Featured Park: Lake Nakuru, Kenya

One of the highlights of my last trip to Kenya was Lake Nakuru. It is world famous for its birdlife, which is a beacon for leading ornithologists, scientists and wildlife filmmakers. Even though I wasn’t visiting at the height of the bird season, I saw a nice variety. Greater and lesser flamingo dotted the shores pink and were complemented by pelicans, hammerkops, snowy egrets, multiple heron species, sacred ibises, and more.

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The park spans an attractive range of wooded and bush grassland around the lake, offering wide ecological diversity, from lakewater and woodland, to the rocky escarpment and ridges where rock hyraxes, klipspringers and baboons make their homes.

This is one of the few places in the world where lions have adapted to climbing trees. It’s quite an astounding sight to look up in the canopy and find a king of the forest looking down at you!

Other notable game within the lake include hippos and clawless otters. White rhinos, waterbucks, Bohor’s reedbucks, zebras, cape buffalo, impalas, elands and Thomson gazelles roam the shores. Deep in the forest, shy black rhinos can occasionally be spotted as they browse among the undergrowth. I was lucky enough to spot one, as well as to view white rhinos on the lakeshore.

I also enjoyed the large social groups of baboons and vervet monkeys that could be observed throughout the forests.

Lake Nakuru is just one of many wildlife-rich parks throughout Kenya. Learn more about Kenya’s parks.

Rwanda: Mountain Gorillas and Much More

Courtesy of Ellen Wilson

A juvenile mountain gorilla says hello. Photo taken by Ellen Wilson on an Ujuzi safari in Rwanda.

On Saturday, Rwanda had its annual naming ceremony for baby mountain gorillas born in the past year. The celebration is called Kwita Izina and attracts both Rwandans and international visitors for traditional dancing, art, and food. Kwita Izina started in 2005 as a way to recognize the importance of mountain gorillas in the country’s environment and culture and is modeled on traditional Rwandan naming ceremonies for human babies. This year’s festival was in Kinigi in the Virunga Mountains.

The annual festival, combined with innovative conservation efforts, has resulted in a 26 percent increase in Rwanda’s mountain gorilla population.

As home to a third of the world’s 750 mountain gorillas, Rwanda has become a popular destination for travelers who are seeking a rare encounter with the creatures. The experience is often described as being the most profound natural history experience in the world.

But Rwanda has much to offer in addition to mountain gorillas. At Nyungwe National Park, visitors have the opportunity to spot 13 species of primates and 280 species of birds. The park is one of only three in Africa (and the only in East Africa) to have a walkway high up in the rainforest canopy, giving visitors an unusual glimpse of the flora and fauna found high in the trees.

Courtesy of Ellen Wilson

A golden monkey evaluates a visitor. Photo taken by Ellen Wilson on an Ujuzi safari in Rwanda.

Near Volcanoes National Park, an innovative project called Iby’Iwacu has helped diminish poaching. A cultural village offers employment to local residents, who sell traditional crafts and teach tourists about wildlife and local traditions. The income from this cultural village means that residents no longer have to turn to poaching in order to eat, and has also helped preserve the park as an unparalleled natural area.

Rwanda is unique in that it is one of only a few African countries with a commonly shared  culture and native language, Kinyarwanda. It is very friendly to international travelers, as both French and English are taught in schools. Since its civil war two decades ago, Rwanda has become a strong democracy and a tourist destination that has been noted for its safety and cleanliness, and it has built a strong infrastructure to support tourism, including a convention center with curated shops in Kigali and new first-class hotels.

Learn more about some of the wonderful experiences Rwanda has to offer by viewing a sample Rwanda itinerary on Ujuzi’s website.