Our next adventure took us to Lake Naivasha. This great lake is a freshwater lake in the town of Naivasha in Nakuru county, around 95km north west of Nairobi. It is part of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. The lake has a surface area of approximately 139 square km and it is almost 13 km across and is an average of only 6 metres in depth, although the deepest areas can be found around Crescent Island where the depth can reach around 18 metres. The lake is surrounded by swamps and Yellow Fever Trees and the surrounding land is incredibly fertile.
We loaded Blue Thunder with our camping gear and embarked upon the journey which took us through the Aberdare mountain range. The Aberdare National Park is a protected area within the Aberdare mountain range and the scenery was stunningly beautiful. Lake Naivasha is fed by the Malewa river, the source of which is the Aberdares, along with Gilgil river. Apparently, Lake Naivasha can be seen from the tallest peak within the Aberdares. The drive to Naivasha was long and tiring but made better by the stunning scenery although after having snaked our way through the mountains, we drove directly into some adverse weather which did not make for the best driving conditions!
After a 5 hour drive, we arrived at our camp site, Camp Carnellys’ situated on the banks of Lake Naivasha. We were getting a taste for ‘wild camping’ so we decided against staying in a Banda (or cottage) instead opting to be closer to nature by camping in our shiny new tent, now known as the Thunderdome. Darkness was falling quickly so we hastily erected the Thunderdome just in time to settle in for the night as the monumental rain drops fell heavily.
Lake Naivasha is home to over 400 bird species as well as a sizeable population of hippo’s but it was the bird population that awoke us, as the sun was rising over the lake. The dawn chorus that awoke us from our slumber was created by the expressive Hadada Ibis whose noisy squawking was echoed by Sacred Ibis amongst others. The views that greeted us as we emerged from our tent was nothing short of spectacular. The lake glistened before us, its glassy surface stretching out for miles and we were surrounded by many different types of birds such as the Lilac Breasted Roller, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, African Fish Eagle, Woodpeckers, Cormorants, Egrets as well as the Ibis.
As Mr Nomad made fire, Vervet monkeys slowly and curiously made their way over and joined us for breakfast! The rain had abated and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast over an open fire and we breathed in the beauty of the vast lake and all it had to offer.
The name of Lake Naivasha is derived from the Maasai name of Nai’ posha which means ‘rough water’ and as we discovered, this is because sudden storms can arise on the lake. Whilst we had a leisurely morning basking in the sun, the afternoon brought those stormy conditions with fearsome thunder and lightening and ferocious rain. Such conditions tested the Thunderdome to the maximum but we stayed dry and cosy, huddled up inside watching the mighty lake remind us of the raw power of mother nature.
The following morning was crisp and fresh, and meant that the weather had cleared up enough for us to take a boat ride across the lake to visit Crescent Island. This island is located in the lake itself and is adjacent to another island called Lotus Island and they form the rim of an extinct volcano protruding out of the lake in the shadow of Mount Longonot (also an extinct volcano) and close to Hell’s Gate National Park. Mount Longonot and Hell’s Gate are places we wished to visit but due to the adverse weather, we were unable to get to both locations which were only a stone’s throw from the lake. Hell’s Gate is famed for its geothermal activity including huge gorges, towering cliffs, volcanoes and the dramatic plumes of geothermal steam. No doubt this will form the basis of another adventure in the future!
Crescent Island was stunning. The boat ride there was relaxing and gentle and we disembarked the boat to be greeted by giraffe almost as soon as we had set foot on the island. The island is renowned for its abundance of bird life and animal species and we were amazed that such a small compact place offered so much!
After the wonderful greeting by the giraffe, we strolled alone around the island to witness zebra, impala, gazelle, wildebeest, waterbuck, hundreds of enormous pelicans and a massive Marabou Stork. There were also hyena and rock pythons inhabiting the island but we did not see these creatures, for which I was thankful.
A walk to the top of the hill on the island revealed a 360 degree view across the lake, with views of Mount Longonot and Hell’s Gate to the Mau Escarpment to Eburu and onto the Aberdare’s. It was breath taking!
Whilst we had no desire to leave the little island, we boarded the boat for our journey back across the lake and this was to be via spots where hippo’s could be seen. Our guide skilfully navigated the boat around the lake and not only were we able to take in the breath taking views, but we got incredibly close to many of the intimidating hippo’s that occupy the lake, and for which the lake is famous for.
The guide informed us that hippo’s do not swim very well owing to their stumpy legs and their inordinately huge bodies but actually, they run exceedingly well and this was how they moved through the water in the shallow lake. We were concerned to note that there were many people fishing in the lake and the hippos were not any further than around 10 metres from them! Fishing in the lake is a source of employment and income for the local population and therefore, seeing the proximity of the hippo to the fishermen, it is perhaps unsurprising that many fishermen are killed by hippo every year. It is true to say that more people are killed by hippo’s than lions, a fact which was slightly terrifying given how close we were to them.
Hippo are known for being incredibly aggressive and as our boat was tootling around, one could feel the nervousness of our guide when the said hippo appeared to be eyeing us up!
On our ride back, the guide suggested we purchase some fish from the local fishermen to attempt to attract the African Fish Eagle.
This idea was utterly delightful to us so we duly bought some Tilapia fish and the boat was taken around the waters edge where we could see the African Fish Eagle resting in the trees.
To our astonishment, the fish were thrown into the water and upon the guide’s whistle to attract attention, the African Fish Eagle duly obliged us, soaring into the sky and swooping over to gather up the fish from the water right in front of us.
The birds were truly magnificent and we were rendered speechless at such a graceful display.
We were also spellbound by the enormous Great White Pelican who came to join the party and cleared up any fish left behind by the eagles. This boat trip had been nothing short of spectacular and had showed us the best that Lake Naivasha could offer, including the exciting diversion to Crescent Island.
We made it back to the Thunderdome just in time to avoid a drenching in another thunderous storm but we agreed that whilst the weather had hampered any efforts to reach Mount Longonot, or visit Hell’s Gate National Park, we had thoroughly enjoyed Lake Naivasha. It was incredibly special to see so many different species of birds, the many cheeky monkeys and the colossal hippo’s all on our door step, literally just outside the entrance to our tent. Another amazing adventure!