Lakes and Valleys

Lake Naivasha Travel Blog

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After arriving in Nairobi this morning we drive north towards one of Africa’s most important physical features. Created by the collision of the great continental masses of Africa and the Middle East, the African Rift Valley is more than 9656km long, stretching from Jordan to Mozambique. At the southernmost end of the Kenya Rift Valley lies the oasis of Naivasha travel guide">Lake Naivasha, one of the Rift Valley’s freshwater lakes and the site for our overnight camp.

Translating as Rippling Waters Naivasha is a picturesque setting of grazing hippos and floating islands of papyrus, occupying the floor of the Valley and dominated by the towering heights of Mount Longonot.


The Lake and it's envoirement is however under threat.Since the 1980s, industrial horticulture and floriculture farms in Kenya, centered for the most part in the Lake Naivasha region, have grown into the largest supplier of flowers to the European market. They ship more than 88 million tons of cut flowers a year, worth some $264 million.2

The more than 30 flower farms in the Lake Naivasha region pose a number of serious ecological problems for Kenya’s rivers and for the lake, including loss of water, an unsustainable increase in the population because of the laborers they have attracted, and the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers. 

Without water, there would be no flowers. Yet, its unsustainable use by the farms could drain this life giving liquid out of Kenya’s rivers and Lake Naivasha, harming the ecosystem and a large part of the economy.

But the water does not just disappear. Instead,it is transferred to the flower and fruit crops and then exported, largely to the United Kingdom and  Mainland Europe. 

The overuse of water has taken its toll. Scientists have concluded that Naivasha’s water levels are 10 feet lower than what is healthy.Prior to the proliferation of the flower farms and the subsequent decline in water levels, Lake Naivasha was “one of the world’s top ten sites for birds, with more than 350 recorded species. It was also renowned for its sparkling clear water and the papyrus plants and water lilies that could be found at its edges.Much of this plant life has disappeared, eaten by the crayfish or destroyed by the grazing animals that trample it as they seek the receding waters.” And in the past two years, the number of hippos has dropped by more than 25 percent because of decreased water levels.

There were 1,500 hippos in 2004, but their numbers fell to 1,100 in 2006.

People and organizations are working to save Lake Naivasha, but they are running up against the reality that agricultural expansion in Naivasha and elsewhere in Kenya is filling the government’s coffers and pushing economic growth.

In 1995, Lake Naivasha was designated a protected site under the Ramsar Convention, formally known as the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. It was created in 1973 to preserve wetlands as habitats for wildfowl, but has since grown into a program to ensure the sustainable use and conservation of wetlands worldwide. 

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Lake Naivasha
photo by: wipr