We saw a cheetah on our way out of Samburu National reserve this morning. Although cheetahs are most renowned for their speed, this particular male cheetah was ambling slowly through the savannah. When we got closer to him, the reason for his sluggishness became clear: he had just eaten a meal so large that his stomach was visibly distended. We watched as he ambled along, looking for a nice shady spot where he could lie down for a post-meal nap.
It was a great way to kick off the hours-long journey to Lake Nakuru National Park, a birdwatcher’s paradise and also home to many large game. When we arrived, we were greeted by a herd of hundreds of water buffalo, who watched us with disinterest as they feasted on lush grass made green by the recent rains.
After lunch, we checked into Sarova Lion Hill Lodge and embarked on a productive afternoon game drive. We came across several large groups of baboons lounging around in the middle of the dirt road — some grooming each other, some napping, others looking like they were engaged in neighborly chats.
The game drive along the lake’s edge had several other highlights. Birds included greater and lesser flamingos, pelicans, hammerkops (a type of water bird), snowy egrets, two kinds of herons, and sacred ibises.
For mammals, we saw white rhinos, Grant’s zebras, hyraxes (a rabbit-sized rodent and the closest living relative of elephants), Thompson gazelles, impalas, waterbucks and vervet monkeys. In the woods away from the water’s edge, we were lucky enough to see a group of three black rhinos munching on the underbrush. They ran away too quickly for us to take pictures, but we felt lucky just to have seen them. They are extremely shy and notoriously difficult to spot, since they live in the forest and rarely spend time in open areas. We only saw them because they happened to be snacking within a few yards of the road.
At the end of our game drive, we checked into Sarova Lion Hill, a large lodge set on a plateau overlooking Lake Nakuru. Guests stay in modern cabins that dot the grounds and feature sliding glass doors for a spectacular view of the lake. The lodge’s Flamingo Restaurant serves a delicious variety of European, Indian and Kenyan specialties.