What you need to know:
- Faced with the dilemma of losing the greater kudu antelope that Bogoria was famous for, a few people banded together to form the Friends of Nature Bogoria
A pair of huge spiralling horns dart across the road as the night is swept away by dawn. It’s a Greater kudu, enormous with jaw-dropping spiralling horns. We scramble for our cameras expecting the magnificent antelope to run away into the bushes. Instead the Greater kudu begins to browse leisurely, moving deeper into the scrubland.
“It’s an old male,” tells James Kuria, a member of Nature Kenya established in 1909. “You can tell by the thick white band on its back.”
As the Greater kudu vanishes, the sun rises from the Laikipia plateau, shedding light on a pink-lined shore bustling with the Lesser flamingos and the vivid pink of the desert rose. The desert flower breaks the monotony of the scorched earth strewn with sun-baked volcanic rocks on the floor of the Great Rift Valley lined by the long range of the Tugen Hills.
A few feet from where we saw the Greater kudu, women step out of their homestead with bright yellow debes secured on their backs to collect fresh water from the alkaline lake where the fresh water springs bubble out of the earth. We exchange greetings, chamugai, with the Endorois women, a sub-tribe of the larger Tugen people.
“We have more than 600 Greater kudu in Lake Bogoria National Reserve and the four surrounding community conservancies,” states Patrick Kipkorir Kurere of Friends of Nature Bogoria (FoNB). “This is from a low of 40 in 1997.”
Traditionally, the long-spiralling horns of the Greater kudu were coveted as musical horns to be blown during ceremonies like male circumcision and the meat for its sweet taste.
Faced with the dilemma of losing this beautiful antelope that Bogoria was famous for, a few people banded together to form the FoNB. With funding from UNDP small grants programme and the Royal Netherlands Embassy, FoNB began a conservation programme to raise awareness through schools and local barazas.
“Today, the Greater kudu prefer to stay near the villages, especially when the females are breeding because they feel safe from predators like hyenas and leopards,” continues James Kimaru, senior warden of Lake Bogoria National Reserve and also a member of FoNB. “The success is due to the community taking ownership of the wildlife which has led to the start of community-owner wildlife conservancies.”
The next step according to Kurere and Kimaru is to secure funding for GPS collars to fit on the massive antelope to learn about its movements and secure its dispersal grounds.
Moving closer to shore, Titus Imboma from the National Museums of Kenya and Kurere count the busy pink beauties for the annual waterfowl count. Flocks of vivid pinks shimmer in the distance. It looks like a flock on an islet but the flamingos are perched on the roof of the drowned office of the Kenya Wildlife Service.
According to Kimaru, this is the highest Bogoria has been since 1903.
The phenomenal rise of the Great Rift Valley lakes since 2011 has expanded the world-famous alkaline lake from 34 square kilometres to 50 in the reserve measuring 107 square kilometres with concern that it could merge with the freshwater Lake Baringo, now only five kilometres apart.
The annual count reveals a million-plus Lesser flamingos and few Greater flamingo plus other waterbirds. It’s late evening but the sun is relentless like it has been for eons.
Our abode for the night is at Netbon Kudu Camp run by the local Endorois community. It’s at the far end of the alkaline soup bowl that’s filled with the pretty pink birds’ favourite meal, the spirulina algae, a healthy diet that colours the bird pink.
Be at Bogoria
It’s 290 kms northwest of Nairobi via Nakuru on good tarmac road. Roads inside the reserve are rough murram as the tarmac is now under water.
Stay at Netbon Kudu Camp. Contact Jeremiah Kiprotich on 0723 362546/0737 996 098 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can drive from Mogotio to the camp (40kms), shorter than entering through the main gate via Marigat, 30 minutes to the freshwater Baringo.
Both lakes are Important Bird Areas and Ramsar sites. Bogoria also boasts hot water geysers.
Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elmenteita are listed in the Kenya Lake System as a World Heritage Site in the Great Rift Valley, as ‘a natural property of outstanding beauty’.