Lake Naivasha lies approximately 80km west of Nairobi on the floor of the Rift Valley. The highest and purest of the Great Rift Valley lakes, Lake Naivasha is a beautiful freshwater lake, fringed by thick papyrus. The lake is almost 13kms across, but its waters are shallow with an average depth of five meters.
Lake area varies greatly according to rainfall, with an average range between 114 and 991 sq kms. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Naivasha completely dried up and effectively disappeared. The resulting open land was farmed, until heavy rains a few years later caused the lake to return back to existence, swallowed up the newly established estates. Afternoon wind and storms can cause the Lake to become suddenly rough and produce high waves. For this reason, the local Maasai christened the lake Nai’posha meaning ''rough water'', which the British later misspelt as Naivasha.
The lake and its surrounds are rich in natural bounty; the fertile soils and water supply have made it one of Kenya’s prime agricultural regions. The lake shores are lined with fertile and flourishing horticultural farms. Much of the lake is surrounded by forests of the yellow barked Acacia Xanthophlea, known as the yellow fever tree. These forests abound with bird life, and Naivasha is known as a world class birding destination.
The lake is home to more than 340 species of birds. Small herds of plains game are found all around the lakeshores. Bird and game viewing can be done by boat or on foot. The waters of the lake draw a large range of game to these shores. Giraffes wander among the acacia, Buffalo wallow in the swamps and Colobus monkeys call from the treetops while the Lake’s large hippo population sleeps the day out in the shallows. The region surrounding the Lake is worth exploring. There are two smaller lakes nearby, Oloidien, and Sonachi, a bright green crater lake.
Naivasha has long been the place for those seeking to get away from it all. Joy Adamson, author of Born Free made the shores her home and it was here that she first raised Elsa, the lioness. So did Lord Errol and a host of other well-known personalities. At 1880m above sea level, the air here is cool, crisp and reinvigorating.
Mount Longonot, an extinct volcano, lies just East of the lake and Hell's Gate National Park lies Southeast of the lake. The area of the park is 68.25 km2. And is 14 km after the turnoff from the old Nairobi-Naivasha highway. This Park was named for its pair of massive red tinged cliffs framing a geothermal active interior of steam vents and bubbling springs. The park is home to a profusion of plains game and birdlife. Walking is permitted, making it ideal for hiking, biking, and rock climbing. Boat trips on the lake are widely available, and are a great way to spend an afternoon or morning. Sunsets are always stunning, with the haunting call of a Fish Eagle high over the Lake bringing the day to a perfect end.