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Sunworld Safari Review – Kenya’s Fabulous Flamingos, Hungry Hippos, Galloping Giraffes

By Georja Umano and Gerald Everett Jones

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CLICK PHOTO FOR LARGE IMAGE - The beauty and serenity of millions of flamingos hanging out

Lake Nakuru (Part 2 of 3)

The first president and grandfather of independent Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, who came to power in 1963, used to spend lunchtimes every weekend at Lake Nakuru watching the huge population of flamingos dine on algae at the lakeshore. So the story went by our wonderful safari guide and all-around caretaker, Raphael. Kenyatta's visits were so common that a special presidential pavilion was erected on the lakeshore. The Kenya Wildlife Service (www.kws.org) and park rangers have since demolished it, preferring to have only natural structures within the park.

Seeing the flamingos take flight is breath-taking

After spending time on the beautiful, lush shores of the lake, we can understand why he kept coming back. There is something so refreshing and serene about experience wildlife in such abundance, especially when that wildlife consists over a million and a half gorgeous flamingos. You may have seen flamingos in the zoo and admired their beauty. But seeing them in the wild, creating a pink carpet all around the shallows of that huge lake is something else. In a zoo the birds' wings are clipped, alas, as are those of most of them in captivity. It so sad that flying, which is so essential to the essence of a bird, is deprived of the most beautiful among them – the ones most commonly captured by humans. Watching wild flamingos cavort and spread their wings is amazing. When a large group of them takes off, it is a breathtaking sight. The majesty! The colors! We made three trips to the shores and we did not want to leave.

We are awed by curious giraffes who check us out

The park around the lake is filled with tall grasses and jungle terrain. We saw the rare and endangered black rhino grazing among some water buffalo, along with their friendly egrets, the pretty white birds which land on their backs and pick off the bugs. We were also able to spot elusive leopards, zebras, gazelle and antelope. We saw a fish eagle and crown crane, not to mention the baboons that managed to show up everywhere we went in Kenya.

Hippos would come out to graze the grasses near our cottages

Our hotel, the Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge, is situated just a few hundred yards from the shores of fresh-water Lake Naivasha, not far from Lake Nakuru. It is another beautiful spot, which is dotted with birds and filled with snorting hippos, and yet another lovely, luxury hotel arranged for us by Sunworld Safaris. Naivasha is one of several lakes in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, which extends from north of Nairobi to giant Lake Turkana on the country’s northern border with Sudan and Ethiopia. The Rift Valley is where some of the most ancient bones of our earliest ancestors are being found. It is designated by many anthropologists as the cradle of humankind.

A water buffalo with egret friends on its back

The Sopa has vast amounts of natural landscape around it and the hotel grounds are actually part of the habitat of the wild animals living there. It is wonderful to see how the Kenyan people learn to live with the wildlife, respect them, and teach others to do the same. When we checked in, we were told we needed a guard to accompany us to our rooms and going to dinner. The reason? After twilight, the hungry hippos walk around the building and graze on the grasses! They are very territorial and do not look kindly on other creatures traversing their space. And yes, when we were coming back from dinner, we did see them and hear them. Our fearless Maasai guards turned the flashlight on them so we could make them out.

CLICK PHOTO FOR LARGE IMAGE - Male lizard wants to know whos looking at him

One late afternoon toward evening, we were accompanied by another guard to the shores of Lake Naivasha. We saw a few hippos in the water, and on the way back, we came across a herd of curious giraffe. We counted five. They came close and watched us back. What we didn’t notice until we were quite close were the stern, unfriendly eyes of a massive African buffalo gazing at us through the brush. Our guard got us out of there, and quick! He told us if he were to be attacked by a buffalo, he would lie flat on the ground. The buffalo would try to gore him but because its horns are curved, it couldn't get him directly on the ground. Then, what, we asked? "You scream and hopefully someone will come to help!"

Mama baboon and her newborns

As our safari progressed we were to learn about and experience more and more contact with the brave and charismatic Maasai.

Endangered black rhino enjoys the grasses at Lake Nakuru


Later that evening, from the window of our second-floor room, we watched a young giraffe galloping across the field.

It's incredible now to think about the beauty and wonder of living with and seeing the wildlife in their own habitat on a daily basis. It is something we wish everyone can experience. Africa may be far away and costly. And a trip there may take a lot of planning. But, if you are an animal lover and a naturalist, it is truly paradise.

Raphael points out his favorite place to have lunch

To read more of this series on our African adventures, please click here where we describe our game drives through Amboseli National Park. And in our third article on the Maasai Mara animals and people, plus adventures in bush camp, please click here.

Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate.
Gerald Everett Jones is the author of the Rollo Hemphill series of comic novels.

Photos by Georja Umano

Sunworld Safaris, Ltd.
"4x4 Specialists"

Off Riverside Drive
On Riverside Lane
P.O. Box 390094
00623 Nairobi, Kenya
Ph +254 020 444 5669 / 444 580 / 444 5673 / 444 5850
Mobile 0722-525400 / 0733-614055
Fax +254 020 444 5673
http://www.sunworld-safari.com
email  [email protected] / [email protected]

Mara Bush Camp http://www.marabushcamp.com/en

Published on Sep 15, 2010

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