After an unfortunate late start (we had to work in with the hotels breakfast schedule), we headed to Lake Nakuru National Park. The flooding there must have been pretty bad as there were some buildings at the gate that had been swamped, but none of the roads within the park had been affected. The scenery at Nakuru is very different from the Masai Mara, being fairly dense woodland area surrounding the large alkaline lake, which made for a nice change but definitely harder spot game. As predicted, the flamingos had unfortunately high-tailed it for Lake Baringo. We saw a few, but nothing like the sea of pink you get from a GIS. We were excited to see rhinoceros however, ticking the final box for the big five, albeit from a fair distance. In addition we had some great sightings of giraffe and fantastic views of the lake from Baboon Point – no baboon there, but we saw some crazy colouful lizards (Farah does not consider this a highlight). Baboon were spotted elsewhere though and make for some really entertaining watching as they play together. The final highlight was a tree climbing lion, a trait of the Tsavo NP lions and which is where the Nakuru lions were introduced from – apparently very hard to spot.
After our game drive at Lake Nakuru, we traveled about an hour to Navasha to stay the night. Navasha is famous for growing wild flowers, with many exported to Europe. It’s also something of tourist town, with it’s main draw also being a lake (not alkaline though, apparently good for fishing). We unfortunately didn’t get a glimpse of it though as a severe thunderstorm rolled in just as we were arrived at our accommodation. Overnight rain is better than the alternative though.
The next day we headed to Hell’s Gate National Park, named by a couple of explorers after being ambushed by Maasai warriors in the gorge (or so we were told – reliable sources are not forthcoming. Maybe they just didn’t like the decor?) . Although it lacks many of the more traditionally exciting game (cats, elephant) it does let you walk or cycle through the park, making it a very different experience. We headed there in the early morning and opted for cycling. We saw some decent sized herds of impala and zebra in addition to a group of giraffe – who suddenly seem a lot taller from the ground without a Land Cruiser around you. Hell’s Gate has a very cool landscape with large cliffs and towers throughout the park and an expansive gorge. Apparently lots of the landscapes in the ‘Lion King’ were inspired by Hells Gate although neither me nor Farah were able to find pride rock there. After cycling through the park we dismounted for a walk through the gorge and to check out one of the natural hot springs, which turned out to be more of a leak than a spring – good for a bucket shower but not much else. Gorge was certainly worth a look though; fictional or not, would definitely be a bad place to be ambushed by unfriendly Maasai (or wildebeest for that matter).
After enjoying the morning at Hell’s Gate, we headed off on the long drive south to Amboseli National Park. Although we didn’t enter the park as we arrived in the evening, we did get our first glimpse of Kilimanjaro. Very impressive, looming large against the horizon. Despite our expectation, coming across a snow-capped mountain while we were suffering through the sweltering African heat was quite astonishing.