hippopotami and crocodiles a plenty, and a nature reserve on a secluded island, where you can pay 200ksh (approximately £1.50) to have a walking safari and get up close with giraffe, gazelles, hyrax and if you’re lucky a family of three owls that enjoy the company of visitors.
Alternatively, relaxing all day, every day is not frowned upon, and is helped by the cheap drinks that flow from the taps of most hotels. The options for pampering are vast, ranging from massages to aroma therapies, being waited on hand and foot or simply enjoying the solitude that can be felt watching the world pass you by so far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whatever you chose to do with your time is for you to decide, but whatever you choose you will not regret it.
So far in life there has been very little better for me than sitting on the shores of this glorious lake, looking out at the setting sun with some good friends and the excellent company of a chilled local brew (Tusker being the obvious favourite). The remoteness and wildness of this beautiful area add a certain untainted freedom to the experience, that allows you to escape your problems, if only briefly, and really focus on the relaxing part of a holiday to Kenya. It may not have the wildlife of the Maasai Mara or the nightlife of Mombasa or Nairobi, but it holds my heart firmly in its grasp.