Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake in Kenya, outside the town of Naivasha in Nakuru County, which lies north west of Nairobi. It is part of the Great Rift Valley. The name derives from the local Maasai name Nai’posha, meaning “rough water” which the British later misspelt as Naivasha.The lake and its surrounds are rich in natural bounty, and the fertile soils and water supply have made this one of Kenya’s prime agricultural regions.Much of the lake is surrounded by forests of the yellow barked Acacia Xanthophlea, known as the yellow fever tree. These forests abound with bird life, and Naivasha is known as a world class birding destination.
Lake Naivasha is at the highest elevation of the Kenyan Rift valley at 1,884 metres (6,181 ft) in a complex geological combination of volcanic rocks and sedimentary deposits from a larger Pleistocene era lake. Apart from transient streams, the lake is fed by the perennial Malewa and Gilgil rivers. There is no visible outlet, but since the lake water is relatively fresh it is assumed to have an underground outflow.
The lake has a surface area of 139 km², and is surrounded by a swamp which covers an area of 64 square km, but this can vary largely depending on rainfall. It is situated at an altitude of 1,884 metres (6,180 ft).The lake has an average depth of 6 m (20 ft), with the deepest area being at Crescent Island, at a maximum depth of 30 m (100 ft). Njorowa Gorge used to form the lake’s outlet, but it is now high above the lake and forms the entrance to Hell’s Gate National Park. The town of Naivasha (formerly East Nakuru) lies on the north-east edge of the lake.
The lake is home to a variety of types of wildlife including over 400 different species of bird and a sizeable population of hippos. The fish community in the lake has been highly variable over time, influenced by changes in climate, fishing effort and the introduction of invasive species. The most recent shift in the fish population followed the accidental introduction of common carp in 2001. Nine years later, in 2010, common carp accounted for over 90% of the mass of fish caught in the lake.
There are two smaller lakes in the vicinity of Lake Naivasaha: Lake Oloiden and Lake Sonachi (a green crater lake). The Crater Lake Game Sanctuary lies nearby, while the lake shore is known for its population of European immigrants and settlers.
The waters of the lake draw a great range of game to these shores. Giraffes wander among the acacia, Buffalo wallow in the swamps and Columbus monkeys call from the treetops while the Lakes large hippo population sleeps the day out in the shallows. The region surrounding the Lake is well worth exploring.