Lake Naivasha is one of Kenya’s most stunning Rift Valley freshwater lakes. It is surrounded by feathery papyrus, marshy lagoons and grassy shores. The lake itself is not technically a national park as most of the land around the lake is privately owned, but there are enough wildlife attractions to warrant a listing.
Strong afternoon winds cause the lake to get very rough quite suddenly. The local Maasai called the lake Nai’posha, meaning “rough water”, which the British later spelled incorrectly as Naivasha.
Lake Naivasha was once Kenya’s international airport! Flying boats from Europe used to land on the water. Even today when the water is low you can see the wooden posts that mapped out the runway. The area around Lake Naivasha is fertile agricultural land, particularly for vegetables, fruit and flowers. Thanks to Kenya’s new international airport at Eldoret, European florists are selling flowers 24 hours after they have been cut in plantations next to Lake Naivasha.
Lake Naivasha is about 13km across, but its waters are shallow, with an average depth of five metres, and home to many hippos. At the beginning of the 20th century, Naivasha inexplicably completely dried up and the land was farmed, until heavy rains a few years later caused the lake to return.
Lake Naivasha African Fish Eagle
Much of Lake Naivasha is surrounded by forests of the yellow-barked Acacia tree, full of birds and black and white colobus monkeys. The Acacias were once called ‘yellow fever trees’ after explorers who camped under them caught malaria. You can take a boat on the lake to see the hippos, pelicans and fish eagles at close quarters and also to get to Crescent Island – a protected reserve where you can walk amongst zebra, antelope and giraffe that come to the water’s edge to drink. There are no predators, so this is one of the few places in Kenya offering the opportunity to walk amongst the animals.
Lake Naivasha Waterbuck and pelicans
Of the other attractions near the lake, Elsamere, the former home of Joy and George Adamson, is a must-see. Once the home of Elsa the Lioness, this house overlooking the lake has now been transformed into a museum commemorating the story of ‘Born Free’. It’s also a great place for a spot of cream tea on the grassy lawns. The 68 sq km Hell’s Gate National Park also lies beside the lake. It was named for its pair of massive red tinged cliffs and was proclaimed as a park to protect the variety of vultures and eagles that breed in these cliffs. The park is home to a profusion of plains game and birdlife. Again, as there are no predators, walking is permitted, making it ideal for hiking, biking and rock climbing.
A Trip to Crescent Island It’s a short trip across the lake Naivasha to Crescent Island, there you can walk close to all sorts of wild animals, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, wildebeests, etc. It’s truly an unforgettable experience. A trained Kenya Wildlife Service guide accompanies you, so it’s good to be prepared to give a tip at the end of your time there.
Giraffe Family in Crescent Island
While on the boat tour be prepared to take plenty of pictures! Take insect repellent!!!
Crescent Island is relaxing; If you want somewhere to relax part way through your safari then this is the place to do it!