Friday, February 8, 2013

Kenya’s Soda Lakes

After a lovely two days in the Kisumu area (special thanks to Zool and his friends, as well as PCV Stacey, who hosted me at her site right outside town), I headed to Nakuru in hopes of  seeing some of the famous flamingos that habitat Lake Nauru and the surrounding, smaller soda lakes.

Unfortunately, I committed a terrible solo-young-white-female-backpacker faux-pas in Nakuru: I arrived after dark. There are a million obvious reasons why this is a bad idea, and I paid for my slip of judgment with my amazing camera. As I exited the minibus, I was swarmed by five or six call boys all wanting to get me a taxi and carry my bag. Distracted by the obnoxiously loud voices and very pushy physical behavior of these young men, I failed to notice when one of them slipped open the front pocket of my backpack (which mind you, I was wearing on my front) and stole my camera. For this reason, Nakuru town has left a very bad taste in my mouth and I will not recommend you spend time here.

Where I would recommend you spend time is in one of the many soda lakes that surround the bustling city that took my beloved camera away. Lake Nakuru National Park is the obvious choice, although its hefty entrance fee (70 USD) kept me away. I have had several friends and Kenyan residents recommend the park to me, so if you find yourself in the area and have the money, definitely take a day or two—but stay at a lodge outside of town, where hopefully thieves will not steal your camera.

Even National Geographic only captures a portion of their beauty
Eager to get out of Nakuru, I traveled south to Naivasha (taking in spectacular views of the Rift Valley I could not photograph) to meet up with my friend and former Peace Corps Niger volunteer Andrew, and two recent RPCVs from Cape Verde, traveling down Africa on a route very similar to mine. Naivasha is a much smaller town, surrounded by greenhouses full of flowers that get exported all over the world.

At Fisherman’s Camp, while staring out onto a lake full of beautiful birds, enjoying cold beer and good company, I was able to put my camera incident into perspective-- realizing how lucky I am to have this experience, and get back to enjoying myself on this once in a lifetime trip.

The staff at the lodge explained to us that the famous flamingos popularly known to habitat Lake Nakuru were not, in fact, on Lake Nakuru at the moment. The next day, a local guide/driver took us on a mini day safari of sorts. First stop was Lake Oloiden, a very small soda lake where we took a nice boat ride and saw lots of beautiful birds, hippos, and most importantly: tons of spectacular flamingos. After our boat ride, we headed to a small lodge for a walking safari, which was nice despite the overcast weather. A delicious lunch buffet on the water helped end the day perfectly.

A note for those of you who think only of ugly plastic garden decorations or old ladies with cheap umbrellas when you hear the word flamingo: these birds are spectacular, absolutely majestic. Not only are they absolutely beautiful in their colors, shape, and general presence—seeing a flamingo in flight will make your jaw drop. Flamingos stand perfectly straight and tall on the water, but when they fly, their body, and their wings in particular, arch into a gracefulness that is beyond my limited writing abilities to describe.

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