5 Counties – 4 Troopers – 3 Days – 2 Lakes – 1 Life Time Experience
For the longest time I have been wanting to paraglide above the magnificent Kerio Valley so when Pav, my friend flaunted the idea to do a road trip to Iten, there was no thinking about it. The 3 day weekend included Lake Bogoria, Lake Baringo, paragliding in Iten and some of the most stunning views I have experienced in Kenya.
Nairobi Bogoria – Baringo – Iten / Kabarnet Scenic Road – Iten – Eldoret – Eldma-Ravine – Nairobi
With our main objective being Iten for our paragliding session we had different options to get there but Pav our master mind was the perfect planner who opted for the most scenic route versus the easiest or fastest route. We started off at 0900hrs from Nairobi with our packed breakfasts and much excitement for what lay ahead of us. We drove North via Lake Elementaita and Lake Nakuru and made it to Lake Bogoria by 1230hrs. Too hungry to start the exploration we opted to go for some “Nyama Choma” – Kenyan BBQ meat before starting our adventures. The meat took almost 2 hours stealing into our adventure time. We drove to the hot springs and spent some time enjoying the geysers and then headed to Baringo. As it was getting late and we had no fixed plans we decided to spend the night in Baringo and continue the following day. Saturday morning we took one of the most scenic drives along Kabarnet / Kerio Valley and made it to Iten by 1430hrs. On Sunday morning we left Iten at 1130hrs and took a different but all the same scenic route through Eldoret and Eldma-Ravine before connecting back to Nairobi – Nakuru Highway.
This chosen route may have got us to spend more time on the road but was 10000% worth all the great views and fresh air.
Bogoria/ Baringo/ Iten
The 1st destination Lake Bogoria National Reserve – the entry fees are US$ 3 (Kes 300) for citizens, US$ 10 (Kes 1,000) for residents and US$ 50 (Kes 5,000) for non residents. Though categorized as National Reserve with game viewing we did not see anything besides numerous dik-diks and lovely flamingos. Flamingos are migratory birds that have been MIA for a couple of years. Many years ago Lake Nakuru used to be the pink lake covered with millions of flamingos and in the last 7 years or so there has been nothing due to the rise of the water and the lower levels of salinity. That being said getting to see the flamingos was a great highlight. The main attraction here is visiting the hot springs and geysers. The roads at the Reserve are in really bad conditioned with all the newly made roads covered in water and diversions provided. There is not much accommodation here and would therefore recommend for people wanting to spend the night to combine with Lake Baringo.
The second destination was Lake Baringo National Park with the fresh water lake being home to hippos, crocodiles and several types of fishes. It is a haven for bird watchers where about 470 species of birds have been spotted. Main activities include my fave which is chilling at the restaurant , chatting and watching the extremely calm lake, afterwards jump on one of the boats by passing Margret the resident crocodile for about an hour-long boat ride.
The final destination was Iten home of Kenya athletic champions. This little town gained its fame for producing world champion runners. There is a training centre where people around the world come to train at high altitude with the best of the best. The other thing to do here is hang out at Kerio Valley and take in the views and when in season Paragliding should be added to the to-do list.
Hot Springs /Boat Ride/ Paragliding
Whilst Lake Bogoria the most common thing is to buy eggs at the entry point and go boil them at Hot Springs. There was no one at hand to offer us the eggs at the gate and hence opted to drive directly to the hot springs. It is about 19 kilometers from entrance. It is rather underwhelming for people who visited the site 5 ++ years ago. The hot springs have dwindled in numbers and the quantity of gushing water from the geysers decreased significantly. Nonetheless it was nice to see such a natural process of the earth heating up water from below and gushing it out. The smell of the sulfur in the area is of high levels and it is advisable to not spend too much time on the site. Cost – Free (included in entry fees to Reserve)
The boat ride at Lake Baringo had the best start where you need to bypass Margret the resident crocodile to get to the boat. The boat ride just like the ones in lake Naivasha have it own highlights, we did pass by to see a school of hippos but we didn’t get as close as you do in Naivasha, we then saw the aftermath of the recurring floods in the area that wiped out most of the older hotels like Lake Baringo Club. We made a brief stop to chill with the sunbathing crocodiles before going to purchase some fish from the local fisherman on his traditional balsa wood boat. The types of fishes at Lake Baringo are Nile Tilapia, Marbled lungfish, African sharptooth catfish, East African ray-finned fish and the Redeye labeo. We bought some baby tilapia which was later used by the guide to lure the Eagle Owl to come and collect his lunch, spreading his wings wide and taking the fish effortlessly from the water which makes a perfect Kodak moment. The rest of the ride was clam with everyone is their own thoughts as the calmness of the lakes gets to you. Cost – Kes US$ 30 (Kes 3,000) for the boat that can take 7 people.
The final experience and the main highlight of the trip was soaring like a bird on a tandem paraglide from a cliff at Kerio View hotel and flying above the Kerio Valley for some aerial scenic sight-seeing. We opted to do our flight in the late afternoon so as to combine it with the sunset. We were 5 of us and had 2 pilots to take us for the flight. Gwenolé was 1st to go and as he run of the cliff the rest of us started to question if this was what we really wanted to do. I did not have enough time to ponder as I was right behind him.
My take off was not as graceful as the wind initially blew us further mainland than off the cliff but in less than 2 minutes this was corrected and off we soared up into the skies. Unlike bungee jumping or sky diving this is very calm, you are pretty much on a cosy seat and someone is doing all the work; No free fall, no gravity fall, just soaring like a bird. The best part is that if you don’t fear heights you can have your camera at the top for some great aerial shots and selfies. Thomas my pilot was great, we were chatting the entire time and told me stories of how he got to being hooked to paragliding and on reaching our highest level of 3,265mtrs (10,711.94ft) we struck a selfie. The normal time for a flight is 30 minutes but I ended up doing about 45 minutes as the wind once again could not get us low enough to land on the top of the cliff, after several attempts we finally landed and was able to have my perfect sunset landing. As much as there is no particular jump, fall etc the thrill of being that high up looking at buildings, people and the ground as tiny parts of the universe that make up earth definitely rises your adrenaline and by the time you land you body is still in a frenzy – in a good way.
The season for paragliding in Kerio valley, Kenya lies between mid December and mid February, my guess is this due to the winds. Kerio View Hotel hosts paragliders yearly and whilst they are there you can do the paraglide. Cost – Kes US$ 90 (Kes 9,000) per person
Roberts Camp/ Kerio View Hotel/ Elgon Valley
Rather than the usual plan of pre-booking our accommodation we opted to wing as our schedule was also very flexible. After enjoying Lake Bogoria we found a happy lad who was all so happy to make calls to Lake Baringo hotels and arrange our accommodation. He informed us that he had booked us at a hotel on the island 10 minutes away from mainland and at a lovely price of US$ 40 per room on BB. Excited for such a great deal we agreed to give him a ride to Baringo as we were heading to the same place. Upon arrival in Baringo the hotel we had supposedly being booked for was mainland with no access to the Lake, crappy and they also hiked up the price upon arrival.
We decided to leave and look for a better place within our budget to stay. I decided to call Roberts Camp and let them know we would go there, the ‘helpful” guy from Lake Bogoria who claimed to know Lake Baringo ended up directing us to all the wrong directions that we finally had to get rid of him. Sigh!!!!! We made it to Roberts Camp which is right by the lake and knew it was the place to be. We took the 3 bedroom cottage that goes for US$ 120 (Kes 12,000) a night on self catering and had dinner at Thirsty Goat restaurant on site. Upon waking up our decision was confirmed by a stunning sunrise at 0630hrs and a crocodile that almost killed me in my quest of the perfect picture. I later learned that she was a resident crocodile and rather docile if undisturbed.
We later moved to Iten and drove directly to Keri View Hotel which is where we really wanted to stay for its amazing vies of the Kerio Valley dotted with colorful paragliders. The hotel’s restaurant has glass windows allowing for you to enjoy your meals shaded from the strong winds whilst still enjoying the views. They do have different areas for enjoy and absorb the views and having drinks as you chill. As it is paragliding season they were sold out but they recommended Elgon Valley a basic hotel 800mtrs away. As we didn’t want to miss out on the views and great atmosphere at Kerio View Hotel we spend the evening chatting and reliving our joys of paragliding till midnight where we went and jumped into our beds at Elgon Valley. The rates here are about US$ 50 (Kes 5,000) per person on Bed & Breakfast.
Elgon Valley was a very basic hotel with comfortable beds that were soft enough, warm and they had hot water. They also serve breakfast with toast, eggs, sausage, cereal and fruit. The cost per person is US$ 25 (Kes 2,500) on Bed and Breakfast making it a good choice for saving some monies.
This road trip has definitely set my bar for weekend trips at a very high level which will be a challenge to beat. I would however recommend it to anyone looking for a road trip packed with great experiences and some of Kenya’s best views.
Till Next Time,