An hour’s drive from the sweltering Marigat town will set you safely on the shores of one of the two Rift Valley fresh water lakes; Lake Baringo. Unlike its sister lake Bogoria which is salty and thus contains no fish, Lake Baringo is animate with aquatic life, from five types of fish to friendly crocodiles and huge hippo’s. The numerous local tribes that live around the lake make it a colorful place to visit for you cannot fail to bump upon Tugens, Njemps, Maasai Fishermen and Pokots coexisting peacefully.
There are numerous myths and anecdotes that you will hear from the fishermen and the fishmongers about the 130km lake but the first thing you will notice is that the water levels have increased and thus moved towards land and submerged trees and hotels which were once on dry land.
And if you are a fish lover, you may as well whet your appetite as you head to the lake, for there is a small market by the lake where fresh fish is fried and hawked for only 50 shillings a piece. And what’s more, you could simply take your pick from the many varieties like tilapia, catfish, barbers or lung fish fished using nets or hook and line.
This lake that lies to the left of the breathtaking Tugen hills is also home to hundreds of species of fauna. Because of the fish, there are over 400 species of birds that hover around the lake, diving to get some fresh food for themselves. Bird watching is thus an excellent recreation here too especially around Kampi ya Samaki area.
A boat ride on the lake is inevitable if you wish to see the friendly crocodiles therein. If you care to ask, you will be informed of how to tell their ages; slaughter the crocodile(you are not told how), then count the stones you get in the stomach. Each stone represents a year! Alternatively, you could simply check its back, if grass grows on it, then it is an old crocodile.
Lake Baringo also has hippopotamus which are said to be territorial and live in groups of fifteen, fourteen females and one male. Of course it is heartwarming to know that the money you pay for the boat ride will go a long way in supporting the locals, for the boats are owned communally and the income belongs to the whole community.
Yet the most intriguing tale of the lake lies hidden behind the seven islands that are visible from the shore but which are only a boat ride away.
Parmolok Island, the island of love, is the most popular and is said to be owned by one man, famously known as Baringo’s Akuku danger because of his five wives and 27 children. He also has numerous cattle which are said to swim across the lake to the marketplace on market days.
Ol Kokwe island, the biggest island on the lake is populated by the Il Chamus and also contains hot springs where one can boil fish.
The Devil’s Island is deserted and named so because the locals believe the devil lives on it. Apparently, they hear ghosts mooing like cows and bleating like goats during the day. At night, flames of fire are seen.
There is Samatian island, the green island with lodges and campsites. The other three islands are seasonal and thus submerged during high water seasons.
When all is said and done, a visitor to this lake cannot forget two things; coming face to face with the only Maasais in Kenya who are fishermen and meeting Pokots and Tugens who actually sit togather peacefully to share a meal of fried fish.
This article was first published in the Daily Nation