Lake Naivasha: The hippopotamus paradise

There is a place where you can have breakfast and see the colorful birds, have lunch in the company of monkeys and dinner listening to the noise of the African hippos that come to the shore to eat grass. This place is called: Lake Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi, in Kenya. The only thing you have to do is camping or staying in some of the lodges that are nearby to enjoy the charm of nature. This beautiful site located in the Rift Valley, just two hours driving from the busy capital is a freshwater lake (1884 m above sea level), published in 1999 as a National Park and fed by the rivers Malewa and Gilgil. It has an area of 139 km2 and is surrounded by a swamp, a paradise for the animals that live in the area, the hippopotamus being the most popular.

Photo: Monica Mier, Sebastian Navarro. Copyright.

There are two ways to see these giant animals:

1) Hire a boat from any of the campsites or lodges around the lake. The boat is designed for 7 people and the price of the trip is between US$30 and US$40 per hour. They will take you to see the hippos that are on the west end of the lake and you will see some pelicans very close. 2) Stay in any of the lodges that are south of the lake (Moi South Lake Rd) and go to the shore. The hippos leave in the afternoon to feed themselves on the swamp grasslands. If you are camping, you will be able to listen frequently and easily recognize them as they make very loud noises while eating. But not everything comes around these water giants. This is also the home of more than 450 different types of birds, so if you are a lover of these animals you will not stop taking pictures during your entire stay. We managed to capture the African Fish Eagle (the replica of the American Bald Eagle), the lilac-breasted roller, the heron, the Kingfisher and many more.

Photo: Monica Mier, Sebastian Navarro. Copyright.

In addition here live different types of monkeys that will not hesitate to steal your food and get a couple of laughs for each of their actions. Here you will see the famous Black and White Colobus, one of East Africa’s most popular primates with their long white hairs around their black bodies.

Photo: Monica Mier, Sebastian Navarro. Copyright.

You will also have the chance to see giraffes, zebras, buffalos, and gazelles grazing very close to the lake because there are some National Parks where these herbivores abound, such as the Crescent Island Sanctuary ($30 dollars) at the east entrance of the lake. If you pay attention, from the road (Moi South Lake Rd) you can also see them without having to pay an entrance fee.

Getting There

Tour: If you have very little time during your visit to Kenya, you could hire a tour that includes accommodation, food and possibly the boat trip on the lake. There is a wide variety of prices and most tourist agencies in Nairobi are located along Kenyatta Ave, in the center of the city. Public transport: It is very easy to get to the lake on a matatu (the traditional transport in Kenya), only you will have to be patient with each bus station to get a fair price. Also, you must go with time because the driver does not start the vehicle until all the passengers (and more) are there. The bus station in Nairobi that leaves for Naivasha is located in Ronald Ngala St / River St. The price of the journey (two hours approximately) is KSh200. Once at the Naivasha town bus station you will have to take another matatu (45 minutes) to the lake village for KSh100 (Total: KSh300), or a taxi from Naivasha to DCK town, the village of the lake, you can negotiate but they will charge you more than KHs2000. Big difference, ah! On the other hand, if you are driving, the roads are in excellent condition, just make sure you have your documents in order for the high police control on the roads.

¿What you have to know before going?

Keep in mind that there is no entrance to Lake Naivasha where you can explore by yourself, but,  there is no path or trekking that borders it, however, if you enter any of the campsites or lodges that are on the shore, you will have access to walk around, but beware of the hippos that are sometimes among the trees to sleep or feed. If you like tranquility avoid the weekends because it can be full of local visitors being so close to the capital. From Monday to Friday the lodgings are almost empty and you can sometimes count on spaces for you alone.

Photo: Monica Mier, Sebastian Navarro. Copyright

This is a great base place if you want to explore Mount Longonot, the crater of Kongoni or Hell’s Gate National Park. All are relatively close to the town of Naivasha and you can also get around public transport very easy. The food in the restaurants around the lake is at least KHs700 per dish. You will understand that some will have a privileged view and exclusive service. Otherwise, if your plan is to enjoy a beer, the price for each one costs around KHs200. Not bad for an intense day of heat and maybe you will have free Internet.

Budget Tips

Camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the lake. Most campsites cost between KHs700 ($7) and KHs1000 per person. The spaces are spacious and have places to make fire and cook. In the village, you can easily find a supermarket to buy what you need for cook and firewood KHs300 the pack. As the tap water cannot be taken, fill your empty bottles with KHs5 per liter in the village dispenser. And if for some reason you need to connect to the Internet, the village of the lake also has a Cyber Café that costs KHS2 per minute.

Mónica Mier Vielma

She was born in Quito (Ecuador) and graduated as a journalist. She decided to leave everything to travel the world five years ago and finally decided to tell you all her stories. Each one of the adventures that she does is without tour, in public transport and always looking for ways to save a little money. Feel free to ask about the countries she has visited if you have any questions.