I’ve been camping since I were a baby, memories of the family setting up tent in the New Forest, cooking over camp fires, and making sodden trips to the pub so my parents could renew their vigour with wine and beer form the pattern of my childhood. Nowadays if I were given the chance I’m not sure a tent would ever feature in my life, but it frequently does because I am reluctant to deny the kids the chance to have some of the wonderful outdoor adventures I had as a child. I have to admit though, that camping in Africa is a world away from camping in the dampness of the British Isles, which is why armed with wine and duvets we set off on Friday afternoon to camp at Lake Naivasha.
Our group of 11 headed for Camp Carnellys, because not only was it recommended by everyone we spoke to but we’d been there before and realised there is a great restaurant on site, which felt like a reassuring back up plan if it all went wrong.
We left after school on Friday afternoon and even with the traffic and never-ending lorries, we were at the campsite within two hours. You camp in the shade of Acacia trees overlooking the impossibly picturesque Lake Naivasha, which itself is perfectly situated to watch the sun set in the evening. The campsite is flat and grassy, and the facilities are great with clean toilets supplied and piping hot showers.
Choose the right spot and you can even bag yourself a large shelter complete with stone table for food prep. The best part about Naivasha though is that the lake is home to hundreds of hippos. As the sun begins to set they leave their watery homes to graze the shores of the lake just a few metres from where your tent is pitched. It’s this kind magical experience which makes living in Africa (and camping) all so worth it. After dark we took the kids to shine their torches into the dark and see the hippo families, and honestly I dont know who was more excited the kids or the grown ups. Fear not though, at night an electric fence is erected, which coupled with a small but deep ditch, keeps you safe from the lakes most famous residents whilst you sleep.
By day Camp Carnellys organises boat rides out to see the hippos. 3500 Shillings (approx. USD 35) and 7 people can take an hour-long boat ride around the lake which will allow you to nail bitingly close to literally hundreds of hippos.
The Lazybones bar/restaurant at Carnellys is worth a trip out from Nairobi all by itself. An extensive menu for both food and drink is offered within a sublimely relaxed environment. Our group consisted of 6 kids and the pizzas were so huge that between them they couldn’t finish two. The adults ordered fish curry, samosas, pizza and the deservedly infamous nachos. Every dish came in huge portions and was faultless. The nachos (yes they need a second mention) were straight out of Mexico; enormous home baked tortillas piled high with meat, cheese and guacamole, far more than one person could possibly eat.
On the third day we headed west for 30 minutes to the wonderful Crater Lake. Autological, it is indeed a lake in the crater of a volcano. The jade green water is banked by forest cleared only to make way for the Crater Lake Tented Camp. The entrance fee to the park, for this is also a game park, allows you access to the camps swimming pool which is right next to the lake. The camp itself has mixed reviews in terms of accommodation and food. Sadly we were unable to partake of either as at the time of visiting the camp had no electricity and no food was available. We did take a quick peek at the campsite and it looked like a great alternative to Carnellys if you ever tire of it, or would prefer to camp in a place where the kids can swim. A short stroll from the car park leads you to a bluff with amazing 360 views the lake itself and the hills surrounding Naivasha. The kids spend so long in the pool that we ran out of time for a game drive, but even just driving through the park we saw giraffes, warthogs, zebra and various buck.
I would highly recommend a family camping trip to Naivasha and Carnellys and even Crater Lake. This weekend, both kids and adults had a blast.
Camp Carnellys: http://www.campcarnelleys.com
- Camping: 800 KSH per adult per night
- Bandas are available from 2 pax up to 6.. a 6 person Banda is 10000 KSH per night.
Crater Lake Tented Camp : https://www.craterlakecamp.com