Lake Baringo is the second most northern of the Kenyan Rift Valley lakes, after Lake Turkana. The beautiful water body lies 60 km north of Nakuru town and is girdled by scenic semi-arid plains and extensive volcanic ranges. It covers a surface area of approximately 130 sq. km and lies at approximately 970 meters (3,180 ft.).

Lake Baringo is one of the two freshwater lakes in the Kenyan Rift Valley, the other being Lake Naivasha. The water mass is fed by several rivers, Perkerra, Ol Arabel and Molo. It has no ostensible outlet hence the water is assumed to ooze through the sediments into the faulted volcanic bedrock to maintain the lake’s fresh state.

Island Camp on Lake Baringo
Island Camp on Lake Baringo | Photo by Bob the Lomond

The lake’s freshwaters are an oasis in the hot and dusty plains attracting over 470 bird species, including migrating flamingos.

The History of Lake Baringo

The first European to reach the lake was Joseph Thomson in 1883.

While the number of the Nile Tilapia in the lake is now low, the decline of this species has been emulated by the marbled lungfish which was introduced in the lake in 1974. It now provides the majority of fish output from Lake Baringo.

Until the early eighties, the water was fresh and fish was ample, reeds covered the shorelines except for the steep rocky sides and leeches were all over. In the mid-eighties, an increase in erosion led to a rise in siltation. The mudfish was ununiformly introduced into the lake and feeding on tilapia. Years later, the water capacity reduced significantly and some smaller islands on the northern shore became part of the mainland. Salinity increased and water became inconsumable until the heavy rains of 2007 which saw the lake rise up.

In 2013, heavy rains filled up the lake destroying homes and lodge along the shores. Ol Kokwa Island (the biggest island), the community was separated from schools, health centers, and workplaces.

At a Glance

The lake lies east of the Tugen Hills, an uplifted fault block of metamorphic and volcanic rocks, and west of Laikipia Escarpment. Its water flows from the Tugen Hills and Mau Hills. Lake Baringo is a vital refuge and habitat for a myriad species of birds and fauna. It is also a precious habitat for seven freshwater fish species and animals such as the hippopotamus, Nile Crocodile, and many other mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Lake Baringo has several small islands, fumaroles, and hot springs. Ol Kokwa Island is the lake’s largest island. A set of hot springs discharge along the lake’s shoreline at Soro near the north-eastern corner of the island.

The area of Lake Baringo is occupied mainly by pastoralist ethnic communities including the Njemps (Il Chamus), Rendile, Kalenjin, and Turkana. It is the traditional home of the Njemps tribe.

What to do at Lake Baringo

The lake is a significant birdwatcher’s paradise. Fish at the lake attracts many Fish Eagles, Cormorants and Pelicans. It is also ideal for crocodile and hippo spotting. Fishing, skiing, and surfing are other main activities at the lake. Boating services are also available near Kampi-ya-Samaki on the western shore and on several islands in the lake.

Little Egret at Lake Baringo
Little Egret at Lake Baringo | Photo By Valentina Storti

Lake Baringo is a perfect site for a naturalist, photographer or a walker looking to relish the unique, serene and completely undisturbed nature. Visitors can enjoy a magical sunrise, walk with Rothschild giraffes or visit the remote islands at the lake center and associate with the exceptional Njemps and Pokot tribes.

There are numerous salient palaeontological and archaeological sites, which are present in the Pleistocene and Miocene sedimentary sequences of the Tugen Hills.

How to get to Lake Baringo

The primary road access to Lake Baringo is directly from Nakuru town by bus or private means. Some of the hotels and lodges near the lake can organize transport from/to Nairobi or Nakuru. The main town near the lake is Marigat.

Getting around Lake Baringo

Private transport is the best way to get around and explore places of interest around the lake. Many hotels, lodges, and campsites arrange special local excursions. One can also hire a boat.

Where to stay at Lake Baringo

Baringo has a wide selection of exclusive accommodation to suit all tastes, budgets, and interests. They include luxury hotels and lodges, self-catering cottages, private guesthouses, and campsites.

Lake Baringo is a prime stopover on a Northern Kenya safari. It is a jewel of the Rift Valley!