A short drive from Nairobi and a world away from the capital's choked arteries is Lake Naivasha, the highest of the Rift Valley lakes (at 1884m above sea level). Hugged by grassy banks and shingled with cacti and sand olive trees, the lake extends like a vast, sunlit sea. Stand on one side of it and you won't see the other; only clouds of water birds and the pinkened ears of hippos, peeking like submarine periscopes above the surface. Superb starlings, their eyes shiny like sequins, flit between the acacia trees and later, take on the night sky: you don't see stars like this in Nairobi.
You will also see some of the famous sights such as Elsamere, stippled with sisal, yellow fever trees and candelabra euphorbia, this is the former home of the late Joy Adamson of Born Free fame. She bought the house in 1967 with her husband George, and did much of her painting, writing and conservation work here until her murder in 1980. Guests can attend regular screenings of a flickering 1970s film about Joy's life and her myriad love affairs, notably with Elsa the lioness.
There's also a fascinating museum housed in the couple's former master bedroom, brimming with cloth-bound animal behavior manuals, dusty typewriters, photographs and Joy's art. In the yard, the vehicle in which George was shot dead, sits empty.
You will also witness Crescent Island, a private island sanctuary can be reached by boat, or by driving across the narrow, swampy causeway from Sanctuary Farm. It's one of the few places in the Rift Valley where you can walk among giraffes, zebras, waterbucks, impalas and countless bird species. Lucky visitors might even spot a leopard. Island walks, led by a guide, last between 90 minutes and three hours. It's also a good spot for a picnic lunch.
Crater Lake Game Sanctuary: surrounding a beautiful volcanic crater lake fringed with acacias, this small sanctuary has many trails, including one for hikers along the steep but diminutive crater rim. The jade-green crater lake is held in high regard by the local Maasai, who believe its alkaline waters help soothe ailing cattle. As well as the impressive 150 bird species recorded here, giraffes, zebras and other plains wildlife are also regular residents on the more open plains surrounding the crater.
Leopards, servals, caracals and aardvarks have also been spotted; the lone hippo who once lived here has moved on. While walking, remember that buffaloes lurk in the woods.