Kenya's best kept secret
Posted On 11th November 2016
A lot sure can change in a decade. Take the A109 and A104 roads, for instance, whose common feature barely ten years ago was teeming wildlife. My mates and I while shuttling back and forth from school never thought much of the Tommy and Grant’s gazelles accompanied by the unmistakable zebra herds browsing away with no care on either side of the highway. Now I know to never take anything for granted because I presently have to plan an expedition just to illustrate to my daughter a real life gazelle.
Like most of the country, the Naivasha area was originally well populated with a large variety of wild animals. The population of wildlife in the area, unfortunately, has since been reduced drastically or even decimated due to human encroachment of areas which were previously the domain of the rich diversity of wildlife.
And so as chill and hail embraced the city, I sought to unearth one of the least-talked-about parts of Naivasha that one of schools mates has veneration for claiming it retained the raw of our school days. I bet that you, just like me, have used Moi South Lake Road-after you branch off Old Naivasha Road-frequently, but have never bothered about what lies past the Hells Gate National Park’s gate and the Olkaria geothermal complex.
Well, the area is a haven for wildlife who thrive courtesy of the park and private conservancies. One of the most influential is the Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary, formerly Oserian, which was established in 1995 from the vision of Hans and June Zwager and later joined by their son Peter Zwager. The Sanctuary works to protect and breed endangered wildlife species with projects which also focus on restoring and protecting the natural habitat. There is also a keen effort to ensure the prudent management of the human-wildlife conflict to allow both the preservation of wildlife and thriving of human communities.
Visitors to the sanctuary have two choices of accommodation: a safari luxury lodge christened Chui and the quintessential ranch house that is Kiangazi. My contact had suggested putting up at Chui Lodge for its obvious frills and inimitable scenic setting that allows for sighting of game right from its restaurant without needing to go on a game drive. My four-year-old date (read daughter), however, was more at ease at the child friendly stone bungalow with its sprawling lawns where she could run-through her tomboy conducts. I assumed that the transfer would be a downgrade; au contraire I was rather enchanted by the utilitarian colonial architecture. Kiangazi House is in my observation a soulful alternative to the hotels lining Moi South Lake Road, which are luxurious but are all more or less in the same high-rise, air-conditioned modern mold. I still echo in my mind driving up circle driveway lined with pea gravel, walking through the courtyard into the lounge; and coming out to the vine-covered, shaded veranda held up by nine cream-white pillars; and onto the scissor-trim lawns and horizon pool. Cream-white is also the choice colour for the walling built to last forever from hand-dressed masonry that is completed by timber trusses and clay. All that handiwork is complemented by panoramic views across the Great Rift Valley and the shimmering waters of Lake Oloidien.
From my hosts, my puzzled self was educated that Lake Oloiden is a still and serene volcanic crater lake that together with its near neighbour Lake Naivasha make for the highest lakes along the floor of the rift Valley. Actually, Oloiden was formerly part of Lake Naivasha but it is now separated from its south west shore by a stretch of about 200 meters elevated land. Interestingly, while Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake, Lake Oloiden harbours alkaline waters attributed to an underground inlet which contains volcanic ashes explaining its name which means “Salty” in the Maa language. Its P.H is 9.8 basic and is one of the reasons it draws small but impressive flocks of both the lesser and the greater flamingos. Apart from the flamingoes, the lake which is about five square kilometers is a breeding ground for the common and white necked cormorants, and is home to approximately seven families of hippos.
The sanctuary consisting of a fenced area of 12,000 acres and a further 6,000 acres of game corridor and riparian land lived up to its puff as Kenya’s best kept secret. Not only was the accommodation and three course meals exceptional, but the gaming experience was worth every penny especially considering its familiarity to civilisation. Leaving the rooms scented by roses, Guide Martin who has been at the Sanctuary since inception impressed with his tours that offered a sharp wild contrast. On the large wilderness of dry acacia-dominated woodland, riparian woodlands, and vast grasslands, broken by a few rugged hills over 45 different mammals bloom. Apart from the score or so leopards, my date and I were more than happy to scour the sanctuary in search of ‘George’ the resident lion.