9th July (2012) Nakuru National Park, Kenya

This week: Fran’s travels in Nakuru National Park, Kenya in 2012. This was part of a four week trip.

9th July (2012) Nakuru National Park, Kenya

We had an early start, but we did not have to pack up camp as we’re staying for a second night. At 6 a.m. we drove the short distance to Nakuru National Park where we transferred into two smaller safari vehicles. There were some issues delaying our departure, but was not a problem as we had plenty of entertainment in watching the sun rise, and the local baboons getting into mischief. 

The baboons were rummaging through the rubbish bins. One found what looks like a lollipop. There he is, lollipop in his hands, tongue out, licking away.

9th July (2012) Nakuru National Park, Kenya
Lollipop licking baboon

Our driver was Michael, and he was excellent at making sure we got the best wildlife sightings. After entering the gates, we drove along muddy roads framed by tall grass and birds atop the branches of scraggly trees. Acacia trees were in the distance.

We immediately started spotting animals. Water buffalo were first in varying states of mud coverings. One’s head, from ear tips, to nose, to neck, was caked in mud, but clean everywhere else. What did he do, dip his head in the mud? The buffalo is one of the African Big Five ticked off.

Water buffalo with mud covered head
Water buffalo with mud covered head

There were more baboons. This time there was the teeniest of the tiniest baby baboon you could imagine. He was so small the branches camouflaged him while playing. 

When we came to the famous flamingoes lake, it had a small group only, sometimes called a flamboyance. I knew prior to the trip that Nakuru was no longer the flamingo playground it had once been, but I was still hoping. They were leaving because of the rising water levels of Lake Nakuru. By 2013, they were all gone. And they thought it to be permanent. In 2020 they returned. I managed one blurry photo of a small flamboyance of flamingos.

Pelicans dominated the lake’s edge instead. From a distance, you could almost pretend they were flamingoes. They were far away with swamp like conditions between the road and the lake’s edge, but thanks to my trusty zoom lens, I got some great close ups of the pelicans.

Pelicans on Lake Nakuru
Pelicans on Lake Nakuru

There was a rhinoceros known for hanging out near here, and we found him. He was just grazing in the grass with hitch hiking birds on his back. There’s number two of the Big Five ticked off.

Rhinoceros

It was lovely to see the majestic Rothschild giraffes out eating in the wild. It’s a different experience seeing them in their natural habitat as opposed to the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. Their long, slender necks can reach the top branches that the other animals can’t. Their gangly legs and knobbly knees add a comedic side to them.

Everyone is always excited to see pumbas. That’s not what they are called, but that’s what everyone calls them thanks to the Lion King movie’s popularity. They are warthogs. But pumbas sounds much better. They are one of my favourites. So ugly they are cute.

Rock hyraxes are cute little bundles found playing in rocky areas. If you can imagine a mix of a quokka and a guinea pig, then you have an inkling of what they look like. They dart quickly between rocks, eating grass as they go.

In the distance, we saw a second rhinoceros almost engulfed in birds whilst sitting down. This rhino was a well known old fella whose nap location was predictable. 

Zebras make everyone smile. Their stripes are all so different, and they entertain you with their donkey like antics. It’s obligatory to take animal butt photos on safari which we did of the zebras. Of course, you must get the ‘zebra-crossing’ photo as well, where you have actually zebra animals across a road. I only got one zebra crossing the road today. You need at least three zebras in a row, so that will be a work in progress.

Surprisingly we saw a leopard tortoise. I was not expecting that. This is one of the African Small Five list of animals. Not everyone knows that there are two lists for animal sightings in Africa: the Big Five and the Small Five. So we now had one ticked off from the small five list.

When we spotted a leopard, there were three cars jostling for the best viewing position. The leopard was unfazed by our antics. He acted like he hadn’t even noticed we were there. He was strolling through the grass that was a few centimetres taller than him, occasionally stopping to smell the flowers. His dark rounded spots stood out against the pale green straight grass. He stopped for a wee and we moved on. That’s number three ticked off the list.

Leopard in tall grass
Leopard

There was some excited chatter coming over the radio, and our driver changed course. A lion had been spotted. We found him asleep in a tree. He had flopped himself over a solid branch with four limbs and a tail dangling over the sides. You could almost miss him because he blended in so well. He was peaceful and relaxed. Not a care in the world for the sleepy kitty four metres above the ground.

Sleeping lion in a tree
Sleeping lion in a tree

Then the adventure level turned up a notch. They had spotted another lion in a tree. This tree had more vegetation, allowing animals to hide. Again, three trucks surrounded the tree. We didn’t have a clear view through the foliage. Michael drove on to find a place to turn around to aid positioning. He needed to drive off the road to achieve this. We almost got stuck, but Michael manoeuvred the vehicle out safely. Back at the tree in our new position, a second lion was now visible. 

Michael wanted to further improve our vantage point, driving off the road again, aiming to get closer to the second lion. Cameras are furiously clicking. The lioness wakes up and is now watching our vehicle come towards her. The car slips and slides, taking us closer to the lioness. 

In the back we are so enamoured by our view we are not noticing what is happening in the driver’s seat. Michael realises he needs to get out. He puts the car in reverse and floors the accelerator. We in the back don’t understand why he is taking away our excellent view. We are yelling, “Stop.” The passenger in the front is screaming, “Go!” We are about to become bogged underneath a lion who is staring at us. 

The situation finally dawns on all of us and we stop taking photos and start willing the tyres to find some grip. Michael gets us back on the road and we cheer with the unexpected adrenaline rushing through us. That’s number four ticked off the list.

Not all sightings are that exhilarating. Over the day, we also saw waterbuck, impala, gazelle, and eland.

There were birds everywhere. Not being a bird watcher, I’ll be inept at informing you what birds we saw. I know we saw lots of Egyptian ibises with bright long yellow beaks, red heads becoming white, with orangey legs, and black tips on their wings.

Late in the afternoon, we had a break at the lodge. It was lovely having a drink in the shade overlooking the pool and the national park in the distance. You could see over the acacia forests with open grassland dotted in between. The lake was in the distance. I was loving the acacia trees. Was there any better symbol of Africa? It would be a brilliant place to stay. Throw in a cabana and a palm tree or two and, bliss. I bought a Sprite here for 150 Kenyan shillings (KSh).

Michael did a brilliant job leading to a good tip from us happy safari goers. I gave him 500 KSh.

Back at camp, we had a delicious roast lamb with vegetables for dinner, followed by an early night. Everyone was in bed by 9.30 p.m. Four of the Big Five ticked off on our first safari. What an amazing day!

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