Day 5 (cont.)
It was probably early afternoon when our cruisers drove through the town of Nakuru. I say town, but it seemed more like a village to me at the time. We turned off the dusty main road and our vehicles pulled up at the Lanet gate on the North East corner of the Lake Nakuru National Park. We stayed in our seats while drivers and tour leaders secured our entrance, but the waiting was by no means dull. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Also, there were monkeys. Granted, we were sitting in an un-airconditioned vehicle, but I had by this point discovered that this wasn’t a problem.
One of my main worries about going to Africa is that I’m not really a big fan of heat. I like snow and winter frost and I rarely feel the cold. By contrast, in Summer I can usually be found sweating, panting and staying indoors or at least in the shade. I once worked in a place that had huge walk in fridges and I loved going to work in Summer there. That said, I do like a nice sunny day, just so long as I’m in a cool, shady, air conditioned place to see it from. So how would I handle Kenya? The answer turned out to be simple. I had already planned ahead with regards to clothing – lightweight, breathable stuff and a wide brimmed hat. I soon discovered that the biggest and most important difference between a hot day in Scotland and a hot day in Kenya is humidity. It’s a dry heat in Kenya and I don’t have a problem with it at all. Sure, the sun in Africa is turned all the way up to eleven and, if you step into it’s view unprotected it will kill you, but so long as I stayed in the shade I was absolutely fine. In all my time there I only got sunburned once and that was because we spent a lot of time outside when the sun was low on the horizon and getting under my hat.
But I digest…
As we sat in the cruisers near the gate we were entertained by the aforementioned small group of monkeys running about the area. They may have been baboons, my memory is fuzzy, but I’m sure they were yellow. We spent a happy five to ten minutes watching them run about. I also noticed armed guards, which was a bit of a surprise at the time, but with hindsight not too surprising.
We soon drove into the park proper. I knew from reading that Lake Nakuru is one of the famous ‘flamingo lakes’ where thousands, even millions, of flamingos come to nest. Since I heard that I’d been picturing the images from all the David Attenborough programs I had watched as a kid (and still do). What I didn’t expect was a dusty, uneven road through miles of bushes. It really was dusty. The windows had to be wound up so that we could breathe, but that meant the interior of the cruiser turned into an oven, so the first experience of this incredible reserve was a balancing act between choking or cooking. We eventually cleared the bushes and began driving along a relatively straight road bordered on our left by trees and bushes, but on our right was a large stretch of grass with the Lake visible behind it. And that was where the wildlife was.
These White Rhino were some of the first animals we saw here, and they were beautiful. We saw two family groups as we drove South along the lake. We also saw more Water Buck and some Zebra, unfortunately, this was also where I discovered that my camera didn’t really have a zoom function properly up to the task of wildlife photography. Disappointed at this, I applied some simple logic. After all, I had a pair of binoculars, so with a bit of careful manoeuvring I was able to take photos using the binoculars as a zoom lens:
Okay, not the best results. It was a bit hit and miss, but some of those aren’t too bad, right?
It was a fairly quick trip through the wildlife and up to the lodge. Again, the trend of increasing luxury played out and we had twin huts, each holding two double beds draped with mosquito nets. This was the first time I actually started to fret a bit about strange, African creepy crawlies, but it never became a major panic for me; the big, black, evil wasps were the only things I really ran away from, but more on those later.
The lodge also had a pool, like every other place we had and would visit, but perhaps strangely, I never went for a swim in all my time in this blazing hot country. The most impressive thing about the place was the commanding view out over the whole of the park. Oh, and the tiny watering hole that sat about ten feet from the wire fence and always had at least one buffalo pottering around it. We had our British buffet lunch and then set off down to the lake to see the wildlife. Our trip took us back along the road we had come in on, then hooked around the Northern end of the Lake.
As you can see, it was a pretty awesome afternoon. It was our first, proper wildlife safari part of our wildlife safari, by which I mean we sticking our head and shoulders out the roof of a vehicle and watching wild animals roam about, doing their thing. We actually got out of the vans when we reached the North end of the lake to go and look at the flamingo. The whole event had took me back to watching David Attenborough documentaries as a kid – the lakes of flamingo have always been one of those iconic images for me – and it was pretty mind blowing to be actually standing in a picture from my childhood. Granted, the birds were pretty far out and the childhood images didn’t have the scattered and discarded legs of dead birds near the waters edge, but even that detritus of the natural order of things didn’t take away from how incredible and… humbling(?) the whole scene was. Again, especially given the distances, I wished for a better zoom on my camera, but at the end of the day I knew that no image would truly capture that moment the way I still remember it today.
As the sun started to dip, we headed back along the now familiar dusty road, back to the lodge and relaxed in the comfortable surroundings. There was live entertainment and beer, so everyone was happy. I did my usual and at one point had a little wander, away from the noise, and watched the buffalo sitting by the water hole while listening to the sounds of the night. I might not have been in a tent, but I could close my eyes and pretend for a while. Everyone had a nice evening and a good sleep, which was just as well, because the morning was to bring us our first glimpse of the king of ‘the big five’: Lions!