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By far the nicest way to reach Crescent Island is by boat, which also allows you to appreciate Lake Naivasha's charms. The boats are safe and well constructed, and wearing a life vest is mandatory.
It's only a short boat trip as the crow flies, but the trip is 'fleshed out' to include some waterborne game viewing - particularly of hippos - as well as excellent bird watching. Be sure to mention to the guide if you're interested in birds, as the variety of waterbirds is spectacular - we had spotted goliath heron, spoonbills and giant kingfishers in a matter for minutes - see the travelogue on my Lake Naivasha page for more detail.
Be assured that your guide will also 'offer' you the chance to see a fish eagle swooping for a fish and will be duly horrified should you turn this opportunity down!
Updated Jun 7, 2012
Wildlife purists would probably condemn this trip to 'Tourist Traps' or 'Warnings and Dangers', so if you are of that persuasion, you should probably move onto the next tip ...
If you take a boat trip on Lake Naivasha to Crescent Island, it is almost certain that your tour guide will ask you whether you want to see a fish eagle catch a fish ... a little symbiotic party trick that both parties have developed to ensure local eagles with a steady supply of low-effort food, and the guides with equally steady stream of tips!
It's really very simple. The guide tosses a dead fish in the water and whistles for the eagle. The eagle swoops down from his treetop roost, retrieves the fish with its talons and then returns to its perch to eat in comfort. It is utterly orchestrated and unspontaneous, but it does give you a ringside seat from which to watch these majestic birds retrieving prey, and if you only have a couple of days in the bush, the chances are that you won't be lucky enough to witness this spectacle elsewhere.
The downside is, of course, that the eagles develop a dependency on this easy food source, and our guide admitted that he doubted that the eagles involved bothered to hunt at all for other food. I don't think that this is a huge problem, as there probably only a couple of dozen birds involved, and this food source doesn't show any signs of abating, but it definitely is a 'learned' behaviour that compromises the birds' independence.
From a practicality point of view, there is only so much fish a fish eagle can eat, so if you want to withness this, try and go early in the morning whilst the birds are still hungry: by midday, they were studiously ignoring the fish being tossed out and the guides were resorting to ever more frantic whistling to try and encourage them into activity!
Lastly a note for the photographers. We took a new camera with us on this trip (as our old one died just before we departed), and hadn't had a chance to 'play' with it in advance, which is never a good idea. Having learned more about our camera since then, we should have used the 'sports mode' to take a swift succession of action photos as the fish eagle swooped ... but it's easy to be wise in hindsight!
Updated Nov 21, 2011
The degree to which the 'wild' animals are habituated to humans on Crescent Island needs to be seen to be believed. I have certainly never before have had the pleasure of having groups of usually skittish waterbuck pose calmly for me ... so the truth is out ... I'm actually not as good a photographer as the picture might suggest!
Waterbuck are one of my very favourite species of antelope (although at some point or other, I suspect that I've probably said that about virtually all of them!) and I am particularly susceptible to their shaggy 'teddy bear' charms - especially the calves, who - unlike wildebeest - have raised 'cute and cuddly' to an artform (see photo)! As with many species of buck, the males tend to get kicked out to form batchelor herds (see photo) once they reach maturity, leaving the dominant male to preside over his harem and their young.
If you're a beginner to this gamespotting lark, it can initially be confusing to distinguish between species and you're left agonising over whether it's a Thomson's or a Grant's gazelle. However, take heart, because identifying waterbuck is a doddle. If you're not close enough to identify their shaggy coats, then look for the distinctive white horseshoe around their tails, which makes them look like they've accidentally sat down on a freshly painted toilet seat ... a failsafe method of identification which my kids never cease to be amused by!
Updated Aug 14, 2011
Old Africa hands will be bored rigid by this statistic, but it is a reality that comical, blimp-like hippos kill more people in Africa each year than any other animal (except, obviously, the malaria-bearing anopheles mosquito).
There is certainly no shortage of hippos in Lake Naivasha, and every stretch of shoreline seems to have its own resident pod, which is usually based on a family group. The social dynamics of hippo society are fascinating to observe, and involve a good deal of squabbling (accompanied by loud, indignant grunting) as well as posturing and sparring between males competing for dominance(which comes complete with gaping jaws to expose lethal peg-like teeth).
Hippos are most mobile - and least dangerous - in the water, which is their natural element and which affords them the best opportunity for escaping human contact. However, they can put in a staggering turn of speed on land if they need to, and tend to cut up particularly nasty when you accidentally come between them and their calf. This is surprisingly easy to do if you are out at night and don't realise that the hippos have come out to graze (during which time, they may venture kilometres inland from the water), so if you encounter a hippo under such circumstances, be extremely cautious and take calm, evasive action.
Updated Aug 14, 2011
Some things in life just make it harder to be taken seriously ... like being born a wildebeest (or gnu), which, with respect, is the most ridiculous looking of the plains animals. Even wildebeest calves seem to miss out on the 'cute and cuddly' stage that most other animals enjoy, and instead leapfrog straight ahead into gawky adolescence ...
Whilst South Africa was drafting its Constitution and preparing itself for the first democratic elections, we had a Government of National Unity (GNU), which brought together a motley crew of very unlikely bedfellows into a transitional administration. At the time, the political pundits used to take great pleasure in wryly reminding us that, the GNU, after all, a very strange looking beast ...
Updated Aug 14, 2011
Getting up close to a wild animal is always a special experience - and never more so than when the animal in question is a giraffe, the most serene of animals.
Although you are not allowed to touch the animals on Crescent Island, you can get so close that you feel as it you could. This makes for wonderful photographic opportunities and a terrific chance to note those little details that you don't get to appreciate from further away.
In this case, it was fascinating to watch the giraffe gently nibbling at the acacia leaves and delicately negotiating around the vicious-looking thorns with its long black tongue.
Updated Aug 14, 2011