The first time I heard about Shegadia, was through a Facebook ad. I had recently liked a lot of Kenyan camping and vacationing pages on the social media platform, and I guess the algorithms were working in my favour. This very sudden coincidence ended up being one of the greatest adventures I have had so far.
Shegadia Campsite lies subtly by the shores of Lake Naivasha. It is almost adjacent to the Fisherman’s Camp and a 15-minute boat ride to the Lake Naivasha Public Beach. Opposite it, on one side of the vast Lake Naivasha lies the famous Crescent Island where visitors get to walk freely among the magnificent wild animals. It is a splendid sight to behold.
The name Shegadia is an interesting fusion of two words. ‘She’ represents the fact that an all-female staff runs the camp, and I could not be prouder! ‘Gadia’ means garden, and when you visit the campsite you will see how appropriate the name is. Shegadia – The she garden. It does not get better than that.
Planning the Adventure
The advert led me to the camp’s Facebook page, and I was not disappointed. I honestly feel that the campsite is a bit underrated, but perhaps I lack enough exposure. The photos and stories on the page ran by the owner, completely intrigued me and so I went ahead and sent her a message. She clarified the price list for the different types of camping experiences the site offered. She also told me what to expect when I went there. Armed with this information, I was able to pack and prepare mentally.
I was only going there for the weekend, so I did not have packing stress. Thankfully, the camp offers beddings, camping gear and bathroom facilities. I just had to carry a clean change of clothes, some toiletries, warm pyjamas and my phone charger. The owner was very gracious to accommodate my hesitation to pay the deposit before getting to the destination. I have been a victim of fraudsters so many times, this time I had to be on highest alert.
I live in Nakuru so going to Naivasha was both familiar and strange at the same time. I went by matatu, which was KES 200 at the time. The ride to Naivasha was fast and smooth. In about 95 minutes, we were in the town. I had asked a friend to accompany me for this expedition. The plan was to link up in Naivasha then head to the camp together.
Having alighted at different matatu terminals, it took us a few minutes to find each other. After a short while of exchanging pleasantries, we weighed our options of getting to the camp. We finally decided to take a cab because most of the people we asked about Shegadia did not seem to know where it was. The cab driver was thankfully tech-savvy, and he used Google maps to ferry us there. Although the camp is only a 20-minutes drive from Naivasha, it takes longer because of the rough roads leading there.
When we got to the Shegadia Campsite grounds, it was quiet and seemed lifeless. I have to admit I felt a bit disappointed. I had placed very high hopes in the place, and so when I found no one there, I felt unwise to have come all the way. However, since we were already there, we decided to try it. The grounds manager saw us arrive, and she welcomed us with a cheery attitude. She seemed occupied with other things though, so she just told us to feel welcome to explore the place as she makes the arrangements for our tent.
As I had mentioned earlier, Shegadia Campsite is breathtaking. If you love nature, trees, birds, and green, then you will love Shegadia. The campsite lies ashore Lake Naivasha with tall towers of the Yellow Fever Acacia trees surrounding it. The aura at the site is perfect for love birds, for escape travellers, for weekend getaways, for a group retreat, and even for solo tourists. It felt calm and welcoming to all. The several bonfire pits gave the site a very rustic and wild touch.
Two different sets of tents, the luxury and basic tents, lay carefully distributed across the land. The luxury tent resembled a hotel room complete with chairs, a desk, pallet bed, bedside stand and electricity. The only thing missing was an ensuite bathroom. The basic tent on the other hand held two single mattresses set on the insulated tent floor, acccompanied by the necessary beddings.
For a moment, the temptation to take the luxury tent pressed on us. Since we wanted to experience real camping, we settled for the basic tent instead. We were also working with a tight budget. For a Bed and Breakfast, budget for KES 1,800 per person.
The Restaurant/Dining Area
While exploring the campsite, we noticed several people just at the shore of the lake. We at first thought that it was a different establishment seeing that there was a barbed-wire fence separating the two spaces. However, the groundskeepers assured us it was okay to go down there.
This area turned out to be the dining area. It had an indoor and outdoor section. The indoor part consisted of a black wooden cabin that had a sitting area, a bar area and the kitchen area. The outside part consisted of both plastic and wooden picnic tables and chairs spread around across the shore.
We settled for a table where we could see the lake less than 20 metres away. Seeing all these people here, I began to feel the excitement rush back. The sunset was magical as it went down the ranges at the horizon of the lake. Flocks of white pelicans casually floated and glided across the bluish-grey waters. The best part of it was seeing small pods of hippo families coming closer and closer to shore as they prepared to go to graze and then sleep on the nearby grasslands.
It was approximately 6 p.m, so we ordered our meals before it got too late. Supper was out of pocket as we only paid for Bed and Breakfast. The hotel staff told us to beware of the hippos and zebras and other animals that came to graze in the campsite at night.
We both ate fish and some accompaniments, including fries, vegetables, salsa and some juice. Our waiter told us it was a crime to come to Naivasha and not eat their freshly harvested fish. We thus gave in, and we were not disappointed one bit! I dare say I have not had fish that tasty since. We ate well into the night, and when we were finally able to move, we said our goodnights and moved back to our assigned tent.
The night was both frightening and intriguing. You could hear animal footsteps all around the camp and the occasional bird hopping on the tent’s roof. I felt like I was in the middle of a Tarzan movie. I almost wished a lion or buffallo would pass by our tent. But that was my naive first-time-camping mind thinking. We spent most of the time catching up, exchanging assessments and experiences. After midnight, it got a bit chilly, but the camp had provided us with enough blankets to keep the cold at bay. We had also carried warm sleeping clothes as if we were ready for the worst.
The morning came in calmly and soothingly. There were dozens of songs from the birds that nested atop the acacia branches. The ants were also busy walking around the mattresses that seemed to be on their way to their destination. I am an early riser, so I woke up first. I immediately went out to soak in the sun and silence that surrounded the camp. It seemed that all the people at the dining area the previous night, either went home or were still sleeping.
The campsite uses solar energy to heat the water in the bathrooms (100 points for sustainable tourism). I, however, did not know where to switch on the power and because it was too early to cause any disturbance, I settled for a cold shower. Naivasha has hot days and cold nights, so the bath was not as bad.
My friend, who woke up much later, was lucky enough to find the water heated. After the usual morning rituals and preparations, we headed back to the dining area for breakfast, where we stayed until noon. We walked down the shore collecting rocks and feathers and merely enjoying the serenity of it all.
Just adjacent to the dining area, there is a playground area. It has swings, a seesaw and slides. I can never see a swing and not go on it unless it is not strong enough to carry my weight. I went on one, and soon my friend joined in. It was refreshing to be able to have fun like a child. For a moment, time stood still, and most things that clutter our adult minds seemed to disappear. We must have spent over an hour at the playground before we noticed we were way over our check-out time. They did not push us at all. I think that is amazing customer service. We packed up, paid our balance, said our thank yous, took one last view of the magical place and headed to the shore.
The Boat Ride
Although it was not in our initial to-do list, we decided to take a boat ride. The charges are based on the duration of the ride and status of the riders’ residency. We paid KES 1,200 for a 30-minute ride. It is however much cheaper if you have a bigger group because you get to split the cost. Most people went to Crescent Island, but we decided to go to the Public Beach. The boat ride was terrifying because I kept thinking a hippo would flip us over. The boats were also quite low. One thus got the feeling of sinking throughout. The fact that I do not know how to swim just made it worse. Nevertheless, we had life jackets on, and the boat driver assured us that he had done this countless times before. After about 20 minutes, we were at the beach.
The Public Beach
The beach was a total contrast of Shegadia. For starters, it had sand as opposed to the dark volcanic soils on the other side. It was also very crowded and loud with all sorts of people around. Being a Sunday did not help the situation. However, the crowds made it easier to figure things out because we just asked around about what activities we could partake. Camel riding and fish-eating were top on the list.
After a friendly bargaining session, my friend paid KES 100 for a camel ride to and from a designated point. I believe it was a 10-15 minute ride. I decided to stay back and keep an eye on our luggage as I made conversation with one of the hawkers. We then went around the market admiring crafts and other items. We also compared fish prices from one vendor to the other until we found one with the best price where my friend bought some to take back home.
It was finally time to have late lunch before starting our journey back home. Thankfully, it is less than two hours drive, so we were not in such a hurry. The vibandas at the beach were delightful. You would be amazed just how many people make their way to the beach on a Sunday afternoon to enjoy fish with friends and family. We quickly found a table. The fish, like the last time, was delicious to the last bite. The prices were also very affordable. We did not spend more than KES 300 per person, including accompaniments and drinks. I was pleasantly surprised by the prices. I had expected them to be higher, but maybe because of the large crowds that come here, competition is also quite high and one is better off keeping their prices low.
Unfortunately, the public beach marked the end of our adventure. We could not believe how fast time had passed, and we promised to go back and do it again. Thanks to one of the waiters at the vibandas, we learnt that we could easily walk to the road where we could get a matatu to town for only KES 40 each. The 1.5-kilometre walk was bittersweet. It was also the beginning of my appreciation of local destinations and pocket-friendly travel. Shegadia Campsite and Naivasha proved that you could indeed have a great weekend vacation without breaking the bank. In my personal opinion, it is a bucket-list-worthy destination whenever you are that side of the Great Rift.
If you are inspired to visit this captivating place, contact the director of Shegadia on 0710 344541. You can also visit their Facebook page and get ready to have a serene and magical experience.