By Rupi Mangat

Above: Maasai giraffe at Ecoscapes Conservancy Lake Naivasha

Published: Saturday Nation 4 April 2020

We’re in a land from the time of the dinosaurs. While there may or may not have been dinosaurs around Lake Naivasha, there’s a tiny wasp that has been around for some 60 million years ago when dinosaurs where going out of fashion.

Driving on Moi North tarmac road that circles part of the freshwater lake that is the highest of the rift lakes, the earth road that follows is a gorgeous grove of fig trees – Ficus wakefieldii to be precise because there are over 750 species of fig trees in the world. Each one of them has strong trunks with wide spread branches that look like a work of art in a natural gallery.

The story of the wasp is the story of the fig. Each fig species has its own fig wasp that pollinates it and they have been evolving together from the time of the dino. What’s even more fascinating is that the female finds the fig to lay her eggs. The new-borns mate and the males chew an escape tunnel out of the fig for the females to file out, find a new fig and begin the circle of life all over again.

A troop of baboons materialize from the grove to warm up in the midday sun.  The lake shows in bits and pieces rimmed by a thick girdle of wildlife conservancies where we look out for Maasai giraffes with more zeal simply because they are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Growing up we were so used to seeing giraffes that we never imagined them being ‘endangered’.

Thick branch of Ficus wakefieldii at Ecoscapes on Lake Naivasha. Copyright Rupi Mangat
Thick branch of Ficus wakefieldii at Ecoscapes on Lake Naivasha. Copyright Rupi Mangat

Finally we’re at the lakeshore driving in at Ecoscapes Conservancy though a swathe of towering Yellow-barked acacias. A waterbuck with its white-rumped bump stands in the shade like the rest of the residents – we’re talking buffaloes, zebra, giraffes, Coke’s hartebeest (kongoni), impalas, Thomson’s and Grants gazelles.

Stepping on the western extreme of the sparkling lake drenched in clean fresh air, l heave in massive breaths to revitalize after the drive from Nairobi. The shrill cry of the African fish eagle makes us look around and it’s like every tree stump has the stately bird dressed in a mantle of copper feathers and white collar holding on to its territory.

There are birds everywhere – flying, swimming or perched. Lake Naivasha is a birders paradise with more than 400 different kinds giving importance to the lake as a globally recognized Important Bird Area and a Ramsar site meaning it’s a rich wetland of global importance – and the government obliged to be its caretaker.

Lake Naivasha flock of cormorants flying over. Copyright Rupi Mangat (800x600)
Lake Naivasha flock of cormorants flying over. Copyright Rupi Mangat

Alex Bell of Ecoscapes Conservancy tells us more about the area as we stroll through the acacia forest of tall yellow trees.

“The West Lake Conservancy extends from Lake Oloidien and is made up of a group of like-minded people who want to protect the lake, its wildlife and its surroundings.

“So we have Mundui Conservancy, Hippo Point Conservancy, Crater Lake Conservancy, Ecoscapes Conservancy and Wileli Conservancy and smaller land owners.  We have all taken down our fences to open the land for the wildlife to move up and down the corridor. The Conservancy is 5,525 acres and has Lake Oloidien in the south and Lake Naivasha to the east.

“We also have an electric fence along the west boundary which is the Moi North Lake Road to prevent people and wildlife conflict.”

It’s an enjoyable walk with the lake in the background and the mountains of the rift around us – Eburru, the Mau range, Longonot and the stretch of the Aberdares.

hippo at L.Naivasha in Ecoscapes Conservancy
Hippo at L.Naivasha in Ecoscapes Conservancy

These have been ancient routes for the wild animals following the grass routes’ with the seasons of rain and drought. It’s what West Lake Conservancy wants to protect.

“We want to link West Lake Conservancy via wildlife corridors to Mt. Longonot, Hell’s Gate and Oserian on the south side and with Mount Eburru on the north side,” says Bell.

An even more dynamic plan is to build wildlife overpasses on the road for the wildlife to move up and down without getting knocked down by speeding cars. It’s happened in the US to protect the mountain lions crossing over a 12-lane highway.

Maybe then we’ll see more of the rare mountain bongos with the ivory-tipped horns crossing over to the forests of Eburru and Aberdares.

Ecoscapes the house

ecoscpae house 1
By the lake, Ecoscape house
ecoscpae house 2 at Ecoscapes conservancy Lake Naivasha
The living room at Ecoscape house in Ecoscapes conservancy Lake Naivasha

Health Brief From Ecoscapes

In wake of COVID-19, the staff at Ecoscapes House have been trained on self-protection and the importance of strict hygiene and cleaning protocols.  Ecoscapes House is deep sanitized between guests and guests are requested to provide honest information about how well they have been social distancing and their risk of having been exposed to the virus.  As Ecoscapes House is let on a self-catering basis, guests can chose how much the staff will be involved in the day to day running of the house. Ecoscapes Sanctuary is on the west shore of Lake Naivasha in an area isolated from villages and other developments.

Buy fresh vegetables from Ecoscapes sold at the pop up markets at Langata Link and Shamba Café.  Customers have to hand sanitize as they enter the pop ups and practice social distancing.  Ecoscapes staff practice the hygiene methods recommended to control the spread of the virus.