Enterprise

How boat owner blends business with adventure

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Fox Oduor, a tour guide at Lake Baringo in Baringo County. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

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Summary

  • Fox Oduor grew up on the shores of Lake Baringo in Kampi ya Samaki, Baringo County.
  • At a glance, Mr Oduor looks like an ordinary rastaman with locks on the shores of Lake Baringo.
  • He owns a boat and offers boat excursions, nature trails as well as tour guide services to visitors from around the globe who annually flock to experience this Rift Valley's freshwater body.

Fox Oduor grew up on the shores of Lake Baringo in Kampi ya Samaki, Baringo County. Like the back of his hands, he knows its ins and outs.

For over 35 years now, his life has revolved around the lake's economic activities such as boat excursions, hospitality as well as fishing industries.

At a glance, Mr Oduor looks like an ordinary rastaman with locks on the shores of Lake Baringo.

But do not let his dreadlocks deceive you as he is one of the boat owners on the lake.

He owns a boat and offers boat excursions, nature trails as well as tour guide services to visitors from around the globe who annually flock to experience this Rift Valley's freshwater body.

“I just love nature thus I decided to venture into boat riding business, which puts me up close and personal with the wildlife,” Mr Oduor tells Enterprise, adding that he had been riding boats for other business persons for about 15-years.

However, Mr Oduor's interaction with boats and the lake started way before.

Growing up in close proximity to the lake, he would often interact with boat owners who taught him how to ride.

Having also studied his primary education in one of the primary schools located on the lake's seven islands, he envisioned being a boat rider one day.

After completing high school studies, he began his hustle on the lake as a boat operator and tour guide for both local and international visitors.

"I was born here and I schooled at Kokwo Primary School, which is located in the middle of the lake" Mr Oduor who has been featured in leading international media houses such as DW, CGTN, among others, says.

It is noon when Enterprise arrives at the shores of the lake with countless boat riders waiting for customers on the shores.

Along the shoreline, two islands are Ol Kokwe and Island camp, juts from the background, creating a silhouette.

Mr Oduor, who can speak various international languages such as German Italian, Portuguese among others says he bought the boat for Sh500,000.

"However, I have not finished paying the loan."

The boat can carry a maximum capacity of eight passengers.

“Charges depend on the customers. Minimum cost of the trip is Sh1,500 while price per hour goes for Sh3,000,” he says.

He has employed about three people including a driver, a washer as well a mechanic. His customers are mostly Europeans and domestic tourists.

“I am known by many people within and without the country who have been supporting my businesses for the last about 20-years,” he says.

With other boat riders, they have formed a self-help group that included boat riders, and tour service providers, among others.

"But we are now upgrading to a community-based organization (CBO) since what we are doing involves all the community," he says.

The group is composed of 60 individuals trained on tour guide, bird watching as well as flora and fauna.

"They also speak all languages such as French, German, Hebrew, Italian, among others," Mr Oduor adds.

To maintain his business effectively, he has built his own house on the shore to allow easy access.

He says his business has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic as the number of customers has fallen significantly. He fears his boat will be repossessed if he fails to repay the loan he took three months ago.

The rising water level at the Lake he says has affected his businesses too after a number of resorts and hotels, which they usually depend on for clients, were submerged.

In 2020, water levels at L. Baringo increased from 236 square kilometres in 2015 to about 278 square kilometers, posing a threat to adjacent structures, including homesteads and institutions.

Some of the renowned resorts that were submerged were Soi Safari Lodge, Roberts Camp, Lake Breeze Hotel and Block Hotel.

Whereas Soi was partially submerged and is now reopening its business, the other three are yet to open, owing to damages to the facilities.

His plan is to invest in a jet ski, which is unique.

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