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Stunning Birding in Baringo

Stunning Birding in Baringo

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Kenya is a spectacular destination for birders and this article will describe the species you can expect to see at Lake Baringo as I tell you about my experience there.

Lake Baringo is home to 450 species of birds and thus a paradise for bird-watchers.  There are two activities that provide excellent birding opportunities: a walk up to the escarpment overlooking the lake or a boat ride on the lake.  The walk takes you through scrubland where you can see woodpeckers, ostriches, and we even saw a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl.  But I think the boat ride is really special and the birds we saw that morning were incredible.

We set off at 7 o’clock in the morning so we could make the most of the waking activity on the lake.  Within a few minutes we saw a Pied Kingfisher posing perfectly on a branch followed closely by a Fish Eagle that had just caught a fish!  There he stood proudly on a tree with a fish held firmly in his claw.  A beautiful Malachite Kingfisher tried to retreat into the bushes, but wasn’t quite quick enough.  One area of the lake is covered in water lilies and we spotted an African Jacana picking its way through the foliage.  The hippos also like that area and we were greeted with grunts from the herd as we passed.  A flock of Eurasian Swallows flew in and arranged themselves on a dead tree protruding out of the lake.  Local fishermen prefer the early morning for their work and we saw quite a few in their dugout canoes (not what I would like to be in when hippos are around!).

birding in Baringo

There is an island in the middle of the lake and as we drew closer, we saw the mansion of a nest that Hamerkops had built, but unfortunately we didn’t spot the residents.  One fisherman feeds the Fish Eagles for the visitors each morning and so we watched the spectacle of a Fish Eagle swooping in for the catch.  We continued around the island and there we found two Water Thick-knees paddling in the shallows.  The island is rocky on one side and we were lucky to see some rock hyraxes and a monitor lizard basking in the sun.  We also saw two Madagascar Bee-eaters in a tree and a Long-tailed Cormorant perched on a rock drying its wings.  As we returned to the camp, the boat came close to the shore where Lesser Masked Weavers were busy building nests.  And finally, just when we thought we had seen enough, a Pied Kingfisher appeared from seemingly nowhere, dove into the water in front of our boat and emerged with a fish!  Spectacular!

Are you excited to visit Lake Baringo?  Then book OTA’s Baringo Birding Tour for a week of birding in Kenya!

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And if you travel between 1 March and 30 June 2016, you will enjoy a free day tour around some of Nairobi’s highlights including the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, AFEW Giraffe Centre, Kazuri Beads workshop or Amani Kibera’s community projects.  Get in touch today: tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com.

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Five Fresh Ideas to Experience Kenya

Five Fresh Ideas to Experience Kenya

There are so many hidden treasures within a few hours’ drive of Nairobi, Kenya, that are often overlooked when Nairobians set about planning their weekend getaways.  The trouble is that the big game parks, which are often favoured, are further away and usually require a three-day trip from Nairobi.  So where can you go if you want to leave on Saturday morning and return on Sunday evening?

other weekends

  1. Lake Magadi

This vast salt pan attracts myriad water birds, especially flamingos.  Nearby are Shompole Conservancy and Ngurumann Escarpment which are part of a wildlife corridor between the Maasai Mara and Amboseli.  Departing Nairobi on a Saturday, stop at Olorgaisailie Pre-Historic Site about half way between Nairobi and Magadi before continuing to Magadi town for lunch.  After lunch, enter the Lake Magadi Conservation Area where you can walk, do some bird-watching, swim in the very hot springs or just relax.  On the Sunday you can enjoy a lazy morning of swimming, walking or birding before leaving the conservation area to head back to Nairobi.  On the way, stop at the famous Olepolos restaurant for nyama choma overlooking part of the Great Rift Valley.  OTA offers this tour for 23,000KES per person including meals, accommodation, transport and conservancy fees.

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  1. Ol Pejeta

Home to a rhino sanctuary and Kenya’s only chimpanzee sanctuary, Ol Pejeta is located just south of Nanyuki in central Kenya.  You want to leave Nairobi as early as possible on the Saturday to arrive at Sweetwaters Tented Camp inside Ol Pejeta in time for lunch.  Stop at the equator just before turning off the highway for the obligatory photo as you cross into the northern hemisphere.  In the afternoon, go for a game drive in the conservancy.  On the Sunday, go for a morning game drive and return to Sweetwaters for a hearty brunch before heading back to Nairobi.  OTA offers this tour for 28,700KES per person including meals, accommodation, transport and conservancy fees. 

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  1. Lake Naivasha

Lake Naivasha is one of the most popular destinations for Nairobians looking for a weekend escape.  However it still bears mentioning as its proximity to Nairobi makes it a perfect candidate for this list.  You can leave Nairobi early on Saturday morning and get dropped at the entrance to Hell’s Gate National Park for a cycling safari.  Once your energy is spent on the bicycle, you can relax with a late afternoon boat cruise on Lake Oloiden to see the spectacular birdlife of the area.  On Sunday morning, go for a walking safari in one of the conservancies next to the lake to see giraffes, zebras, eland, impala, and gazelles up close.

Lake Oloidon (5)

  1. Lake Baringo

A little bit further afield, but so beautiful it is definitely worth a visit. With over 450 species of birds, Lake Baringo is a paradise for bird-watchers. Leave Nairobi early on Saturday morning to reach Lake Baringo in time for lunch.  In the afternoon you can go for a nature walk up to the escarpment overlooking the lake.  On Sunday morning take a cruise on the lake to see the water birds and hippos waking up for the day.  Fishermen are also out on the lake in their dugout canoes.  Enjoy a relaxing breakfast after the boat cruise (it is best to get out on the lake around 7am for the best bird-watching opportunity) before driving back to Nairobi, stopping for lunch in Nakuru.  OTA offers this trip for 24,850KES per person including meals, accommodation (camping), transport and a two-hour boat cruise.

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  1. Suswa Caves

On the way to the Maasai Mara as you enter Maasai-land is the small town of Suswa and Mt Suswa rises to your left as you travel towards Narok.  It’s a very dusty road as you turn off the highway and head into the Suswa Conservancy.  There are two campsites, one right above the caves and another on the rim of Mt Suswa’s crater.  Local Maasai guides can take you for hikes to the crater rim and through the caves – it is recommended to do one hike on the Saturday afternoon and the other on the Sunday morning.  Neither is very strenuous but it can get very hot with little shade.

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If you are an expat or Kenyan citizen living in Nairobi these five ideas for two-day weekend trips should help you explore more of Kenya.  If you would like further information, advice or assistance in planning your weekend escape please contact OTA via tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com.

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