Lake Naivasha’s often overlooked smaller sister, Lake Oloiden, is a volcanic crater lake whose name means ‘salty’ in the Maa language. One of the most intriguing things about this lake is that given its salinity, it used to harbour an impressive flock of flamingos, but today they have since been replaced by freshwater birds such as pelicans and the African fish eagle. This is because Oloiden has since turned into a freshwater lake given the rise in water levels which, in Lake Naivasha which is only 200m away for instance, have been unusually high due to heavy rains. There is speculation that should its water levels go down, Lake Oloiden will likely turn salt again.
In this issue, we set off for Naivasha about 2 hours away from Nairobi in a Renault Kadja from our partners at SimbaCorp. We were keen to spend the weekend discovering the range of activities and properties available around the lake. Aim for at least two nights, although given Naivasha’s proximity to Nairobi, this may well also be a day trip. If you are traveling on a tight budget, consider Oloiden Camp Site which is stark by the lake and costs less than Ksh 1,000 if you have your own gear. If you’re looking for luxury, however, check out our three highlighted houses, all of which are able to set up the recommended activities for you.
BOAT RIDES & BIRD WATCHING
Most high-end properties have their own boats. For the cheapest rates,however, head out to the public jetty marked by colourful wooden boats and negotiate directly with owners. Be sure to get an experienced guide. Ours for instance pointed out about seven families of hippos which sometimes inched dangerously close to our boat, heightening the thrill of the experience. He also spotted various bird species such as pelicans which are mostly white, herons and storks which somewhat resemble each other, cormorants, the African fish eagle which is adept at spotting its prey then diving fast into the water before victoriously revealing the fish caught in its talons, as well as the kingfisher which typically has a large head with short legs and a long, pointed beak.
Your boat should dock on a public stretch of land marked by thick pockets of acacia trees. Should you decide to go on a walking safari here, and ours took about 40 minutes, be sure to wear hiking shoes, pants and preferably long sleeved shirts because the grass and certain plants here can cause itching and eventual rashes. Right off the bat, we spotted a herd of zebra a few metres away but the guide told us not to go too far off without him because there were buffaloes lurking around. Shortly after, we chanced upon a giraffe followed by encounters with warthogs, thompson gazelles, waterbucks, elands and other impalas.
Built in 1926, this property has seen numerous visitors including Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway. “We take our conservation very seriously,” says our host Helen Hartley. “It’s all privately funded by a Polish family who set up an organisation called ARR (Animal Rights Reserved) who are involved in things like wildlife rescue and protection with people calling in from as far as Mt Elgon”. When you stay at the house, it helps to know that your money goes towards supporting a good cause. The property has four doubles and one family room, and two extra doubles can be availed on request. Kids are often attracted to their rabbit hutch and the animal orphanage. Rates are the same for both local and domestic guests throughout the year at Ksh 16,000 Monday to Thursday, and Ksh 20,000 from Friday through the weekend, excluding game drives.
LUCITA FARM GUEST HOUSE
Owned by an Austrian family, this is the sort of home where you would feel comfortable putting your feet up. The decor is rustic country chic, and if you love art, Lucita farm is a haven! There are three properties on the farm; two (3 and 4 bedroom) guesthouses great for families and a stable suite perfect for couples. The guesthouses are spacious, complete with fully equipped kitchens. The stable suite is all white with quirky decor and if you look out the window, you are likely to spot a waterbuck milling about the foliage. There are also two horses and dogs on the farm, including an adorable pup called Scooby. Prices are Ksh 29,000 for the smaller cottage and Ksh 35,000 for the bigger one. Available for booking on airbnb.
THE MANOR HOUSE
This colonial tudor-style house sits on the exclusive Hippo Point conservancy along with the wooden 120 foot Dodo’s tower. The Manor House was derelict before being purchased by its current owners about 30 years ago, and they have since transformed it into the cozy home it is today while retaining much of its Elizabethan charm. Boasting 8 rooms that can sleep up to 15 people sharing, some of the living spaces have been renovated, with stables being turned into two-storey one bedroom pads and a granary now serving as a main lounge. The decor is European and African, mixing contemporary art with locally made quirky pieces to create the perfect balance. Perfect for families, the food here is all organic, farmed from their own vegetable garden.