This luminescent parade of silver hippo was enhanced by my discovery, earlier that day, of Dom Perignon in my host’s pantry. This is what life was like for me on Lake Naivasha; I’m digging around for a jar of chutney and I find a case of champagne. Imported for private Balloon Safari voyages, the bottles had remained unopened for 13 years. I telephoned the owner of the Naivasha Vineyards, who said, “There’s only one way to find out if it’s any good, Delta. Bring a bottle tonight!’ With a chilled bottle wrapped in a sarong, I walked across rows of lettuce in the garden begun by Jack Block, one of the founders of Block Hotels, including the legendary Norfolk in Nairobi. His widow Doria had invited a small group of friends to the house where Robert Redford retreated during the filming of OUT OF AFRICA. That’s enough name-dropping to send anyone’s cork flying.
The lake attracts the luminous for good reason; it is peaceful, private, and immensely beautiful. One of the features that make it so attractive is the African fish eagle, which cocks its head back before delivering its haunting call. The lake is also home to malachite kingfisher, goliath heron, and elegant yellow barked acacia trees.
Oria’s family home, Sirocco House, is bordered by tall cypress and pepper trees, plus 3,000 acres, including waterfront. A few years ago Oria created the guest cottages known as Olerai House, and began to entertain visitors with gourmet picnics on Crescent Island, a wildlife sanctuary reached by boat. There are hikes to the Crater Lake rim, first class bird watching, horse back riding nearby. But what you really want to do with the Douglas-Hamiltons is talk about elephants, or better yet, go on one of their Elephant Watching safaris.
I met Oria Douglas-Hamilton and her husband Iain in 1975 when promoting a documentary about their life among the herds at Lake Manyara Park in Tanzania. Iain’s method of naming individual elephants by ear tears, shape of tusks, and other identifying marks proved useful to one of his assistants, American Cynthia Moss, who went on to her own pivotal research. An Oxford graduate, Iain received the coveted Indianapolis Prize for his efforts to protect elephants. Since 1993 his Save the Elephants initiative has focused on herds in Samburu.
For booking Olerai House or an Elephant Watching Safari that includes Samburu, Contact DeltaWillis, seen below at the Indianapolis Gala with Oria & Iain Douglas-Hamilton, far right.