Lake Nakuru NP is a great to see animals up close. It is compact and most of the biggies are represented. Absent are elephants and hippos, but we'll have our chances. This time through the park we go with our friends on the overland truck. We'll be back in another few weeks with family.
There's not a whole lot of animals to see here, but you can ride a bike through the park. We somewhat accidentally ended up on the tortuous Buffalo Trail that really isn't meant for bikers. But we did get to see more animals than in the main trail of the park, including a cuddly little hyena.
We spent this Christmas at hotel in Nairobi listening to a band play Jamaican holiday tunes while we chomped our way through endangered species. Just kidding. The Carnivore restaurant has bowed to public pressure and only serves mildly 'exotic' animals. Terribly disappointed we didn't get to eat a zebra. Our next stop was the Ark Lodge in Arberdare National Park. It's a neat little lodge overlooking a watering hole. You can stay up all night watching the animals come for supper. Next in our whirlwind tour, we returned to Lake Nakuru NP.
This is supposed to be the #1 game park in Kenya. Well, it is big, has lots of animals and is quite pretty. But I won't be in a hurry to go back. The roads in and out are completely trashed and you're in a lot of trouble if there is any rain - and we had unseasonably heavy rains. It took us a full day to get in and another to get out. We were towed through mudpits and 4' deep rivers by tractors and army trucks. Turns out that the tourism industry has threatened a boycott of the park unless the county fixes up the roads. A bunch of officials even arrived by helicopter while we were being towed to survey the army acting as AAA tow service. But once inside, the park is great. Because of the weather, we saw only a small part of the park, but even this little bit was full of elephants, lions and all the antilope-y animals you could ever grill up.
My first impression of Tanzania is that the roads are wonderful. We had sealed tarmac all the way out to Manyara. It's beautiful after so many bumpy tracks in Kenya serving as main roads. Lake Manyara itself is a wonderful park sitting at the base of a green cliff covered in Keebler elf baobab trees. I find the park to be very similar to Nakuru in Kenya in layout and access to the animals. Although we didn't get much by way of lions or rhinos, we were practically stalked by elephants.
Tanzania's wonderful roads disappeared once we started getting close the Ngorongoro. But the incredibly lush and tropical landscape on the track up to the crater rim more than makes up for the bumps and grinds. From the rim, the view over the crater is breathtaking on a clear day. Life down inside the crater is much like the other parks. There's a hippo pool, soda lake for flamingos, grassy plains for the cats and their dinner. The rains were still haunting us a bit here. At one point, I had to jump out of the truck and brace us from tipping over when our driver took a rather dangerous line to get out of a muddy track.
The semi-nomadic Maasai people dot the landscape of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. We stopped by a village just outside Serengeti to learn a little about their lifestyle. The village, called a boma, is a group of huts surrounded by a thorny acacia branch wall. On the inside, we got to try our feet at their pastime of jumping. They say they jump because it makes them happy. Sounds a bit silly, but it sure made me laugh to try it out.
Serengeti is too big. We spent three days and saw only a small part of the park. But that's ok because we did see the animals. Lions, leopards, cheetahs (in the distance), hippos, crocs and all the other basics were in abundance. We were able to walk around the hippo pool here and get close enough to the hippos and a few crocs. We left at 6am our final morning and saw more lions walking right along the road (to keep their feet dry) than we had on the whole trip to date.
We passed through Ngorongoro once again after we rejoined the big yellow bus. The big thrill on this visit was a cheetah stalking a lone gazelle. The gazelle was finally alerted by overzealous jeep drivers nudging too close to the action.
Not quite a safari, but our time at the Snake Park campsite resulted in a few animal close encounters. They had been given an orphaned baby striped hyena by some local Maasai who had killed her mother. Nine month old Meesa was just about to be released back into the wild when we met her and I got a chance to be her chew toy.