Located on an isthmus between the western shore of Lake Naivasha and Lake Oloidien in the Great Rift Valley, and a stone’s throw from Hell’s Gate, Hippo Point is the stunning brainchild of Michael and Dodo Cunningham-Reid, who recognised that as early as 1963 population growth, poor land management and drought were – when combined – set to destroy Kenya’s wildernesses, and so purchased what was then called Nderit Estate in order to preserve the area’s remaining wildlife in this idyllic game corridor.
Consisting of two historic private Kenya houses – the 1932 Manor House ( sleeps 12) and the iconic cyprus-clad 120 foot tower rising among the yellow fever trees – and set in the idyllic lush grounds hosting a surprisingly large range of resident game ( approximately 1,200 animals roam free without fences), Hippo Point is a one off. The house, once an Irish magistrate’s country dwelling, is mock Elizabethan, and has been lovingly restored to what it must have looked like in the early twentieth century. Surrounded by a garden that, but for the succulents, would not look out of place in Kent, it includes en-suite double bedrooms, a swimming pool, dining room, lounge and spa. The style is upcountry – wooden flooring, exposed beams, fireplaces, deep set chairs and settees – and the service is excellent.
Set in a thinning acacia wood, nine stories high, and built almost entirely out of wood, the Tower is an extraordinary architectural icon. Designed with romance in mind, and possessing startling views of the lake and its surrounding environs, the Tower is a homemade pagoda. With four en-suite bedrooms, a meditative lookout, a beautiful verandha and exquisitely served, the Tower is like nowhere else in Kenya.
Activities at Hippo Point & The Tower centred on what the family like to call slow safari, include long walks with game, tracking of animals, lovely family picnics and meals, night game drives with Hippo, delicious organic food, yoga, bike rides, swimming, massages, volcano climbing, world-class bird watching, boat trips and water sports. There is also a wildlife orphanage to visit nearby and a mobile veterinary clinic.
Hippo Point employs 11 patrol/ guides and together we do all we can to find innovative solutions to human/wildlife conflict in the area. This is particularly relevant as we are protecting an internationally recognized wetland and game corridor with a thriving flower industry nearby – there are now 30 flower farms of whom maybe 4 are ecological.
The largest rose farm in the world now sits on the shores of Lake Naivasha cutting an average of 1.8 million roses per day – all their labour forces struggling in tough conditions to make ends meet. The demand for meat from the communities along the lakeshore had resulted in a huge increase in snaring – at Hippo Point we were losing at least 1 animal a day to poaching. Consequently, our work with the local communities and Kenya Wildlife Service veterinarians to dart and remove snares as quickly as possible and with the Born Free Foundation who visit us several times a month with school groups on educational awareness trips and snare sweeps has paid positive dividends. We know that telling poor communities not to eat bush meat is a luxury so we are focusing efforts now on education, awareness and in early stage discussions with potential supporters to experiment with viable economic alternatives.
Our proposal in development is to create a subsidized poultry farm linked to Jamaican-style jerk chicken outlets priced on a daily basis to undercut bush meat and hence alleviate the pressure on the game. This will of course take time to implement but it is our hope that we can achieve this with creative thinking and participation and we hope to couple this with a bush meat theatre troop to help educate that animals are a resource to Africa to be nurtured, protected and managed carefully. We invite guests to plant trees and encourage the use of a special low-tech press to turn all carbon waste – from leaves to vegetables – into briquettes for fuel, which we place into clay-lined stoves, to help wean our local staff off charcoal – an initiative we hope will catch on.We are also working with our wildlife friendly neighbor who recently formed the ARR Trust ( Animal Rights Reserved) to look at local communities and provide water systems, laundry facilities ( currently most people wash clothes in the lake) and more robust housing.
Last year we managed to secure another 550 acres guaranteed for wildlife making for a combined 2,500 acres dedicated to wildlife in a very special corner of Kenya.