Zebras on the shores of Lake Naivasha

Exploring Lake Naivasha | Walking Safari Adventure at Crescent Island

By allowing you to walk up close to wild animals, Lake Naivasha provides a unique immersive experience in the heart of African biodiversity. How close can you get to the animals on this safari? Find out in the image below in the article 🦓

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Lake Naivasha's shores
Lake Naivasha’s shores (Copyright @Virginie Lévèque)

Lake Naivasha in a few words

Located approximately 90 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, Lake Naivasha is one of the few freshwater basins in the Great Rift Valley. Its name originates from the Maasai term Nai’posha, meaning “agitated waters,” referring to the sudden storms that can occur there.

Located at an altitude of 1,884 meters, Lake Naivasha spans an area of 139 km2. It is relatively shallow, averaging 6 meters, and its size fluctuates significantly based on precipitation levels, reaching up to 1,000 km2 during the rainy season.

Naïvasha Lake, Kenya
End of the day on the shores of Lake Naivasha

Nestled among the steep slopes of Mount Longonot, swamps, and acacia forests, Lake Naivasha is a sanctuary for over 400 bird species and a significant number of hippos. Since 1995, the lake has been recognized as a Ramsar site, highlighting its global importance as an aquatic ecosystem.

From 1937 to 1950, Lake Naivasha served as a landing site for Imperial Airways’ seaplanes. Today, the entire region is a significant producer of roses and cut flowers for export.

Which animals can you spot at Lake Naivasha?

Lake Naivasha is well-known for its abundant hippopotamus populations and the wide variety of birds that can be observed there, including sea eagles, Goliath herons, kingfishers, starlings, pelicans, and flamingos.

Giraffes, zebras, buffalos, impalas, and Thompson’s gazelles can also be abundantly observed on the shores around the lake and on the Crescent Island peninsula.

Zebras on the shores of Lake Naivasha
Zebras on the shores of Lake Naivasha (Copyright @Virginie Lévèque)

Where to go for a walking safari at Lake Naivasha?

Due to urban development, wildlife no longer roams as freely as before along the shores of Lake Naivasha. They are confined to conservation areas like Crescent Island and Sanctuary Farm. Though still wild, these animals have gradually become accustomed to humans walking nearby without fear or danger, as there are no predators in the area 🦁

Crescent Island Game Sanctuary

In 1988, the water levels of Lake Naivasha decreased so much that Crescent Island emerged. This crescent-shaped peninsula is home to a remarkable variety of ecosystems where giraffes, wildebeests, Fassa waterbucks, zebras, buffalos, gazelles, and antelopes freely roam between marshes, woodlands, and grassy plains. Along the shores, pelicans, cormorants, herons, and ospreys are abundant. There are more animals per hectare on Crescent Island than in any other park in Kenya!

Designated as an animal sanctuary by the Kenyan Government, Crescent Island is frequently chosen by wildlife documentary filmmakers for its serene beauty. It gained further renown as the filming location for the iconic movie “Out of Africa”.

Helpful information

  • Crescent Island Game Sanctuary is open from 8:30am to 5:30pm.
  • The entrance fees on the island are $33 per adult and $16 per child.
  • Crescent Island can only be reached by boat, and there are no shuttle services available. While several boatmen offer to make the trip, many of them charge visitors a package fee that has nothing to do with Crescent Island. Unfortunately, we had the misfortune of experiencing this, as I describe below. 😞

Sanctuary Farm

Sanctuary Farm is not only a dairy farming and horse breeding facility but also a significant conservation area. Interestingly, the entry fee here is much more affordable compared to Crescent Island, which is located just across.

➜ We stumbled upon Sanctuary Farm following the guidance of boatmen who claimed to take us to Crescent Island. While the experience on site may not be much different from a walking safari on Crescent Island, I do regret the lack of transparency regarding the packages offered and the final destination. Considering that an entry to Sanctuary Farm costs €6 per adult, paying five times that price definitely leaves a bitter taste… Once again, do not pay any entrance fees until you have set foot on Crescent Island!

Lake Naivasha Crescent Camp
Lake Naivasha Crescent Camp

Our safari expedition starts at Lake Naivasha Crescent Camp, where we pay for boat rentals and our entrance to Crescent Island. With life jackets on, we are divided into small boats to explore the species that inhabit Lake Naivasha.

Boat rides for Lake Naivasha
Shores of Lake Naivasha

On a papyrus island, a group of Fassa cobes, also known as waterbucks or crescent antelopes, calmly watches us.

Cobes de Fassa on the shores of Lake Naivasha

Not far from them, a few hippos are lounging on the riverbank.

Before reaching the solid ground, boatmen gather the vessels for a demonstration of stealthy hunting by a sea eagle perched on a branch.

Fishing eagle at Lake Naivasha

As soon as the fish is thrown into the water, the eagle takes flight. It glides just above the surface, slowing down by spreading its wings and extending its talons forward to catch its prey. A skill-fully orchestrated spectacle that never fails to impress.

We disembark on the shores, amidst the dead trees. Our ranger leads the way, showing us the damage caused by the sudden rise of the lake waters.

Just a few meters away, a herd of zebras doesn’t seem to be bothered by our presence. A few-week-old zebra foal stays close to its mother without wandering off…

The atmosphere is very serene. We take the time to observe them. We even manage to get close enough for a family portrait that we won’t soon forget 🤩

Among the zebras at Sanctuary Farm

Apparently more timid, the wildebeests stare at us for a few minutes before turning away.

In the middle of an acacia forest, several giraffes are enjoying themselves. It’s a great opportunity to get really, really close… An unforgettable experience for both kids and adults!

Nearby the giraffes at Sanctuary Farm
Nearby the giraffes at Sanctuary Farm

And so concludes our walking safari along the shores of Lake Naivasha…

Helpful information

  • A conservation fee of 1000 KES per adult and 500 KES per child is required upon entry at the gate of the Sanctuary Farm.

What to do near Lake Naivasha?

Located a few kilometers from Lake Naivasha, Hell’s Gate National Park sits at an altitude of 1524 meters.

Despite its small size of just 70km2, the park is renowned for its diverse wildlife, stunning volcanic landscapes, and a wide range of activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking, cycling, climbing, and even hot springs. No big cats here, though these canyons served as inspiration for Walt Disney’s “The Lion King” setting.

Don’t miss out on these attractions in Hell’s Gate National Park:

  • The Fisher Tower, an impressive volcanic tower standing at 25 meters, has been featured in numerous films.
  • The Buffalo circuit is a wonderful 15-kilometer loop that offers breathtaking landscapes, including views of Mount Longono.
  • The Njorowa Gorges are highly regarded for their basalt cliffs measuring over 10 meters in height.
Located southeast of Lake Naivasha, Mount Longonot is an extinct volcano that offers a scenic crater hike. Covering a distance of 7 kilometers at an altitude of over 2700 meters, it provides breathtaking views of the Great Rift Valley!
Ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime in Kenya?

Let us create your tailor-made journey, with an itinerary and accommodations tailored to your desires and budget.

Contact us now at hello@nanoo.travel to receive your personalised quote.
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