Lake Naivasha is most developed around its southern shore, with often ugly developments all along Moi South Lake Road where much of the horticultural industry is based -- understandably, it's not a particularly pretty area.
The best accommodation options come with a sense of intimacy, are relatively private, and are tucked away from the potential crowds. In the case of Malu, in fact, you'll be a considerable distance from the lake itself, which for many might be a key selling point. If you'd like to enjoy something akin to a homestay or have a lavish estate all to yourself, check out the section entitled "Colonial Farmstays, Kenya Style," below.
Another option -- although this one's a little less intimate, with the ambience of a very small colonial-era hotel -- is Kiangazi House (tel. 050/202-0792; www.oserianwildlife.com), another favorite weekend getaway for Nairobi's elite and where you'll catch embassy and United Nations staff guzzling bottles of beer and late-afternoon G&Ts on the deep veranda. A guard salutes you as you drive through the gate to this pretty throwback to an era synonymous with gracious hospitality. The five simple, spacious guestrooms are comfortable, if not necessarily luxurious -- you'll probably find yourself spending most of your time here relaxing by the pool or at the bar, or reclining under shade at the edge of the lawn watching baboons romping on the lawn and animals drinking at one of the waterholes. However, it's the proximity of a wildlife corridor, connecting the lake with Hell's Gate National Park and distant Maasailand, that makes this an attractive base. The corridor sits adjacent to the 8,080-hectare (20,000-acre) Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary, which protects a diversity of animals, including rhino, leopard, cheetah, hyena, and a great many antelope -- guests have direct access. Rates here run $630 to $850 double and include most everything -- except entry fees to the nearby national parks. Otherwise, all meals, drinks, game drives (night or day) and bush walks, boating trips, and even a visit to the Oserian flower farm are part of the deal. Make reservations through East African Treasures (P.O. Box 63437, 00619 Nairobi; tel. 020/712-3300 through -3302; fax 020/712-3303; www.eatreasures.co.ke).
Colonial Farmstays, Kenya Style
If you fancy a sampling of colonial-style Kenya with an entire house and massive spread all to yourself, consider Malewa Ranch House, P.O. Box 446, 20117 Naivasha (tel. 020/353-5878 or 020/351-0720; www.malewaranch.com), a large farmstead located around 30 minutes north of Naivasha that's rented only on an exclusive basis. The house -- a stone-walled structure hidden in a valley -- accommodates up to five couples, with rates starting at 384€ double, including all meals, game drives, ranch activities, and drinks except champagne (the price improves as your group's size increases: It's 1,350€ for 10 people, and children under 12 pay just 95€). Decor is quaint enough -- busy floral fabrics and exposed wooden beams give the lounge and dining areas a smart, old-fashioned look, whereas bedrooms are mostly large, homey, and comfortable rather than lavish or luxurious -- and most of the bedrooms are twins and share bathrooms. Your hosts can arrange excursions to Naivasha, including boat trips, and the ranch makes a number of activities possible, too, including fly-fishing, abseiling, mountain biking, horseback riding, and swimming in pretty Kasuki Gorge.
If you want to be nearer the lake, though, consider Mundui Estate (tel. 050/202-1050), a 469-hectare (1,158-acre) property on the shore of Lake Oloiden. Comprising acacia woodland and dry savannah, the estate is home to all kinds of wildlife, and a short drive around the property is all you need to spot a good selection of plains game. Dik-dik, buffalo, giraffe, eland, and hartebeest are regularly seen, and at night, hippos emerge from the lake to graze on the lawn right in front of the farmhouse. Cormorants, egrets, and pelicans nest in the trees above the shore, a few hundred feet from your front door. The estate has its own private airstrip, sturdy off-road vehicles for game drives around the estate, and a swimming pool nestled among palm trees and bougainvilleas in an enclosed courtyard. Accommodations are in a massive cottage -- built in 1933 as a hunting lodge -- alongside the main farmhouse; it's suitable for a family or small group because it's rented on an exclusive basis. There are two spacious bedrooms and a smaller single bedroom (or dressing room) that share a bathroom on the first floor above an enormous whitewashed reception hall where you have your own private lounge, library, bar, and huge fireplace. The cottage was where a certain Yugoslavian prince was exiled during World War II. Much of the furniture is original, as are the creaking floors and tattered hunting trophies. This is an opportunity for something akin to a homestay, where you feel like the personal guests of your hosts -- in fact, meals are taken in the main house with Andrew and Sarah Enniskillen, the Kenyans who ranch here. You can plan a day trip to Hell's Gate and Longonot, or even go as far as Lake Nakuru or the Aberdare National Park -- they'll happily oblige and pack a picnic basket, too (there's a $200 daily charge per vehicle for such excursions). You can book for Mundui through Bush Homes of East Africa (tel. 020/60-0457 or 020/60-5980; www.bush-homes.co.ke); you'll pay $900 double, including all meals, drinks, laundry, and local activities.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.