For my last weekend in Kenya, I decided that I needed to venture out of Nairobi one more time. I enlisted Nadia as my partner in crime and we took off for the Rift Valley with our tour guide, George from Bonfire Adventures. Bonfire Adventures has been a great little tour company for me while I have been here because their prices are good and they will come and pick me up at Hirani, which is extremely helpful as I have relied on cab and my feet in Nairobi. Coincidentally, Nadia and I were the only people to sign up for this tour = Private Tour for the Alberta Girls! George was very helpful accommodating all the little changes we wanted to make in our tour so we could squeeze in a safari in Nakuru. It was a full-on busy weekend but after our relaxing and mellow trip in Diani Beach we were ready for some adventure.On Friday, Nadia and I started with a boat tour of Lake Naivasha where we saw hippos and oodles of birds. The sky was blue and full of big fluffy white clouds; a beautiful day for a boat ride on the lake. Perfect for photos! We stopped on Crescent Island, a funny little island where giraffes, zebras, gazelles, and waterbuck were imported in from the Maasai Mara for the filming of “Out of Africa” in 1984. I don’t know why but they left all the animals there but now tourists can visit the island and walk among all the “wild” animals. The zebras are so used to humans gawking at them that they continue to just stand in the field and continue to graze while people saunter around them.
Afterwards, we were taken by George to a little known flamingo hangout on the other side of the lake. There are 2 different types of Flamingos in Africa, the Greater Flamingo and the Lesser Flamingo. Not many flamingos hang out in Lake Nakuru anymore contrary to popular belief.
Then a rainstorm came. It timed out really nicely; we were just finishing messing around with the flamingos when we ducked into our van to escape the downpour. We drove to our final destination of the day – Hell’s Gate National Park. This is the only National Park in Kenya where visitors can tour the park on bicycles. The area is not heavy with wildlife but the scenery is spectacular! Our bikes definitely weren’t top-notch – Nadia found this out the hard way when she hit a ridge and flew into a bush, but it is definitely the most exciting way to experience a national park.
At the end of our 7 km bike tour we arrived at the Hell’s Gate Gorge. Visitors are taken by a guide to explore the gorge, rock, and mini-hotsprings. Our guide was full of fun little facts; he told us that scenes of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider were filmed there and showed us the hooks used to swing Angelina Jolie through the air. After a busy day, we went to our hotel, The Sopa Lodge, to enjoy a big buffet dinner and quickly fell into a deep sleep at bedtime.
We woke up feeling refreshed and ready for our Nakuru safari; little did we know that Nakuru had a different plan than the one we had envisioned. After a 2 hour drive from Naivasha, because of traffic, we finally arrived. Previously, neither Nadia nor I have had any problems with our working permits which give us the benefit of the waaaaaaay cheaper resident rates. Tourist rates are exorbitant, usually around 5-7 times the price of a resident.
The manager in the ticket office told us that Nadia’s 3 month pass did not qualify her for resident fees, even though we had no problem in Hell’s Gate the day before. Both of us were feeling stubborn and ended up arguing with 2 different Kenyan Wildlife officials outside of the park gate for the next 30 minutes. We were definitely those tourists that kick up a fuss and the tourists/spectators nearby watch in amazement, and then roll their eyes, wish we would shut up and get out of the way so they can get in the park themselves. We lost our battle with the man in the office, who was behind a big thick plastic window probably for his own safety, because I would have chucked his own calculator at his head. What are the chances that in a country FULL of corruption that all the dudes who follow the “rules” work at Nakuru National Park!?
On the plus side of things, we saw some Rhinos… the entire reason I went there. And we saw a lot of exotic beautiful birds. Nakuru is Bird Paradise.