In Search of Leopards in Lake Nakuru National Park Safari

Her fingers move deftly over the coat of the male baboon, swiftly picking out any bugs that lurk in the brown/grey fur. She checks behind his ears, under his armpits, turns him over and repeats the same, all the while ignoring our vehicle that lightly revs in front of her.  Since it seemed  we would not be interrupting the  grooming session, the driver drives round the baboons and proceeds with the game drive. Lake Nakuru National Park is baboon country. So huge are these troops, that there is a cliff named aptly after them – Baboon Cliff. From the cliff, one gets fine aerial views of the lake – but be careful the baboons are close by! Buffaloes come second to baboons. Herds upon herds of buffaloes are spread out through out the park which is dominated by the lake it is named after.

It is the Wednesday after Easter Monday. My family of three is on a morning game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park. We had had such an eventful, but blessed Easter Weekend with one of us getting baptized and another receiving first holy communion (we are Catholic!) and decided to take the time to relax and be grateful. After a four-and-a-half hour drive from Nairobi,  we had arrived at the Flamingo Hill Camp  just in time for lunch on Tuesday.  We got into the park through the Lanet gate where we paid park tickets  – Ksh 860 for adults and Ksh 215 for the child.

Stark trees, half submerged in water line the shores of the Lake Nakuru. While many yellow-backed acacia trees are scattered on the shores, lots more are fallen. In 2014, by some geological occurrence, the water levels in the lake begun to rise. At some point in 2017, half of the park was flooded by waters said to come from the small rivers that feed Lake Nakuru.  Unfortunately the high water levels chased away the lake’s (and the park’s) main attraction – the large flocks of flamingoes that coloured the lake pink. Due to the lake’s decrease in alkaline levels, the flamingoes, which feed on algae, could no longer thrive and migrated further north to Lakes Baringo and Bogoria.

We drive past zebras, water buck, impalas and plenty of  birdlife. Further ahead, we come across several Rothschilds giraffe. Three giraffe species are found in Kenya – Reticulated, found in the north (Samburu, Laikipia), Masai giraffe found in the south (Amboseli, Tsavo) and the Rothschild giraffe found in Nairobi and Rift Valley. I love giraffes; their graceful gait and killer eye lashes are so enviable! Giraffes don’t just feed on tree leaves but also on the barks of the fallen yellow acacias in what is known as debarking.

We drive away from the lake and head over to the bushy grasslands towards Makalia Falls. Due to delayed rainfall, there’s hardly any flow of water but it looks like a cool spot to enjoy a picnic.

Our rambling tummies have us heading back to the camp for lunch and a swim. With 25 tents, Flamingo Hill is a small camp providing a tented experience within Lake Nakuru National Park. I loved that we could enjoy a swim while watching buffaloes graze just a few meters away!

After tea, we venture out again. The afternoon game drive has only one goal: to spot a cat – a leopard, preferably. We drive for about an hour, with no luck. At about 5pm we take a drive up to the Out of Africa view point. Such a gorgeous spot to take in the sunset!

As we head down from the view point, our driver guide reluctantly calls the search off. It is evident we would not be spotting any cats. On the drive back to camp, we spot two rhinos peacefully grazing as dark creeps in. Lake Nakuru National Park has the highest rhino population of any park in Kenya.

A land cruiser slows down next to our vehicle and the driver inquires “Mumeona vichwa?” It turns out two lions were enjoying the sun set from a forested valley nearby. Despite the late hour, our phenomenal driver hurriedly drives back and there they are, a lion and a lioness sitting a few steps apart! Then out of the bushes, a second lion strolls out and sits beside the lioness! Such an awesome way to end the day!

Having seen 3 of the Big 5, i.e lion, buffalo and rhino – there are no elephants in this park – I was happy to call it a safari!


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