Less than 3 hours from Nairobi, deep in the Great Rift Valley, Naivasha feels like a world away from Kenya’s chaotic capital.
Lake Naivasha is vast and stunningly beautiful. Whether you’re spinning about on a boat tour or lounging on the lakeshore, there’s plenty of space for everyone to stretch out, relax, and take it all in.
While the lake itself is worth a weekend trip, there’s also plenty to do in the surrounding hills and mountains.
Use this guide to plan your Naivasha trip and decide if you want an active holiday or a relaxing getaway – or both!
Things to Do in Naivasha
Naivasha has something for everyone. It’s the perfect weekend getaway away for families, couples, friends, and strung out Nairobians who need to escape the city before they lose their minds!
Boat Trip on the Lake
The most popular activity on Naivasha is taking a short boat trip around the lake.
They usually last about an hour, and the ‘captain’ will happily answer questions about the various sites throughout the lake. You’ll also get pretty close to some hippos – which is nice.
A boat trip should only cost around 20,000 KES for a small group, so you may need to haggle for the right price.
It’s particularly lovely at sunrise and sunset.
Crescent Island is a small sliver of privately owned land just off the main road that runs along the lake.
It’s completely open, and you’re free to wander around with the zebras and giraffes that live here.
Crescent Island is probably the closest you’ll get to the animals in the wild, and it’s a total trip when you notice there’s a giraffe just above your head.
Compared to Naivasha, Crater Lake feels more like a pond.
But if you enjoy some light trekking, circling around the lake is a leisurely way to spend 2 hours and take in the surrounding hills’ views.
You’ll also probably be the only people here.
Unwind and Relax
Of course, if you just want to come to Naivasha and do nothing, that’s totally cool.
Naivasha is perfect for just lounging on a chair, reading a book, playing cards, enjoying a meal, and letting the real world slip away for a couple of days.
Even at its most crowded, you can definitely find a quiet corner of the lake to sit and chill.
Visiting Hell’s Gate From Naivasha
Hell’s Gate National Park is just a short drive south of Lake Naivasha.
You can easily visit Hell’s Gate on its own as a day trip from Nairobi. However, instead of driving back to the city after a long day of hiking, wouldn’t you prefer to relax on the lake?
Every campsite and resort in Naivasha organizes trips to Hell’s Gate for guests. If you have a car, you can also easily self-drive.
Fisherman’s is by far the most popular campsite in Naivasha.
Right on the lakeshore, it’s a beautiful, expansive campsite with a few small bandas (Kenyan bungalows). Facilities are basic, with shared kitchens and bathrooms and a small restaurant bar.
If you’re on a budget, this Fisherman’s is the best value stay in Naivasha.
A quick warning. Fisherman’s Camp is also a popular weekend party spot for young Nairobians. Both times I’ve stayed there, there have been issues with noise late into the morning. If you value a good night’s sleep, maybe don’t risk it.
Just next door to Fisherman’s, Camp Carnelley’s may not be right on the lakeshore, but in every other area, it’s a significant upgrade.
You can choose between camping grounds and private bandas, but the highlight of Carnelley’s is its excellent restaurant – worth a visit even if you’re not staying here.
I’ve only been to Crayfish for lunch, but it was enough to know I’ll never stay here.
The campsite’s TripAdvisor reviews back this up: trash everywhere, terrible food, filthy toilets, uncomfortable beds, the list goes on.
Just southwest of Naivasha is Lake Oloiden. It’s much smaller than the main lake and much quieter as a result. But it’s just as beautiful.
Oloiden Camp Site is right on the water, with stunning views looking out over the lake. Facilities and prices are similar to Carnelley’s and Fisherman’s on the main lake.
Nice Airbnbs in Naivasha
If you feel like a more intimate self-catering stay in Naivasha, there are plenty of unique Airbnbs close to the lake.
I stayed at Sanctuary Farms on a previous visit, and it was terrific. Right next to Crescent Island, the farm is full of roaming animals, has a small outdoor pool, and delightful little cottages dotted throughout the grounds.
You can also stop by Buffalo Mall in Naivasha Town to pick up any groceries for your stay.
Getting to Naivasha
Naivasha is 93km north of Nairobi – a 2-3 hour drive depending on traffic out of the city. It’s a nice drive once you leave the city behind, and the Great Rift Valley opens up in front of you.
Look out for some viewpoints along the way to stop and take in the view.
Taking a Matatu
You can take regular matatus directly from downtown Nairobi to Naivasha Town, leaving from 6 am until the evening.
It takes about as long as driving, with few stops on the way.
Once you arrive in Naivasha Town, if you’re staying on the lake, you’ll need to take another matatu or hire a taxi to get to your final destination.
SWVL is ‘re-inventing’ transport in Kenya with a novel idea: after downloading the app, you can pre-book a seat on regularly scheduled mini-buses, running on set timetables…. With fixed prices.
The app primarily serves routes within Nairobi, but you can also book a seat to Naivasha.
If you don’t have a car and you can’t handle crapped matatus, SVWL is the best option for a comfortable, hassle-free trip to Naivasha.
Naivasha is named after the Maasai name for the lake, E na-iposha, which translates to ‘rough waters.’ It very much reflects conditions on the lake.
The weather here can change quickly, so pack for both rain and sun – because you never know when a quick storm might pass through.
It also gets quite cold at night, so make sure you have something warm to wear in the evenings.
Flash flooding is also quite common during the region’s rainy months, usually running April-August. Keep an eye on local news and Facebook groups for updates.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ah, yes. The Nairobi-Naivasha SGR – aka “The Train to Nowhere.”
While it’s possible to take the SGR from Nairobi to Naivasha, the train ends in Suswa, which is over an hour south of Naivasha. Basically, in the middle of nowhere.
It’s quicker and more convenient to drive.
Lake Naivasha is famous for numerous reasons. The local hippos attract a lot of attention and certainly draw many tourists. But the lake is also surrounded by the picturesque rolling hills of the Great Rift Valley – home to plenty of large land mammals.
For people living in Nairobi, Lake Naivasha offers an escape from the busy city. Many Nairobi residents come to Lake Naivasha for day trips and weekend getaways.
No, the lake with all the flamingos is Lake Nakuru.
Nakuru is only 90 minutes drive from Naivasha and worth visiting for the flamingos, rhinos, and stunning beauty.
Simming in Lake Naivasha is not advised.
In the past, the hippos have killed tourists who got too close. Crocodiles are also occasionally spotted in the water. Also, the weather in Lake Naivasha can change quickly, with the waters suddenly become very choppy.
Finally, due to the lake’s size, there might not be anyone around to save you if you get into trouble.
Uber and Bolt do have drivers in Naivasha Town – but not many.
In my experience, they don’t like taking passengers to any campsites or resorts on the lake. It’s too long a drive, and there aren’t any other passengers for them to collect when you arrive.
You can use the apps, but expect to haggle over the fare and pay cash.
Useful Information and Contacts
Naivasha postal code: 20117
Naivasha Hospitals and Medical Centres
- Naivasha County Referral Hospital: +254 770 735 546
- Aga Khan Naivasha Medical Centre: +254502030443
- Karen Hospital Naivasha Branch: +254 724 412 107
- Bliss Naivasha Medical Centre: +254 780 100 036