I remember clearly the excitement going to the Zoo with my family during my childhood. Even now, I enjoy going to the Zoo or those Sheep/Deer-Parks, where kids can plug some grass and feed them. How are they called? Petting-Zoo? I’m not sure, but you got my point.
If a zoo can excite me that much, how much do you think a wildlife national park would do? It’s overwhelming!
During my stay in Kenya, I had the chance to visit quite a few national parks. The first ever 3-day trip led us to Lake Nakuru National Park (Nakuru means Dusty in the Maasai language) and the Menengai Crater – one of the biggest calderas in the world.
Lake Nakuru is famous for its abundant amount of flamingos, that are attracted due to high algae content in the lake. It was such a magnificent view seeing a red lake from a far. Getting closed, of course the red colour transform into thousands of flamingos chilling at the shore, cleaning their feather, fishing in the water. Flamingos might not be “that” special, sure you can see them in some Zoo as well, but being there with thousands of them in the wildlife and not behind bars was just wonderful! It’s funny to say, but I could stand there staring at them for hours, what we actually did.
Next stop was the Menengai Crater, the largest caldera in Kenya and the second largest in Africa. I’m sure you can hike up there and even crossing the crater, however we chose the lazy solution and drove to the top. The view itself is mesmerizing. I always feel very calm in the mountains. Luckily it was winter in Africa, so we could sit there enjoying some fresh beverages and dream away without getting burnt by the sun!
In those two and a half months in Kenya, I managed to visit 4 national parks. The worst moment I had was in Hell’s Gate National Park – hence the name?! – in Lake Naivasha. Well, first of, it was partially my fault. I came to Kenya without any research in regards of national parks. Therefore, the only pair of shoes I had with me were cheap H&M shoes, that were neither suitable for long walks and especially not for long walks in mountainous area.
Overestimating my hiking endurance in those shoes, I agreed to follow 3 other friends to Lake Naivasha. It was one of the Parks, where a guide was not requested and we wanted to save some money by exploring on our own. We first rent bikes, but those were really bad ones, so in the end we chose the traditional way of exploring new land: walking! It was alright at the beginning though. The sun was slighty hot that day, we had water with us, I had a hat (!), at least. However, with hours of walking not seeing anything, no animals (e.g. Gnu, which were supposed to be there a lot), not finding the hot spring gorge and feeling each and every little stone underneath my feet, we gave up the exploration. We were hungry, exhausted and I was extremely annoyed of the shoes and was about to cry out loud. We did manage to go around the Park, just not far enough to actually see the beautiful gorge, which was our aim. Well, maybe next time with better shoes and preparation. In the end my H&M shoes had two holes and were “buried” in Kenya :).
The best experience was the Masai Mara National Park, which is a large game reserved connecting with the Serengeti National Park in Tazania. Depending on the season, visitors can see various animals migrating from one National Park to the other. Unfortunately, that year was very dry in Kenya.
I remembered the first time facing two elephant families just 10-20m away, the giraffes walking behind some bushes and of course the most amazing experience: the lion’s roar! Such beautiful creature, so majestic. The male usually lies around in the sun, while the females were busy hunting. We didn’t catch them in the act of hunting, though. One time, a female lion was enjoying her lunch, when we approached and observed her. She didn’t care much about us, but did care about the shade our care was making. She came crossing a brook and lie just next to our car in the shade. I did stop my breath for a second when she came over. She was huge! Very huge! Very fluffy too 🙂
There were many many more National Parks, that I would have loved to visit, but as bigger the smile on my face, the smaller the piggy-bank. For each National Park, we had to book a car, a guide, accommodation and of course the horrendous entrance fee. For what I could afford, I am truly satisfied.
Kenya is still there and hopefully I will be able to come back one day!