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close encounters of the animal kind

The next stop on our tour of the Rift Valley was Lake Naivasha. S found a great place to camp and we wound up pitching our tent right at the water’s edge for three nights. When we arrived close to sundown on Wednesday night, about a dozen hippos were happily lazing in the shallow water a stone’s throw away from where we set up camp. The camp owners had dug a trench and set up a low-hanging electric wire to discourage the hippos, who come out to graze on the grass at night, from entering the camp grounds. Even so, falling asleep to the snorting of hungry hippos as they munched on the grass right outside our tent was quite a memorable experience.

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Though there are some private lodges around Lake Naivasha, there are also plenty of things to do and see for the DIY tourist. We spent the early half of Thursday at the Crater Lake Game Sanctuary on one side of the lake and the afternoon on Crescent Island on the other side. Neither sanctuary has any predators or elephants (which won’t attack tourists but might accidentally trample them), so it’s perfectly alright to amble around and commune with nature.

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On Crescent Island, we spent half an hour watching a giraffe yank on a lower acacia branch it had denuded and then attempt to snag a higher leafy branch with his long, sticky tongue whenever the branch reached the nadir of its downward arc. We were standing close enough to pet him if we had so desired.

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At Crater Lake, we were fortunate enough to come upon two giraffes in the act of mating.

giraffe mating ritual

giraffe mating ritual

gettin' it on

gettin’ it on

caught in the act

caught in the act

Though we chose to utilize our own camping gear, Camp Carnelly’s offers a wide range of accommodation options, including bandas and fully decked-out cabins. We were happy setting up a tent on a lush piece of grass next to the hippos, but we also made full use of the camp’s other offerings, including steaming hot showers, a bar stacked with cold beer, and a superb restaurant. Unbeknownst to us, the Rift Valley Music Festival was held at a neighboring campsite from Friday to Sunday – and by “neighboring” we mean that it was literally across the hedge from where we set up camp – so our last night at Camp Carnelly’s, the hippos wound up getting drowned out in an eclectic mix of live music.

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