African Safari (Kenya) Pt.7
Now that we have patched up my little oversight with our brief return to Samburu, an introduction to Lake Nakuru National Park is in order. We have a day’s travel into the Great Rift Valley under our belt and are now only 80 miles northwest of Nairobi, the city of origin for this African safari. It is slightly cooler but more humid than the semi-arid savanna we have just departed. High canopied swampy forest trees ringing the lake replace the thorny Acacia of the north. By any standards, this park is small, only 100 square miles, with the lake representing about a quarter of the area. To my astonishment, the outskirts of the Nakuru, the third largest Kenyan city with a population of 300,000, are only a 15 minute ride from the entrance gates to the park. Preservation began here in 1961 primarily to protect the lake and the million or more Flamingos that arrive every year. Over time, more land adjacent to the lake has been added to help buffer from agricultural and human influences protecting other species from complete extinction. Conservationists are trying to manage the Black Rhinoceros (less than 4000 in all of Africa and only a handful in Kenya) and the Rothchild Giraffe (670 mostly in Kenya) back from the brink.
The happiest individual to be at Lake Nakuru is our walking bird encyclopedia guide, Zackary. This has been his main training ground for many of his professional certifications and with over 400 birds to identify he spends many weekends camping here with a club of enthusiasts. I have to admit, although I have perused an Audubon calendar or two, I am by no stretch of the imagination a birder. In fact, I silently wondered why I spent all this money and still hadn’t seen all the big game I expected. Fortunately, these doubts never found a voice. Like a great composer, John Gerlach had arranged a schedule intended to reach a grand crescendo with our final stop in Masai Mara. I resolved to simply make the most of this present opportunity. Man, did I ever underestimate the drama and beauty of this place, and although I haven’t run out to purchase the complete guide for birders, I will forever hold in higher esteem the feathered friends of the world.
Lake Nakuru from a high vantage point called Baboon Cliffs.
Normally, Lake Nakuru is a shallow and very alkaline body of water perfectly suited for generating large blooms of algae, liquid gold for the 1.2 million Flamingos that visit. Flamingos drag their beaks across the surface of the lake skimming the algae for nourishment.
Closer inspection reveals that the lake is actually flooded. Heavier than normal rains for the last three years have resulted in water levels never seen before.
Instead of 1.2 million Flamingos, there might be 10,000. Apparently, the fresh rain water has diluted the saline levels so drastically very little algae can survive. Thus, the majority of the flock has found other waters with a adequate food supply. Although their numbers may not be great, the Flamingo mystique is not diminished. The Greater Flamingo is considerably taller than the Lesser with a pink beak as compared to the black of a Lesser. A mature Lesser Flamingo’s body is more pink than a Greater.
Lesser Flamingo runs on water as it prepares to take flight…
as a small group comes in for a landing.
The African White Pelican shares air space with the Flamingos.