An African Safari and a Dream Come True

Karibu! The first Swahili word we hear as we step off the air plane and one that we are to hear often as the African smile and warmth welcomes us during the next two weeks. My daughter Anya and I are on safari… Finally!

We get off the plane and into our tour van with our driver and guide James and the most affable Alphy who has tirelessly endeavoured to put together this unforgettable safari for us. We are on our way to our first destination, the Lake Nakuru National Park. The three hour drive covered 164 kilometres of undulating terrain, open bush lands and colourful small towns. En route, James stops for us to view one of Kenya’s famed landscapes, the Great Rift Valley. Some 20 million years ago, the Earth’s crust weakened and tore itself apart creating a jagged rift, thousands of kilometres long, across the African continent. The land on either side erupted creating great volcanic mountains, while the valley floor gradually sank into a low flat plain. This geologic phenomena divides Kenya neatly down the length of the country essentially separating east from west. Today’s Rift Valley is characterized by uninhabitable desert and fertile farmland, flat arid plains and steep escarpments. The sight from a view point on Naivasha Road is breathtakingly beautiful. Just seeing the vastness of the rift below makes us realize how significantly small we are.

Since our tented camp site was situated inside the Park, we are lucky to satiate our excitement on Day 1 as we drive through the Park. Two minutes into the Park, we  see a spectacular sight… Two adult lionesses straddling a branch of a tree, and trying to get some sleep. James, our seasoned guide, is as excited. This is a rare sight in any park because lions generally do not climb trees unlike their cousins, the leopards. Needless to say, our cameras could not stop clicking. Whilst Anya, the budding wildlife biologist, busily records the times of each of our sightings, I  silently thank the digital era which allows us umpteen numbers of shots almost every three minutes thereafter.

Photograph by Anya Ratnayaka

Whilst 27 percent of the Lake Nakuru National Park is composed of water, the rest is dominated by undulating terrain with open bush and woodlands, typical of the dry rift valley vegetation.  The Park is rife with bird life and herds of Grant’s gazelle and Thomson’s gazelle, zebra, buffalo and renowned for its white rhino.

Our first night at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge was chilly (it was winter in Kenya) yet comfortable. Because Lake Nakuru is situated 4000 to 5767 feet above sea level, the weather conditions get a tad chilly. However, these tented camps are furnished with the most comfortable beds and luxurious baths and the dinner was excellent. Nothing is spared to make our stay cozy and comfortable.

As Day 2 dawned, we are impatient to go see the ‘largest ornithological wonder’- the masses of pink flamingo that flock to Lake Nakuru, as this is something that I have always wanted to see. Thousands, and sometimes millions of flamingos nest along these shores and very often this shallow lake is unrecognisable because of the shifting masses of pink. We are lucky. The lake is a sea of pink birds jostling for space in these waters. Any sudden movement starts an exodus of birds in a blaze of pink as they scramble to safer places. We also see flocks of pelicans vying for their pound of fish. Breathtaking!

Grazing a few meters away is a pair of the rare and endangered white rhino. A misnomer for ‘weit’ which is the Dutch term for wide mouth, this species, found only in this Park, weighs in excess of 2550kgs and is the world’s second largest terrestrial mammal after the African elephant. Imagine seeing the white rhino along with zebra and the sombre faced wild buffalo grazing under the African sky! To our surprise, along comes two slouching spotted hyena, oblivious to our presence. They sit, and stare at us momentarily and then focus their attention on the flamingo, hoping for a tasty dinner probably. After a couple of hours, we unwillingly drag ourselves away from this spot in search of other game.

As we drive on, we spot herds of wild African Cape buffalo, the fiercest of the African Big Five. They looked so placid and harmless, but are known to be fast and furious if threatened. A flange of baboons jeer at us as we stop to capture their antics. Mothers and aunts vainly try to control their naughty offspring as they scrambled away from restricting arms trying to get a closer look at us.

Further down the road, a cute dik-dik scuttles across our path in pursuit of his mate. According to James, dik-diks mate for life and when one dies or is killed, the other beats its head against a tree or rock and commits suicide!

Photograph by Anya Ratnayaka

As the day comes to an end, we leave Lake Nakuru to Maasai Mara. Our amazing safari at Maasai Mara will continue…

Tour arranged by Letsgokenya

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