ELEMENTAITA – MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
(Posted 19th July 2018)
Lake Elementaita is today recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site after earlier on being listed as a Ramsar site (wetland of international importance) and is regularly home to millions of lesser flamingos and also an important stop over for migratory birds. Over 350 species of birds have been counted by keen birdwatchers who often take a guided nature walk to the bird watcher’s paradise considered one of the most fabulous bird spectacles in the world. A hot spring believed by the local communities to have medicinal values also feeds the lake from underground.
Situated 120 km from Nairobi and 28 km from Nakuru and set at an altitude of 1670 meters above the sea level, Lake Elementaita Lodge has a very rich history:
Much has been written here in the past about the Delamare Estate and more recently of the Soysambu Conservancy which was established on the Delamare land. Few however know the rest of the story and those lesser known details are now shared here:
Galbraith Lowry Egerton Cole was the 2nd son of the 4th Earl of Enniskillen and brother to Berkley Cole who was a year younger and farmed at Naro Moru.
1900: At the age of 19 Galbraith was sent to South Africa to fight the Boer war.
He was invalidated from the war and made his way to Kenya where his sister Florence had married Lord Delamere. Lord Delamere first farmed in Njoro north of Nakuru but was beset by challenges and moved to this area and built up 100,000 acres farm (Soysambu Ranch) on the other side of Lake Elementaita between Naivasha and Nakuru.
1905: Galbraith Cole first tried to farm beyond Thomson’s Falls between two Maasai areas and also had challenges thereby moving to Elementaita Ranch where he owned 30,000 acres adjoining Soysambu.
Here he built a big cattle ranch and piped water from the springs on Kekopey hills
He hunted and reportedly shot hundreds of Zebras and encountered Lions.
He imported 28 New Zealand Merino rams to cross with local sheep, most of which unfortunately died of a mysterious disease!
1911: He ‘accidentally’ shot a local who had stolen one of his precious sheep and on being tried was promptly deported, and went to German East Africa. In desperation, he returned to Kenya dressed like a Somali but then had to flee to Zanzibar. At the time, he was plagued with early stages of rheumatoid arthritis.
1914: Galbraith’s mother pleaded his case with the British Government and was allowed to return to Kekopey Ranch.
1916: Galbraith met lady Eleanor Balfour who visited Kekopey with her cousin with whom she was staying in Nairobi.
1917: Galbraith returned to London to seek treatment for the arthritis and to marry Eleanor in December. Lady Eleanor was the niece of Lord Balfour, a former English prime minister.
1918: Galbraith and Eleanor returned to live at Kekopey and stayed in the Manager’s house whilst his was completed.
They had 2 sons David and Arthur.
1920: The farm was plagued with drought, fires, rinderpest, East coast fever and Galbraith himself was very ill.
1929: Blind on one eye and riddled with pain through arthritis and spending his days on a wheelchair, Galbraith Cole shot himself.
The monument or obelisk was put up by Lady Eleanor in memory of her husband. 20 years later, she built the Church of Goodwill on the old road to Nakuru next to Kariandusi pre-historic site as a thanks giving gesture to God for the safe return of her two sons from the 2nd world war.
Arthur Cole farmed and lived in this house whilst his mother lady Eleanor retired to the Manager’s house. David Cole inherited the Solio ranch in Naro Moru from Berkeley Cole who had died before Galbraith.
In 1977, the Kekopey farm was sold off to a Cooperative society and the land further subdivided into smaller plots to individual shareholders.
Excursions to the Church of Goodwill, Kariandusi prehistoric site, the guided nature walk, game drives to both Lake Nakuru National park and Soysambu conservancy can be arranged from the Lodge. One also relaxes by the poolside enjoying the Lodge’s sumptuous meals & drinks from the Lodge’s main Restaurant.
‘Kekopey’ is a Maasai term meaning a place where green turns white in relation to the soda and diatomite found around the Lake. ‘Elementaita’ is also derived from the Maasai term ‘Muteita’ meaning a dusty place since the area around the Lake is dusty and dry between January and March.
Lord Cole is best remembered by his Granddaughter Lady Linda Muir as a man in whom the elements were so mixed in that nature might stand up and say to the world. What a story of what a Man!
Built in 1916 by Lord Galbraith Cole, Jacaranda Lake Elementaita lodge sits on a vast piece of land with a panoramic view of Lake Elementaita. It still retains the features and atmosphere of an early colonial home.
Today is the main farmhouse used as a safari lodge by Jacaranda Hotels, which has been operating on the location for many years.
Being almost exclusive on this side of the lake is the Elementaita Serena Camp located at the opposite end of Lake Elementaita.
Known for outdoor activities, such as hiking and mountain biking but also for bird watching and other sports has the lodge always attracted much local business, with companies often bringing their staff on an incentive trip or for team building sessions. With just 33 rooms is the lodge large enough for such groups but remains small enough to provide an intimate and personal feeling to their guests.
A conference room is available and the restaurant can cater for the full lodge capacity in one sitting.
I travelled with RwandAir from Entebbe to Nairobi but RwandAir connects to Nairobi via Kigali from multiple African, European, Gulf and Asia destinations with prompt connectivity. From Nairobi can tour operators arrange for a trip to Elementaita though self drive is also an option which increases flexibility of travel and allows for additional discoveries.