I love road trips and I love wildlife. So when I get a chance to combine the two, I’m there in a heartbeat. Here’s what went down when we took a day drive to Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya.
Perhaps surprisingly, the first reason is the drive there. Although the maximum speed along the highway that connects Nairobi with Nakuru and Uganda is 80km/h, in practice the going is slower, more like 40-50km/h. And we enjoyed it all the more for that, given that there was a lot to see.
Chinese motor cycles buzz here and there, carrying shoppers about their daily business. These taxis, called boda-boda, share the road with slow-moving trucks, pedestrians, the occasional goat or cow. It’s a muddle that seems to work largely without accident, not even a raised voice or finger. The drivers’ general good humour was astonishing to this South African in Kenya.
Jacob Ngunjiri, our Loldia House guide, was quite a character and we enjoyed his company and insights into the wildlife of Lake Nakuru National Park as well as life in general. He repeated everything at least once for emphasis, would break out into a few words of French that he’d picked up from guests, and loved Zulu music which he sang with abandon. He may have missed his calling to be on stage with his uncanny ability to mimic different nationalities, from their vocabulary to their intonation – definitely an entertaining chap to be with on a road trip.
Lake Nakuru National Park lies on the edge of Nakuru town. It’s a place of ecological diversity, including woodland, bushy areas, ridges and escarpment as well as the lake itself.
More than 50 mammal species live in the park and we saw heaps of impala, waterbuck, wildebeest, gazelles, warthog, olive baboons, plains zebra, big buffalo herds, a lone white rhino and a dozen Rothschild’s giraffe (an exciting first for us). Lions and leopards also make themselves at home here but there are no elephants because the park is too small.
If you’re keen on birding, this is a great place for twitching. We saw blue-eared glossy starlings, superb starlings, Ruppell’s long-tailed starlings, crested cranes scratching in the grass for food, a pied kingfisher poised on a dead stump, lilac-breasted rollers, Jackson’s widowbirds, a long-crested eagle and white-fronted bee-eaters, among others. The park’s total species count is a healthy 450.
The landscape is attractive, with yellow-bark acacia woodlands against a background of the lake, many umbrella trees on the open plains, and a huge euphorbia forest. Viewpoints like Honeymoon Hill, Out of Africa and Lion Hill Ridge give panoramic views out over the plains and woodlands, where some 550 different plant species grow.
Note: I was a guest of the Governors Camp Collection’s Loldia House for two nights, but I had free rein to write what I chose. I paid for my airfare to Kenya, for drinks and park fees.
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