Dangerous, beautiful lake astride Kenya-Tanzania border

Friday April 22 2016

Lake Jipe lies in the south of Kenya and north of Tanzania, straddling the two countries.

Reeds made a hedge around Lake Jipe. I was here to take a picture of smoke on the other side of the lake. The point where smoke billowed from was clearer from this point. As I focused on the smoke, a rickety boat came into view. In it were two girls and a yellow jerrican.

The girls were rowing back towards the dry land where I stood. A few metres away stood a village with makuti-thatched huts.

Lake Jipe lies in the south of Kenya and north of Tanzania, straddling the two countries.

“The border passes through the lake,” Danieli Moses, a fisherman, tells me.

I asked him if I could ride in one of the boats on the shores. Danieli and his friend Godfrey Ndero were more than willing to take me across.

We made our way through the reeds, and after 20 metres we got to the open water. The lake has a species of a tilapia fish only found here, the Oreochremis Jipe.


Lake Jipe is home to hippos and crocodiles, so swimming is strictly prohibited. It is fed by rivers Lumi and Muvulani from Mt Kilimanjaro, and has an outlet through River Ruvu.

A few metres away, a black head emerged and loudly blew air out of its nostrils; a few seconds later more hippos popped out.

“The hippos won’t hit us,” Danieli said, sensing my fear that they would overturn our rickety boat.

We arrived at the Lake Jipe Safari Camp, where the smoke was coming from. The makuti roofing blends with the soil and the savannah in which it is built. It is the only privately owned camp on this side of the Tsavo West National Park.

The camp uses solar energy to run all its operations. It has 10 cottages with single, double or triple beds, ideal for a family. Visitors can take a drive to Mlima Simba, where lions like basking in the sun.

Less than a kilometre away is the KWS Jipe base. I went for a ride on the lake on a motorboat owned by the Kenya Wildlife Service, to visit a hippo family. The total number of hippos in the lake is estimated at 30,000.

“We have over 30 hippos at this point,” said our captain, Mbaruku.

A lovely sight at dusk, but one cannot forget the danger such a massive animal can cause.