A private celebration…and exploring Naivasha

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Celebrating 5o years of existence on planet earth in grand style seems to have caught the fancy of most people on social media. However, I just didn’t feel any extra special to be touching this golden figure. Fifty is a good number, a friend jokingly told me, but I still think it is a better score in cricket. When I think back, I don’t recall going through any kind of struggle to get to this number. Or making any extra effort to reach to this point safely. Completing 25 years of marriage however, calls for a celebration, my husband and I both agreed.

We planned to have a private family getaway somewhere close by. After some googling and brainstorming, we zeroed in on Loldia House, a relatively unknown property of Governor’s Camp, on the shores of Lake Naivasha. We had fallen in love with their camp at Mara and were sure that this property will not disappoint us either. Workaholic hubby took a day off (miracles do happen, yes!) and daughter also played truant from school. It almost seemed like planning a naughty weekend.

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The newly paved road leading towards the well-known Great Rift Valley Lodge & Golf Resort was smooth as silk and the drive was one of the most scenic ones we have ever taken. Soon after crossing the golf resort, it was a good 5 km of bumpy road before we sighted the gates of Loldia House. And then it was a further 3 km of driving through the rough roads of the picturesque Loldia farm before we reached our destination.

We were warmly greeted by their manager Heather and adorable labrador Scotty, and taken to our cottage on the hill. She explained that as we were the only people there during the week, we might as well enjoy that specially located room. Which it was indeed, perched on a hillock with the balcony facing Lake Naivasha. The cottage had two en suite rooms on either side of the living-dining area (which even had a recently-tuned piano) and a third room in the attic. A small kitchen and another bathroom were located just outside.

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Our cottage area was fenced and we had a jeep at our disposal to go to the reception as the farm is visited by leopards and hippos! For a couple of days, we were pampered like royals with delicious lunch and dinner served in our cottage. Breakfast was the only time we went down the hill. And of course also for the night game drives, which did not reward us with any leopard sightings but blessed us with many nocturnal animals like the bat-eared fox, common African hare, spring hare, jackal, nightjar, Verreaux’s eagle owl as well as hyenas, hippos and the usual herbivores.

The lake facing balcony was our favourite chilling area – with various birds coming in for a dip at the bird bath. We were also lucky to see a pair of nesting fish eagles atop a huge acacia while the hippos grunted and fought for their territorial rights down below. The chef rustled up a lovely birthday dinner and managed to bake a cake as well. Then he joined the steward and my hubby in singing the happy birthday song while my daughter played it on the piano. As I cut the cake I felt very thankful for everything life has offered me thus far.

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Just like all clouds have a silver lining, the reverse is probably also true. In our excitement of exploring the lush grounds of Loldia House, we almost had a Hansel & Gretel like experience. Right next to ours, was another beautiful cottage with its gate swung open, literally inviting us to walk in. As we entered, we were greeted by a fairy-tale house painted like a dream with bougainvilleas of impossible shades. There was a small flight of moss covered steps which lured us even further. We could see a house with many rooms and thought that maybe this is where the other rooms of the lodge were.

Suddenly, a black labrador (mix of a lab and terrier, we later discovered) bounded towards us. There was something different about this dog. It was too lean and its eyes had a less soulful look. But it behaved like a lab – full of energy, delighted with human company and begging to be petted. It even joined my daughter on the trampoline! Then it abruptly disappeared somewhere.

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As we were walking away, we saw the second dog – a mean looking brown dog on another level of the garden. Our sixth sense prevailed and we briskly walked away, although there was nothing we could have done had he decided to charge at us. On enquiring at the reception, we were told that the dog was indeed a menace and had bitten Heather and other staff members on numerous occasions!

The lovely property adjacent to us, belonged to the owner of Loldia Farm who inexplicably refuses to have a sign saying PRIVATE PROPERTY on her gate, despite repeated appeals from the management of the Loldia House, who should also in all fairness, warn their guests to stay away from this dangerous dog.

Early next morning, as I was strolling in front of our cottage, I had a blood curdling moment when I saw 2 dogs racing towards me! The dog sitter was taking them out for a walk, unleashed, when they decided to make a dash. I screamed at the guy and decided to freeze at the spot as running would surely agitate the dogs. The black lab reached me first and jumped about excitedly while I braced myself for the brown one to bite me.

As I was steeling my nerves for the attack, he stopped at my feet, sniffed at my jeans and inexplicably decided to heed to the dog sitter’s calls of going back to him. The black one continued to hang around me for a while and then he too sprinted away. I feel that the black one saved me by openly demonstrating that he knows me. I thanked my lucky stars that we ignorantly trespassed into the neighbour’s property the previous day and befriended the black dog who turned out to be my saviour.

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A pied kingfisher about to swoop on its prey @Lake Oloiden

We set off for Crater Lake Park the next morning and stopped by Lake Oloiden to be swept by the cool breeze on an otherwise sweltering day. An interesting fact about this lake is hardly known by most. This lake being salty, is devoid of water hyacinths that is a scourge of Lake Naivasha. As a result, boating here is a more enjoyable experience. During the drier season, it also attracts more flamingos! To reach this lake, you need to go through Naivasha town and drive past Elsamere resort on the southern side of Lake Naivasha. The road is very scenic and dotted with wild life – we even saw wart hogs by the roadside!

Crater Lake however disappointed me. I was curious to see a green lake but too much rain had made the water look commonplace. However, the picnic lunch that followed was bound to lift up anybody’s spirits. Under the shade of a huge fig tree, with the giraffes, zebras and impalas grazing by. The day was quite hot but the shade of the tree made us forget that. I somehow resisted the temptation of lying down and taking a snooze right there.

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Our next stop was the most interesting one of the day – a bird rescue centre run by an admirably gutsy lady. She had so many interesting stories to tell us about the birds which were housed there. The Verreaux’s Owl who thinks he is a human and refuses to mate with a female owl. A Ruppell’s vulture who needs to first learn how to be a vulture before he can be set free, and many other interesting and heartwarming stories.

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She is building a hospital and desperately looking for an avian vet – She plans to open the centre to the public by this year end, hopefully. Mainly for educating the Africans that an owl is a farmer’s best friend and not the harbinger of bad luck or death as it is tainted to be. Most believe that the hooting of an owl is a bad omen because it is sent by a witch doctor to deliver a fatal curse!!

It was very intriguing to read about the African folklores connected to owls. It was all the more interesting because in our part of India, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, rides an owl and the white owl is associated with good luck.  Here is another fascinating link about some other perspectives. The lady was aware of the auspiciousness connected to owls in India and wished that it was so too, in Africa.

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There is a Facebook page where you can get a detailed history and updates of all the feathered inmates at the bird centre. However, she does not want any publicity now as she is not yet ready to entertain a large number of guests. But if you are really interested to volunteer or help in any way, make sure you CALL first to make an appointment. Else you may just have to go away without visiting these lovely birds.

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Patiently waiting outside the gates of the owl centre

We did not know that and arrived totally unheralded on a rainy day. She was naturally quite unhappy about it and almost turned us away. Maybe the eagerness in our eyes swayed her and she kindly agreed to give us a ‘very short’ tour, which luckily ended up being quite a long and happy one. Do NOT drop in without notice – she stressed  that you have to call and make an appointment if you want to explore this lovely place.

We returned to Nairobi the next day and went back to our daily grooves. But this sudden getaway was a welcome break to unwind ourselves. And to celebrate a sum total of 117 years of existence on this planet among the three of us. Cheers to that!

Leaving you to get immersed in some bewitching sights of Lake Naivasha.

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Grey headed gull
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African Jacana
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Black winged stilt with the hippos
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Pelicans taking off
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Tree full of cormorants
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Cormorant
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Heron
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A typical Naivasha sunset (Pic credits: Aditi Biswas)
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And another (pic credits: Aditi Biswas)

 

 

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