Kenya Travel

Kenya Dreaming: Flamingos, Hippos & Lakes

Animal count: 28

The drive from Samburu to Lake Nakuru was mammoth. We left the lodge just after 7am and arrived at Lake Nakuru at about 2.15pm. Big drive. You have to be happy with rough roads and watching the passing scenery on a trip like this. Thank god I wasn’t driving!!! Our drivers were absolute champions on what were at time challenging and hairy tracks.

Lake Nakuru is one of Kenya’s most densely animal populated wetland areas. We hadn’t even entered the park and we’d spotted a huge white rhino on the roadside and lots of zebras (common ones – they have quite different markings to the Grevy Zebras we found in Samburu). Once inside the park we happened across several herds of zebra, buffalos and Thompson Gazelles. The park is quite compact and open, so you can spot plenty of animals in quite a short period of time.

The lake is also famous for its flamingos – petite Lesser Flamingos and the more impressive Greater Flamingos. When the water level in Lake Nakuru is low, there is a greater concentration of salt in the water, meaning masses of flamingos. The lake looks pink from a distance due to all the birds. Unfortunately for us, there has been quite a bit of rain and the water level was very high, so we only saw a small amount of the birds on the shore, however it still gave a good idea of what it would be like filled with flamingos.

The highlight of Lake Nakuru was the family of white rhinos that we happened upon. Mum, Dad and Baby Rhino, going for a wander and a graze. It was incredible – we were barely ten metres from them. They were beautiful and fascinating to watch – and after the hide-and-seek style safari of Samburu, it was such a different experience to spot these animals from hundreds of metres away and then drive right up to them. I loved watching them.

Some photos from Lake Nakuru:

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From Lake Nakuru, it is a ninety minute drive to Lake Naivasha – a freshwater lake which is a wonderful sanctuary for birdlife. Four hundred species of birds live here, and even the non-bird-lover in me had to admit that they were beautiful and photo-worthy.

A must-see for visitors to the lake is a two-hour boat cruise. The boats are basic wooden longboats with outboard motors (so wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen) and the guides offer excellent information and insight into the wildlife, birdlife and ecology of the area. The scenery is breathtaking – rolling hills on oneside, grassy plains on the other, with papyrus reeds and other unique plants dotting the shore. It was two absolutely magical hours – and not at all the kind of setting I expected to find myself in during a trip to Kenya.

The best bit? As pretty as it was, you can’t beat floating along with hippos swimming next to you. I watched them playing, diving, swimming, play-fighting and grunting to each other as they bobbed up and down between the reeds. Who knew they could hold their breath for so long? At times they were like breaching whales as they exhaled and sprayed water everywhere, breaking the surface. One of my travelling companions joked, “Imagine if one popped up right next to the boat?” Ha ha, we all laughed… then not two minutes later as we were heading along to another part of the lake, one did exactly that. I squealed, nearly dropped the camera, and scared the living daylights out of this poor hippo! What an experience!

The other highlight from Lake Naivasha happened that evening. The lodge where we stayed borders the lake, and after dark the hippos come ashore to graze. We were about to head to dinner and suddenly one of our group (nicknamed “Radar” as she could spot animals from kilometres away) shrieked “Hippo!” – lo and behold, we sat and watched as seven hippos wandered up through the lodge’s garden, around past our rooms and back down into the shadows, grazing and enjoying their grassy dinner. I would not have believed it had somebody said “Oh yeah, when you’re in Kenya, you’ll have hippos wandering ten metres from your front door.” Unbelievable.

Some photos from Lake Naivasha:

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So, should you include Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha on an itinerary to Kenya? If you are doing your safari by road as we did, then the answer is yes. Pick one or the other as a breakpoint between Samburu or Amboseli and the Masai Mara. Both lakes had absolute highlights for me, but if I had to pick one it would be Lake Naivasha – that boat ride and the hippos sit at the top of my list for most magical moments on this trip.

Next and final stop… Masai Mara… I can’t wait!!!!

Latest additions to the animal count: White Rhino, Black Rhino, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Wildebeast, Hippo, Rothchild’s Giraffe, Masai Giraffe, Common Zebra, Thompson Gazelles

Author’s note:
I’m not exactly a bird lover, so I am not counting every single species of winged creature that we came across. I probably shouldn’t include birds in the animal count at all, but I’m taking creative licence with it and counting only those birds that made an impression on me (and that I can remember the names of!)

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