While in Kenya we spent four nights in the Great Rift Valley, along the shores of Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru.
The Great Rift Valley: Sightseeing in Lake Naivasha
Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake surrounded by swampland and beautiful flora. The scenery here is absolutely unreal! 😀It’s also home to a magnificent array of fauna, including a large population of hippos and over 100 species of birds. As an optional activity I chose to do a bike ride and hike through the Hell’s Gate National Park.
The Great Rift Valley: Hell’s Gate National Park
Hell’s Gate is a national park named after the narrow cliffs, intensely carved gorges, and fiery hot springs that were created during prehistoric times when a shift in tectonic plates lowered the water levels in this area.The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, and biking here you can get up close and personal with these little buggers.Our journey began with a 4-mile bike ride to the national park entrance.We found a little chameleon hanging on our wheel spoke.From there we entered the park, where we hiked through the valleys to view various hot springs, rocky landmarks, and the stunning Hell’s Gate Gorge.In some ways this gorge reminded me of the walk through Petra in Jordan.
Here you can see cooled lava from prior volcanic activity.This curvaceous inlet is known as the Devil’s Bedroom.I wasn’t expecting to need a rope to climb up and down the gorge, which was quite the upper body workout. That being said, at least we didn’t have inclement weather, and didn’t need to use the emergency exit! 😮Overall, any exerted effort was well-worth it! In fact, the scenery here is so spectacular, it became the inspiration for the Disney classic, The Lion King.We even found the red mineral deposits that the Maasai use to paint their faces, and Rafiki used to mark Simba’s forehead. 🙂Fun fact: The names of the animals in Lion King are actually Swahili words. Simba means ‘lion’, Rafiki means ‘friend’, and Pumbaa means ‘foolish.’ Go figure! 😛Anyway, after a 2-hour hike, and before another 4-mile bike ride back, we took a short lunch break. During that time one of the monkeys stole someone’s bread! These little guys are cute, but very sneaky! 😮
Cost: 55 USD (30 for park entry + 10 for bike + 15 for guide)
While we were on our excursion our guide was busy fishing in the lake for tilapia. He had quite a successful trip, so we ended up cooking roasted potatoes, fried fish, squash curry and cabbage slaw for dinner. Enough to feed an army! We usually have enough leftovers to feed the locals in the camp as well, which is nice. 🙂I also learned from the locals here that Obama used to live in the nearby village. He spent three years here with his grandma, and they even have pictures of him as a small child selling bananas in the market. How crazy is that?
Anyway, after two nights in Lake Naivasha we drove two hours south to Lake Nakuru.
The Great Rift Valley: Lake Nakuru National Park
We awoke at 5 AM, had an early breakfast, then split off into three small safari vehicles, which we would be using for game drives in the Lake Nakuru National Park.The park was once known for its large population of flamingos; however, recent floods have caused the birds to migrate elsewhere. That being said, there’s still a variety of heron, crane and egret floating along the shoreline.
In the early morning, there was a light fog covering the lake, which gave off a beautiful, yet eerie vibe.While at the viewpoint we noticed a sign indicating that we still have over 4,000 kms of driving to get to Cape Town. This the same distance as it takes to get to Athens! We’ve got a long way to go! :0Anyway, highlights of the park include white and black rhino, hippopotamus, and Rothschild giraffes. We saw loads of baby impala and baboons as well.
Fun fact: White rhino are twice as large as black rhino and more common as well.Things really became intense later in the afternoon when we spotted three female lions, five lion cubs, and two male lions lounging right by the road. I can’t believe we got so close to them. We were about an arms length away, and my heart literally skipped a beat when the sleeping male lion suddenly lifted his head up and let out a small roar, then looked directly at me.Our driver casually said, “If your hands are outside the vehicle, please pull them in.” No kidding! At that point my heart was racing and I was sweating. Hah! It was such a rush.
Anyway, we took lunch around noon, and then headed to the posh Lake Nakuru Lodge for a refreshing dip. It cost 3 USD to swim, plus they had free WiFi. We decided to grab some drinks and lounge by the pool. It was nice just to treat ourselves every once in a while since we’ve been roughing it in these campgrounds.
The Lowdown: Camping with Absolute Africa
It’s actually NOT as difficult as you might imagine. Setting up the tent only takes around 5 minutes, and includes hooking the tent onto the frame, then placing a small tarp over the tent. All of our campgrounds have had pretty nice facilities, including hot showers, Western toilets, a stocked bar, restaurant, washing bins for laundry, and every other camp seems to have WiFi. This last campground even had a pool table and ping-pong table.The food on the trip has been mostly American cuisine, with lots of pasta and potatoes, plus both meat and vegetarian options.
Security has also been a top priority when traveling across Africa with all our valuable items. We have personal lockers under each seat where you are able to place your own padlock, plus we have a designated group safe for passports and such that is hidden on the truck. Two keys are required to open it and the keys are given to two different people to ensure there are multiple witnesses. We’ve also designated specific times to access our valuables when we are in remote areas, in order to avoid drawing attention to ourselves in crowded towns.
The most difficult problem we’ve encountered has been with flexibility in a constantly changing environment. For example, we had to skip one of the places on our itinerary, since we were issued trekking permits on an earlier date. This change irritated some people, but they are now learning just to go with the flow. Things operate differently in foreign countries, so don’t sweat the small stuff, and enjoy yourself! Hakuna matata! 😀Overall, minimal drama so far, which is wonderful! Only 7 days down, and 73 more to go! 😀
Next up we’re making our first overland border crossing into Uganda. We’ll have three full days in the town of Jinja, the country’s adventure capital. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then!