Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lake Nakuru Safari - Traveling With Kids in Kenya

The last week Kristin was in town she organized a safari trip for us, herself, Corrine, and Hannah.  That's what I love about Kristin, she's just a planner.  When you're not a planner it's always fun to have one of those.  We drove to Nakuru first.  It took us about four hours to get down there.  Nakuru is a national park which is crazily right next to the city of Nakuru.  I say crazily because there are lions in Nakuru living right next to a thriving city...a thriving city.  The cost of the park for me was $40 but the nice thing was that because Dr. J is a student here they gave him the resident rate and the kids got the resident kids rate as well.  They cost less than $10 a piece.  This post is going to be a little bit of a picture overload.  You can't go on Safari and not take a ton of pictures...what can I say.  The kids loved this trip.  Our Safari van had a pop up top and they spent hours just sitting on the top of the van seats, hanging out the top, shouting, "mom, mom look at the zebra/lion/water buffalo/impala/baboon/blue tailed monkey/etc."  What kid wouldn't love that!

Country side on the way to Nakuru.  Hills and green, a beautiful place to be.

You don't even have to be in the park to see the animals.  When we pulled up to park to pay we saw these baboons running all over the place.  Our drive Coech told us to close all the windows.  Apparently baboons are crafty little buggers and break into cars and vans all the time.  "They'll come and get those donuts if you don't protect them."  

This is Lake Nakuru.  It is a beautiful lake.  The Safari Park surrounds the whole lake, which interestingly enough has been growing for the last decade.  

You know, just hanging out of a van top, eating donuts, looking at African animals...just any old weekend.
When I didn't realize I was going to see 1000 impalas....I took more than one picture of the same one :)

Water buffalo just hanging out.  They were maybe 100 yards away from a pride of lions.  The lions had a kill though and it was the middle of the day so everyone seemed pretty friendly.  I'm sure they were keeping an eye out, but it was just interesting to see them sitting so close.

Most of the lions were hanging out in those bushes around the tree.  Their kill is that lump to the right.

Another dead buffalo.  This guy was a little ripe. 
The interesting thing about Nakuru is that on the one side you have this pretty pristine lake...some lodges, a national park full of animals.  On the other side you have a huge city.  At some points when we got up high on the mountain we could see people walking along the electric fence and lions hanging out just on the other side.  It was amazing.  I know that there are problems with human populations encroaching on the land of animals.  I know that sometimes animals and humans have bad interactions when animals get out, but when you've spent your whole life just looking at zoos and animals trapped in these small areas, this is such a beautiful idea.  Ok maybe not if you're the animals because there is a pretty good chance eventually a predator is going to get you, but it was really nice to see them living and behaving as they have for millennia. 

When we were driving back past the lions after going up the mountain in the grass we saw movement and saw this beautiful lady laying about 50 yards from the rest of the pride.  Until she rolled over she was almost completely hidden, even though the grass was green.  It made me feel good that I was in a van...very, very good. 
 Cheetah checking out the lions.

Back shots of Kristin and Corrine.  We went on several other safaris after this one but man I really loved having the company of these ladies.  They were so fun and so helpful and it was great to have someone to share the cost with and chat with.  I love these ladies. 

Gigi checking out the lion with a monocle. 
Our lion got up a little.  We were never entirely sure if she was getting ready to stalk something or if she was wounded and that's why she had separated herself from the pride.  We were pretty lucky to see these lions right off the back.   

"Look mom, Zebras!" 

Beautiful girls just hanging out on top of the seats enjoying the views and wind in their hair.  I was worried the kids would be miserable coming back to the states and the state seat belt laws...they have been fine, but they really did love the freedom of Kenyan roads. 

"Oh a baboon on the side of the road."
At one point we got to the top of this mountain and Koach said, "ok we can all get out and go to the bathroom."  "Go to the bathroom?" I asked, "Is this for real."  Yes it was.  After much coxing he final got us out.  I wasn't so worried about lions but there were baboons everywhere and none of us really wanted to be bit.  Luckily we were all fine.  Captain E showing us the lake. 
This little guys are called Rock Hyrax.  They were adorable and we spent a good fifteen minutes watching them, especially a little group of babies who were nursing.  They look sort of like prairie dogs or large gerbils, but it turns out that their closest relative is actually the elephant. 

This made me freak out.  Please Dr. J when there is a 100 foot cliff don't let my daughter climb the fence.  For a pediatrician this guy is so laid back...sometimes too laid back!

I think this is a giraffe in the tree and group of female impalas with their one husband.  Koach was great because he knew all kinds of facts about the animals.  This one kept the kids talking for hours.  "Why can't the impala share?"  In general I have to agree.  Even when it comes to animal families I'm just not a huge fan of polygamy.  In Kenya polygamy is actually still legal.  I got to listen to an interesting conversation between the guard Leonard (a Kenyan and the defender of polygamy) and then Nathaniel the French speaking medical student (against polygamy).  It was interesting to hear both their arguments but also funny that considering I was sitting right there neither of them bothered to ask what I thought about the issue.  Maybe they didn't think an American had anything to add on the issue but this American has been thinking about this topic for years.  You know when I was 13 years old I had a male Sunday School teacher tell me I was an apostate because I thought that polygamy in the early church was a mistake.  I didn't know anything about it at the time, except that I know it just didn't seem so great.  Now I'm an adult and I've read so much more about my church's early history.  Rather than change my mind I know even feel more strongly against it.  The only thing I have to say, look at Abraham.  The fallout from that situation still haunts us today as the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael are still fighting today.  Sorry about that tangent...I just wish I could see that Sunday School teacher again tell him to suck it.  What a jerk.  Who talks to a 13 year old like that?

Wart hogs (or Pumbaa) running.  This area was so beautiful.   Nakuru and Hell's Gate are what the backdrop of The Lion King were drawn from.  Seriously guys I wish I'd brought a better camera.  It was awe inspiring.

Male impala hanging out. 

Giraffe in the trees. 

Monkey's hanging out in the trees. 

Water buffalo hanging out after their mud bath. 
I loved these little birds, guineafowl.  They were so adorable.  The pock-a-dots with the blue just rocked.

Koach told us we could get out and take pictures by this waterfall.  After he told us the lions killed a buffalo right here just in the last month, lovely.

We saw two types of rhino while in the park, both the black and the white.  Their names actually refer to their mouth size.  White rhino have wider mouths.  When they were first names in South Africa they referred to them as wide...something got lost in translation though and now they are black and white rhino.  Black rhino are extremely rare.  They've been hunted almost completely to extinction.  I'm not entirely clear why, but Easter Medicine has a belief that the rhino horn has almost magical powers.  The stuff sells for quite a bit and poachers are always trying to sneak into the parks to kill the rhinos and chops off the horn.  It is then shipped to the East where it is ground down.  The irony is that it is just made of keratin.  You could chop off your fingernails, grind them up and add them to your medicine and you'd be getting the exact same thing. 

Here is where we got out by the lake to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive flamingos.  Their used to be millions in this area but they have been disappearing.  We could just catch a glimpse of them floating far off into the distance.  At this moment my daughter stepped into a huge mud puddle at the edge of the lake.  Her shoes were actually sucked off her feet and I had to dig around to get them out.  Dr. J then squatted at the edge of the lake and washed them off in sticky lake water.  Luckily at that moment I was preoccupied with getting her pants off and putting her into PJ's because all I could think of at the time was the scene in Crocodile Dundee where the croc jumps out and grabs the lady filling the canteen.  Seriously wouldn't that be an awful way to watch your spouse about scarring your kids for life.


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