Part 6: Kenya’s Rift Valley

Photography and report by Bert Duplessis

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Oct 16 2009

There was a light drizzle when my Origins Safaris guide Stanley Kariithi and I got underway on the 2hr+ road trip to Lake Naivasha. The Nairobi-Nakuru highway is generally in excellent condition, the same however cannot be said of the road behavior. Stanley displayed immense patience with the reckless driving of the matatu drivers who passed other vehicles with seemingly no regard for their own or their passengers’ safety.

This is one of the reasons why we don’t recommend road trips and more specifically, self-driving. Even so, due to the good condition of the road, this particular trip is manageable and I certainly enjoyed some beautiful vistas over parts of the Rift Valley, en route. It was also an interesting experience to observe the terrain and activities along the roadway. Just outside of Nairobi there are roadside stalls selling everything under the sun, from cooked food to live chickens, furniture and clothing.

My Origins guide Stanley and I had lunch at the Karen Country Lodge en route to the Rift Valley

Although service was slow, I quite liked the nice decorative touches. The vegetable curry dish was pretty good too

Another example of the interesting interior decorating at the Karen Country Lodge

By late afternoon, we arrived at Loldia House, a well-known guest house dating back to the 1920’s. The setting and the grounds, with stunning views over Lake Naivasha, are superb. Right around the lodge there are some massive trees and the birdlife is excellent. I was also surprised to see a variety of mammals in close proximity to the lodge, including wildebeest, zebra and lots of buffalo.

A young English couple enjoying a drink in front of the fireplace at Loldia House

Breakfast is often served outside at Loldia House

Fresh fruit was served with practically every meal I had in more than 2 weeks in Kenya, it was particularly fresh and flavorful at Loldia

The view over Lake Naivasha from the family cottage at Loldia House

Interior of one of the rooms at Loldia House

One of the cottage bedrooms

My room (#1) at Loldia House, in the main original house, has excellent views over the gardens and the lake itself. However the room and especially the bathroom (which has a bath and shower) can do with an update and refurbishment. I was very happy to find a wireless internet connection in my room and spent a couple of hours later that night updating e-mail.

Dinner was at the large table in the dining room, with Loldia House Manager Peter Njoroge serving as the host. Peter was very gracious and personable, not to mention witty! It wasn’t long before he was teaching me several new Swahili words and phrases. My main course was wholesome and filling, but really nothing special – a mix of some vegetables and rice. The appetizer was a much more interesting vegetarian ‘cutlet’ which was very tasty. Dessert consisted of fresh fruit, amongst the best of any I had experienced on the Kenya trip to date.

October 17 2009

I was up fairly early for a 4-mile run with Bernard, one of the Loldia personnel, all along the perimeter of the game area. It was quite hilly and fairly strenuous, but I enjoyed every second which we spent on the trail. After all, I was running in the Rift Valley, the birthplace of most of Kenya’s famous long-distance runners!

Then it was time for breakfast, which consisted of more fruit, some toast, pancakes and porridge, known as uji in Swahili. Thanks, Peter! Peter then showed me around the rest of the Loldia House property, consisting of several separate cottages and a family house with 3 rooms, 2 of which have en suite bathrooms. It is ideal for a family or two couples traveling together.

Stanley and I then set off by road for the 2hr drive to Lake Nakuru, where I would overnight at Mbweha Camp, a lodge consisting of a large thatched lounge, bar and dining area with a central fireplace and 10 rustic thatched rock cabins with en suite shower and toilet and solar lighting.

The lodge lounge and dining room area is quite nice, just a little ‘smoky’ because of the indoor fireplace. The food was good and varied, if somewhat ambitious at times.

October 18 2009

There was no water in the faucets or shower in my room this morning. The previous night I had found out that there was no bedside lamp or light switch in the room. Very annoying to have to get up and switch off the light just when you’re dozing off… I am not wildly enthusiastic about this camp but my stay was so short, it is really unfair to judge it. Compared with some other Lake Nakuru accommodation options, it is quite small with a high level of personal service which is always a big plus in my book. The property just needs a little bit more ‘polish’. I think two nights there would be good in order to take a couple of game drives into Lake Nakuru National Park and to enjoy some of the other lodge activities such as a night drive and walking.

The lounge and bar at Mbweha Lodge near Lake Nakuru

Interior of my room at Mbhewa Lodge

A black and white Colobus monkey at Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park is well-known for its rhino, and within minutes of entering the park we spotted this white rhino not far from the shoreline

During an afternoon drive into Lake Nakuru National Park, we did a site inspection of Sarova Lion Hill Lodge. This very large (100+ rooms) but well managed facility offers comfortable accommodation in an excellent location overlooking the lake. All meals are buffet-style with an extensive menu including several vegetarian options. The standard rooms are on the small side but adequate for a couple. The suites are much more spacious and certainly a recommended choice.

A portion of the dining room at Lion Hill Lodge

The large pool at Sarova Lion Hill Lodge

Interior of a standard room at Lion Hill Lodge

On a game drive along the shores of Lake Nakuru this afternoon, we saw lots of buffalo, plains zebra, impala, Thomson’s Gazelles, Defassa Waterbuck, warthhog and notably several white rhino, also 4 black and white Colobus monkeys, a life mammal for yours truly. We had some good views of a few Rothschild’s Giraffe, which was also a life mammal! Nice going.

There was buffalo all around Lake Nakuru including several fairly large groups of up to 40 or so, with many youngsters

On October 19 (morning) we took another game drive to Lake Nakuru. In the early morning the light is better for photographs of the thousands of Lesser and Greater Flamingo for which the lake is famous. There was a good concentration of several thousand birds in the South-eastern corner of the lake, and I made quite a few exposures. Like the previous day, we saw lots of buffalo and other wildlife and several white rhino, one with a very young calf.

Flamingoes at Lake Nakuru

Appropriately, this white rhino was waiting for us at Rhino Point on Lake Nakuru

A new life mammal was this striking Rothschild’s Giraffe, seen walking in a wooded portion of Lake Nakuru National Park

There were some interesting birds around Lake Nakuru as well, including this Secretarybird, third one of the trip…

By midday on Oct 19 we drove back to Loldia House/Naivasha airstrip, where I said goodbye to Stanley. He was an ideal guide: knowledgeable, friendly and a professional through and through. It is good to know that my Origins Safaris clients are in the hands of people like Stanley Kariithi and his colleagues.

Soon enough we were airborne and embarking on the last leg of this great African adventure. I would be returning to the Maasai for two more days!

Continue to Part 7

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