After we had set up our rented house, I set out to plan our first out station tour. All planning must be done keeping in mind the limits to which we can go or do with Adi accompanying us. We decided on the two famous lakes: Naivasha and Nakuru – Rift Valley bird paradises, just two and three hours drive from Nairobi. We decided to go by our car, since the total distance was within manageable limit. In fact many people make day trips to these lakes from Nairobi, but it would be too much for Adi.
We started at leisurely pace around 9 AM from our house on a Saturday. Having Aamir in the back seat has its flip side, within half an hour he was irritated with the pace at which our driver (most cautious driver that I have ever seen) was driving. Aamir’s constant retorts were on the lines of “the slowest vehicle would overtake us” – speaking in Hindi of course. From that day onwards, we use the Hindi word “chaalak” to refer to our driver while in the car. Aamir not driving has its up side as well – he can check the directions at run time, the mobile phone a constant companion during such journeys.
The roads through out the journey came as a pleasant surprise after experiencing Nairobi’s pot holes and bumpy rides. After crossing the city limits of Nairobi, the view turned very scenic. Adi was glued to the window watching the train of cattle and sheep, before dozing off (nothing better for sleep than vehicular vibration – I can see my genes being passed on to him). Fresh vegetables were being sold on the way. It was the rainy season and the lush green all around gave the evidence of heavy rains. We sped past the Rift Valley view points leaving the string of gift shops behind; not forgetting to admire the breath taking view though. We could catch a brief glimpse of Mount Longonot, sleeping volcano with creases and a crater ring on top – hope we can come back to visit the surrounding park from inside some day.
At lunch time we reached Naivasha Country Club, we chose this hotel as our destination since it has boating facilities. We were welcomed by a well built Masai door keeper, dressed in traditional bright red costume – reminded me of the Rajasthani warriors look alike hotel doormen back home. The green lawns of the resort and the outdoor lunch being served looked very appealing but we decided to move on to the lake. Adi was delighted to meet water bucks, zebras, a lone wildebeest, Egyptian geese and sacred ibises at such close quarter; the animals and birds were giving the diners company at lunch. He had a tough time deciding which one to chase, although cautious as he is, he maintained a safe distance from the bigger animals.
A lane bounded by green and yellow led us to Lake Naivasha. Starlings and Robin-Chats with vivid colours flitted by before we could capture them on camera. Bird nests were hanging from trees all around. I could spend the entire day only walking on that lane. I took a deep breath as the lake came into view – it was magnificent in the backdrop of the blue sky and white clouds. Naivasha being a fresh water lake, there was plenty of fish and the fish predators were all there. A group of pied kingfishers sat on the border, awaiting their chance to fish. We were not disappointed, we could see them in action soon – although their strike rate was not 100%. A few pelicans and yellow billed storks came into sight along the banks. Before this, my interaction with the pelican was only when I told Adi about “Nigel the pelican” during story telling sessions of “Finding Nemo”. Looking at these ever “grinning” birds first hand was another experience altogether. Need less to say, we did the boat ride and some ride it was. We had our fill of groups of cormorants, pelicans, Egyptian geese – in various states of feeding, sunning and grooming; and a mixed assortment of yellow billed storks, grey headed gulls, egrets – well those are the only names I can recollect. Our boatman was a bird enthusiast and the identification of birds was possible only due to his presence. I will take the credit for spotting (and correctly identifying) the famous fish eagle perched on a tree above. There were hippos keeping themselves cool in the sun with just their noses above water, occasionally showing off more of their bodies; we were lucky to be treated with a yawn as well. There were land animals in the green back ground – water bucks, zebras, Masai giraffes; some have been introduced in the surroundings solely for touristic pleasure. It was pleasure for us, but the business of life was going on for some – a bunch of Masai fishermen were busy on the look out for a catch.
This was undoubtedly one of the best boat rides of my life, comparable to only Arabian Sea boat ride at South Goa (although both of them are different experiences). It was a truly moving experience for me to feel so much of the nature. Around ten years back, I had gone for a bird watching trip near Bhigwan Dam (near Pune). That was when I had felt the need for binoculars, and we had bought a good pair of Bushnell binoculars few years later. We had carried them to most of our trips subsequently, but they were put to good use for the first time at Lake Naivasha. Some of our photos are available here:
It is sad to read about threats to lake water and its water level. We could see one hotel property after another fencing the river bank (I am as guilty as others in terms of my use of these scenic properties loaded with amenities) followed by properties owned by multi national floriculture and horticulture companies (among Kenya’s top foreign exchange earner industries; and I was enlightened today about the fact that floriculture and horticulture are not interchangeable). So much is dependant on this lake – geo thermal energy generation, commercial fishery etc. Hope we do not lose sight of the birds in all of these.