A Guide To Lake Nakuru
Lake Nakuru provides the visitor with one of Kenya’s best known images. Thousands of flamingo, joined into a massive flock, fringe the shores of this soda lake. A pulsing pink swathe of life that carpets the water, the flamingo are a breathtaking sight.
Lake Nakuru has become world famous for these birds, who visit the lake to feed on algae that forms on the lake bed. They move back and forth, feeding and occasionally and spectacularly taking to flight, filling the sky over the lake with colour. The lake is extremely variable in size- changing from 5 up to 30 sq kmsarea.
Lake Nakuru has more than just flamingos. This is a major National Park and an important sanctuary for Rhino. Both Black and White Rhino are found here, and are often seen resting under acacias by the Lake shore.
The park abounds with game. There are huge herds of waterbuck, zebra, buffalo, the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and more.
This is one of your best chances of seeing Leopard in Kenya, and there are several large prides of Lion.
Exploring beyond the lake is always rewarding and there are forests, cliffs, waterfalls and more to be found here.
Nearby Nakuru town is a busy and thriving local centre with a bustling market. The town is a hub for local transport and travel.
Lake Nakuru Destination Guide
Lake Nakuru is situated on the floor of the Rift Valley, it is surrounded by a beautiful national park of acacia forest. It is a World Heritage Site famous for its more than one million pink flamingo populations.
It is also home to more than 450 bird species and wildlife, including the leopard, waterbuck, impala, eland, Rothschild’s giraffe, black rhino, zebra and ostrich. The park is also renowned for big pythons.
The lake’s abundance of algae attracts the vast quantity of flamingos that famously line the shore. Other birds also flourish in the area, as do warthogs, baboons and other large mammals. Black and white rhinos have also been introduced.
The lake’s level dropped dramatically in the early 1990s but has since largely recovered. In 2013, the lake received an alarming increase in the water levels that led to the migration of flamingos to Lake Bogoria in search for food supply.
History of Lake Nakuru
Nakuru means “Dust or Dusty Place” in the Maasai language. Lake Nakuru National Park, close to Nakuru town, was established in 1961. It started off small, only encompassing the famous lake and the surrounding mountainous vicinity, but has since been extended to include a large part of the savannahs.
Nakuru is arguably the most renowned among Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes and one of the best known African parks in all the world, with its alkaline waters fringed at times by more than one million flamingos. American ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson, who pioneered modern environmentalism, defined it as “the greatest bird spectacle on earth”, and the sentence has been used as a catchphrase ever since. Sadly, things are no longer like Peterson saw them, since human pressure is very much felt by the lake ecosystem and the huge flocks of birds are slowly but surely diminishing or fleeing to other more unspoilt soda lakes.
The park was gazetted in 1968, but since 1961 there was a bird sanctuary at the lake’s south sector. With the support of the World Wildlife Fund, Kenya’s Government launched a scheme to purchase the adjacent grounds in order to widen the protected area. In 1964 the sanctuary included the whole lake, with an area that fluctuates from 5 to 40 km², in addition to a shore strip. Since its gazetting as a national park, both authorities and conservation organisations have kept on winning the battle to private property and human settlings, further broadening the park limits in 1968 and 1974 to its current extension of 188 km².
Lake Nakuru – Threats
But yet there is one threat the lake can’t get rid of, and this is the populous and industrial Nakuru town, which lies only 4 km from the park. After Nairobi National Park, this is the second most accessible reserve in Kenya, since Nakuru is the fourth largest city in the country and the headtown of the Rift Valley. Therefore the park is one of the most visited both by Kenyans and foreigners, receiving huge numbers of visitors that peaked in 2007 with 346,800, according to the Ministry of Tourism. This is the reason why usually the park is heavily crowded and the sensation it delivers is more of a safari park than of the real wild Africa.
But people and traffic are not the only nor the biggest threats: uncontrolled dumping from the nearby city produces a strong environmental degradation, to such an extent that at critical times flamingos have completely vanished from the park. In 1994-95 there were massive flamingo deaths caused by water poisoning with heavy metals and toxins, due to a combination of climatic and human factors that favoured the overgrowth of cyanobacteria and toxic blue-green algae. This resulted in the start up of a program aimed at processing Nakuru’s industrial and urban residues, water and pollution monitoring and protection of the lake basin.
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In addition, encroachment by the surrounding population and poaching of rhinos urged the authorities to erect a 74 km wire fence around the park. The first fence was erected in 1976 and reinforced ten years later with a sun-powered electric fence, thanks to the cooperation of the British Rhino Rescue Trust.
The different measures are directed to protect an exceptionally important area for wildlife conservation, not only bird life diversity which inspired the park creation but also a great lot of mammal species, native or introduced, which live and breed successfully in the park. Among the latter are rhinos. The park was declared a sanctuary for the protection of these voluminous and endangered animals in 1987. From then on, reintroduction of specimens of both species, black and white, has made Nakuru one of the main rhino refuges in Kenya and the place where the visitor can easily find two of the five rhino species surviving in the world.
Lake Nakuru National Park
The park covers Lake Nakuru and a land strip around the northern, eastern and western shores, whereas southward the grounds extend farther to Makalia Falls, which define the south limit. The shores are surrounded by swamps, that during the driest seasons disappear to give rise to huge white salt crusts. The riverine forest opens up southward in a bush and acacia tree savannah. The eastern and western shores are framed by ridges that offer splendid lookouts over the lake: Lion Hill, Baboon Cliff and Out of Africa. At the west shore, Baboon Cliff is the preferred home for some of the park’s species, while at east, a part of Lion Hill is covered by a magnificent Euphorbia or candle tree forest, giving the landscape a prehistoric look. The park hosts several picnic areas and some hides have been erected near the lake for bird watching.
In addition to birds and rhinos, the park is home for a large number of mammals, including carnivores such as lions and leopards.
The short distance to the city and the frequent conflicts between environment conservation and development of the local communities have prompted a number of projects aiming at improving life conditions in the area and providing the residents a chance to meet this unique wildlife refuge. Kenya Wildlife Service has financed programs for health and education, namely for building classrooms and dispensaries, purchasing equipment and books, etc. On the other hand, the park owns a bus which offers low-priced guided tours to the park for Nakuru residents.
What to see in Lake Nakuru
The masses of pink flamingos at Lake Nakuru draws guests from around the world, but the population at the lake varies based on the alkalinity of the lake. Higher levels of precipitation decrease the alkalinity, and there is less algae for the birds. As a result, the largest number of flamingos may migrate to other neighboring soda lakes in Kenya such as Bogoria and Natron for a period of time.
Your best bet is to plan your flamingo-watching tour of Lake Nakuru during the dry-hot season in January and February. There is, though, no warranty that you will see an enormous number of flamingos, as the majority of the birds feed and nest at the lake that offers the highest quantity of algae based on seasonal rain variations. Even with fewer flamingos present outside the nesting and feeding period,
Lake Nakuru Park offers many other types of wildlife that will ensure you have an exhilarating wilderness holiday with African Mecca. During the long dry season, there are limited numbers of fresh water sources around which the animals congregate. Another benefit of the dry season is that there are fewer mosquitoes present, so you can enjoy a more comfortable trip to Kenya.
Unusually compared to other parts of Kenya, the Nakuru region receives some extra rain during the cool-dry season of July to October. As Europe starts cooling in October, migratory birds begin to arrive and remain in the area until April. The short rains normally start in November and last until December.
The rainfall is generally marginal in comparison to the long rains and has minimal impact on your wildlife-seeking African safari as the moisture evaporates quickly in equatorial Kenya. In January and February, the weather is dry and humidly-hot with sprinkles of rain, and this is also when increased visitors come to the park to escape the cold winters in Europe and the United States.
The long rainy season initiates in late March and lasts through June with April and May being the primary months of the long rains. The precipitation rejuvenates the grasses and pools to create fresh rainwater sources for the animals as they cannot drink from the soda lake of Nakuru due to the high alkaline levels.
Fauna is typically more dispersed throughout the park during this time of year, but some of the animals may be giving birth during the rains, so you may see foals and calves that are only days or even hours old as they learn to survive and thrive in their new world.
Lake Nakuru Climate
Lake Nakuru National Park enjoys moderate temperatures throughout the year, but the evenings can be cool. We recommend that you bring extra layers of clothing, such as a jacket, sweater or fleece, to ensure you are able to partake of the early morning and afternoon to evening activities comfortably.
Also, if you plan to visit during the rainy seasons, you should bring a poncho. Guest numbers and lodging rates do vary over the year. Many AfricanMecca guests combine their Lake Nakuru Park trip with the Great Wildebeest Migration starting in August till October at Masai Mara National Reserve, and this along with parents bringing their children during school break means that late summer is the busiest time of year for family safaris.
Christmas, New Year’s and Easter are also quite busy. In April and May, Nakuru room rates are reduced as this is considered the low tourist season, although the costs associated with logistics, park fees, meals, activities, guides, hotel taxes and other aspects of your visit are constant throughout the year.
Where to stay at Lake Nakuru
KWS Self Catering
Campsites in Lake Nakuru
- Back Packers
- Makalia Campsite
- Reedbuck Campsite
- Naishi Campsite
- Rhino Campsite
- Chui Campsite
- Soysambu Campsite
- Kambi Nyuki Campsite
- Kambi Nyati Campsite
- Acacia Picnic Site
- Baboon Cliff
- Out of Africa
- Pelican Picnic Site
Privately Owned Lodges in Lake Nakuru
- Lake Nakuru lodge
- Sarova Lion Hill Lodge
Lake Nakuru Entry Fee
Lake Nakuru National Park
Non – Resident
* Kindly refer to the document Conservation Fees 2015 below for other services and charges
* This park accepts Safari Cards
How to get to Lake Nakuru
Main road access to Nakuru is directly from Nairobi by bus/matatu or private transport. The main highway passes by Naivasha and GilGil/Elmenteita on the way. Nakuru is a 2 hour drive from Nairobi. There is an airstrip in Nakuru which charter flights can use. Many of the hotel and lodges here can arrange transfers to Nairobi.
Getting to Lake Nakuru itself is difficult without private transport. The lodge and camp here both organize local excursions.
Lake Nakuru Contacts
The Senior Warden,
Lake Nakuru National Park,
PO Box 539-20100,
Phone: 020-2664071, 020-2664079, 020-2671686, 020-2322886, 051-8012070
Mobile: 0728355267, 0728355207, 0728355401
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Watch a tour video of Lake Nakuru
Lake Nakuru News
Tourists flock Lake Nakuru for ‘bird-watching’
Updated on: July 2016
Tourists are flocking Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru, Kenya in anticipation for an exceptional sight of flamingo birds migrating back after a breeding season at Lake Natron, Tanzania.
So astounding is the number of flamingos that populate the two lakes such that tourist touring this semi-arid region of Kenya can’t resist a visit.
A scene not replicated anywhere else in the world due to the very specific environment required by the birds, makes all and sundry interested in the ‘birds seeing’ scenario.
In an amazing show of mighty, the birds migrate in unison to Lake Natron which for decades has been the chosen nesting spot for all East Africa’s flamingos, with couples producing just one egg at a time.
The birds travel due to depletion of food sources as well as arrival of the breeding season that relies on particular environments in which to lay their eggs .
Having flown from Tanzania they come back to Kenya where they flock at the Lake Bogoria and the Lake Nakuru in Riftvalley.
Flowing freshwater streams surround Lake Bogoria. The streams become populated by flamingos as they gracefully bathe in the clean mountain water and cleanse off the salty minerals that would otherwise harden their feathers and render them unable to fly.
Once they have frolicked in the water and fed their fill, the flamingos depart for Lake Nakuru for the second course where visitors can focus on bird watching of a very colorful and unique kind.