By RUPI MANGAT
Crimson ribbons fly across a lustrous lake for its entire length. It’s the pink flamingos – more precisely, the Lesser flamingos of Bogoria, a caustic cauldron just north of the Equator in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.
The first we know of Bogoria is from Bishop Hannington while en route to Uganda. He camped along the shoreline on September 18, 1885.
Towards the end of 1887, Count Teleki and Colonel Von Hohnel camped at Bogoria while looking for the mysterious lake further north, the one we call Lake Turkana. They had run short of grain and to stock up, they sent their lead guide to Kikuyuland to purchase surplus grain.
The guide, Dualla was away for a month. Teleki shot wild game every day – buffaloes, rhinos, zebras, hartebeest, ostrich. His companion Hohnel wrote ‘I counted eight separate herds of buffaloes, each containing many hundred, rhinoceroses, elands, waterbucks… that I forgot all about my observations and gave myself up entirely to the delight of watching all these creatures in their life in the open.’ Surprisingly, they never mention the flamingos.
In the 1950s, the late Leslie Brown, a provincial administrative officer and a naturalist of repute, became totally enamoured with the crimson birds and became the first biologist to study the Lesser flamingos objectively, reporting of the spectacle on Bogoria.
In the Mystery of the Flamingos, he wrote, “Personally I hope that no one will fully ever rationalise flamingos and that they will remain the supremely beautiful, elusive, opportunistic and unpredictable being I think they are. Anyone who tries over a long period of time to rationalise what they do is asking for trouble.”
An African rock python at Baringo Snake Park with Limo the snake handler. PHOTO | RUPI MANGAT
Today, the saline lake is listed as a Ramsar site, making it a wetland of international importance and an Important Bird Area. Both this and Lake Baringo are on the rise again after the recent rains and the roads shifted to higher ground – it’s quite amusing to see the tarmac lead straight into the water at many points.
By the time we reach the famed hot springs of Bogoria, we can only see them as tiny bubbling spots but still steaming hot with school kids carefully boiling their eggs in them.
The only big mammals we see now are a few baboons and a herd of impalas, different from the accounts of the early explorers of the lake surrounded by rhinos and buffaloes.
But we do see a pair of monitor lizards by a black headed heron hunting for insects.
Leaving the lake to drive to Baringo, the freshwater cousin of the caustic Bogoria, we stop at the copper-coloured cliff wall in search of the Black eagle also called the Verreaux’s eagle. They have nested on the cliffs for generations but we see none.
Turning the corner for Baringo, we look at the Carpet viper at the Snake Park, a really cute little snake but highly venomous. It’s coiled and rubs its body together to make a “sizzling” warning sound. We move on to the non-venomous friendlier sand boa and then our guide brings out the python. In one little corner of the world, there are so many different things to see.
First Published by the Nation Media