Now, what on Earth could come even close to Masai Mara? We were so sure that the national park had been the highlight of our trip, that we thought whatever came after was just a bonus – specially because Lake Naivasha was supposed to only be a relaxing stopover. Still, it surprised us!
Lake Naivasha is situated northwest of Nairobi, in the Rift Valley. Its surface area is 139 km2, and it´s home of a large hippo population. This is a place where the hotel you stay in will make the whole trip there worth it…or not. Our overnight was at Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort, and upon arrival it made us speechless.
The hotel is very integrated with the lake surroundings. As a security guard told us, the government regulated the area in a way that the hotel had to be constructed respecting the protected vegetation. So they are not allowed to trim plants growing in certain grounds, even if this compromises the walking around of tourists at some parts. And yes, this is something positive! I, personally, wouldn´t even have realized these areas if the security guard hadn´t mentioned them and pointed them out. I thought the hotel offered so much for visitors already that the high vegetation area near the lake didn´t bother me at all.
The hotel structure follows a “circle” concept. The main building, where the reception, bar, restaurant, and gift shop are located, is built as a round complex, with a winter garden in the middle. It´s just jaw dropping once you enter it: the gorgeous high ceiling made with local timber, the lively green garden bringing sunlight into the building, the luxurious round chandeliers, the stone walls decorated with indigenous art and the fancy furniture. Oh, and don´t forget the huge fireplaces…You feel like you are visiting a rich friend´s lake house!
The lodges, which are also in a round shape, are organized in the same “circle” concept. Thus, every accommodation gets a view to the green field in front of the lake, where many zebras, waterbucks and monkeys walk around free (if it counts, we saw some cats as well, lol). Though there´s a fence separating the lodges area from the middle of the grassland, it is open at places so animals are free to roam around, therefore going from one side to the other. They definitely make use of it! Nonetheless, this definitely demands more responsibility from the tourists: you should always keep a safe distance from the wild animals for them not to feel threatened or bothered.
We thought that the opportunity Sopa Resort gave us to be with the animals at all times, at such a close range, was absolutely amazing. One of the best moments we had in this trip was to sit outside on a swing with a bottle of wine, watching the zebras interact with each other.
To walk inside the fenced area (where most of the animals stay) in order to get to the lake, you need a security guard to accompany you. There´s nothing to worry about, it´s just procedure. Though these animals are not dangerous, you never know what a wild animal can do, so it´s important to have someone by your side that can read them very well. The security guards walk with a stick, but it is not intended to be used on the animals (of course we asked!). It is basically something that the guard can use to hit the floor aggressively in case he needs to scare an animal away.
The only animals you do need some caution with here are the hippos. They stay inside the lake during the day, so if you are up for an adventure, you can book a boat trip at the hotel in order to take a closer look at them. However, Mathias and I decided to sit this one out. Blame it on Nat Geo! Before we went to Africa, I ended up coming across a tv show that showed some terrifying lake accidents with hippos in Tanzania, so…yeah. Put me butt naked in front of a lion, but never, even geared up, in water with hippos!
If this is something you also do not feel comfortable with, don´t worry, you will get plenty of opportunities to see this amazing animal! When night falls, the hippos get out of the water and come to the hotel grounds in order to feed on the green grass. So walking around alone at night is the last thing you wanna do, because even though you can´t see them, I promise, they are there hidden in the bushes. When we were leaving the restaurant to go to our lodge, the security guard showed us with the lantern how close they were, and man….were they close. I was fascinated, but I also got a move on!
I might have spent about 1 hour more at our balcony seeing the hippos from the safety of above. There were quite a few babies! I found it very interesting how they sound like gorilas sometimes. By the way…talking about the monkey family! Here´s a golden tip for you: when the sun is setting, before you head to the main building to have a drink, pass by the pool. Seeing the small monkeys come down from the trees and start playing around the pool area is such a delight!
When it comes to the hotel itself, I thought the food offered wasn´t amazing, but definitely not bad either. The service was kind. We also got a bottle of wine and a beautiful plate of fruits upon arrival in the room. The accommodation was one of the best we had: though the room was more of a normal hotel one, in comparison to the rustic ones we stayed before, it was the biggest and most comfortable we had. The activities offered are also nice, for example, nature walks, bike rides and lawn tennis.
The only “problem” was the mosquitos (it´s a lake area after all…). Even with repellent, you will be eaten alive. But this is nature, guys. If you want to check my complete review of this hotel on Trip Advisor, click here.
Wanna stop imagining and take a look at what this resort and Lake Naivasha really look like? Click on the video below!