Behind-the-scenes: “This is Africa” Lake Nakuru Part 2

Lake Nakuru - Mara Evening Arrival 371

The next stop on my African adventure was Lake Nakuru National Park. I had no idea what to expect. I had never heard of Lake Nakuru nor was it ever mentioned that we would be visiting. Before I go on though, I have to mention that I have very few photos of the park- my sole purpose was to film. (Which you can watch at the bottom of this page.) So to give you some sort of visual to accompany my journal excerpts, I’ll be including some photos taken by friends who accompanied me along the journey. Hope you enjoy!

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September 1st

It is so crazy not having a sense of time here in Africa. I always wake up during the night and look outside my window to make sure the sun isn’t rising quickly over the lake. My awesome intuition told me to get up, shower, and get ready for the day…So I did. Once that was done, I decided to sit outside on my porch and catch up writing. I couldn’t believe it was still dark, so I grabbed a flashlight and proceeded to catch up. 45 minutes later and it was still dark. I decided to lay down. 2 hours later I would hear Munir pounding on my door trying to get me up. Apparently, I had gotten up at 2 or 3 in the morning! 

Lake Nakuru map

(Map courtesy Rotsee2)

I had no idea what to expect. I thought it would be similar to Lake Naivasha. I figured we would take a boat out on the water and observe wildlife on the banks. WRONG! What I originally thought could not be further from the truth. The park is located about an hour and a half from Lake Naivasha…

nakuru town

(Picture courtesy Rotsee2)

Nakuru turned out to be the fifth largest city in Kenya. We were only a few miles away from the park and we still were in poverty-stricken areas. I couldn’t believe it. How could Lake Nakuru National Park be teeming with wildlife so close to these areas? Africa is like nothing else on this planet…

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As we passed the first gate into the park, the landscape completely changed. One advantage of this park was that it was completely fenced all the way around: A closed environment to keep the poachers out. Down the fence line, you could see as far as the eye, homes nestled right up to the fence. Without the fence, the animals would be doomed. The park is extremely green. The dirt road leading to the main gate is lined with tall Acacia Trees. Their yellow-bark glistening in the sun….

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There were baboons everywhere! Troops of them, walking around like they owned the place! I walked so close to them, it was unreal! We departed through the main gate and stopped as as we entered to prepare our camera equipment. Seconds later, a female baboon with a baby gripping her underside, jumped through Munir’s window and hopped in the backseat next to Liz. I was standing in shock. Liz was frozen. It hopped in the far back and grabbed Liz and Hitesh’s packed, vegan lunch! It then took off through the window lunch in hand. Luckily, the park rangers came to the rescue, chasing her with batons. She let go of the lunch and took off into the bush. Even though she only had it for a couple of seconds, she managed to tear into the sack. What a crazy experience! 

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To my surprise, there were no plans of getting into a boat. Matter-of-fact it’s prohibited: You cannot leave your safari vehicle…And apparently, it’s also home to aggressive man-eating lions! 

white rhino

(Photo courtesy Munir Virani)

The park is home to both Black and White Rhinos. (Both of which had to be relocated into the park.) Munir told me most parks who don’t have rhinos don’t want them. They are expensive. Why? Because once you have rhinos, you need a complete anti-poaching unit just for them. It’s a shame this is a reality…Less than 15 minutes in, we spotted our first rhinos. What an exciting moment! I never thought in Kenya I would be able to see Southern White Rhinos. (Naturally they would never be found here.) It was such a thrill seeing them. 

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Lake Nakuru had prime leopard habitat. I was scanning every bush, every tree, just hoping for a quick glance of a spotted tail hanging down. I did it so long, my neck started to hurt. It seemed like hours. We had still not found our leopard…Speaking about other cats, there are little to no cheetahs in the park. Cheetahs roam great distances and need space from larger carnivores like lions and hyenas…We found no leopard in Lake Nakuru. 

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If there is one thing I can say about Munir, it’s that he is completely planned and organized! Everything is planned down to the very minute. After our time at Lake Nakuru, we had to race back to Naivasha and head out to a smaller lake famous for flamingos…

(Photo courtesy Munir Virani)

(Photo courtesy Munir Virani)

Lake Oloidien is the only place in Kenya where you can go out in a boat and photograph flamingos. I had visited this lake in January, so I knew what to expect. I love this lake. It has emerald, green water and is stuffed with hippos! When we arrived, all we could see was a thin, pink line across the lake marking the flock’s location. Simon, our boat driver, took us out to the far end of the lake where the birds were located. There were thousands of them. 

(Photo courtesy Munir Virani)

(Photo courtesy Munir Virani)

As in synchrony, they all started taking off into the sky. What an incredible moment. It was almost like a scene from National Geographic or Animal Planet. The footage was fantastic! As we were driving back to the shore, I couldn’t help but think how jam-packed the day was. Munir had effectively wore me out!  

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Back at Elsamere on Lake Naivasha (after dinner) the guards spotted a hippo grazing away outside on the grassy lawn. I love this about Elsamere. It has this awesome “camp-like” feel with hippos! I decided it was my last night. I had to live it up! I wouldn’t have done Elsamere justice if I went directly to bed. So…I decided to become a guard for the night. I could film what it was like guarding the camp from hippos, hyenas, and other creatures of the night! We saw a hippo and her calf less than 10 minutes in. The only issue was it was incredibly hard to spot on camera. My “guard for the night” days were quickly over…Next stop the Masai Mara!