Saturday, April 9, 2011

Island Camp, Lake Baringo

If you scroll down to my posts from Monday, you will notice that I've dedicated an entire week on the wonderful trip we had to two Kenyan lakes. At first we visited Lake Bogoria National Reserved and saw the magnificent flamingoes, other wildlife and hot springs. From there we travelled to Baringo town on the edge of Lake Baringo. But this was not our weekend destination. We were headed for Island Camp on Ol Kokwe Island in the middle of Lake Baringo.

Approaching Island Camp on Ol Kokwe Island in the middle of Lake Baringo

The camp blends in with the indigenous bush with many acacia's and other trees providing shade, privacy and of course, habitat for the wildlife. Above is the Umbrella thorn,  Acacia tortillis, many of which can be seen in the top photo

While the men ordered refreshments before lunch, I wandered around and photographed the many weavers (there are four varieties on the island), thrushes, red-headed lizards (posted earlier this week) this lizard above which I don't know, and thin green snakes slithering up the tree trunks

This beauty posed for me and immediately rendered a song. It's the Spotted Palm Thrush who sings the most beautiful song every morning and evening. This weekend I heard it the whole time we were there. It was the most prolific bird on the island and very tame. While Grant rested on his bed on Saturday afternoon, one of these flew into the tent and perched on his big toe. I carefully reached for my point-and-shoot but the bird noticed the movement and flew out of the tent. Grant, who'd been asleep, said afterwards he's sorry he missed it!

Lunch was served in the thatched, open dining area overlooking the camp below and the lake beyond. Apart from the excellent fare and service, we were joined by a variety of weavers and the same thrush mentioned above. Here a female weaver (not sure which variety) poses next to my Birds of East Africa book
This Village Weaver landed on the table as we ate . Notice his crippled leg, which didn't seem to be much of a deterrent in getting what he wanted

After late afternoon tea at the pool, we were taken on a boat trip around the island. Johnson who's been the head boatman since Island Camp started fifteen years, is also a knowledgeable nature guide and promised us an interesting afternoon.

Sunset Cruise with boatman Johnson at the helm and Samuel assisting him

In the first minutes we were treated to many Pied Kingfishers sitting on branches overhanging the lake. Above was the first of many sightings . From the left, the first, second and fourth birds are males, with a double black breastband. The bird closest to the camera and facing right, is a female: her single breast-band doesn't meet in the middle. The Pied Kingfisher is the only black-and-white Kingfisher in the region

The next bird we saw was a lifer for me and Grant: a White-browed Coucal but although Johnson steered the boat as close to the bank where the bird was skulking in a bush, it kept hopping deeper and deeper into the scrub so I could not photograph it. We hear it just before the rains,  in the bush around the camp and I hope to capture an image soon.

Next we came alongside a Great White Egret, which is the largest egret. The above is a non-breeding adult. If it was breeding, it would have a black bill and long nuptial plumes would be visible down its back

Obviously we were too close for comfort for this Grey heron who flew off back over the island

hippopotamus information
Hippo (Photo source: Internet)

Minutes later Johnson pointed out a hippo about ten feet from the boat. We only saw it's eyes and nostrils when it disappeared from sight. As Johnson moved the boat forward through the green islands of floating grass, the hippo appeared about five feet behind the boat, blew hard at us and disappeared underwater again. Even though I'm an African and not nervous of being out in the wilds, it was a little disconcerting to think we were sitting in a small boat above an animal who is reputed to be most aggressive animal in the world. Strange thoughts flit through your mind, like how would the owner of Island Camp know who to phone back home in South Africa, should something happen to you? Mmm...

However, the lake, scenery and birds waiting to be viewed and the fact that Johnson had done this trip many times before and obviously knew what he was doing (well, obviously? ) had me refocussing on the task in hand, and that was to lift my camera and snap next exciting scene.

Easing the boat past where we'd first seen the hippo, we came face to face with a local fisherman. Well now, if we thought our boat was vulnerable, what about the craft this man has between him and the unknown below? He also had no motor, paddles or oars; he propelled his boat with flattened plastic containers. Just out of sight to the left a youngster (possibly this man's son) paddled his boat with his hands!

Even though I have seen a Goliath Heron on many occassions in South Africa, it has always been at a distance. Johnson drove the boat to within a few feet of this large bird so that I could get a photo. At 150cm tall, he is the largest heron. Standing on the floating island of grass in the lake with the beautiful mountains as backdrop, this image has a soft, pastel look to it, and I simply had to share it 

After we'd all admired the majestic bird above, Grant pointed out a large crocodile lying on the grass padding ahead of us. It slithered into the water before I could get a photo.

Finally it was time to head for Gibralta Rock, (left) where sundowners would be served while we watched the sunset over the lake (I posted about this on Friday)

Sunset from Gibralta Rock on Lake Baringo

As darkness fell and we prepared to walk back to the boat, Grant spotted a pair of eggs in between the rocks where we'd been standing, walking, sitting. Our group consisted of four children and ten adults and how we missed stepping on them is a miracle... We had no idea which bird had laid its eggs here, but Samuel quickly informed us that it was a Senegal Thick-knee which would return to the nest as soon as we humans vacated the area. A couple of us took photos and then we walked back down the path to where Johnson was waiting in the dusk to ferry us back to Island Camp.

Two eggs in the no-frills nest of the Senegal Thick-knee\

Back in the tent, we found the bedcovers turned down, water flask filled with cold water and a torch ready for when the generator went off later that night. We showered, dressed and went up to the pool/bar/braai area for a barbeque.

*Sigh* Just another day in Africa...

Tomorrow I'll post about the final part of our weekend. I hope you will join me again!


  1. Wow Jo.... You all have had (and are having) a fabulous experience in East Africa... That island visit was fabulous... Thanks for taking us along...

    I would be uneasy seeing that hippo too... Yipes!!!! But seeing the birds and the sunset made that boat ride fabulous... WOW!!!

    Thanks for taking us along.

  2. Well, I enjoyed the few minutes in Africa. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos!

  3. Hi Jo, I have been following your journey and those flamingoes were breathtaking, there are about 20 here in our local Wild life park and I spend ages just looking at them each time I visit. To see thousands of them is definitely a chance of a lifetime.
    You are taking great photos as you travel and really giving us an insight into the wildlife and lifestyle in east Africa.
    I like your idea of 'roughing'it!

  4. I so wish I'd been with you on this adventure.

  5. I am at a loss for words, Jo...this has been such a splendid've brought all those marvellous sights and sounds right into my living room, thousands of kilometres away. I felt sad when it ended and we had to go to bed!

    I shuddered at the knowledge of that submerged hippo so close to the unsuspecting boatman! You are so right...they can be trecherous animals when the mood takes them, but I think mostly it's when they are guarding their young. They are fiercely maternal.

  6. Wow ! what a wonderful tour !!
    and meeting a hippo ! I wouldn't be at ease either, lol !

  7. What a magical place with so much wildlife and natural beauty to admire.
    Very scary about seeing the hippo so close!

  8. What a great adventure you have every day there in Kenya, Jo! I hope you spot a White-browed Coucal again so you can snap a picture of him. You have great service there---beds turned down, great meals, beautiful creatures all around!


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