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Discovering Oloiden, Naivasha’s baby lake

Harriet James @harriet86jim

There is no better way to combine travel and education than touring Lake Oloiden. Or so we found out when the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) recently sponsored a travel writers’ media trip of some Samburu, Mt Kenya and Naivasha tourism destinations.

The trip was exciting, opening my eyes to the amazing places where people can have fun or couples with families can enjoy. Having driven down from Samburu, we were now in Naivasha, Nakuru county.

When Eric Omenda, our team leader from KTB announced that there would be change of plans, I was excited to tour this magnificent Lake Oloiden scenery that is also referred to as a flamingo’s paradise. After the heavy breakfast at Enashipai Resort and Spa, we set off, anxious and excited for the adventure ahead.

Being a road trip fanatic, the idea of seeing wild animals along the way made me excited as I would try out my photography skills. Lake Naivasha and other natural attractions have made Naivasha a haven of hotels where one can chill out alone or with family.

We arrived at the shores of Lake Oloiden and hurriedly wore our life jackets as grey clouds were gathering, a warning that the heavens were about to open.

We had been advised that a boat ride was the perfect option for us if we were interested in seeing some of the numerous water birds and other wildlife that have made this salt water lake their home.

Our guide, Alex Hawi, a resident of Naivasha, oversaw the embarking and safety measures and off our journey began. Little is known about this volcanic crater lake that lies south of Lake Naivasha.

The two lakes are regarded as twins because what happens in one lake always occurs in the other. One thing puzzled me though; Despite these “twin like’ lakes being merely 200 metres apart, Naivasha is a fresh water lake, but the latter is salty.

Studies indicate that millions of years ago, during the formation of the great Rift Valley, one major lake, which stretched from Nakuru to Naivasha, was created.

This great lake later dried up, resulting in numerous independent lakes such as Naivasha, Nakuru, Elementaita as well as Oloiden. Misfortune again arose resulting in these lakes drying up, but in the mid 1800, Lake Naivasha’s water level rose, making it reconnect with its “twin” Lake Oloiden.

Again, Lake Naivasha’s level declined and separated from Lake Oloiden, which gradually became salty. By 1990, Oloiden, which by the way means salt in Maa languages, lost all its plants and fish.

By early 2006, its saline nature attracted a green photosynthetic bacteria, which was food to the lesser flamingos and this made this lake attract a large number of birds, which we saw as we rode along on out boat.

We saw Egyptian geese, pelicans, African fish eagles, herons, and an array of kingfishers, storks feeding on the fish. While some were just squawking, others rested along the shore or took flight as we tried to move closer for selfies. It was such a magnificent sight.

The lake is surrounded by yellow green acacia trees, which serve as a home to the warthogs, elands, giraffes, zebras, and waterbucks, a perfect sight from the boat.

Suddenly, there was a loud splash in the water that sent a cold chill down my spine. A young, energetic male hippo making attempts to chase us away. “Don’t be scared,” Alex said as we quickly sped off.

“As long as we are in the boat nothing will happen to us,” he added. Hippos love water and that’s why the Greek gave them the name “river horse”. They can spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in water, which acts as a coolant under the hot weather. Across the lake, we saw a group of hippos.

There are seven families of hippos in the lake. The peace and quiet is what has made this place their habitation. Despite the fact that hippos stay close to each other, they are not social animals and the only bonds formed are between mothers and their daughters.

The bull presides over the family, which comprises about 10 females. “The hippo is aggressive and has frequently been reported as charging and attacking boats.

Small boats can be capsized by hippos and passengers can be injured, killed or even be forced to drown. “Only last week, we lost two fishermen and five are critical condition in hospital because of the hippos.

The hippo only crushes and kills its victim hence it is wise not to jump from your boat to swim away in case of any attack. They only kill people when provoked or when they feel threatened,” Alex said.

Later, we took a walk in the peninsula, which separates the two lakes (Naivasha and Oloiden). It was interesting to see zebras, impalas, giraffes and buffaloes from a far before heading back to the resort.

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