Situated 6,181 feet and 5,787 feet above sea level respectively, Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru are among the highest of all the Great Rift Valley lakes! The word Naivasha is a variation of the Maasai Nai ’posha, ‘rough water’. The Maasai chose this name for the freshwater lake due to the storms that brew in the area, breaking suddenly and dramatically! The total surface area of Naivasha is 139 sq. km, but factor in the surrounding swamplands and this figure increases by at least 64 sq. km. The depth ranges from 6m in the shallows to 30m around Crescent Island, a game reserve. Naivasha town is situated on the lake’s north-east boundary, while Nairobi is just 100km north-west from this tranquil site.
Wildlife viewing in Lake Nakuru & Naivasha
Between them, the lakes contain a wealth of wildlife. Lake Naivasha is home to impressive numbers of hippo! There are a lot of fish here too, but populations have varied over the years because of climate change, over-fishing and the accidental introduction of invasive species – for example, common carp in 2001. Today, carp are still pretty rampant! Both lakes are a haven for birds, with over 400 species recorded to date. These include the magnificent Goliath heron and eight other types of heron, in addition to loads of ducks, geese, grebe, guineafowl, storks, flamingos, cormorants, pelicans, egrets, bitterns, ibises, spoonbills, hawks, kites, coots, cranes, kingfishers, bee-eaters, parrots, owls… and that’s just for starters!
Lake Nakuru offers one of the most spectacular scenes worldwide – the vast flocks of flamingo feasting on the algae that thrive in the lake’s warm waters! Both lesser and greater flamingo can be spotted, distinguishable by their differing bills and plumage. As far as land mammals are concerned, Lake Nakuru has plentiful black and white rhino, in addition to such species as leopard, cheetah, giraffe and waterbuck. From Lake Naivasha, travelers need only take a trip to Crescent Island Game Reserve to walk among the likes of giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and impalas.
There are no predators on the island, so the experience constitutes a very safe safari! Those who love the big cats might well prefer to combine Nakuru with a trip to Hell’s Gate National Park, south of Lake Naivasha. Numbers are quite modest here, but it is possible to see lion, leopard and cheetah. There are klipspringer and reedbuck too, amid interesting scenery that incorporates two extinct volcanoes and the Hell’s Gate Gorge itself, flanked by striking red cliffs.
Activities in Lake Nakuru & Naivasha
Excursions to both Crescent Island and Hell’s Gate are available from most of the camps around Lake Naivasha. We also suggest visiting the museum at Elsamere Lodge. Formerly the retirement home of George and Joy Adamson, this contains a lot of interesting memorabilia, not least George’s Land Rover and some of Joy’s beautiful wildlife paintings. A delicious High Tea – considered the finest in Kenya! – is served in the peaceful gardens.
Other activities available in and around Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru are boating safaris, horse riding, and trips to Crater Lake (which has its own game sanctuary), to the local geothermal power plant, to local flower farms, and to Lake Oloiden, another mass of water that is famous for its flocks of flamingo!