Lake Elementaita, Birds, Sleeping warrior….
The sun rising straight into our eyes was the last Amboseli gave us as we left the park. The Great Rift Valley not waiting to stretch out did so as soon as we got to the shoulders of the Aberdare Ranges, on the Nairobi – Limuru road. Sighting the Mount Longonot rim and the flashing Lake Naivasha meant that the bustle of Nairobi was in the past.
Our focal point on this safari was Elementiata – Olmuteita, “the place of dust” – as the Masai originally called it. The lake Elementaita picture is one of birds in the lake and some game grazing on the shores, depending on which side you are on. Vegetation is typical of the volcanic soils in hot semi-arid areas; yellow fever acacia trees and dry bush in various places. Papyrus has grown on the swampy areas. Further from the lake is savanna grassland. The kekopey springs are said to be on the southeast end of the lake but i am yet to reach that end. Bordering the lake is private land – mostly hotel properties in the Soysambu Conservancy.
We had an exclusive front seat view of Lake Elementaita from our hotel. There is a choice of elegant hotels close to the shoreline. We found the sleeping warrior still sleeping – captivating the landscape. The sleeping warrior is a crater that somewhat forms the image of “a warrior” lying back. There were some graceful flamingo waltzing to the extreme end of the lake and we had to follow them with the binoculars.
If you are in Elementaita thinking to go wildlife viewing your choice would be the Hells Gate National Park, Crescent Island Private Park, and Lake Nakuru National Park. The Lake Bogoria National Reserve is also a little over 2 hours from Nakuru. Closer still, the Soysambu Conservancy would be the ideal place to start.
The silver blue Lake Elementaita is an alkaline/soda lake said to be shallow. It is recorded as being as shallow as 1 meter deep and is one of the lakes visited by both the lesser and greater flamingo. These migratory birds traverse several Kenyan waters. At one time, over a million of them would settle in the Lake Nakuru National Park. You will find them in good numbers in the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. At the start of this safari, I saw over one thousand lesser flamingo in the Amboseli National Park. A month earlier there had been about two hundred of them there. They are seasonal visitors in the Amboseli.
Flamingos are not the only birds that enjoy Lake Elementiata. When the great white pelicans are present, you can see them from the Nairobi – Nakuru highway. Lake Elementaita is a choice breeding ground for the great white pelicans. The pink of the lesser flamingo can also be seen from the road. Records mention that there are over 400 bird species to look out for in Elementaita. We saw the spoonbill, yellow-billed stork and heron gathered at a water inflow area. There was feed there.
Being in the middle of places, you can go back and forth from Elementaita to Naivasha or all the way to Baringo and get a fill of the wildlife, scenery, culture, and history. Five of the most known Kenya rift valley lakes are within a stretch of less than 200 km of each other; Lake Naivasha, Lake Elementaita, and Lake Nakuru, then Lake Bogoria and Lake Baringo.
We set aside a day to go back the way we had come in order to explore the serene Lake Naivasha and the Crescent Island Park. It is exciting to go game viewing side by side with the wildlife. That is what Crescent Island offers. We had a 1 hour boat ride in Lake Naivasha, which was also a bird watching expedition. Lake Naivasha is a fresh water lake lined with yellow backed acacia. Hippos there will mind their own business as you long as you mind yours. Lake Naivasha is also fringed by classic hotels but we had traveled with picnic boxes to enjoy a lake shore picnic.
The Kariandusi Prehistoric site east of Lake Elementaita and the Hyrax Hill within Nakuru are attractions telling of historical and archeological discoveries. It is a striking view of Lake Nakuru from the rocky Hyrax Hill. Nonetheless, if you desire a safari that will get you flexing your muscles further, then you would do well to go on a mountaineering visit to Mount Longonot, Mount Eburru, or the Menengai crater, which is one of the largest volcanic craters in the world.
When you are heading for wildlife viewing in Kenya, you will begin to see the animals way before you get to the parks. These will mainly be the plains game. It was the same roadside scene from Elementaita to Masai Mara as it was from Nairobi to Amboseli; zebras here, gazelles there, giraffes browsing on the thorn trees, with the livestock grazing shoulder to shoulder with them. We missed the “Big Cats” in Amboseli except for a cheetah we saw at the last minute. However, Masai Mara made up for this on the very first evening game drive.
There is no telling for sure what you will meet in the parks – what will hide. The splendid Amboseli scenery with the Mount Kilimanjaro background, the large dominant tortilis acacia trees, and the large elephant herds, also had unique wildlife like the eastern white-bearded wildebeest and the yellow baboon. A constant on the safari from Amboseli, to Elementaita, to Masai Mara, was the pleasant takeover of the night by the stars. When everything was dark on the ground, they showed off in the skies in all their splendor.
Pictures above are courtesy of a colleague – top safari driver guide – Mustafa Diriye. Masai Mara sky pictures are courtesy of professional photographer – Bishara Mustafa. Elsamere Lodge photo is courtesy of top safari guide – Geoffrey Sendeu.
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