5 February 2017, Day 19, Lake Nakuru, Kenya
This morning we regained the westward highway and hied us to Lake Nakuru National Park. The strips of shops along the road remind me very much of Baja California some years ago, although the signs are in English rather than Spanish.
We are with Benson again. Inside the park gates, we release our seatbelts so we can move freely, Benson pops up the top of the jeep. We can stand up (I have to stand on my seat) and take photos without windows interfering.
This park was established in1974 to protect the lake from encroachment by Nakuru Town. It’s a good thing – the town is still growing rapidly and is now the 4th largest town in Kenya. It has some very modern-looking apartment buildings and the occasional fancy house in a walled compound. There is lots of construction.
Off again, we see Cape buffalo, zebras, impalas, and warthogs. A bushbok on the road in front of us fades into the bush as we approach. Near the lake we see a cormorant, a great egret. At some point we come across a great troupe of vervet monkeys, many with very small babies, Benson says maybe 3 days old. Their antics are hilarious.
Along the road we get close to an African Hoopoe. This one appears to be injured, else we would never get so close.
We pass the Wildlife Club of Kenya’s camp, where groups of school children can stay on school trips. We see helmeted guinea fowl, and augur buzzard with his snowy white breast. And then … we spot a rare black rhino, moving rapidly and through a large herd of Cape buffalo grazing in the bush.
He is moving fast. Benson backs down the road so that we can keep up with him. At a couple of places we get clear shots, but most of the time he is obscured by bush and grasses. Wow! We spend quite a bit of time tracking his path through the bush, backing and backing. Finally he heads directly away from us.
Exhilirated, we again approach the lake. We see a crested eagle, a very large herd of buffalo (some 200, Benson estimates), a hammerkop bird and a black stork that migrates here from Europe.
There are zebras and more zebras, and a new animal, a Defassa waterbuck. There are also lots of warthogs and they are big. I was sure when we first entered the park that I was seeing a rhino … nope, a warthog.
We find yellow-billed storks, also migrants, and a few flamingos. It seems about three years ago that some tectonic plate action allowed an upwelling of fresh water into the salt water lakes along the rift valley. Lake Nakuru, shallow at about 2 feet depth, rose at least a foot. Dead trees along the edge of the lake tell the tale.
This change caused the flamingos, once thick on the ground here, to find other places. Now a few of them have returned, but only a few.
Benson shows us another new animal, a Thompson’s gazelle, with its bold, black side stripe. It is of a size with impalas, of which there are many here.
We see a group of Rothschild’s giraffes happily grazing, and a group of white rhinos in the distance. Three of them are hunkered on the ground, and one is grazing nearby.
Next we see a Grant’s gazelle with its long spiraling horns. What a morning it has been.
Benson closed up the roof and we exit the park, buckling our seatbelts for the drive to Sentrim Elementaita. As we near the camp, we see many people walking home from church.