Published: 18 May 2019

I have little fingers running through my hair sitting by Lake Ol Bolossat in central Kenya. First it’s the girls returning from school who are surprised to see me standing in the field near their village. A smile and a ‘hi’ gets them closer. After a few minutes of checking me out, they open up with questions like ‘what is your name?’, ‘where are you from?’ They find it strange when l  reply l’m Kenyan. “But you are not black,” says one.

Korongo girls' fotball team at Lake Ol Bolossat Copyright Rupi Mangat Feb 2019 (800x450)
Korongo girls’ fotball team at Lake Ol Bolossat Copyright Rupi Mangat

“Yes that’s true but not only are black people Kenyan,” l reply.

A little thinking goes on and then one asks, “Can l touch your hair?”

So l sit down on the grass and first it’s one hand with little fingers and then a whole load more hands. The girls exclaim and the boys are amused. They giggle and talk about my hair.

So now it’s my turn to ask them where they are from.

“That kijiji,” they chorus.

“And your parents?”

“From Turkana.”

I ask them if they go to Turkana during the holidays.

“Never,” they reply.

Now l’m surprised. Their grandparents arrived on the shores of the only lake in central Kenya around the 1960s to herd the cattle belonging to a local politician, l’m told. The Turkana herdsmen settled in and years later their grandchildren know this little bit of land as their home.

Korongo boys' fotball team at Lake Ol Bolossat Copyright Rupi Mangat Feb 2019 (800x450)
Korongo boys’ fotball team at Lake Ol Bolossat Copyright Rupi Mangat

In the late afternoon the lake  is deep blue and the grass gold after months of no rain and makes for a beautiful setting. Hippos snort getting ready to come out for the night.


As the only lake in central Kenya, Ol Bolosat feeds  the Ewaso Nyiro River which flows into the drylands of  Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Garissa on which wildlife, people and livestock depend. Eventually the river which flows through  Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserve vanishes into the Lorian swamp in Wajir, only to re-emerge in Somalia where it joins the Jubba River.

kitale nature conservancy grey crowned crane. copyright maya mangat dec 2018 (800x450)
Grey Crowned Crane. Copyright Maya Mangat

Despite its small size (43.3km2) the freshwater lake is  rich  in birdlife and lies within the central tourism circuit, and supplies Nyahururu town with water.

The kids point out features around us like the Aberdare mountains. As the day cools in the late afternoon a group of high school boys in smart blue shirts, shorts and football shoes hurry to the football pitch to practise one of the world’s best loved sports.

It’s really fun watching them.

DSC06914 (800x600)
Lake Ol Bolosat on the foothils of the Aberdares copyright Rupi Mangat

“We also play football,” states Evalyne Englon. She’s in Class eight at Kianduba Primary School and wants to be a doctor so she can treat sick people. To prove that the girls also play football, she and her friends take over the pitch..

The girls are tough sending the ball across the pitch and raising dust as they chase after it. As they play, the coach turns up happy. The girls’ football team has won Ksh 20,000 at the recently held county games in Nyandarua beating all the other teams.

When l ask what their football club is called the girls reply, “Korongo”. Korongo is the Kiswahili name for the beautiful Grey crowned cranes that flock in their hundreds between November and April to start their courtship dances and lay their eggs deep in the swamp.

Peter Lotim Esinyom the tall Turkana wanders to our side as the boys return to continue practice. He’s the coach and also a member of Cranes Conservation Volunteers. Until 2015, he and his Turkana mates actively poached the cranes eggs and hunted them for the pot.

“It wasn’t because we wanted to kill them for fun,” he explains in perfect English. “It was because of poverty, ignorance and hunger.”

When George Ndung’u the founder of CCV arrived at the village and began explaining to them about the bird and how endangered it was and why it might be a good idea to not hunt them, the poachers turned into protectors.

They also want a different life for their children.

“We want education for our children,” states Esinyom.

And the kids are getting education from scholarships by CCV who are supported by international partners like NABU from Germany and David  Fox who grew up in Kenya and returns often.

As we take a walk by the shores of the lake, hippos honk readying to come out for the nightly feast. Little Daniel Longis looking at the beautiful lake says, “We hope many tourists will come to see the animals.”

It could happen.

In Rwanda there’s a new village – Umusambi near Kilgali – for Grey crowned cranes with a walkway through the swamp and an education centre.

Fact File

Contact George Muigai for great off the beaten track around Nyahururu:

Spend a few days in Nyahururu from where you can visit the lake, Thomson’s Falls on the equator and explore beyond to Laikipia for the big game. The Turkana hope to have a campsite and invite people to visit their homes for cultural exchange.

Lake Ol Bolossat is only 180 kms north of Nair