Kenya – Day 4

Kenya Day 4

June 4th, 2010

*All information valid on the date of writing. Please check for the latest with other sources*

Continued from Kenya – Day 3

Morning arrived too soon as always and we forced ourselves up at the unearthly hour of 6 am. After getting ready, we set off up the pathway to the restaurant, passing by small little deer like animals that were on the lawns. We immediately took pictures of them, amazed at their lack of fear. The staff told us that these were the friendly dic dics and they could be found all over the premises. Wonder where they were hiding the previous day?

Then it was breakfast again, too early. We managed whatever we could. I found out a bit too late that had we informed the previous day, the restaurant staff would have had our breakfast packed for us, which we could have eaten at leisure. Since there was nothing we could do about it now, we returned to the tent to get our bags and check out of the Sarova. After filling a feedback form, we loaded our things into the TLC. Newton in his timely fashion, then informed us that we would be going past Lake Naivasha and we had an option of a boat ride on the lake where we could see the hippos, pelicans and several other birds. He said that since we were only 4 of us, he could work it out with the boatman so that we would have to pay only $110 for the ride which normally costs about $160 for a group of 7-8 people. Newton’s powers of persuasion always working well on us, we decided to go ahead with the idea.

We then set set off on the road to Nakuru National Park at 7.30 am sharp. At the exit we waited for a few moments for the boy who had promised us the lion’s tooth but he never showed up. So we drove on, back to ol’ bumpy, our morning stomachs not appreciating the disturbance but tolerating it nevertheless, the anti emetics playing an important role here :-).

45 mins later we were back onto the ‘road of the gentle pot holes’ and by 9 am we were at our first stop for the day at Narok. Taking only a 10 min break we left again and from now on we had excellent roads and we sat back and enjoyed the ride, some of us taking a few moments to doze off to make up for the early rising. I took this opportunity to chat with Newton and found out he had a young wife and little baby in Nairobi, who missed him a lot when he went on safaris. But when he was not, he had sufficient time to spend with them and also with his friends and family.

As we approached closer to Naivasha, we could see the distant lake from the road. Turning off the main road took us to the lake and we were there by 11 am. A quick discussion with Victor the boatman and we were strapped in our life jackets and off in the motor boat by 11.15 am on a one hour ride. This freshwater lake is spread over almost 200 acres and is a part of the Great Rift Valley. It is home to several hippos, pelicans and several varieties of birds, like the fishing eagle, seagull, egrets, coots, cormorants and many many more. Victor showed us a fishing eagle perched high upon a tree and offered to demonstrate how the eagle caught fish. He brandished a tiny dead fish that he had carried and flung it overboard. In seconds the eagle swooped down from the tree and in a flash it had picked up the fish from the water’s surface, flying back as fast as it had descended. Victor did this a couple of times and we were able to obtain sufficiently good shots of the process.

We slid past cormorants showing off on the banks as we headed towards the distant shore through water hyacinths and papyrus, that constantly got stuck in the boats propeller. The papyrus is sharp and I was advised not to reach out and touch it. In fact as a rule, do not put your hand in the  water bodies anywhere. This lake may or may not have Bilharzia but one does not want to find out the hard way. Parts of the lake looked like the scenes of the bulrushes from the movie The Ten Commandments and for a while I was furtively looking for a little basket among the papyrus, suppressing the urge to call out ‘Moses Moses?’ 🙂

A lone gull circled over, screaming at us. We were too close to its nest it had built among the water plants. Red knobbed coots (I think) were the most common birds we saw swimming in the lake with their hilarious style of taking off, where they first run across the surface with their feet scrabbling across the water before they take off up into the air.

As we continued, Victor found a large dead fish floating on the surface and put it in the boat to have it analysed for cause of death, rising pollution levels being the most likely.

By now we were quite close to the pelicans that were huddled on little islands and we gazed delightedly at these large exotic looking birds. Some of them were resting and some were flying around and fishing. We could not get too close and had to depend on the camera zoom for clearer pictures.

Then onto the the hippos, Victor staying at a safe distance from these seemingly friendly looking but in reality very dangerous animals. Hippos in the wild can attack and overturn the boat. They are short tempered beasts and they swim very fast . So we got only glimpses of their heads and backs with Victor trying hard to give us the best view.

Then off we sailed along the shore spotting giraffes and waterbuck on the land. A blur of orange in the distance, had us all excited and we asked Victor to speed up thinking they were some rare birds, only to find out as we got closer, that they were tourists in another boat in their orange life jackets. This was sufficient to convince Victor that we had had enough and before we started “seeing” more things, he decided to head back 🙂

As we moved back towards the shore, the white storks overhead put on a spectacular airshow for us, flying in synchronized  formations and the air was like a stage with its graceful performers bidding us goodbye.

It was 12.15 pm as we turned back to rejoin the road to Nakuru and we drove through a cactus lined path, waving out at the Vervet monkeys that stared at us curiously. The road to Nakuru was excellent. Naivasha is famous for its flower farms and floriculture is one of the main industries here and this has led to the development of this region. We could see the nurseries on the land below us on either side as we passed by.

There were plenty of zebras, bucks, impalas, gnus, giraffe etc on our route. By now we had got used to seeing these animals …”Oh that? Its only a zebra honey. Now go back to sleep” 🙂

We reached Nakuru town shortly and we drove through this beautiful place through streets that had flamingo shaped streetlights (why did I not take a picture?), to arrive at the gates of Nakuru National Park by 1.40 pm. Newton completed the formalities at the gate within 10 minutes and we proceeded to the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge on a dirt track. The lake is visible from the road and we had our first distant view.

There are 2 lodges in Nakuru Park, the Sarova Lion Hill and the Nakuru Lodge. I have no idea how the other one was but we were booked in Lion Hill and I never regretted that choice. We arrived at the lodge at 2 pm. Hot towels and the customary welcome drink later, we were at the reception. The walls here were lined with framed pictures, the map of Nakuru Park, a picture of the Lake and its flamingoes and a map of Kenya and also a board listing various details about the lodge. We gazed at them while waiting for K to complete the check in formalities. The man at the counter wanted to know who the boss was, so he could make the entry in that name. Clever people these Kenyans, know all the right things to ask. K of course indicated that I was the boss and he had my permission to enter his name and thus we were signed in 🙂

Our bags were then taken to our cottages and we followed them in order to have a wash before going on to a late lunch.

Sarova Lion Hills like the earlier Sarova property we stayed at, is a wonderful place. Chalets (cottages) dot the slopes in neat rows, each one with its view of the distant lake and complete with bathroom, bathtub, mosquito nets and a front porch and also tea and coffee facilities, hairdryer, mosquito repellent mats and wipes. Some rooms even have an adaptor. My chalet was aptly named Euphorbia after the tree that had caught my fancy (these guys had done their research well 🙂 and the kids occupied Chestnut.

What struck us right away (literally I must say ) were the zillions of mosquitoes. Buzzing in unison like the vuvuzelas I have been hearing of late, they provided a background music that was quite audible even in broad daylight. Doing the mosquito dance that consisted of jerky moves vuvuzelas swatting selves, we managed to rush into the rooms, taking some of our unwelcome visitors along with us. This was where we decided that the repellent cream needed to play its role vuvuzelas only after slathering it on all exposed surfaces, did we dare to leave the room. I also switched on multiple electric mosquito mats before we left. To be fair, all our efforts paid off vuvuzelas I do not think anyone of us suffered even a single bite despite the heavy odds 🙂 Strangely the mosquitoes were only present in the vicinity of the cottages. In the restaurant and elsewhere, there was not a trace of them.

We were at the Flamingo restaurant for lunch at nearly 2.30 pm. While the food was always very good everywhere, in this place it was superlative in terms of presentation and variety and taste. This was a delicious experience. The spread was elaborate. From the soups, the salads, the dressings, the breads, the cheeses, the live counters with their roasts and grills, to the local African fare and the omnipresent Indian fare both vegetarian and non, all the way to their sinful sinful desserts accompanied by chocolate shavings and fresh cream and fruit sauces and nuts including the Macademia nuts, this was a culinary journey to go nuts over. Our friend Ramu had told us about the food here and he was absolutely correct.

The beautifully done up restaurant with its wooden pillars and beams and classy decor helped to further enhance the dining experience.

Near the restaurant were the swimming pool and the Tulia spa that we did not even get a glimpse at due to lack of time. The bar was named Rift Valley bar and adjacent to it was the viewing deck where there was a coin slot telescope for viewing the distant lake.

We returned to the rooms after lunch and rested awhile before tea/coffee/cake/cookies and it was 4.30 pm when we set out to the lake. Though one can see the lake from almost every location in the hotel, it is actually a good 30 min drive, especially since we stopped several times to take pictures of the various birds on the way and the hundreds of baboons that we passed by on our path and all around us. Baboons of all ages and sizes and shapes (no actually they were all the same shape :-)), provided us great entertainment and their almost human like mannerisms and actions were a huge source of amusement. Some sat around picking lice (?) off other’s backs and some walked about with their little babies clinging to their underbellies or lying on their backs. Newton had warned us to close all windows and the top because the animals could be a menace but I found that they were more afraid of us that we were of them and we even had difficulty taking pictures because they did not stay still and kept moving away as we approached, probably since they had so many babies with them.

Driving past the baboons and the trees, the landscape changed to an open space around which we had to drive to reach the lake. We passed by ostriches, zebras, waterbuck, giraffes and even a distant lion that had climbed a tree, probably due to a personality disorder 🙂

Finally we came upon the lake that stretched out before us, its pink rim shimmering in the evening sun, the pink owing to the thousands of flamingoes that circle the entire periphery. This is a year round phenomenon and is a spectacular sight. The pink birds performed for us, sometimes flying and sometimes flapping their wings to display a burst of color as we watched fascinated and unable to tear ourselves away. There are also the pelicans that sit in large groups but the flamingoes overshadow all other life on the lake.

Newton had promised us rhinos and buffaloes here and so there were. Excited to see our first rhino in the distance we scrabbled to get zoom shots but later we saw so many more and got so close that we got all our pictures from a mere a few feet away. A rhino mama was strolling with her baby who was constantly being bothered by a little birdie. Unfortunately we did not get a clear video of this spectacle since the little one was littler than the bushes around it and kept disappearing as it gambolled though the shrub 🙂 These rhinos that we saw, were the white rhino according to Newton. Both the black and white rhinos are actually grey, differing from each other by certain features other than color.

The word ‘white’ comes from the Dutch weid for wide, which refers to the flat, wide square lip with which the white rhino grazes on the grass off the flat ground. This one is grey has 2 horns and a hump and is larger in size. It is a more sociable animal and can be found in groups.

The black on the other hand is also grey but smaller than the white, has the same 2 horns but has a pointed mouth and hooked lip, in order to be able to grasp leaves and twigs from the trees and bushes while feeding. It is a solitary animal and is normally found all by itself. It is also the more aggressive of the two and can charge easily with slight provocation.

We also had our meeting with the only black rhino of the evening. He was staring at us from barely a few yards away, his stance not looking very comforting . Urging Newton to get away from there was a fruitless exercise of course. As I mentioned earlier, nothing made him want to stay longer than our panicky voices telling him to rush away, not that it kept me from trying though 🙂 Anyway, the black lost interest in us after a while and went back to chewing the leaves from the nearby bush, before eventually leaving us, to disappear into the forest.

Those of us who had been disappointed with a mere glimpse of the Mara buffaloes, now had enough of them to view to their hearts content. Not afraid like their earlier cousins, herds of buffalo grazed around us, with many more bathing in the lake or resting along its banks. The rhinos and buffaloes live in silent communion, not bothering each other and going their own way. One white rhino entered the water and made its way towards a buffalo bathing there, giving us hope of witnessing a rhino buffalo face off 🙂 But as it approached near, it just turned direction and went on its way, not deigning to as much as look towards the buffalo .

After having spent almost 2 hours here it was time to get back. We had a drive to Baboon cliff scheduled, a place that is a viewing spot but it had started raining and was getting dark so Newton took a decision to get back to the lodge. Depositing us at the entrance, he asked us to be ready the next morning for our drive to the Serena Mountain Lodge in the Mt Kenya National Reserve.

We arrived too late for the scheduled entertainment of the night, the tribal dances by the local tribes, performed on the deck near the bar. We however did manage to get our pictures with them as we joined them later near the bonfire that burnt merrily and kept us warm on that chilly night.

Dinner was at the Flamingo restaurant and it was as fine if not finer than the lunch. Another birthday and a procession led by a flaming torch in hand and the men who had performed the earlier tribal dance were now singing the birthday song. Yeah, why was it never mine ? 🙂 A lone guitarist was serenading couples at the tables and entertaining them with their requests. A cozy romantic evening it was. Our table was attended to by the 6.5 feet tall Andrew, who obligingly posed for a picture with v2 half his size. A picture that urged me to caption it ‘One and a half men … and v2’ :-).

We then spent a little while browsing through the gift shop called the Lion’s Den and then it was off for the night through the curtain of buzzing mosquitoes, as we dashed into the rooms closing the doors behind us.

The staff had been there earlier, spraying the rooms and drawing the nets … nets that had sufficiently big holes for a medium sized baboon to pass through 🙂 Fortunately the electric mats and cream that we had applied, were sufficient protection and we slept peacefully through the night after packing up all our things.

It was going to be an early morning yet again, sigh.


Continued at Kenya Day – 5

About Currylines

A food and travel enthusiast who plays with words
This entry was posted in International travel, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply