“In 1904, a gentleman by the name JD Hopcraft, came up from South Africa, to Kenya because the British were encouraging people to come and invest following completion of the Kenya Uganda railway,” began Heather Wallington, the manager of Loldia House, part of the Governors’ Camp Collection.
We had all sat attentively in the living room of the main house, ears eagerly primed to grab every word, just as farmers wait for the rains after sowing. Her warmth and hospitality reminded me of my late grandmother and how she would tell us stories about life around the fire.
Naivasha like never before
Naivasha is a renowned travel destination for most international and local tourists, not only because it’s a convenient two-hour drive from Nairobi, but also because it has plenty of activities to arouse your interest.
Situated on the shores of Lake Naivasha, Loldia House is an ideal spot for anyone desiring to explore the Great Rift Valley in a peaceful and quiet environment. I loved the mélange of the past and present in the house. Everything you touch or sit on seems to have been pulled out of the past, quite possibly from the living room of an early settler.
Constructed in the year 1940 by Italian Prisoners Of War, Loldia House was the first stone house along the shores of Lake Naivasha. Soon after the Second World War, the British were at war with the Italians in Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) and they defeated them capturing many Italians who became Prisoners Of War.
The British Government requested the British living in Kenya to allow the Prisoners Of War to work on their farms where they had to earn their keep. The Italians not only worked on the farms, but were also responsible for building the Mai Mahiu Catholic Church, also known as the ‘Travellers Church,’ in the year 1942.
They also constructed the Italian War memorial church, which presently houses the remains of Italian soldiers captured by the army during the Second World War.
Loldia House is a simple structure made out of reddish lava rock and wood, with a green corrugated iron roof.
It has a veranda that runs along the front, opening into a comfortably furnished lounge with a dining room.
Keith Mwenesi, the assistant manager, gave me a tour of the house, which comprised nine rooms now converted into guest accommodation and surrounded by lush grounds stretching to the lakeshore.
In addition, honeymooners can enjoy magnificent views of the lake as well as the extinct volcano from one of the garden cottages. A slightly elevated swimming pool is currently under construction amongst beautiful age-old fig trees, allowing guests an incredible view of the surrounding landscape and lake.
One of the highlights while staying in this house is the day trip to Lake Nakuru. After an early breakfast, Juma Saidi, our driver/guide for the day, drove us carefully to the lake, all the while giving us a history lesson on Naivasha town.
His knowledge of the birds and animals was almost encyclopaedic and his eagle eyes impressively spotting camouflaged animals without binoculars.
He would tell us where the animals could be found and true to his words, we would find them. We were lucky to find lions mating, a rare sight sought by professional wildlife photographers the world over.
Then was the diverse bird life, starting of course with the majestic pink flamingos. Other birds like ostriches, african fish eagle, goliath heron, hamerkop, as well as pied kingfisher are bountiful at the lake.
One can continue the game drive experience back at the 6,500 acre Loldia ranch. After the sumptuous meal and amazing conversations, I had a chance to see hippos, springhares, porcupines, skunks and mongoose during the one-hour nocturnal game drive.
The stars lit up the night sky and the hippos were out of the lake and wandering about in search of food. Apparently, hippos have an enhanced sense of smell that allows them to sniff out grazing areas as far as five km away. Alternatively, one can pass the day exploring the Eburu Forest Reserve.
The forest comprises 21,535 acres of prime indigenous forest area, a deep valley within the steep hills as well as the rolling scenic foothills of Mount Eburu.
The nature walk fills your ears with sounds of the forest and lungs with fresh mountain air, rounding off what is a relaxing weekend in one of the best-kept secrets that Naivasha has to offer.