The first glimmers of sunlight slowly spread across the sky to the East as our 4WD Safari Van pulled into Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Various shades of pink, orange, purple and blue began to break into blue as the sun rose above the reflections of Lake Nakuru.
On only the second day of my Oasis Overland 75 Day tour from Nairobi to Cape Town the excitement levels were high.
Especially since Lake Nakuru National Park contains some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities in Africa with 4 of the “Big 5” on offer. The only one missing is the almighty Elephant. And within seconds I was ticking them off the list.
Only 100m through the gates entrance we parked next to two gargantuan Water Buffalo 10m away in the grass. Exiled from their herd for becoming too old they were left to roam the Game Park by themselves without companions for their final years.
Perhaps the closeness of the entrance provided them with a sense of protection from the predators wandering the grassy plains.
As we continued along the narrow winding road beneath the blanketing Acacia tree forest the chatter of Baboons was the only sound breaking the silence above our vans engine.
They are quick to realise that Safari vehicles mean food and all the view points over Lake Nakuru National Park are infested with Baboons trying to climb through open windows after a tasty snack. Unsuspecting tourists are jumped upon and pieces of fruit snatched from their hands.
Nasty, nasty animals.
Just as common as the Baboons are the Zebras.
In their distinctive black and white stripes they graze across the grass amongst the other herbivores in herds spread across several hundred meters. We were even lucky enough to see several fights as they nipped and bit each other as they ran.
Plodding along between the Zebra, Impala and Water Buffalo are the fierce looking, but majestic, Black and White Rhino.
The conservation efforts and anti-poaching Rangers patrolling Game Park means that the Rhino has flourished here. And with over 70 of each species in Lake Nakuru National Park, spotting the 2nd of the “Big 5” is very easy to do.
You aren’t just limited to Baboons either. Cheeky Vervet monkeys clamber among the branches of Acacia trees with their babies clinging to their backs as they chatter to one another.
One of the animals I was dying to spot was the Giraffe. And with two shy Giraffes hiding in the forest I was getting worried we might not see any clearly.
I am not sure what I was worried about.
As we crested one of the hills the plains dropped away in front of us revealing over 50 strolling across the grass. Straight across our path they walked, stopping to strip the juicy leaves from the high branches. Their tongues wrapping around each leaf before moving on their way.
It was here that our Guides radio began chirping like mad. With a grin over his shoulder he said he had a surprise for us just up the road.
3 lion cubs around a year old resting under the shade of a tree out of the baking hot Kenyan sun. As we switched off our engine another curious older Male slouched into the open to eye us up.
I could have sat and watched them rest just 5 meters from our Safari van for hours, but there was just too much else to see.
One of the things that Lake Nakuru is most famous for is its Pink Flamingos.
It seemed like our luck wasn’t about to run out either.
As we turned towards the main gate our journey was interrupted by the chatter on the radio again. This time a Leopard had been spotted several KMs from our current position.
We didn’t have to be reminded how rare it would be for us to see a Leopard either. I hadn’t even factored in seeing one during my entire Africa adventure and with less than 10 in Lake Nakuru National Park I definitely didn’t think it would be today.
A lone Leopard resting 20 feet off the forest floor on a branch. Its front left paw hung on one side while it rested its head on its right. As we switched off the engine it raised its head and stared directly down my camera lens sending shivers down my spine.
It was the perfect end to a magical day that I will never forget.