Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kenya Safari Part IX

We left The Sleeping Warrior Lodge after breakfast and headed north to Lake Baringo, our next stop for the night. We were on our way to Island Camp, which we'd stayed at before (twice) and enjoyed it so much we visited again. (We'd tried to spend the Christmas weekend on the island but they were fully booked)

When we arrived at Lake Baringo, we found that the summer rains - which lasted six months last year - had pushed the water up so far that the jetty had had to be moved back quite a considerable distance. The fuel bowsers/pumps were also submerged and not expected to work again!
On our visit to Lake Baringo in August 2011, the jetty protruded almost to the inlet created by the reeds. (see arrow marking the opening) The fuel pumps were about twenty meters behind us and on dry ground at the time
In December, the inlet was way beyond the end of the jetty (blue arrow indicating the space).  On our August-trip,  we'd parked our vehicles next to the fuel pumps which are circled in white in this photo!  

The 25 minute trip across the lake was uneventful with, not even a glimpse of crocodile or hippo.
The trip between the town Baringo and Ol Kokwe island takes about 25 minutes by boat

Arriving at the reception office (see hut in photo #2 in collage), we were welcomed with a glass of fruit cocktail, Grant signed the register and porters, carrying our bags, showed us our tent.

Our tent on Island Camp overlooking the lake

We always arrive at Island Camp just before lunch, so after freshening up in our tent, we meandered up the diningroom. We enjoyed a lunch of avocado pear soup, served cold, salads and freshly baked rolls - with beef lasagne for the carnivores - and rounded the meal off with slices of fresh mango and pineapple.

Later I relaxed on my bed in the tent,  while my darling husband took a nap. The lake water lapped at the bank below our accommodation, causing a certain level of somnolence to overtake me.  However, I was halfway through Wilbur Smith's latest best-seller: Those in Peril which I couldn't put down. His well-researched, realistic and often horrific facts-turned-fiction, kept my eyes riveted to the pages. The story is about modern day-pirating off the African continent (the Horn of Africa and Kenya, to be exact) and in particular, an American luxury yacht being high-jacked and the owner's daughter kidnapped by religous fanatics. (Ironically pirates are very active around this part of Africa at present)

I was standing on the bow of the yacht next to the antagonist - the baddie who'd infiltrated the yacht staff by befriending the owner's daughter - waiting for the pirates to come on board, when I heard a "slap-slap-slap" of fins on the ship's deck ! I looked around and then clicked my tongue at my nervousness. First I spotted a leathery claw appear around the open door of the tent! Then a sharp reptilian nose followed by the bulky body and long tail of a likkewaan (monitor lizard) came into full view. It moved ponderously to a sunny spot in front of the tent, flopped down on the warm stones and went to sleep! I grabbed my camera and photographed this fascinating and harmless reptile.
In the third photo on left, I arrowed the end of the lizard's tail
showing how large he is

Every afternoon, coffee is served in the pool bar higher up on the island. As usual Island Camp was a veritable paradise for birders. On the way up, I stopped to photograph a White-browed Sparrow-weaver and a little ahead I saw a Spotted Palm Thrush, the voice behind the beautiful song we could hear all around the island. While Grant had coffee and crunchies (an oatmeal type of biscuit) I wandered through a small copse of trees in search of more birds. Ahead of me in the pathway, a Blue-naped Mousebird was having a sand bath.
A White-browed Sparrow-weaver
The Spotted Palm Thrush
A Spotted Palm Thrush with attitude!
Mousebirds are well, rather mouse-coloured and I always enjoy seeing this brightly-coloured mousebird with a distinctive blue nape and long pointed tail. Its face and the base of the bill is bright red while its feet (not visible in my photo, unfortunately) are a dull red

Boatman and birding fundi/guide, Johnson and his assistant, Hosea

On Island Camp you can arrange various leisure activities with the guides. Previously we've had an afternoon trip around the islands viewing birds. We've been a morning trip to feed the fish-eagles and view birds. We've also been on the sundowner cruise to Gibraltar Rock. This time we booked for the tour around the islands viewing birds and ended with the sundowner cruise on Gibraltar Rock.  

Apart from a variety of egrets, squacco herons, kingfishers and plovers, Johnson took us close to a pair of Goliath Heron with their nest. I will post about these birds next week. Sailing a little further around the island, Johnson whistled and pointed to an African Fish Eagle sitting high up on a branch. His whistle "notifies" the fish eagle that he had a snack for it!  (there was a cooler box of fish on the boat, for this purpose) Then he asked me if I was ready - I had my camera focussed on the water where I estimated the fish would land - and he tossed the fish into the air. As it landed, the fish eagle swooped down, grabbed the fish and flew into another tree on the island bank. I've marked this activity with arrows here below:
The African Fish-eagle gives us a show of "catching" the fish the guide tossed for it

Just before we reached the bay where Johnson would stop the boat for us to get off, we saw two Water Thick-knee. It looked like a juvenile and an adult. This was a first proper sighting for me. I've seen this bird in the distance when visiting Ndumu in 2008 so getting a good view of them this time, was a real treat.
In the top two photos, the young thick-knee is on the left. The single photos underneath are of the adult. Note the thick knees of the bird giving it this interesting name

Then we climbed up the path to the top where Johnson and Hosea served us with ice cold drinks while I took photos of the sunset over the lake.
Sunset over Lake Baringo as seen from Gibralta Rock
*Sigh* another tough day in Africa, but then someone has to do the job!

After dinner we retired to our tent and fell asleep to the sound of the waves lapping gently at the bank below.

Next morning we were woken by the lady who brought us tea and ginger biscuits.
Our early morning tea and biscuits being delivered by a kind Kenyan lady. As I said: life's tough!

We sat and enjoyed our tea while watching the sun rise over the lake
As usual a number of birds appeared as the sun warmed the air and kept me clicking away. There were Red-faced Crombec, Black-eyed Bulbul, a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and a White-browed Coucal. In between were various species of weavers, some enjoying the crumbs Grant placed on the stones at our feet. I was particularly fascinated by a weaver which spent most of his time on the fruit of a prickly pear just below our patio. We've never known a weaver to eat fruit this so I took a number of photos as proof!
A weaver digging and enjoying the prickly pear fruit below our tent

After breakfast, the porters loaded our luggage into the boat and Johnson took us across to the mainland. Another lovely overnight stay at Island Camp.

Once we boarded our vehicle we headed south again. We were on our way for the final leg of our safari: we were spending the Christmas weekend at Lake Nakuru.

I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. It is very informative and the scenery is spectacular. I know it was a long way for you to travel to spend the night. I can tell you really love this camp and so the trip was worth it. Some day perhaps I will have a chance to stay on the island too :-)

  2. What an extraordinary trip and great photos. I'd love to do something like this!

  3. This is a fantastic trip. I like the island retreat.

  4. Another beautiful part of your trip ! having a reptile on the terrace who almost looks like a crocodile what a surprise ! I like little lizzards, but this one is quiet huge !

  5. Hi Jo, what a great post. I love all the birds. It looks like a birders paradise. Thanks for sharing your visit to the island and camp. Great photos! I hope you have a lovely weekend too.

  6. Yes, it's a tough job - but someone has to do it, Jo! Thank you for letting us in on the task of visiting these exotic places through your writing. In missionary circles, after a tough day like your's - we would say, "Suffering for Jesus!" Loved all the info and great pictures. Never been to Baringo. Always wanted to go - but it never worked out while we were there. Maybe next time.

  7. Tough day indeed. We would all like to share your suffering.

  8. This is such a lovely island, Jo, full of beautiful birds and other interesting critters. You have captured them all so beautifully! I did not know that prickly pear cacti could grow in Kenya! I'm accustomed to seeing them in the Mojave Desert (southern California) and in Arizona/New Mexico.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo