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.
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.
They also draw me a very helpful map and I’m soon on the way hemmed in by extensive sisal estates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
My first look at it is actually quite underwhelming.
But a few meters downstream the magic begins to happen. In a small canyon the water creates clear pools…
…squeezed even further creating small waterfalls and even deeper pools.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo below taken from the same spot in 2014. I think my photography has improved, no?
Looks like the flamingos are around, what a bonus!
We’re the only people around and we’re enjoying the company of 1000’s of flamingos, where else but Kenya?
Jeremiah points out some cool geological process who’s details I’ve totally forgotten. Interesting at the time though.
Lakini the landscape here is so dramatic…
…even with the water geysers now all underwater definitely still worth a visit.
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.
My lucky animal spotting streak from Marsabit continues with this lovely specimen of a Kudu.
Posing naturally is not one of Jeremiah’s strengths.
We leave the reserve and head back to the campsite, I have more swimming to get done before I head out the next day.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Shocking that I can see Lake Bogoria’s big sister Lake Baringo from here with one of her islands clearly visible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From here it’s a quick 10km into Nyahururu through some beautiful farmland.
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.
I really enjoy this road, it’s the home stretch and the road is well-graded enough to put the pedal to the metal.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Thompson’s Falls Lodge: Ksh8600pp http://www.thomsonsfallslodge.co.ke/
Further Reading: https://thetreasureblog.wordpress.com/tag/lake-bogoria/
- 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.
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.