A fantastic landscape opens like a flip of a page – a liquid blue lake profiled amidst the lush green and mountains of Elementeita - a dramatically different scenario from the growing slum that is Keekopey from where we turn in to reach Oasis Eco Camp.
Millions of butterflies escort us to the camp flitting like animated flower petals. With the ongoing rains, everything is in bloom – the forest, the flowers and the lake filled to the brim tempting us to walk its shores while the sky teases us with its moods which are changing from a clear sun-blazed blue to clouds of heavy purple-grey.
Armed with umbrellas, we walk through the yellow fever tree forest and into the clearing to reach the shores of Elementeita with the walls of the Great Rift Valley surrounding it in the distance.
Mist rises from the earth giving it an ethereal air. It’s the Keekopey hot springs. A young man relaxes in the water heated from within the earth’s core as we stride into it.
The hot spring is delicious against the cold of the late afternoon. The bubbles ripple the shallow pools reputed to have medicinal properties and it’s quite an effort to leave the natural spa.
Lush tall reeds line the shore where the water is fresh and it’s a busy scene with many a species of water birds in the marshes.
Tiny fish make for the reeds, where the Tilapia grahami breed, a species reported to have been accidentally introduced by the pelicans from Lake Nakuru where the fish were originally introduced in the 1960s to combat the mosquito menace.
A lone African fish eagle, resplendent in its crisp mantle of copper red feathers and white chest searches the waters for a catch.
We round the hillock littered with black obsidian and lava rocks where the field is filled with a carpet of white flowers reaching Delamere’s nose and the saddle-shaped hills.
A dense forest of croton trees fills another hillock – we’re more used to driving around croton bushes in the Mara for they are a favourite haunt of the lions who like to take refuge in them during the heat of the day.
Our guide Patrick Parsen Ole Kodonyo, points to a tiny acacia bush protected by its long sharp thorns. Nestled within on the ground is a cache of tiny eggs.
“Every time Iwalked nearby, the birds would try and scare me away,” says Patrick. On closer investigation, it showed the reason – the parent birds were protecting their eggs.
Back at Oasis, we meet up with David Chege and his wife Magdalene, an enterprising young couple who built their dream lodge for people who love nature like them. “I’m a civil engineer by training and my wife is an electrical engineer,” narrates David.
However, by the time he had completed his degree from the Nairobi University in 1998, the job market was saturated soDavid branched off into IT and Magdalene worked as an accounts manager for another IT firm.
On their breaks, the two spent time exploring the country and came up with the idea of organising affordable camping trips which they did for a while until they found the spot on the lake.
At first, they wanted to keep it as a camping ground but with their engineering backgrounds, the two drew up plans and after waiting for NEMA’s approval, put up the Oasis Eco Lodge which blends in perfectly with the natural surroundings – the three grass-thatched bandas sit in the natural forest grove each fitted with an upper deck that doubles up as a verandah from where one can relax and watch the tidings of the lake, the forest and the night sky.
Opened in December 2009, the Chege’s have fitted the tiny paradise with solar panels for all its energy consumption, septic tanks to take care of its waste water and its solid non biodegradable waste is transported to Nairobi because Nakuru does not have a good disposable system.
All the vegetables are sourced from the nearby villages and Peter Maina, the chef, fills the table with gourmet meals.
“We’re members of the Greater Lake Elementeita Conservation Association (GLECA),” says Magdelene.
“Lake Elementeita is a shallow lake, only about 1.2 metres at its deepest with a span of about 25 square kilometres. We don’t want it becoming degraded.”
“GLECA has almost finalised the management plan for the lake which is a pre-requisite for it to be listed as a World Heritage Site,” she continues.
Since 2005, the lake is a RAMSAR site under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental treaty adopted in 1971 to recognise wetlands that are extremely important for biodiversity conservation and the well-being of human communities.