Close Encounters with Hippos on Lake Naivasha

It’s our final day here at Camp Carnelleys on Lake Naivasha. We’re getting ready to head back to Nairobi for a few days of downtime in the city before making our way to Kampala, the final stop on our four-month backpacking trip through southern and east Africa.

Lake Naivasha surpassed our expectations and we’re so glad we made the 2.5 hour trip out here. Yesterday’s self-guided bike tour through Hell’s Gate National Park, and descent into Hell’s Gate Gorge was one of the highlights of our trip.

Yet our time here whiling away the days on the shores of Lake Naivasha has also been very memorable.

Before we head back to Nairobi today, we thought we’d attempt one more adventure involving cozying up to some very large water-dwelling mammals. But we’ve got a bit of time before our boat leaves.

Early morning here on the banks of Lake Naivasha is a magical time, just as the sun peaks over the horizon. Here at 6,200 feet above sea level, the sun casts a radiant glow over everything.

It’s a perfect time to poke around the grounds to see what’s come out to greet the day.

After breakfast, it’s time to hop in a boat with our seasoned guide and head out into hippo-infested waters. Woohoo!

Not sure the life jackets are going to do us much good if we happen to fall over board, since the hippos would undoubtedly make it to us before help arrives. We’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t come to that…

From the shore, it wouldn’t seem like you’d see much of anything on the lake. After all, it looks like a whole lot of water and nothing else.

But a few minutes into our journey, it becomes evident we were very wrong in this respect. The lake surface is teeming with life, and lots of it.

Reed Cormorants are a common sight on the many branches and logs floating on the surface.

African Spoonbill surrounded by Sacred Ibis.

Another Reed Cormorant.

Not sure what this is/was. Perhaps an old viewing platform or restaurant.

Two Giant Kingfishers have found a home.

Lots of bird sightings, but still on the lookout for Hippos.

Then, our guide stops the boat and points out two sets of eyes peering at us from about 50 meters away.


Then, more birds of course. Yellow Billed Stork here.

And another ominous set of eyes breaking the surface.

A gaggle of Great White Pelicans.

A Great Egret.

Crowned Cranes (Crested Cranes), the national bird of neighboring Uganda.

Looks like we’ve been spotted. Time to move on.

More Hippos. We’re told this is about as close as you want to get, and you don’t want to linger long.

We’re also told that every so often the Hippos do snap up the odd fishermen out here…

Generally, they’re not aggressive, but extremely territorial if they happen to find you crossing into their space.

It wasn’t long until we moved on. And that’s fine by us.

Double trouble.

After 90 minutes on the water, we’ve safely made our way back to Camp Carnelleys.

A beautiful November day to be on the water and a surprising amount to see in such a short time. Highly recommended!

Now it’s time to catch our Matatu back to the big city. So long, Naivasha!

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