It took our overland vehicle only 90 minutes to make it outside Nairobi to Lake Naivasha. Everyone was anxious to see wildlife, and spotting a view zebras along the way sent some of us into a photographic frenzy. We stopped and setup camp at a site that was made for tenting. There was a fence to keep wildlife out, open air buildings for gatherings, and restroom facilities. We pitched our tent, and head out to Elsasmere.
Joy and George Adamson came to this area to release a lion cub (Elsa) and reacclimate them to the wild. On the surface, this is the hallmark of a feel good story. People from Denmark (who happened to have a lion cub), moved to Kenya to try to bring a lion cub they raised back to the wild. Hollywood picked up their story, making Born Free (which I remember seeing as a youth). The back story is full of more intrigue. George was a game warden in Kenya after shooting a lioness, found that she was just protecting her cubs. He took the three cubs, that were too young to care for themselves, and “donated” them to a zoo in Denmark, but kept the youngest. They spent time rehabilitating the cub and trying to reintroduce it to the wild. They were successful. Both Joy and George remained in Africa. After separating, George was killed after being involved in an altercation and Joy was murdered in 1981 at the Shaba National Preserve. In the end, they did their best to right their wrong and do right by Elsa. However, the conflicts between animal and humans plays out in many regions in Africa as wild animals face habitat loss and people are faced with a zero-sum game question of us or them. Even through Africa is popular for setting aside large swaths of land as preserves for animals, both humans (knowingly) and animal species (unknowingly) violate the boarders regularly.
At the lodge we watched a brief documentary of the life and legacy of Joy Adamson. We ate breakfast at the lodge. Colobus monkeys frequent this lodge, and wanted to have my breakfast. I decided not to share, which upset this particular monkey.
We were to be in an overland vehicle for the next 10 days with 14 other strangers (6 from Britain, 1 from Denmark, 1 from Japan, 2 from Canada, and our 3 guides/drivers/cook from Kenya) so we took advantage of a walking safari. Nearby to our camp we were driven to small wildlife preserve where walked through the fields next to the lake. A ranger walked with us carrying gun, just in case. We walked amongst the elands, gazelles, giraffes, and zebras. They still kept their distance but it was an unique perspective. We took many film pictures of our trip to Kenya and Tanzania, and upon return our biggest disappointment was that none of the pictures captured the color, vastness, nor the beauty of what we had experienced. Pictures of this walking safari fell into this category.
A canoe ride
In the early morning the grunts of hippos woke everyone up. We headed down to the dock to the lake and took a canoe ride. Our guides were cautious to keep their distance to hippos in the water. The lake was not deep our guide explained:
In the early days, many tourists came here. Now the lake is disappearing. The lake level used to be much higher. (He pointed to point up on the hill next to some houses). The people used to farm and fish. Now there is less fish, and the levels are way down. People used to farm food when I young. Now they farm flowers and send them to Europe. Roses use more water. More people have work now, but we are losing our water.
We canoed by some women washing clothes lakeside with their children playing near by. “Jambo”. We waved and and then canoed in silence contemplating the future of this area. I had no idea that Europe imported roses from Kenya. That seemed nonsensical. It obviously made economic sense to someone, but was this land worth that Faustian bargain?
In doing some research on the area I found this piece by Robert Bect (Click Here)> published 5 years after our visit. He outlined the history of the area and collects large amounts of data in regards to the health of the lake. He outlined a rosier picture of the future stating that there is a large association of interested stakeholders in preserving the lake. His data reveals a different picture. Fish populations are down, dissolved oxygen levels are up and the amount of the lake under papyrus (which helps purify and filter the water) is down and continues to drop dramatically.)
Recent events in 2017 and 2018 show that the lake is receding farther as industrial farms poach water prompting the Water Resource Authority to revise the riparian boundary of the lake which will affect local fishmongers more than the horticultural industry.
As climate change moves regions to longer periods of drought this conflict over water will intensify.