Flamingos and Lakes

Nakuru NP is named for Lake Nakuru, and the lake is the dominant feature of the park. We arrived on a beautiful, sunny day. There were Cape buffalo roaming, and zebra using the buffalo for protection, enjoying the sunny day also. The park is not anywhere as large as Masai Mara NP, but it makes up for size by having beautiful scenery and beautiful animals, set off by the big blue lake.

The Cape buffalo were near the road, ready to greet visitors. The larger horns belong to the male, and the less lethal-looking (comparatively) horns belong to the female. The buffalo have a reputation for being easily irritated, but they always seemed calm, in a bovine kind of way. That said, we never got out of the vehicle, nor were we aggressive in approaching them, and I don’t recommend trying it. I used my telephoto lens to get close-ups.

Evans opened the van’s roof and drove slowly, stopping when we spotted something of interest. The scenery was beautiful, and the lake attracts birds and animals alike. Baboons seem to be everywhere in Africa. Just like bears in America, the ones that have learned to associate humans with food are dangerous pests, but baboons who have not made that association are not so dangerous and interesting to watch. They are still strong, fairly large animals and should not be approached.

Most of the birds in the photo above are Egyptian geese.

In the photo below are white rhinoceros. The Dutch named these rhinos, and the English who followed misunderstood the word “weitz,” meaning “wide,” i.e. nothing to do with color, as “white.” White rhinos can be any color from black to dark gray to very pale gray.

The reason the Dutch called them “wide-mouthed” rhinos is that their mouths are wide, and appear squared, whereas the black rhinos have more pointed mouths. The shape of their mouths reflects their eating habits – white rhinos graze, meaning their main foods are grasses, and black rhinos are browsers, meaning they forage for leaves and fruits from trees. From a distance, watch what and where they are eating to know what kind of rhino you are looking at, rather than trying to determine the color.

The rhino on the right has a bird giving her a once-over for ticks and other parasites.

The pink flamingos were beautiful in the blue water and sunshine. There are two kinds who live here: the Lesser and Greater Flamingos. The lesser flamingos are pinker because they eat mainly algae, which is what imparts the pink color. Greater flamingos eat algae, but also smaller water creatures that live in the lake, so they are a more pale whitish-pink. I have since learned that flamingos are widely dispersed across the tropical and semi-tropical areas of the planet, such as Florida and Australia. (An Australian zoo flamingo lived to be 83 years old!) Florida flamingos are Greater Flamingos.

There were lots of birds around the lake. I didn’t catch the name of this bird, but the one below is a Crowned Crane.

There are three species of giraffe, depending on who you talk to. Some experts say there are only two. Regardless of what the precise answer is, I had seen the “Maasai” giraffe in places like Namibia and Botswana. They are the ones whose darker brown patches had “ragged” edges, like these, from Namibia:

Rothschild’s giraffes live in Nakuru NP. They are slightly smaller than the Maasai giraffes, and their brown patches have smoother edges:

Nakuru NP is atmospheric. It is not filled with the drama that some other parks had, probably because there are so few predators. Supposedly there are lions and leopards, but we never saw any. Evans said there are no longer lions and he hasn’t seen a leopard here in a long time.

It’s just a beautiful, peaceful place, and we spent some time, walking around the flamingos on the shore of the lake. Bucolic. Being there just felt good, and I happily would have just sat, watching the scenery, animals, and birds for a long time, taking in the serenity.

Lake Naivasha is the highest of the Rift Valley lakes at 1884 meters above sea level. Here, we took to the water. Nearly everything looks different from the water. In the photo below, a pelican along the shore takes flight against the backdrop of Mt. Longonot, a volcano that last erupted in 1860. Visitors can hike to the top and stand on the edge of the crater, and apparently it’s not a hard job, although we did not do the hike.

Further on, we motored by a large island in the large lake. This island was used for some location shots in the movie, “Out of Africa,” according to our guide. If you come to Kenya, you will find that Kenyans refer to the movie quite often.

A few people fish in the lake, and Blue Herons have built a rookery in the trees along the shore, as you can see in the third photo.

Unlike some other places in Africa, the water level in the lake is rising rather than falling. No one is sure why this is happening, but it is killing the trees as the water drowns the roots. Even though hippos are good swimmers, the rising water is also a problem for them. They like the water deep enough to carry some of their weight, but shallow enough that they can use their feet to move around – it’s a narrow bandwidth.

At the end of the day, we headed on towards our night’s accommodation. A couple of people were departing from our group, which made us feel a little sad. People who travel tend to be very open and share their excitement about seeing these beautiful animals and these places that are so unlike our homes, that one feels some bonding. It is part of the adventure and part of the journey.

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