Baboons, elephants and game parks in Kenya (East Africa: Part 1)

Baboons on road in Nairobi

Baboons on road in Nairobi

It’s never ideal to fall asleep in the back of a taxi when the driver has left you stranded on a country road while he goes to get petrol. However, I was jetlagged and as hard as you can try jetlag sometimes wins… luckily the worst that happened was the road became covered in baboons while I slept.

One thing I learnt from Kenya is that baboons are everywhere in the countryside. While they are somewhat ugly, with their rather large bare backsides,  when you see them carrying their babies or grooming another baboon, their cute side comes out.

Baboons grooming

Baboons grooming

Elephant Orphanage, Nairobi

Elephant Orphanage, Nairobi

The first part of my East Africa travels at the end of 2011 was in Kenya, where I visited an elephant orphanage and giraffe sanctuary before beginning my tour. The elephant orphanage could pull at anyone’s heart strings, with baby elephants drinking milk from massive bottles as the keepers told you the name of each elephant, where they came from and why they were here. Often the elephants were brought here because their mother had been poached or they were hurt or in danger. It was incredible visiting this orphanage, it gave me a feeling for what was to come, this continent holds such amazing animals and people.

As you drive through Kenya you can see poverty and wealth, cities and lush countryside. It’s a diverse country that I only had a glimpse of, but still an incredible one at that.

Elephant Orphanage, Nairobi

Elephant Orphanage, Nairobi

The tour (I generally detest tours but this was a good one) I went on visited Lake Nakuru National Park, where the baboons and monkeys felt it was their right to grab any bit of food in their path, whether it was having a party in a car (with the window partly down) or trying to scab food from the plate on your lap as you ate lunch. However, Lake Nakuru itself would have to be my favourite diverse national park that I came across (this exempts Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda for the gorillas). The camping grounds were basic (cold showers and dark toilets), but the clearing was beautifully surrounded by tall trees with the lake nearby. Turns out water buffalo also liked our camping spot as one decided to pay us a visit one evening!

Baboon Cliff, Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park

Leopard, Lake Nakuru National Park

Leopard, Lake Nakuru National Park

The first game drive I ever went on in Lake Nakuru gave me the chance to see a few lionesses eating a zebra near the roadside under camouflage of a tree. I couldn’t believe my eyes seeing these wild animals so close to the road. It didn’t stop there as we continued on over the next few hours and the following day I’d see rhinos and their babies walking by, giraffes eating out of leafy bushes close by, zebras grazing, a brief glimpse (just enough time for a photo) of a leopard climbing a tree and a diverse array of birds from flamingos to the Grey Crowned Crane, Uganda’s national bird. The animals were so diverse and close in such an incredible landscape.

One of the best views that would compete with the Rift Valley is the view from Baboon Cliff over Lake Nakuru. From there you can see the entire lake and national park and chances are you’ll have a large baboon to enjoy the view with.

Baboon Cliff, Lake Nakuru National Park

Baboon Cliff, Lake Nakuru National Park

The people of Kenya were just as heart warming as the animals. I visited an orphanage and meet some amazing children who have some incredible goals for their futures. I could see so many very happy children despite having so little. They were just happy to see new people, hold your hand and play football, look at your camera or try on your sunglasses. Everywhere we went children would wave at our truck as they walked along the dirt roadsides. Seeing such happiness often amongst such poverty can help put life in perspective, as I found throughout my entire trip through East Africa.

If you’d like to check out more photographs from my time in Kenya, please visit my Kenya photo gallery here »

Don’t worry, the journey didn’t finish there, my next post will tell you about Uganda, visiting the chimps and some amazing scenic spots.

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