Lake Naivasha is an attractive freshwater lake not far from Nairobi, popular with Nairobeans as a weekend getaway. The lake lies in what has come to be known as the Great Rift Valley: a series of ridges, rifts and faults that slice across Africa from Syria to Mozambique. The Great Rift Valley is strewn with striking escarpments, glassy lakes, dormant volcanoes and bubbling geysers.
The name Naivasha comes from the word Nai’posha meaning rough water in the language of the Maasai. The lake is home to a variety of wildlife including a large population of hippos and several species of fish. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded here.
In the 1930s, the lake was used by Imperial Airways as a landing place for their flying boats between London and Durban. The Djinn palace, a colonial house on the shores of the lake, became notorious during the Happy Valley days for wild parties; the house is now part of the Oserian flower farm, one of the many flower farms that surround the lake and export flowers, especially roses, to Europe daily. Another major commercial enterprise on the lake is the geothermal plant, which was commissioned in 1981 and now generates a substantial amount of electricity.
Hells Gate National Park, established in 1984, is one of the few national parks in the country that permits walking, bicycling and rock climbing. Both Fischers Tower and Central Tower make challenging ascents for rock climbers, as does the escarpment. The gorge, slicing through striking rock formations, contains a series of hot springs that heat the surrounding rocks; local guides are available to guide walks through the gorge. The park is home to plains game and other wildlife, and is particularly known for vultures, eagles and buzzards. The setting for the film the Lion King was heavily modelled on this park.
Crescent Island – in reality an arc of land linked to the mainland by a causeway – has a number of animals but no predators, and makes a lovely place to walk and picnic. Crater Lake, at the end of Lake Naivasha, also has wildlife, birdlike and attractive walks. Mt Longonot, between Naivasha and Nairobi, is a volcano whose crater makes for a lovely walk with spectacular views both into the crater and across the surrounding area.
Accommodation around the lake is varied and numerous, ranging from luxury lodges to boutique houses to basic bandas. Camping is permitted in a number of places, and boat trips, game drives and hiking can be arranged by many hotels.
Safarilink operates daily scheduled flights to Naivasha in the high season. These flights connect to both Nairobi and the Maasai Mara.