Naivasha, a major town in Rift Valley, Kenya, lies northwest of Nairobi. During the colonial era, it was established as one of the pioneer depots and served as an airport for flying boats that were the most popular form of travel from Europe. The town is home to the first Kenyan International airport, and planes from Europe used to land in the waters of Lake Naivasha to drop and pick passengers. Naivasha was named from a Maasai phrase “nai posha,” meaning “a place of rough waters,” due to its frequent flash floods and storms during the long rain season.
Naivasha has become a popular tourist destination, attracting both domestic and international visitors. It offers a break from the bustle of cities like Nairobi and Diani, and has numerous attractions beyond its famous Lake Naivasha. These include the Hells’ Gate National Park, Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary, and the nearby Longonot mountain for hiking. Naivasha is also a great place for families, with plenty of opportunities to experience local cultures and traditions.
The town is situated at an altitude of around 1800 meters, meaning that the weather is generally cool and warm, but visitors should bring a jacket, especially during the rainy season. Naivasha is easily accessible by both private and public transport, although public transport can be unreliable. Visitors can also fly into the town.
Accommodation in Naivasha is cheaper than other popular tourist hotspots, and long-term visitors can save money by renting a home and hiring a house helper. Naivasha is primarily an agricultural town, known for its flower farms and the Keroche brewery. Visitors should also take the opportunity to sample local cuisine and learn about Kenyan communities and culture.
Top Attractions and Things to Do in Naivasha
Lake Naivasha is the most popular tourist attraction in Naivasha. The lake doubles up as the only freshwater lake in the Rift Valley and the highest in elevation, standing 1,884 meters above sea level.
The lake is 13 kilometers wide, and it covers about 139sq km. It is 20 foot deep. Interestingly, Lake Naivasha is fed by two rivers, but there are no visible outlets. Where does all the incoming water go?
Within the lake, you get a chance to sample a rich variety of birds; over 400 unique species. In addition, there are grazers such as hippos, buffalo, antelopes, and waterbucks.
The lake is also home to various types of fish including tilapia, black bass, and crayfish. A boat ride is a good way of seeing the flora and fauna around this breathtaking lake. Bordering the Lake are two smaller water bodies namely Lake Oloiden and the Green Crater Lake; Sonachi.
A trip to Naivasha will be nothing if an excursion to the famous Hells’ Gate is not in your plans. Just 14 kilometers off the old Nairobi-Naivasha highway, the park is a representation of diverse geological scenery- perhaps one of the most stunning in Kenya.
To get to Hells’ Gate, you can use the Elsa Gate or the Olkaria Gate, which leads to the Olkaria Geothermal Station. From a distance, it may appear like Hells’ Gate is a miniature, but it’s an exquisitely carved version of the Greater Rift Valley.
Once in hells gate, explore the Fischer’s Tower, Central Tower, and the park’s fascinating gorge. Also, you will get a chance to sample water-carved gorges, rock towers, and steaming volcanic geysers.
Besides the beautiful sceneries, you can enjoy rock climbing, biking and there is the Olkaria Geothermal Spa, a wonder of nature where you can splash in the natures’ heated water.
If you are daring at heart, there are camping sites where you can sleep right under the stars. Hells’ Gate is the only park where you will be allowed to walk around and sample nature in real life.
The name Longonot is derived from a Maasai name “il longonoot”, meaning the mountain with many spurs. In fact, fitness enthusiasts travel from as far as London and Las Vegas to challenge their physical form at Lake Naivasha.
Mt Longonot is located southeast of Naivasha and is a dormant volcanic mountain. This mountain stands at 2,776 meters in height. Atop the mountain, there is a perfect walking trail with a circumference of 7.2Km around the crater’s rim.
Longonot’s 4-5 hours hike not only gives the treat of amazing scenery from above but also a chance to catch a vast variety of wildlife in action. This includes buffalo, antelope, leopards, and bushbucks.
Others are Grant’s gazelles, zebras, giraffe and occasionally the king of the African jungle. There’s no need to panic since most hiking expeditions are under strict guidance by game wardens.
Longonot is an adrenalin packed excursion for international tourists and domestic adventure seekers.
Naivasha and wildlife conservation are uniquely bound together, and this is apparent on visiting Elsamere Museum. The Museum is built on the ground that used to be home to the worlds’ famous big cat conservationists George and Joy Adamson.
The museum perches on the southeast side of Lake Naivasha. Here, George and Joy Adamson used to bred lions and later release them back into the wild.
The area around has its fair share of wildlife that you can sample. There are primates, grazers including hippos, elands, and zebras that troop through the property day and night. Elsamere is a rich spot for bird lovers; from fish eagles and the rare Verreaux’s Giant Eagle Owl to more than 250 other types of birds.
There is also the Elsamere Field Study Centre Naivasha, which is 22 Km from town along the Moi South Lake Road. This center specializes in conservation works and it’s the ideal haven for educational tours and conferences for locals and visiting delegations.
Not far from Lake Naivasha lies another gem; Lake Oloiden. According to statistics, it’s believed that Oloiden was once part of Lake Naivasha.
Here you will get a chance to sample the breathtaking scenery, standing by the shores of the miniature lake. Apart from the rich variety of flora and fauna, the Oloiden camping site offers a matchless campers’ experience.
If you’re looking for adventure and privacy, Oloiden camping site has you covered on all fronts. The establishment offers tents and mattresses at a fee, free hot showers, toilets, and of course free parking.
The cuisine at the camp is mouth-watering. There is a bar serving all sorts of drinks and surprisingly, there is cable TV.
Susan Higgins is the brainchild behind the one of a kind endeavor. She started this center, which is KWS certified, together with two of her friends. The center takes care and rehabilitates injured birds including endangered species.
At the Owl Center, you will get an opportunity to interact with rare birds including owls, which have a superstitious connotation from a local perspective. The Kikuyu people, the biggest tribe in Kenya, believe that owls are a bad omen. Higgins also tends to injured vultures, fish and spotted eagles.
The owl center is the only bird rehabilitation outfit perhaps in the whole of Africa; it’s affiliated with the Kenya Birds of Prey Trust.
Since the center is a charitable establishment, you can be part of the conservation efforts by donating towards the bird’s rehabilitation and treatment. It will put a smile on your face later, and yes, nature will thank you too
The Great Rift Valley is known for its rich variety of flora and fauna. When you visit Naivasha, you can spice your expedition by learning more about globally renowned prehistoric sites that have positioned Kenya as the cradle of man.
Located a few kilometers off the Nairobi-Nakuru highway is the Kariandusi prehistoric site near Lake Elementaita. The site has a museum where Paleolithic tools believed to be over a million years old are preserved.
This site was discovered by archaeologist Louis Leakey in 1928. Within the site, you get more than the amazing history of evolution and the Turkana boy fossils! There is a camping/picnic site, Nature Trail, Diatomite Mining Site, and exploring caves.
8.Crescent Island Game Sanctuary
If you thought that walking among wildebeest, giraffe, impala, and zebra was a wispy dream, then, the Crescent Island Game Sanctuary is a must visit.
You can access the sanctuary via boats from mainland Naivasha and sample the bliss of walking among the herds. It’s a guided tour on foot since there are no dangerous predators or big cats.
You can engage in fun activities here such as hiking, boating, and bird watching. Surprisingly, there is horse riding as well.
Away from the wildlife and the alluring lodges, Naivasha has a unique attraction that comes and goes every year. The Naivasha Horticultural Fair is quite the attraction you can’t afford to miss. It is held annually in the month of September.
If you are visiting the town around this time, why not make a date and see the sparkling flower products that Naivasha has to offer to the rest of the world? The fair is the only one of its kind in Africa, and it presents the perfect opportunity to mingle with the locals and to meet other people from your home country.
During the fair, you will learn about Kenya’s floriculture industry, and since it’s a charitable event, you can donate and go back home feeling good about your contribution. What’s more, there is great entertainment, local cuisine, drinks and live bands all just to entertain you.
Around Naivasha, there are several attempts at conserving wildlife and some of these make exceptional attractions. Kigio Conservancy is one such spot. It runs across 3,500 acres of what used to be a cattle ranch.
It was acquired by locals, who opted to go for wildlife preservation. Proceeds from visitors trickle back to the community, and it’s every reason for you to visit.
You will see a variety of wildlife here including the endangered Rothschild Giraffe, buffalos, gazelles, hippos, leopards, and hyenas. Others include waterbucks, impala, and countless bird varieties.
If you are worried about fun activities to participate in within the conservancy, worry no more.
You can’t possibly exhaust the activities that include: game drives, nature walks, and the coveted night game drives. You can also indulge in biking, fishing on Malewa River and wait, if you are not for the bush breakfast or lunches offered within the Conservancy, the Malewa River Lodge is another spot to sample
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