7th September 2008
Onwards from Samburu to Treetops! The first leg of the journey retraced our steps to the Outspan Hotel in Nyeri, where guests for Treetops check-in. En route, Kenya served up sights that were truly out of Africa, including a 3-Donkey powered cart! As we passed him, the driver spotted my camera and gave us a beaming smile. The friendliness of Kenyans!
3-Donkey Cart & Driver
At one point we stopped at a curio shop in order to use their toilets. Alongside the obligatory coffee stall were growing… …coffee bushes!
Lunch at the Outspan Hotel proved that the food hadn’t improved since our overnight stop here a few days earlier, although the staff appeared slightly friendlier on this occasion.
Lunch over, we all piled onto a bus for the short journey to the world famous Treetops, in the Aberdare National Park.
The original Treetops first opened for guests in 1932 and got its name because it was literally built into the tops of the trees as a tree house! It was here that Princess Elizabeth was staying with Prince Phillip, when she received news of the death of her father, King George VI, and her accession to the throne in February 1952. However, the original Treetops was burnt down by African guerrillas during the 1954 Mau Mau uprising. Her Majesty’s bodyguard at the time, Jim Corbett, wrote in the visitors book, “For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a Queen — God bless her.”
Part of Treetops seen from our room
Treetops was rebuilt in 1957 near the original waterhole, and it was here that we were to stay for one-night. Our room was at one end of the middle level, overlooking the waterhole. The room was basic, and cramped! Two single beds were arranged in an L-shape around the walls, and that was it! The toilets and washing facilities were along the corridor!
A switch on the bedroom wall enabled you switch a buzzer on or off. If you wanted an undisturbed night’s sleep you could switch it off – switched on, there was a code of buzzes to alert you to the presence of various animals at the waterhole: 1 buzz for Hyena; 2 buzzes for Leopard; 3 buzzes for Rhino; and 4 buzzes for Elephant.
After putting our bags in our room we went to the lounge for tea and coffee before moving up to the rooftop observation deck, where we sat until it started to rain! There were a few Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Buffalo and Warthogs in the vicinity; as well as various birds, including a Yellow-billed Stork and the rather attractive Speckled Pigeon.
The Yellow-billed Stork seemed to be on a one-bird mission to clear the waterhole of frogs, judging by it’s hunting prowess! We also watched two male Bushbuck vying for the attentions of a solitary female. As darkness descended we spotted an owl on one of the mudflats in the waterhole.
Dinner was a pretty unappetising affair, served at a long table, with the dishes being passed from one end to the other on a trolley running along the centre of the table. As it reached where you sat, you helped yourself to whatever took your fancy… …or didn’t! I opted for Steak, which turned out to resemble two large Beefburgers! Sandra opted for Fish in a Garlic & Lemon Sauce, which appeared to contain very little of either! For dessert, the Black Forest Gateau turned out to be a sponge, but lacking in either Cherries or Kirsch! All in all, a big disappointment. (Since our visit in 2008 and subsequently in 2011, we understand that Treetops has undergone a “makeover” so my comments here will not necessarily reflect what you might find if you do visit).
After dinner we returned to the roof and sat looking out over the waterhole, adding a White-tailed Mongoose to our wildlife tally before retiring to our room.
And so to bed… …to await the elusive 2 or 3 buzzes!
8th September 2008
The following morning we were up early, after an undisturbed night (no… …no buzzes in the night!), for tea and coffee before the short drive back to the Outspan Hotel for breakfast; to collect our main luggage; and be reunited with Justice and the 4×4 for the journey to Lake Nakuru.
As we drove out through Nyeri we passed a building under construction, clad in the most amazing wooden scaffolding – no Health & Safety regulations in this part of the world!
As we drove towards the Rift Valley we passed tea plantations, growing another of the crops for which Kenya is world-renowned. Our route crossed and re-crossed the Equator as we made away towards Thomson’s Falls, a 243-foot waterfall on the Ewaso Ngiro river as it drains from the Aberdares mountain range. In 1883, a Scottish naturalist and geologist, Joseph Thomson, was the first European to reach the falls and named them for his father. In the early 1880s, Joseph Thomon had been the first European to walk from Mombassa to Lake Victoria.
After the obligatory photo-opportunity, we continued on our journey to the edge of the mighty Rift Valley Escarpment.
The Great Rift Valley runs through Kenya from north to south, but is full extent runs from Israel in the north, to Mozambique in the south; some 5,965 miles! The floor of the valley is broken by a number of volcanoes, some still active, and a series of lakes. As the B5 Nyahururu to Nakuru road descended into the valley, we paused at the Subukia View Point, which afforded some amazing views of the valley.
A wooden viewing platform, through the slats of which you could see down into the valley below; guarded by a rudimentary and rather flimsy looking guardrail, afforded a panoramic view north and south along the Great Rift Valley.
Great Rift Valley vista
Continuing down into the valley bottom, we made our way to Lake Nukuru, arriving in time for lunch at the Lake Nakuru Lodge, the sign in the car park giving a small clue to what awaited us later!
Our room overlooked the valley, with forest on the valley floor and the hills rising beyond. Lunch was taken on the restaurant terrace overlooking the lake, after which we returned to our room to freshen up in one of the most powerful showers known to man!
At 4pm we set out on our evening game drive, down towards the lake. Lake Nakuru is is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes and lies in the Lake Nakuru National Park. The lake has an abundance of algae which attracts huge flocks of Flamingos, lining the shore. Nakuru means “Dust” of “Dusty Place” in the Maasai language, Maa.
Lake Nakuru – fringed in pink
On reaching the lakeside plain we came across a herd of some 150 or more Cape Buffalo, inter-mixed with large numbers of Zebra. We continued to the mouth of a stream running into the lake, where large numbers of Pelicans were gathered. The shoreline of the lake was fringed in pink, such was the density and number of Flamingos gathered there!
Lake Nakuru Pelican
On the edge of the lake we were able to leave the Land rover and walk quite close to both the Pelicans and the Flamingos. Returning to the vehicle we drove round the shoreline of the lake and into the forest that borders it. En route we passed a number of White Rhino and Rothschild Giraffes. However, the icing on the cake for us, was not one, but TWO Leopards in the grass to the far side of the airstrip – a total of three Leopards so far on this safari!
We returned to the lodge in time to see the sunset. A glorious end to yet another stunning day on this Kenyan adventure.
Lake Nakuru Sunset