Lake Naivasha or (E) Nai’posha, rippling, heaving rough waters, in the language of the Maasai, forever corrupted by Early Europeans who recorded not the locals’ place-name, but the mispronunciation of their Swahili porters is a freshwater lake, located in the Rift Valley. The name denotes the sudden storms, which can turn the placid waters into a churning mass of waves.
The lake is famous for its pods of hippo and abundant birdlife.
Naivasha is the second site listed by Kenya as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1996 and is ranked as the 48th Important Bird Area in the country.
If Naivasha’s islands seem never to be quite in the same place, it is because they are papyrus-clamps, constantly splitting and drifting.
And if reliable guidebooks never mention its depth or height above sea-level, it’s because Enaiposha rises and spreads, or sinks and shrinks, with the rainfall.
Enaiposha supports resident hippos, and at times, the largest waterfowl population in Kenya. It is the ideal safari destination for birdwatchers.
The waters of Lake Naivasha draw a great array of game to the shoreline. Buffaloes wallow in the swamps, while the large hippo population lazes their days away in the shallows. Giraffes wander among the acacia, whilst Colobus monkeys swing from the canopies above.
Wherever you stay around the lake, you will find a boat ride a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, as you ride past families of hippos, lazily swimming with just the tip of the heads out of the water. Serious birders can enjoy Naivasha’s spectacular birdlife during an early morning boat ride.
You can take nature and bird walks along the lakeshore, and in the natural forest surrounding the lake, as the resident waterbucks and giraffes watch you with interest. You may go for game drives or leisurely bicycle rides, walks, picnics in the nearby Hells’ Gate National Park.
There you will enjoy watching the dainty antelopes, elegant giraffes, and other plain animals as well as the geothermal activity of the hot springs, where you can take a bath in the therapeutic waters.
Rock climbers can test their skills at Fischer’s Tower, a rock column (37 meters) marvel of volcanic activity, named after the naturalist Gustav Fischer!
Sunsets over Lake Naivasha are always stunning, with the haunting call of a fish eagle high above bringing the day to perfect end.
German scientist and naturalist Adolf Gustav Fischer, supported by the Geographical Society of Hamburg proceeded from Pangani (Tanzania) to Kilimanjaro and then across Maasai land to Naivasha arriving at Hell’s Gat on 11 May 1883, but here, the Maasai discovered him too and his 300-man caravan was halted and had to turn back. All his porters were killed, leaving him untouched to go back and report of his own defeat.
Fischer’s Tower, the single standing lava outcrop towering at the entrance of Hell’s Gate National Park, bears his name. A species of lovebird was also named after him.
The following year, Joseph Thomson arrived, gored by a buffalo, but ‘not punctured by spears’, and in 1888, Count Teleki found the lake ‘not quite in the right position’ – on the maps, that is.
Until the colonial boundary play of 1902, the province of Naivasha was part of Uganda, and in 1904, when the Maasai agreed to move to Laikipia, the first governmental farm was started here to experiment with cattle, sheep, pigs, and zebras. Captain Macdonald, the railway surveyor, found the lake ‘full of hippo’.
Lake Naivasha is recognized in transport history, when, for 17 months from May 1949, the BOAC flying boats splashed down here 3 times weekly.
Vervet monkeys and olive baboons live in woodlands adjoining the south-western shore; and game corridors from nearby Hells Gate National Park allow buffaloes, kongonis, antelopes and Maasai giraffes access to browse and grazing areas. Hippos and good birdwatching can be enjoyed from the dock at Fisherman’s Camp.
Crescent Island: the exposed lip of a submerged volcanic crater, presents you with ‘340 species’ of birds, and you get to wander close to ‘120 dikdik, 300 waterbuck, and 500 Thomson gazelle’, which wonder free. The 100-odd hippo are no danger, and predators non-existent.
Archaeologists here in 1976 discovered later Stone Age scrapers and burins of obsidian.
Crater Lake: an extinct volcanic crater, with emerald green-colored waters, is thickly wooded with yellow fever trees on which troops of black-and-white colobus, vervet monkeys, and olive baboons drape themselves. A total of 38 mammal species has been recorded here; buffaloes, warthogs, defassa waterbucks, bushbucks, Thomson’s gazelles and Impalas can be seen by walking around the crater; and spotlighting on night drives may reveal springhares, Senegal galagos, common genets, white-tailed mongooses, or predators such as servals and bat-eared foxes. Antelopes sheltering in the dense vegetation include Kirk’s dikdik, steinbucks, and common elands.
Naivasha is the ideal safari destination for birdwatchers. Fish attract a good number of birds such as fish eagles, cormorants, pelicans, and heron, while other resident birds include ospreys, Lilly-trotters, black crakes, swallows, hawks, vultures, sparrows, hornbills, nightjars, and a host of others (populations of both predators and prey fluctuate). Mats of water lilies and Nile cabbage on the southern shore attract jacanas and long-toed plovers; weavers and warblers breed in papyrus reed beds.
Crescent Island hosts flocks of heron, storks and a variety of waterfowl, while lesser flamingos, various ducks, and grebes feed in the green-black waters of Crater Lake.