The water is high in Lake Nakuru as animals thrive

Saturday October 19 2019

A cormorant at Lake Nakuru National Park.

A cormorant at Lake Nakuru National Park. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT 

RUPI MANGAT
By RUPI MANGAT
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The salt ribbon around the lake has disappeared, swallowed by the rising water. It’s a phenomenon that researchers attribute to a 50-year cycle, which also happened in 1901 and 1963.

In 1994 and 2010, Lake Nakuru’s water levels were low because the rivers Njoro, Makalia, Larmudiac and Enderit were almost dry. With the current rains, the rivers are full, flowing with the rich earth-coloured soil from the Mau escarpment.

The increase in the level of the water means that the lake is more like a freshwater lake than an alkaline-saline lake.

By the shore, a flock of Lesser flamingos stand on their reed-thin legs with their long necks dropped down and heads inverted in the water.

In an early morning game drive, the sun is rising and so is the morning mist. Tall acacias stand submerged in the lake. In the lush grassland, buffalos stand in herds, except for one bouncing calf running around.

On higher ground we scan the canopy of yellow-barked acacia for a leopard, but instead we’re rewarded by a solitary lioness striding away, too far for a decent photograph.

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In 2017, two females crossed the fence into the neighbouring Soysambu Conservancy where lions hadn’t been seen since the early 1900s. Well settled in their new territory, the lionesses, called Fliir and Valentine, mated with the lion from the park and raised their cubs in the conservancy.

The flooded lake has covered most of the roads, including the main gate. A flotilla of Greater white pelicans swims around the office block, dipping their enormous yellow bills in the water to swallow their catch. A solitary black rhino is in the distance; a ranger on foot keeps vigil on his precious charge.

The Rothschild giraffe, an endangered sub-species, looks ghostly in the mist with a pair of white rhino grazing nearby.

A few minutes later we’re on a high cliff looking at the land below. The lake fills most of the park, with little land left for the terrestrial animals. Rock hyraxes sun themselves in the morning light.

Returning to lower ground, Makalia thunders over a high rocky crag, and flows into the lake. Earlier in the year, it was just a trickle.