Sunday, January 13, 2013

You’d Better Be Running

“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle... when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.” – African Proverb


We hit the ground running early on Saturday morning to get to Lake Nakuru. Coming down the road from Kijabe was a frightening experience, but we were treated to some beautiful views, including a euphorbia forest. We took our time getting to Nakuru, including stopping to take pictures and chase some baboons on the side of the highway. Nakuru is one of the “premium” wildlife parks run by the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS), so it cost us $80/person to get in the park, which ended up being more than worth it.


A large group of baboons greeted us upon our entry into the park. Unfortunately, some people feed them from their cars, which isn’t good for the baboons or for the humans who don’t have food for them. This mom and her baby didn’t bother us though.

Impala and vervet monkeys stood close by and watched us pass. Nakuru is known for its flamingos and birds and as a good place to spot some rhinos. I was just as excited to see gazelles as at the possibility of seeing a rhino, a hippo, or a large cat. Fortunately, (spoiler alert) we saw all of them!


We came upon a large herd of water buffalo. They are enormous and mean-looking but amazing animals. We were protected in the car, but this guy didn’t seem to be too happy with us staring.


As it turns out, I have some pretty good animal-spotting eyes. So when I saw three large lumps floating in the lake, I asked our driver Philip what they were. Hippo spotting! Even though they were a good distance out there, I managed to capture the largest one yawning. Eventually, they all sank underwater far enough that we moved on.


We went up to Baboon Cliff overlook to get a bird’s eye view of where we had just been. If you look closely over my shoulder, you can see the water buffalo heading to the water. We asked a nice man to take our picture, and it turned out he was from Afghanistan. He did a very good job and took lots of pictures of us from the overlook.


Coming down the cliff, we visited a few possible locations where cats like to hang out but without any luck. Instead, we spent some time with some giraffes and then were about to head to lunch when we happened across a driver we’d been following around most of the day. He let Philip know where a lion was, and we went to try our luck. Sure enough, we found a lioness sleeping with some of her cubs. Amazing.


Even though we were in a hurry to get to lunch, we had to make a stop for this giraffe who was so close to the road and offered us a great photo opportunity. We made it up to Lake Nakuru Lodge for a buffet lunch and sat out on the back porch to watch baboons and impala frolic by. A Masai warrior acted as baboon security. After we ate, our server invited us to take afternoon tea out by the pool. Safari is tough work, so we were happy to relax for a few minutes.


The afternoon was getting on, and we hadn’t gotten a good view of a rhino. On our way to see some rhinos, we enjoyed seeing three secretary birds and some baboons that got way too close to climbing into the car window. Finally, we spotted some white rhino standing up way out in a field. The pictures don’t read as well on the blog, but there are definitely some grey-ish lumps in those pictures, as well as some warthogs and more gazelles and impala.


By that time, we were ready to make the trek back home, though we stopped first in Nakuru town to do some grocery shopping and hit the ATM. Saturday night was hectic and crowded on the main street, and unlike in a bigger city like Nairobi, to say that we stuck out would be an understatement. Some of the younger children openly stared, but everyone was friendly. When we finally got home, we were dusty and dirty from the highway and the park roads but thrilled to have seen so much game.