Rising water level forces out businesses on Lake Baringo

Some of the buildings submerged at Roberts Camp after Lake Baringo swelled on July 21, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Although it is barely 11 am, several tour guides and boat riders are seated under a tree on a raised ground outside Kampi Samaki Health Centre, which is already submerged in water. 

The guides and riders are discussing on survival tactics following dwindling visitors and swollen lake that has resulted in huge losses.

On an ordinary day, a boat owner would pocket Sh6,000 and a boat rider and tour guide would pocket Sh1,000. Compounded with pandemic and the swelling lake, over 30 boat riders and 30 boat owners can now barely make anything in a day.

“We have pulled out our boats because there is no business at all. The lake is flooded and has affected businesses leading to dwindling number of visitors whom we depended. We currently survive on less than Sh100 a day,” Fox Oduor, a boat rider said.

Lined up within the small town by the shores of the magical lake that hosts several islands, are hotels that have incurred huge losses but are struggling to remain afloat while putting in mitigation measures.

At Soi Safari Lodge in Lake Baringo, it is all a hub of activities to mitigate the floods that has seen the hotel loose Sh30 million in revenues.

“The swelling lake has seen some of our infrastructures submerged. Initially, we had a 144-bed capacity but currently, we have 60-beds. We are also working on mitigating the effects [we] are redoing some infrastructure like building a new gate and putting up gabions to reduce the impact of waves,” said Peter Chebii, the manager of the hotel.

 So far, the hotel has used Sh3.5 million in building gabions and projects to use over Sh10 million in putting up more gabions and redoing some infrastructure.

“Mitigating the impacts is very expensive and the county department should also help these hotels that have been affected. A gabion costs Sh 5,000 and we have to put up 700 of them to reduce the impact of waves,” Mr Chebii said.

The hotel is however taking advantage of backup facilities they had put up like the conferencing halls and the extra rooms.

“The good thing is that we always had a backup. The remaining rooms are secure and far from floods and we also have an extra conference and dining hall after the other two submerged. We are racing against time so that we can open up the place for business since we have put in place all measures to curb against the spread of the pandemic,” he added.

 The surging waters of Lake Baringo has also affected Tumbili Cliff Lodge and island on the shores of the lake but the hotel is also using tactical means to mitigate.

“The hotel is not affected but access road has flooded. We are putting up a bridge to help visitors cross over,” Mr Titus Chepkangor, a staffer in the hotel said.

And while Robert’s Camp and Lake Baringo Country Club has totally been submerged and hotels have since been closed; Lake Baringo warden Jackson Komen said the hotels are scouting for an alternative place to move in to.

 Other hotels including Island Camp and Samatian Island have also been affected by the floods. However, the hotels can still accommodate some guests in some rooms on the higher ground.

The floods have also reduced the size of Longcharo Island where the seven endangered Rothschild giraffes were marooned since 2013. The giraffes were trapped in the island following the swelling of the lake.

According to the warden, the island was initially 100 acres but has since reduced to only 10 acres where the seven giraffes roam.

“Plans are underway to urgently translocate the giraffes because the lake is increasing by the day,” Komen said.

According to Joshua Chepsergon, the swelling of the lake caused Kampi Samaki town that depended entirely on tourism losses amounting to billions. The town supported hotels, conference facilities, health centres, churches, a department of fisheries and a childcare centre.

 “We have only experienced heavy rains in the last three days but unfortunately, the lake has been swelling a lot. In Kampi Samaki alone, the losses are worth billions due to floods coupled up with effects of coronavirus pandemic,” Mr Joshua Chepsergon, the chairperson of the town said.

Esther Keitany, a staffer at AIC Childcare centre that provides therapies and education for physically disabled children said already, two dormitories, a workshop where children undergo therapies and dining hall have since submerged.

“The centre depended on well-wishers as most of the children here are from disadvantaged backgrounds from banditry-prone areas. The well-wishers are however undergoing tough times during this period and coupled up with submerged facilities, it will make it hard for children and those who were dependent on therapy sessions at the centre,” she said.

Some of the buildings submerged at Soi Safari Lodge after Lake Baringo swelled on July 21, 2020.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Other facilities that have since submerged include Ng’enyin community conservancy, a local initiative targeted at conserving birds. Others include Lake Baringo secondary school and Loruk primary and Loruk Day secondary school.

“We are also starring at the situation where Loruk road that connects Marigat and Chemolingot will be disconnected by the floods. The road is a key security surveillance road in the region but it is almost submerged,” Mr Willy Limo a curator said.

The disconnection of Loruk-Marigat road, he said poses a security challenge in the volatile zones.

The floods, Mr Limo said, has caused numerous job losses as hotels have incurred losses and others cannot keep up with payrolls.