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Found 7 results

  1. Day 1, 29th January, 2017 In a time of my life with a lot of work, I managed to squeeze in a week to Kenya this January. I didn´t had time to plan it. I just got an opportunity to for a week with short notice, and choose an old favorit, Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara. I have been once before to Lake Nakuru in november 2011, and have very found memories from that time. It was wonderful sightings, and got me some fantastic safari pictures, my first . Since then I have read about the floodings that happened to Lake Nakuru. I still wanted to go there, inspired from my previous visit and fantastic photography I have seen from others in that special Akacia woods, like Greg du Toits. My first sight arriving to Lake Nakuru was a surreal landscape, it was more dead than alive. Even the wildlife seemed to be in black and white.. Since we arrived late in the afternoon we drove along the shore to the lodge. When the sun set we did catch a more alive view of the lake. The first impression was a little of chock. Lake Nakuru is really changed by the flooding. The lake is much bigger, and nowadays more of a sweet water lake. And of course there is no Flamingos. Most of the old roads are under water, and it is not possible anymore to drive around the lake.
  2. “Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don't need a diploma to plant a tree.” ~ Dr. Wangari Maathai in ‘Unbowed’ Respect for the Land ~ During an eventful safari in August, 2014 there had been ample evidence suggesting that Kenya’s seemingly timeless landscape was, in fact, changing as a consequence of ongoing development, whether in the form of urban expansion or in the form of herding and grazing activities by those squeezed out from the benefits of high technology and advanced education. As a guest in Africa, it wasn’t my place to judge what I saw as the antecedents were far too complex for a casual safari tourist like me to adequately understand. While I cringed when observing large herds in national reserves and national parks, it was clear that the economic pressures involved were far beyond any simplistic understanding which I might have. Added to that were several less than pleasant scenes with safari van overcrowding around plainly harassed predators, sparking questions in my mind about my own presence as part of the telephoto lens and smart phone scrum. Leaving Nairobi for the long journey back to China, there was a malaise which sullied the memories of the wildlife I’d observed. Was Kenya’s verdant land in the process of losing much of the natural charm which had originally attracted me? My very good fortune was having true friends guiding me in farflung areas of Kenya. Safaritalk member @@Anthony Gitau and his wife, Maggie, of Bigmac Africa Safaris, http://www.bigmacafricasafaris.com, had been with me on four highly productive safaris, including the August, 2014 visit to Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru. We had developed trust and rapport such that there was unspoken understanding of what made an ideal game drive. Anthony and Maggie are both such intelligent, warmhearted, humorous individuals, representing Kenya’s finest qualities. One week after returning to China, I contacted them to ask about their availability for a safari in the first week of October, when universities have a one-week vacation in connection with China’s National Day on 1 October. The turnaround time to plan the safari, booking accommodations, was brief, little less than one month. With admirable finesse, Maggie Gitau pulled together the elements of an itinerary which matched my interests and limited time schedule. There were no complaints, despite the scant time available for arranging the details, which is typical of Anthony's and Maggie’s graciousness. They implicitly understood that I needed to return to Kenya as soon as possible to restore my enthusiasm by visiting land with minimal human impact, where the songs of birds and the tracks of herds were the primary evidence of life. Anthony had told me several times that his uncle, who now resides in the United States but was once a safari guide ranging throughout East Africa, had taken him to Meru National Park. That initial visit has triggered Anthony’s love of wildlife tourism, and had given him a special appreciation of Meru National Park. In communicating about possible locations for the October, 2014 safari, I stressed that an itinerary with Meru National Park would be especially welcome. After Anthony praised Meru’s charms, my interest inspired me to learn more about it. Having read several of Mrs. Joy Adamson’s books set in and around Meru National Park, I sensed that a visit there might be a special experience, no matter what sorts of wildlife might be observed. Meru National Park is the training base for newly recruited staff for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and therefore is well maintained despite the relative paucity of visitors. I’d visited nearby Samburu National Reserve with Anthony in May, 2014, and was eager for a return visit. With those considerations in mind, Bigmac Africa proposed an itinerary comprising Meru, Samburu and Lake Nakuru, beginning and concluding at the Sirona Hotel in Nairobi. I agreed with gratitude, for I realized that it had been a complex process to arrange a private safari on such short notice. As I enjoy fresh challenges, I decided to take only one camera, the EOS 1D X, with three lenses, the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2, the Zeiss Apo-Sonnar T* 135mm f/2, and the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto. As it turned out, that trio of lenses was more than adequate for photographing all that was observed during the safari. I’d never used Tv, Shutter Priority shooting mode before, therefore I resolved to use it throughout the safari, with a constant shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. An untested piece of equipment was an iPad Air which I’d purchased somewhat reluctantly, with the hope of being able to share with Anthony any especially satisfactory images from game drives on the previous days. On every safari there’s invariably something forgotten. In this case it was a recharging cord for the iPad Air. In Hamad International Airport, in Doha, Qatar, it was possible to buy a replacement cord. Nothing else was forgotten or broken, such that it was a trouble-free safari from start to finish, with exceptionally lovely weather every day. The Qatar Airways flights were all on-time, with ample connection time in Doha. The in-flight meals were excellent. At my request, we stopped for lunch at the Trout Tree restaurant near Naro Moru, making a pleasant break during the all-day drive from Nairobi to the Murera Springs Eco-Resort near Meru National Park. The off-the-menu trout en papillote at the Trout Tree restaurant is a special joy on any Meru or Samburu safari. Accomodations were respectively at the Murera Springs Eco-Resort, the Samburu Sopa Lodge, and the Kivu Lodge in Nakuru. Making allowances as needed, all were more than adequate for my needs. I’d previously stayed at both the Samburu Sopa and the Kivu in prior safaris, but it was the first visit to the Murera Springs Eco-Resort owned by Safaritalk member @@nhanq. What a terrific experience! The staff was delightful, adding to the pleasure of visiting Meru for the first time. I had no idea that I would subsequently be a guest at Murera Springs on two later safaris. I’m not especially meal-oriented, but felt that all meals throughout the safari were excellent. As is my custom, when Anthony stopped in Nairobi on the departure morning to fill the fuel tank with petrol and check both tires and suspension, I wandered into the service station convenience shop, strolling back out with a rather large sack filled with small boxes of juice. Apple, black currant, red grape, guava — they sustain me during long drives between destinations, and refresh during lulls between game drive sightings. Whenever the white Toyota safari van stops for refuelling, Anthony’s ritual is to rock it back and forth to assess how the suspension is functioning. That’s a favorite with me, because it signifies “safari” in my mind. Notes about each day on safari were made, as usual, in a mini-notebook from Muji. I’m a devoted Montblanc fountain pen user, therefore two pens were brought along for late-night notes and sketches. The late @@graceland told me that: “a trip report is for you. If others enjoy it, that’s great, but write to express what you feel”. In that spirit this trip report is prepared fully two years after the fact. Life has gone on in Kenya and for me, but the natural beauty I observed during the October, 2014 safari retains its appeal. As will be apparent, this was a “Big Five” safari, the third of eight consecutive “Big Five” safaris. Encountering any species is a treat, whether obscure or “Big Five”. I’m especially drawn to plants, including wildflowers and palm trees. Beauty abounds if one takes time to spot it. Although my profession involves teaching life science students about field ecology, in a trip report I’m far less concerned with precise species identification and far more interested in appreciation of the intense loveliness of the natural world. Simply being outside in Africa’s vibrant scenery is more than enough. There’s a place for carefully reasoned analytical reports about wildlife behavior. That’s not my purpose here, where I prefer to share what I saw, using photographs and poetry to convey cherished memories of a hastily planned safari. A special thanks is in order to @@fictionauthor, @@Peter Connan and @@offshorebirder, all of whom have regularly encoraged me during the past half a year, each being remarkably gifted individuals and loyal friends. Most of all, heartfelt thanks to @@Anthony Gitau and Maggie Gitau, for making this gem of a safari possible.
  3. I have been reading several tour itineraries and I have realized many says that of late things have changed in lake Nakuru National park and that at times there are not as many flamingos. They go ahead to say that they are on high population when the lake is shallow alkaline and warm. Its basically the time algae grows and flamingos flock the lake to feed on it. My question now comes in. When is the right time to have these conditions? I will appreciate your help fellow travelers.
  4. I´m pretty much decided on doing a 2-week Kenya trip in autumn 2014, with Meru, Samburu, Aberdares, Nakuru and the Mara. I have a pretty appealing offer for a jeep safari from an operator with 3 nights Meru at Murera Springs Eco Lodge 3 nights Samburu at Samburu Game Lodge 2 nights Aberdares at Aberdares Country Club 2 nights Lake Nakuru at Flamingo HIll Camp 5 nights Mara at Mara Bush Camp Does any of you have personal experience about these accomodations? (Game drive times at lodges are not an issue since we would have our private car for the whole trip.) Our time frame would be September/October. Of course we would like to have good chances for experiencing a crossing so advice on when to go would be welcome, and of course I am interested in your thoughts about this itinerary. Thanks in advance.
  5. "Africa? Are you mad? With all that Ebola? What? KENYA?!? Completely mad? With all that terrorism I hear about on the news? Haven´t they even issued travel warnings?" Normally when I tell friends and familiy about my safari plans they are pretty positive. Though they think I must have seen enough animals by now and are not really getting it, it´s mostly "Wow, safari! Really cool, must do that sometime." (Sometime=never in a million years) Not this year. All my "Africa is huge, Spain and France are closer to the Ebola countries than Kenya" and "Really, trust me, I´ve researched this, it´s totally safe where we are going" did little to convince anybody that I was not out of my mind. A minor nuisance for me. A heavy blow for Kenya´s tourism, and therefore devastating for the country. Bloody shame. What a fantastic country it is, and how much it has to offer. I always felt completely safe and people were friendly and welcoming everywhere. On this 16-day-trip I was totally blown away by the many facets one can experience in Kenya, and how different all those magnificent places are I was lucky enough to visit. The unspoilt wilderness of Meru: Samburu with its unique Northern animals: The Aberdares, the surprise highlight of this safari for me. Wow, did I love this place. Lake Nakuru, good for rhinos and - yes! - still flamingos. No need to say anything about the Mara. A gnu´s world there. And of course THE place to see all the big cats. And some smaller ones. You know what they say. Relax and go to Kenya! I will again, that´s for sure.
  6. Here goes my first travel report on our (myself and my wife) very first trip to Africa, a safari in Kenya. Like many other first timers we faced the question of choosing a location. The most general dilemma usually is Eastern Africa vs. Southern Africa. After reading quite a lot about both regions, we decided to go to Eastern Africa, the annual wildebeest and zebra migration being the single most important factor which influenced our decision. The next logical step was to decide where exactly to go in order to witness the annual migration with choices obviously being Serengeti or Masai Mara. At first I made an itinerary for 12 days Kenya plus Tanzania safari, then decided not to spend half of the trip driving between national parks and to concentrate on one country. Finally Kenya was chosen as a destination country, since we could combine the Great Rift Valley Lakes, with the elephants in Amboseli NP and the migration in Masai Mara. We used three different safari companies – the backbone of the trip was Gamewatchers Safaris with their "adventure camps" in Selenkay and Ol Kinyei private conservancies. They offered a good package, which included local flights from Nairobi to Selenkay (Amboseli eco system), then to Ol Kinyei (Masai Mara eco system) and back to Nairobi with full day visits to both Amboseli and Masai Mara national parks. For Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria we chose African Game Trek Safaris, they were the only one who offered both lakes in one two days/one night trip. After the Selenkay and Ol Kinyei conservancies we choose Freeman Safaris for a camp in Central Mara (the hidden gem in the Mara eco system, I would have never found the website if I wasn’t referred by a friend who has stayed there before). Logistically three overnights in Nairobi were needed (one after arrival, one between the lakes and the Gamewatchers conservancies and one just prior to departure). Here I made the wrong choice - Bush House & Camp located in the suburb or Karen. Made the booking four months in advance via a major portal that I have been using extensively for the last 6-7 years - booking.com and also sent an email directly to the guesthouse, they replied back and confirmed the reservation. Two days before departure I reminded them about our reservation and they confirmed again. When we showed up at the hotel, the receptionist told us that there is a problem and they have a double booking, some family got sick and needed to delay their flight back home and to stay longer with them, which was a total bull… (I read a review on Trip Advisor from a client who has been told exactly the same thing a week after this happened to us). To be totally honest, I should mention that they did send us to a similar guest house nearby, but since I already had pick-up arrangements with two different safari companies the whole thing did cause some confusion. The good part was that we went to Karen Embers guesthouse, which we found to be an excellent budget pre- and post safari accommodation in Nairobi (see the photos below). My better half having breakfast at Karen Embers: July 31, 2013. After having a great breakfast at the guesthouse we were picked up by African Game Trek Safaris for our trip to the Great Rift Valley lakes. This was a budget safari with the so hated by seasoned safari goers "white van". Actually the safari van was absolutely fine for this trip, although I would strongly recommend a 4X4 (Land Rover or Land Cruiser) vehicle for Amboseli, the private concessions and Masai Mara, since we really needed do some serious offloading in these places. Contrary to common believe off-road driving in Masai Mara is tolerated when it comes to following important wildlife sightings (we did climb to the top of a ridge to see black rhino in Mara). The other good news was that it turned out that the tour was private, just two of us in the van. I did not believe that for this price we could get a private tour, so I did not clarify this at the time of booking. I was also surprised that the manager of the company was also with us for the entire trip. One of the reasons could be that when alone with the drivers, they tend to give you their phone number and email address and promise a cheaper safari if you contact them directly next time. We had a really nice drive, both the manager and the driver, who was also a very good guide were relaxed and great companions and since we were alone in the van, there was more than enough space for us, our luggage, photo and video equipment etc. Being on our first trip to Africa meant that everything was interesting to us - from the suburbs of Nairobi to the countryside and The Great Rift Valley scenery. We stopped at a look-out point with fabulous views of the valley where I found a Gamewatchers Safaris vehicle and had a short chat with the driver (in two days we were about to go on safari with this company). Then we were driven to some sort of hotel in Nakuru town, had lunch there and off to the first game drive in our lives - Lake Nakuru NP. Needless to say that we were very excited and liked the park very much. Although quite large, the park is fenced (we never saw the fence) and the wildlife has been introduced to the place years ago. For this reason some rare spices like Rothschild's giraffe and rhinos are kept there (easier to safeguard from pouching). We should have pushed from the very beginning of the game drive to look for rhino since this is the perhaps the best place for this in Kenya, but being our first game drive, we did not know what we could or could not ask for. So, we saw a white rhino from very far towards the end of the drive and it was not even worth taking a photo of it. Were not lucky enough to see “lions on trees”, the only lions we saw in Lake Nakuru NP were actually sleeping in the tall grass, again not worth taking a picture of parts of their bodies only. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the park and the game we saw very much – Thompson and Grant’s gazelles, impalas, warthogs, cape buffalos, Rothschild's giraffes, baboons and all sorts of birds. We knew in advance that the huge flocks of flamingos are not present at Lake Nakuru any longer due to high water levels, this is why we planned for Lake Bogoria on the next day. Lake Elementaita: Lake Nakuru NP: At the end of the game drive it started to rain and we were relieved that the weather forecast proved to be correct after we finished our safari for the day.
  7. Further to @@Game Warden’s interest on Martin and Osa Johnson (you can read more about them and their museum here:http://safaritalk.net/topic/1872-exploring-africa-with-martin-and-osa-johnson/?hl=%2Bmartin+%2Bosa+%2Bjohnson), and a recent thread on Lake Paradise in Marsabit National Park in Kenya (where the Johnsons had their camp and spent quite a lengthy period), I have been “persuaded” – for lack of better words – by @@Anita to attempt a retrospective trip report of a safari that I, together with my father and four friends, undertook in northern Kenya in January 1986. I had turned 16 less than two months earlier, and whilst some memories of that trip are still very vibrant, others have obviously faded with time. All the photos that you will see posted here are scanned versions of old slides, and their quality is not really up to the normal Safaritalk standards. Still, some of them show places which have much changed – even visually – since then, as well as snapshots of the world of the mostly nomadic tribes living in the thirstlands of northern Kenya – a world that I am unsure whether it still exists, or to which extent. Anyway, I hope the results will be bearable. Certainly, I have no pretense of emulating to any extent @twaffle’s “Childish Trip Report”, a masterpiece which remains the absolute benchmark for any kind of retro thing seen here. Besides the willingness of pleasing the old Game Warden (aiming for a double pith here!), and his attachment to the Johnsons’ epic, I have another, very personal reason for being emotionally involved whilst writing this retrospective report. In fact, one of those friends travelling with me is no longer with us; Sergio was really a dear friend, and a truly handsome, big hearted, larger-than-life character that is now sorely missed and fondly remembered for the vast amount of happiness and laughter he generously delivered to people around him. Well, back through the mists of time now…. **** The long road to Marsabit The trip did not start in the brightest possible way as far as I was concerned, since, upon my arrival in Nairobi, I had a fairly high fever. A doctor of Indian origin was summoned to our hotel, and after a quick check and a double of pills, he left after having requested (and been paid) an extortionate amount of money, equal to the yearly income of a Kenyan teacher at the time. He was probably a good doctor though, since my conditions rapidly improved, and after a day of rest in Nairobi, I and my father were able to join the others in Samburu. Rains in 1985 had been very scarce in the Horn of Africa and Kenya in general (it was the year of the very widely publicized famine in Ethiopia), but still the snow cover on Mount Kenya was so more conspicuous than I witnessed in recent years. Our stay in Samburu was very brief. Contrary to my first visit in November 1980, there was little water in the Ewaso Nyiro: the drought was hitting hard, and apparently some ill-conceived irrigation scheme was taking its toll upstream. Grevy’s Zebra were plentiful, in much larger numbers than today. One thing that I have noticed during my more recent trips to Kenya is how the distribution range of Grevy’s Zebra has changed, progressively moving towards south, where the Laikipia Plateau (and Lewa Conservancy in particular) constitutes now the species’s main stronghold. The Northern Frontier District was then known as “the half of Kenya the Kenyans know nothing about, and care even less”. And you could have no doubt of the truth of this statement enduring the scenic but painful journey of roughly 250 km from Samburu to Marsabit National Reserve (now National Park). Now the road is tarred, and eventually reaches Moyale on the border with Ethiopia, but back then it was a diabolical snake of gravel, sand and rocks.(we would have labelled the whole safari as “Masoch Tour”). We were travelling in two white Suzukis, that proved to be totally uncomfortable in the conditions we were experiencing, and were escorted by an armed KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) escort. The road to Marsabit was not considered safe without that escort, due to a long history of cattle rustling between rival tribes and more recent periodical incursions from Somali shiftas (bandits). As said, the drought was bad, and every now and then we encountered locals pleading for water, but stopping was considered unwise. However, a man ran for almost 2 km behind our vehicle and, since he was alone, we stopped and gave him some water. He told us he had last drunk two days earlier, and handed to our driver a metal can filled for one fourth with something like black muck. This was one of the more lasting memory of the trip for us. The road was running to the east of Wamba and the Matthews’ Range, which are fairly distant. However, we could admire other geographical features such an impressive explosion crater. Past the Milgis lugga, we entered the Kaisut Desert, and finally we reached the forested slopes of Mount Marsabit when it was already pitch dark. Once past the reserve’s entrance gate, one could feel the dense, mist forest closing and towering over our heads. At one turn, a huge elephant bull with enormous tusks appeared in the lights of our vehicle – it seemed unreal, like a ghost of the forest. Finally, knackered and covered in dust, we arrived at Marsabit Lodge.

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