Oria & Lake Naivasha

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 the elegant yellow barked acacia trees.

olerai bedroomOria’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 research on elephants. The two lived 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 and son of the Duke of Hamilton, Iain served as a consultant on the IMAX film AFRICA’S ELEPHANT KINGDOM. The Douglas-Hamiltons were the first to establish that females, not males, were the leaders in elephant families, and to bring international attention to their diminishing numbers. Their role in the CITES ivory ban was key, and since 1993 their Save the Elephants research has focused on the herds in Samburu.

A senior literary critic once wrote,” The Douglas-Hamiltons lead a life that makes me suspect I may have wasted mine.”

They certainly demonstrate how to live well, and share their passion for the African elephant with all who visit their home. For rates and booking information about Olerai House or an Elephant Watching Safari, Contact Delta