Lake Naivasha lies relaxed on the breasts of the Great Rift Valley, calm, cold and blue. Beyond it stretches the magnificent belly of the valley dotted with more lakes and features. It is one of the biggest fresh water lakes in Kenya, supporting a wide ecosystem of beautiful flora and fauna.
Within one hour of driving west of Nairobi, you get a splendid view of the big lake below, from the eastern escarpment of the Rift Valley. A short distance from the lake stands an imposing volcanic mountain, with a crater at the top, called Mt. Longonot.
Naivasha town, which is just a few kilometres from the lake, is the nucleus of several tourist attractions in the area. The small, dusty, sun baked cosmopolitan town is relatively quiet and popular with tourists compared to the hustle and bustle of the congested capital Nairobi. It is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway or retreat, given its proximity to the city.
Some of the nearby attractions include the lake and its islands, Mt. Longonot National park, Hell’s Gate National park, Aberdares National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Lake Elementaita, Menengai crater, Hyrax Hill prehistoric site. There are also good hotels, resorts and camping sites around. A sizable population of Europeans lives here.
This is one of the places that I could settle permanently in future because I love it. I lived and worked in the town for a couple of years and the only problem I encountered was the dusty cold winds in the evenings (well, apart from this conman). Otherwise, the weather is perfect and the infrastructure is good. The state is currently building a standard gauge railway to the town and a dry port and so it has potential of growth.
Tabasamu and I recently went on a tour of the lake and town. We accessed the lake from a ‘public beach’ entrance near Karagita village and leisurely strolled the short distance lined with acacia trees from the road to the lake. The water level had subsided substantially due to the prevailing drought in the country.
But men were at work nonetheless; photographers, boat operators, fishermen, fishmongers, bodaboda riders and traders, among others. We had travelled all the way from Nairobi just to take a boat ride on Lake Naivasha and so we were only interested with the boat operators. One of them approached us and after bargaining a little, we struck a deal, Ksh 1500 for a one hour ride for two. Quite reasonable, very romantic and more interesting compared to a 1 hour Uber ride in a Nairobi traffic jam.
We were joined by a photographer and together with the operator, set off for a trip across the expansive lake on a petrol engine boat. We put on the life jackets but took them off almost immediately. The sun was hot and the jackets made it even hotter and uncomfortable. Besides, the crew did not put on jackets and we are a carefree couple. The lake was calm and shallow after all.
The first thing you notice are the many huge leafless trees sticking out of the water near the shore, like skeletons of an ancient forest. They look like ghosts of the lake and act as the gates to the lake. There are so many species of birds, big and small, white and black, perched on the branches of the dead trees. They fly away and circle around as we speed past them into the open area beyond the trees.
The views were spectacular as the birds flew around above the water surface. Some of them were half swimming while others were just walking on water. We circled around Crescent Island, which is a game sanctuary and home to a variety of wildlife. You can pay to visit the island for bird watching, hiking, horse riding, cycling and camping but we opted not to. We saw gazelles, zebras, hippos, wildebeests, waterbucks and more birds such as the African fish eagles on the island.
The boat operator was kind enough. He played loud music and entertained us as he showed us around. The photographer took the opportunity to take a couple of photos, which he printed for us at the shore. It was a memorable tour of the lake that lies on the breasts of the rift valley.