Our weekend trip to Serena Mountain Lodge just teased our appetite for wildlife. So on our final weekend in Kenya we squeezed in another quick trip to the wildlife park at Lake Nakuru. We arranged to travel on Friday evening, have a tour of the park on Saturday morning, and return to Tumutumu Saturday night. We traveled with Kris and Lucy, a couple of British medical students also working at Tumutumu Hospital.
Our objective: see amazing animals as quickly and cheaply as possible. Per Google Maps Nakuru is approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Karatina. We priced hiring a car and driver and instead decided to engage the most common method of public transportation: a matatu. Matatus are 14 passenger vans that travel between communities at a nominal rate. They are notorious for being over crowded and their drivers are notoriously aggressive and reckless. When debating whether or not to travel by matatu Matthew often said “More people die in Kenya every year from vehicular accidents than die from malaria”.
|Rooster in Matatu|
We were determinied not to visit the ATM machine during the trip and only use the shillings in hand. We through caution to the wind and decided to travel by matatu.
The trip to Lake Nakuru took 6 hours on 3 different matatus. Highlights of our journey included a passenger carrying a rooster in her lap (quickly revealed by sound and smell), an hour delay in Nyeri as we waited for our van to fill, and a deteriorating highway riddled with potholes. The highway itself was so poor I'm not sure what difference a private car would have made... I'm certain the asphalt was poured without the proper gravel subgrade. It was an exhausting journey.
When we arrived in Nakuru we checked into our hotel and we had a nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was a lovely and welcome meal – good food and good company. At 6:30 the next morning our tour guide met us at the hotel with an open top van. We were oogling at the animals of the park by 7:30.
And then it was all worth it! Lake Nakuru is well known for the variety of birds it attracts, most famously, pink flamingos. But in addition to spectacular birds we saw loads of baboons, zebras, giraffs, hyenias, rhinosorases, cape buffalo, warthogs, empalas and antilopes. We saw them laze about, get in fights, feed each other and play with each other. All quite close from the safety of our open top van. The only regret is that the lions and the lepords, which are present in the park, did not make an appearance.
We stopped for a snack break at an overlook at 'Baboon Hill'. We climbed out of the van with our packed lunch and before we knew it a baboon had snuck up and stolen our bread and biscuts! So much for sandwiches! Obviously we were not the first victims... they had practiced well and are known for stealing bananas and other goodies right out of the hands of distracted tourist
|Matthew and I with Kris and Lucy at Baboon Hill.|
The animals were fantastic and such a wonder. It is easy to see how they are personified in in 'The Lion King'... they each have such distinct character and habits.
Our return matatu trip only took 5 hours. This journey featured a sick passenger, vomiting out the window adjacent to Matthew. We were also seated on the back row and which meant little leg room with the wheel well and spare tire under our feet. The trials of being jostled around the back of a matatu was enough to make us admit our age and that we just weren't interested in this type of travel in the future... the extra expense would be worth the comfort of a safe journey.