Bogoria’s Hot Little Secret (And Why I’m Not A Happy Camper)

Strictly speaking this article is not specifically about Lake Bogoria, but it is about something just as good. I already covered the reserve in detail way back when. The part about me not being happy? That part is unfortunately true but we’ll get to that later. This is a story about some of the familiar frustrations I encounter as an independent traveler around Kenya and the surprising rewards of a never-ending curiosity.

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Trawling through the internet a couple of months back I came across a mention of hot springs in Baringo County. Further googling got me no further but I did come across a grainy photo of people swimming in some kind of pool?  Fast forward and the travel ‘perfect storm’ hits; I have a week free, The Muse and The Intern are away and I have a full tank of gas. I’m actually headed to visit family in Nanyuki so why not go searching while taking a long roundabout route that makes absolutely no sense?

Why not indeed.

Nairobi – Maji Moto

So what pitiful information do I have so far? I need to find Maji Moto Village in Baringo County then look for the Netbon Kudu Camp if it still exists. The one phone number I have is unreachable so I’m flying blind. My trip through Naivasha – Nakuru  is pretty uneventful.

I go through Kabarak and since I still have no idea how to get where I’m going I stop at the Equator Information Centre in Mogotio. The very helpful staff at the centre confirm the campsite still exists but as the phone number is still not going through it’s unclear if I’ll find anyone there.

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Equator Information Centre

They also draw me a very helpful map and I’m soon on the way hemmed in by extensive sisal estates.

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Now I’m really regretting not stopping for lunch earlier, a banana and a power bar will only take you so far and this road is much longer that I thought. Quite remote as well, I only come across 2 cars in 1 1/2 hours.

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I come across this boda-boda which has stalled on the side of the road and commit a road-trip cardinal sin and don’t stop. I’m really tired and irritable so I wave and drive on but I continue to feel bad about it for much longer.

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The last stretch before Maji Moto Village.

En – route, my phone rings ‘Hi, this is Jeremiah at Kudu Camp sorry I missed your call’. What sweet relief! He confirms he’ll be waiting for me,and I perk up, it’s all coming together.

Netbon Kudu Campsite

The campsite is run by the Netbon Eco-tourism group a Community-based-Organization that currently has 27 members and was set-up in 2003. Its only 5km from Lake Bogoria so makes a perfect base to explore the area.

I arrive to a nice welcome from Jeremiah but he seems perplexed I’m traveling alone. The grounds of the campsite are vast and he advises me to pitch camp under a massive Tamarind tree. The tree has some cool history about it, apparently James Hannington camped under this very tree in the 1800’s and it was used as porter recruitment centre for his foray into Uganda. Recruitment of soldiers to go fight in foreign lands during WWI and WWII was also done right under this tree.

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The Tamarind tent pitch next to the river.

The camp has 3 bandas that will sleep a total of 9 people. There is a separate ablution block with long – drop toilets, a common open-sided shelter and a bonfire pit as well.

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Jeremiah and one the bandas during one of our chats.

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Another view of the campsite, the trees here have been very well conserved unlike most of the area I drove through.

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Another view of the well-shaded campsite and bandas.

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Banda interior. Looks cozy enough.

After a quick late lunch of crappy noodles and boiled eggs (Note to self: Not a winning combination) I’m ready to find the fabled hot springs.

Maji Moto Hot Springs

My stomach roiling with the offending noodles I make the one minute walk from the campsite to the springs. I’m not expecting much, after all if they were really something they would be common knowledge right?

I am proved so wrong.

A series of tiny hot springs percolate their way from deep underground on a seasonal riverbed. And hot means hot, the water is between 36-38 degrees (imagine a hot bath).

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My first look at it is actually quite underwhelming.

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But a few meters downstream the magic begins to happen. In a small canyon the water creates clear pools…

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…squeezed even further creating small waterfalls and even deeper pools.

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I’m in heaven. My plan to stay for 2 nights turns into 3 as I’m just spending the majority of my time frolicking in the pools with extreme prejudice. I’ve been known to go for days without a shower while traveling so this is possibly the cleanest I’ve ever been while camping.

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The spring water is clear, and as the pools are not that deep you can see right to the bottom. Kids would love it here. Due to the waters warmth it’s quite a treat swimming late into the night, which I do.

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I’m not too clued up on the health benefits of a mineral spa, all I know is I’m more relaxed then I’ve been in ages. My muscles have turned to putty, my body centered and my energy restored. Little wonder people pay good money for this.

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I’ve visited many other tourism attractions in Kenya but this is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had. Baringo County, what else are you possibly be hiding? It’s about this time my anger begins to build.

Lake Bogoria National Reserve

It would be a shame not to visit the reserve which is a short 10 minute drive from the village so Jeremiah and I head out one late evening. The ranger at the gate says ‘I saw you when you were coming into the village, I was on the boda-boda you passed on the side of the road!’ I cringe. I knew I should have stopped.

I had forgotten how beautiful the entry from this side of the reserve is.

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Photo below taken from the same spot in 2014. I think my photography has improved, no?

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Looks like the flamingos are around, what a bonus!

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We’re the only people around and we’re enjoying the company of 1000’s of flamingos, where else but Kenya?

 

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Jeremiah points out some cool geological process who’s details I’ve totally forgotten. Interesting at the time though.

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Lakini the landscape here is so dramatic…

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…even with the water geysers now all underwater definitely still worth a visit.

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I am saddened to see what has become of the Clifftop Campsite, the shelter is no more so camping here is a no-no when the suns out. Top photo – 2014, Bottom photo – 2018.

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My lucky animal spotting streak from Marsabit continues with this lovely specimen of a Kudu.
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Posing naturally is not one of Jeremiah’s strengths.

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We leave the reserve and head back to the campsite, I have more swimming to get done before I head out the next day.

Siracho Escarpment

So I still have to get to Nanyuki and throughout my trip I’ve been asking people if it’s safe to attempting to cross over the Siracho Escarpment over to Nyahururu, as usual reports are conflicting. Safe. Not safe. Recent security issues. No incident in the last few years. I conclude that if it really wasn’t safe everyone would know about it.

Whatever. I’m going.

To begin my journey I have to drive through North to the Loboi gate on the northern side of the reserve, luckily I don’t have to pay again. Its either because of the 24-hr rule or my charming smile. I never find out which.

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This route will take me through Loboi – Sandai – Logumukum – Muchongoi – Kanel and spit me out on the main Nyahururu highway at Kwanjiku.

The route starts off innocently enough, at least i have some company.

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About 1hr into the trip the first little drama occurs, one of my tires has a slow leak. Thanks goodness for portable compressors (a must have in areas like this).

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A few kilometers later I begin the winding climb up the escarpment. The problem with solo travel is that your mind begins to wander and I can’t help thinking how every spot looks like perfect for an ambush.

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It’s at this point I really begin to get worried. This drive is much more remote than I thought it would be. The inclines are extremely steep with a mix of rocky and loose chippings and one false move could send me tumbling into the valley below.

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This feeling is so familiar when i solo travel , a mix of exhilaration and fear both in equal measure. On the other hand it’s also quite annoying how beautiful it is.

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Shocking that I can see Lake Bogoria’s big sister Lake Baringo from here with one of her islands clearly visible.

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Big moment, I’ve reached the top of the Siracho Escarpment! But this is a shot-lived  victory, a few km’s down the road I’m the Laikipia Escarpment and I’ll have to climb that as well. My heart breaks.

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Laikipia Escarpment

That I still haven’t seen the worst of it doesn’t hit me immediately. It’s a slow creeping realization that I still have a very hard and long road ahead. But I’m in the middle of nowhere, what to do but keep going?

A not very well maintained road plus more never-ending steep inclines do not a happy camper make. Half-way up a particularly steep climb a red warning light I’ve never seen before lights up the dashboard. I don’t look at it, if I don’t acknowledge it maybe will go away. It’s blazing hot and I’m also extremely fatigued, ass-clenching for 3 hours straight is hard work, let no one tell you different.

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I’m finally  up and over the 2nd escarpment as I now cross over into Laikipia County and approach Muchongoi. The air is much cooler, the warning light goes off and the area is much more populated so if anything goes wrong here it would be much more easily sorted. Time to un-clench ass cheeks.

Oh, and the views are crazy.

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The road from Muchongoi to the join the tarmac at Ngarua is really bad but by this point I’ve lost the capacity to react to stimulus so I just get stuck in and power through.

Finally hitting tarmac after 4 days and I have to document this moment. I’d kiss the tarmac if my back was not screaming in agony.

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From here it’s a quick 10km into Nyahururu through some beautiful farmland.

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I stagger into the reception at Thompson Falls Hotel where I’ll be spending the night; dusty, wild eyed and crazy looking managing to croak out ‘food….water…room’, before collapsing into a heap at reception. At least that’s what it feels like. Thank you Rahab for being so patient as I hand-gestured my way through check-in.

After a shower and a hot meal I check in with The Muse and The Intern to release some stress. No lie, it’s been a very hard day.

Nyahururu – Nanyuki

I wake up rejuvinated and ready for my last leg to Nanyuki where I’ll be spending a few days with family. The clever thing would be to take the tarmac down to Mweiga and Naro Moru but I’m no Einstein so I  take a left at Ndaragwa and I’m off tarmac once again on the C76. I know I know, I never learn but the call of a road I’ve never used before sings to me and has always trumped common sense.

This route weaves through Nyandarua and Laikipia counties to the South of ADC Mutara Ranch and the Northern end of Ol Pejeta.

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I really enjoy this road, it’s the home stretch and the road is well-graded enough to put the pedal to the metal.

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As always end of a trip is always bitter-sweet; I’m always happy to be going home but at the same time I’ll miss where I’m coming from. A life of exploration is a strange one.

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Snapshot

Distances:

Nairobi – Nakuru – Mogotio – Maji Moto: 216km = 5hrs. Tarmac up to Mogotio, after murram/rough sections, high clearance saloon (when dry) SUV/4WD only. Intermittent network.

Maji Moto – Loboi – Logumukum – Cheromongion – Mochongoi -Ol-Arabel – Ngarua – Nyahururu 176km = 4hrs. Murram/extreme inclines/extremely remote. Well maintained SUV/4WD only.  VERY intermittent network.

Nyahururu – Mutara – Ngare Ngiro – Nanyuki. 113km = 2.5hrs. SUV/4WD

***Edited all missing roads/villages/campsites on my route onto Maps.me. Also proud to report I have added Kudu Camp to Google Maps.***

 

Accommodation & Contacts

Netbon Kudu Camp: Camping: Ksh500(res) Ksh1000(nonres). There are a few tents for hire and meals can be organized. Jeremiah +254-723-362546 or +254-737-996098

Equator Information Centre: Betty +254-701-439-738 or betty.kibet6@gmail.com

Thompson’s Falls Lodge: Ksh8600pp http://www.thomsonsfallslodge.co.ke/

Further Reading: https://thetreasureblog.wordpress.com/tag/lake-bogoria/

Notes:

  • Jeremiah is a fantastic host and is a lode of knowledge with fascinating insights on the history, archeology and the geology of the area, some which are pretty controversial. A visit to Netbon would be of particular interest to ornithologists, school groups and academics.
  • It should be noted that in the reserve the only 2 campsites are Clifftop Campsite and Lakeside Campsite, at the moment I am impressed by neither. All other campsites still inaccessible due to flooding.
  • In hindsight with no towns and almost zero network I wouldn’t attempt the Bogoria – Nyahururu route solo again. If something had gone wrong with the car I wouldn’t have known where to start and might have been there for days.

Final Words

So back to why I’m mad. I’m mad I could not find Maji Moto Springs on any maps. I’m mad Netbon Kudu Campsite has so few visitors. I’m mad youth community groups are wary of government funding. I’m mad NGO’s initiate unsustainable projects. I’m mad counties do not realize the value of mapping their attractions. I’m mad that so many people are unaware of free online marketing tools. I’m mad the Equator Information Centre has been half finished for years. I’m mad Lake Bogoria Reserve cannot maintain simple campsites.  I’m mad the tourism industry has been selling the same products for decades. I’m mad at how difficult it is to move around this country without a car. I’m mad I find the same community tourism problems everywhere I go. I’m mad I don’t have the resources to effect more change.

On the other hand my skin glowed for 2 weeks straight after this, so there’s that.

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73 thoughts on “Bogoria’s Hot Little Secret (And Why I’m Not A Happy Camper)

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Kids would have a blast there. Wouldn’t worry too much about the rain, it’s a pretty arid area No need to ask for directions just download maps.me to your phone and navigate yourself there, just give J a few days warning.

      Reply
  1. Pingback: Great place to head with the kids. I love adventures to ‘undiscovered’ spots | The Expat Mummy

  2. Larry Carruthers

    Glad to have found your blog. Will make a point of visiting the hot springs during this cooler rainy season. Often stay at Roberts camp for a time of rest and relaxation. This time Maji Moto.

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Larry glad you found it as well, the more the merrier. I would be very interested to get your opinion after you visit. Please write me a short note on your experience, I would really appreciate it.

      Reply
  3. mm

    Amazing trip. The kind one takes to “find themselves” … 🙂 . You are actually going to be responsible in helping “taming” these parts as more people hear/read of your experiences – so as you get MAD – you are actually doing something about it – the more people read this the more these areas will open up and the more things “might” change!. I commend you. Thanks for sharing !!

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Yup, this one definitely pushed me to the limit kidogo. And yes I really believe writing these stories and mapping out places like this is very important, but there remains a lot of work to be done. But you have to start from somewhere right? Hopefully others can take up the torch from where I leave off.

      Reply
  4. Wacira

    Kenyan Camper never disappoints….We done! Thanks again for what you do for our domestic tourism by taking us with you on your travels. Mad props!

    Reply
  5. Thomas AARON SPENCER

    Really enjoy your excellent write-ups and am using them to plan my next safari off the beaten path next November. I appreciate your (I’m mad) comments having safaried in Kenya for over 40 years. Wish I could appoint you Minister of Tourism. I have a feeling a young man like you could get things done . Asante Sana, Tom

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Tom, I would never work for the govt, that’s where good ideas and innovation go to die 🙂 Wow, 40 years is a long time and you must have seen a lot of change over the years, now I’m even more honored the blog can still give an old hand such as yourself some additional information. Thank you for writing in and for the kind words. Let me know how your November trip goes.

      Reply
  6. valerieoutram

    I saved some time so I could read your post in peace. Your honesty and great photos didn’t disappoint. Your blog is a great inspiration to others and back here in grey old London a fantastic opportunity for some vicarious adventure! Wish some of the tourism officials in government would take note.

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Valerie, we have very heavy rain all all the country at the moment so we’re in the same boat. I wish there was time for the county governments to get a clue but I’m not willing to wait. If you can change something, even in the smallest way, I find it best to just get stuck in!

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    I have heard about maji moto springs through a campsite called maji moto eco camp in the loita hills. I have always postponed but its time I ticked this off my bucket list and experience the relaxing spring waters

    Reply
  8. Bets

    I have heard about maji moto springs through a campsite called maji moto eco camp in the loita hills and its been in my bucketlist for quite a while. After reading this post i am inspired to visit, i have postponed for way too long, and get to experience the relaxing spring waters.

    Reply
  9. Wangui

    I think I’ve been to Maji Moto Hot Springs…approx. 20 years ago…so vaguely remember the place…
    As always…great post, great detail & great pics! 👍🏾👌🏾

    Reply
  10. Rachael@safari254

    Such a great adventure, your exceptional narration literally took me on a virtual tour to this hitherto off the beaten track destination(s).

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Rachael, thank you so much. This was so difficult to write up, somehow it just kept refusing to come together so it still feels incomplete to me. Seeing how much you inspired me to start writing always I really appreciate your comments. Look forward to reading about what you got up to in Laikipia.

      Reply
  11. Kibe Wangunyu

    Jeremiah is an amazing human being …We discovered the place 3years agoand we visit every year…He is also very very knowlegable on fossils and the history of ths place…The hot spring river is amazing from midnight…you can track the milky way till morning…Did you explore the African Highway

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Kibe I was really hoping to hear from someone who had been there and here you are. I’ll be honest once I saw the hot springs that’s all I wanted to do but next time I’ll be on full exploration mode. You’re right about Jeremiah, such a great guy with so much knowledge. This is one place I’m definitely going back to.

      Reply
  12. Chela

    Wow! This is fantastic. On my bucket list. You are an awesome writer and an adventurous traveler . So much courage to take those routes alone. Thanks for making us discover Kenya.
    You make camping so beautiful.

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi, thank you so much for your comments. Sometimes it’s not easy but I’ll be honest and say readers like you writing in and appreciating the work really makes it worth all the stress. Keep reading and I’ll keep writing!

      Reply
  13. My Travel Stories

    I don’t how many times I have gone through this adventure you had that an amazing trip. On the point of being mad I have been mad on the repeated packages to the same destinations by people in tourism yet we have got so many unexplored destinations all over that can be the new tourism products for sale in the tourism market.

    Great work

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Thank you for your support as always. Yes while it’s easy to get mad each individual needs to take the next step and actually do something to effect a change…no matter how small.

      Reply
  14. Martha

    Well done. Loved this blog. I am now totally hooked on it. You will be pleased to know that I tried to call the camp for the easter weekend and they were fully booked. Your blog has played its part in empowerment. More more more, we want more!!!!

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Martha are you serious? What great news! Although I must thank all those guys who heeded the call to share the article on FB and the like. Amazing what people can do when they come together.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        We went there for the easter weekend, and sure enough there were loads of people who had come. We were four different groups on Friday, to be replaced by another group on saturday and sunday, who had booked it exclusively. You were right about the place. It was amazing. The kids loved loved it.

  15. awesomerichie

    Wassup explorer. So today is the day I come out of the shadows and publicly acknowldge myself as a big fan of your work. You know Kenyans how they are with silent following.
    Now did you hear of Laikipia opening up their destinations to the world..I’m mad I did not know about it and I’m mad for reading this piece and knowing that these places exist. Great piece…I’m off to binge read more. Later, explorer

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Kenyans think showing love is a sign of weakness – that’s why we don’t do it!
      But for real, if there’s anything that keeps me going it’s hearing from a reader especially for the first time. I don’t think a comment here has ever gone unanswered and I’m proud of that. It’s not always easy putting this together but hearing that someone enjoys it adds energy to it’s continued existence.
      Hope you enjoy the rest of the site and thank you for writing in.

      Reply
  16. Ameye Karabu

    Started reading your blog today.. one word.. wow..keep on traveling, keep on writing… I visited Bogoria almost 12 years ago, could be time to plan for another visit.

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi, for me it’s always such a treat when you guys take the time to write in. I’m glad you found the site and I hope you’re able to return to Bogoria. Adventure awaits!

      Reply
  17. Valeria

    Hi thank you for sharing your great advantures! We always look at your posts when followed your suggestions and went camping to Netbon Kudu campsite, the pools are fantastic, the really children enjoyed the place. We then went to Kerio Valley, which we would also reccomend.
    Thank you again.
    Valeria

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Valeria, I had to edit out my name from your comment. I’m glad to hear you went and both adults and kids enjoyed it. Sometimes I don’t know if people will have the same experience I have had so thanks for letting me know. I used to visit Kerio Valley annually but now haven’t been there in a long while.
      Thanks for writing in,
      KC

      Reply
  18. Bourne, of House Otani (@botani7)

    Hi thekenyancamper, I have just chanced on your blog while scouring the internet about Lake Chala all the way from Vietnam. It is pretty exciting to read about our beautiful country from a fellow citizen. I am not such an accomplished traveler but I have been to some off-the-track places in Kenya and feel your mad rant.
    Keep doing this and make a change, one step at a time.
    Happy new subscriber!

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hello from an extremely rainy Nairobi and welcome to my scribbles. I’m glad I can give you a piece of home while you’re on the other end of the world. Thank you for the encouragement – it’s not always easy but as you say – one step at a time.
      KC

      Reply
  19. Pingback: Camping At Lake Bogoria – A Good Aloneness | The Kenyan Camper

  20. moseti254

    Thanks for this Kenyan Camper. You have done well to introduce us to this hidden gem. Certainly visiting before end of April, and please keep writing.

    Reply
  21. Annika

    Hi Kenyan camper,
    I planned to go to lake Bogoria this weekend and now found your article. This place looks really nice, but unfortunately I don’t have a car. Do you know if there is a possibility to go there by public transport? And how much do I have to pay per night in a Banda?

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Annika, your best bet with public transport would be through Loboi NOT the route I used. Shouldn’t be difficult to find a boda boda there to take you across to Maji Moto. However this route goes through the reserve and you might have to pay to transit – might be a good idea to call Jeremiah and ask him. I think a banda was Ksh1500.

      Reply
  22. Mwaura

    Great read, amazing discovery and thank you for sharing gems off the beaten track. One of the best solo drives I’ve done was nairobi-eldoret-iten-kabarnet-marigat-lake baringo-lake bogoria-nairobi, 4 days of pure bliss. Why are people so flabbergasted when you show up solo dolo? had a similar encounter with my guide Cliff at Lake Baringo. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Mwaura, I used to do that route at least once a year for about 5 years – I couldn’t get enough of it. Hopefully i can get some time soon and do it again for old times sake – there must be so much i never explored. Thank so much for reading the article, much appreciated

      Reply
  23. Ben the Maasai

    Great article Kenyan Camper, am looking for hotsprings and your blog came up. It reminds me of Kapishya Hot Springs in a trip I did from SA to Kenya.
    Thank you Jeremiah will receiving my call in the morning. Keep the good job

    Reply
  24. seekingdiscovery

    Hi Kenyan Camper, these are awesome pictures! Thanks for discovering(rediscovering?) these locations! The hot springs look so glorious and i would love to visit them sometime in Novermber. Would I have to get a car to drive to the springs? I’ll be traveling with a fellow woman so I have safety concers, would that be an issue in your opinion? Also, is November a good idea or would it be too cold to camp out there? Once again, thanks for these they are a gem!

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi, yes I do think it’s a rediscovery more than anything else. Many of these places are known to a few just than no one’s ever written about them in a way that can help us plan our own trips!
      I think a car would be your best bet, a small car could get to the springs through the main Bogoria Reserve gate. You MIGHT be able to get public transport to Liboi and then take a boda boda to the springs but to honest I didn’t look into that. The best person to ask about all this would be Jeremiah. As for the weather cold is not an issue in this area, it’s almost always hot.
      I receive many questions from female travellers on the issue of security, while each case/area is different, by and large I think you will find most of the time people are extremely friendly and welcoming. Getting over our own fears is the hard part.
      KC

      Reply

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