Nestled along the shores of one of Kenya’s amazing Rift Valley lakes, Lake Nakuru National Park is a small and easily explored wildlife destination that will delight and surprise you at every turn. Lake Nakuru is one of Kenya’s primary bird watching destinations, particularly favoured by large flocks of water bird, and the park is also home to five globally threatened species of birds. Many northern migrants arrive each year to over-winter and breed at the lake, including migrating White Storks and Avocet. The lake previously hosted huge numbers of Flamingos, but the vast majority these have sadly moved on to other Rift Valley lakes, especially Lake Bogoria, as the algae levels in Lake Nakuru have dropped. You can still expect to see a small core population of both Greater and Lesser Flamingos at the lake.
Although Lake Nakuru is primarily known as an excellent destination for bird watching, there is a great deal more on offer. Here you can see several endangered wildlife species including both Black and White Rhino, and the ever-elusive Leopard is regularly spotted resting in the Acacia trees in the forested areas near the lake’s shores. The parks central location make it the perfect Kenyan wildlife destination for both locals and international visitors – it is just 2 hours by road from Nairobi, very convenient for weekend breaks for even for day-tripping. It is also the perfect overnight stop en-route to the Maasai Mara and is easy to include in a safari featuring Aberdare National Park, Maasai Mara and Samburu.
If Lake Nakuru is still on your wish-list, check out these fabulous Kenya Safaris that include Lake Nakuru National Park:
The lake and the surrounding National Park can be easily explored by taking part in some or all of the following activities:
Bird Watching Excursions
Picnics at Baboon Cliff
Day trips to Lake Naivasha
For most visitors, Bird Watching is the number one activity of choice in Lake Nakuru National Park. The park was designated an IBA (Important Bird Area) in 2009, and over 400 species have been recorded here; in addition, the park provides a refuge for several globally threatened species.
As mentioned, the lake formerly hosted upwards of a million Greater and Lesser Flamingos at any one time, and was the subject of several BBC Wildlife documentaries. In those days the lake would be almost completely ringed by jostling feeding Flamingos, attracted to the lake by a particular strain of blue-green algae that thrived in the waters. However, the amounts of algae in the lake changes periodically and is greatly affected by the water levels; when the food levels drop, the Flamingos move on. There is usually a core population of a few thousand remaining Flamingo, (numbers vary according to the time of year) which are still pretty impressive to see! In addition to the Flamingos, there are a great many other waders and water birds fringing the lake, and large numbers of terrestrial birds in the forested areas of the park. From November onwards, many migrants arrive from Europe, including the beautiful Avocet – romance is in the air and this is the best time of year to observe the elaborate mating rituals!
Lake Nakuru is surrounded by marshes, woodland and grasslands, and the park has good roads and a couple of really great viewpoints at Lion Hill and Baboon Cliff. Because the park is relatively compact, you have a better-than-average chance of seeing a really good selection of wildlife, including endangered Rhino, an experience which is becoming increasingly rare throughout Africa. There is even a good chance of spotting Leopard enjoying a day-time nap in one of the spreading Acacia trees that line the edge of the lake! There are a few Lion in the park, and if you want to increase your chances of seeing one, you will need to set off really early in the morning while they are on the move.
One of the best ways to observe the prolific bird-life (and the other wildlife) is to go on an escorted walk through the park. This is your opportunity to get up close to many of the animals and snap some wonderful photos.
Baboon Cliff is one of the highest points on the hills that surround the lake. It is not only a great viewpoint, but is also the ideal place to stop for a picnic. You can safely leave your vehicle here and there is a short (about 100mt) trail along the edge of the cliff to a beautiful shady picnic site with fabulous views out over the lake. There are similar picnic areas at the Lions Hill and Out of Africa viewpoints. At Makalia Falls at the southern tip of the park you can also leave your vehicle and take a short hike to the waterfalls.
If you are spending a couple of nights at Lake Nakuru, you could take a day-trip to Lake Naivasha, another of the very beautiful Kenya Rift Valley Lakes. Here you can go on a boat trip to Crescent Island, where it is possible to walk freely among the habituated wildlife and enjoy yet more outstanding bird watching. Close by is the amazing Hell’s Gate National Park where you can spend a few hours on a game drive, or even cycle through the park. Hell’s Gate features some amazing volcanic rock formations, including stone towers and breathtaking gorges – it is truly a must-see destination on your Kenya itinerary.
There is a good list of animals to be on the lookout for, starting with the stars of the show:
Black and White Rhino
Waterbuck and several other species of antelope
Giraffe, including the rare Rothschild Giraffe
Baboons and Monkeys
Also, look out for huge Pythons that can often be seen lying across the road or in the trees in the thickly wooded areas.
Flamingos, both Lesser and Greater are definitely still the key attraction at Lake Nakuru National Park, even though their numbers are greatly reduced these days. Aside from the Flamingo, there are a great many (over 400 species) other interesting birds to check off your list, including:
Grebes, Terns, Stilts, Avocets, Gulls and Ducks.
Grey-crested Helmet shrike (best place to spot these rare birds in Kenya)
Long-tailed Widow bird.
Five globally threatened bird species that have found a home at Lake Nakuru National Park are:
Greater Spotted Eagle
In addition, large numbers of Palearctic waders over-winter at Lake Nakuru, or use the lake as a resting site on their long journeys.
There are a few options when it comes to accommodation inside the park, ranging from a couple of rather basic campsites, a self-catering cottage run by Kenya Wildlife, two Lodges and two small and intimate tented camps.
This comfortable and up-market Game Lodge, which hugs the edge of Lion Hill, has been cleverly designed so that almost all the rooms and most of the public areas have great views out over Lake Nakuru and the surrounding park. The Lodge offers 67 spacious and attractively decorated rooms and suites, a large swimming pool and even pool-side massages. Meals are buffet style, and the resort will provide romantic al-fresco dinners under the stars by special request. Read more here: Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge
If you prefer smaller, more intimate lodgings with traditional “under-canvas” accommodation, Flamingo Hill Camp could be your perfect base in Lake Nakuru National Park. There are just 25 safari-themed tents, all with private bathrooms, terraces and a lovely relaxing ambiance. The Camp has a pool, Jacuzzi and health spa, overlooking the gardens.
It is easy to reach Lake Nakuru National Park by road from Nairobi. The journey takes around 3 hours and will take you through some very beautiful Rift Valley scenery. There is also a landing strip if you wish to fly in by private plane.
Get ready for an incredible birding and wildlife experience as you join Africa Point on a Lake Nakuru National Park safari. Our agents are ready to discuss your particular needs and suggest the perfect Lake Nakuru National Park itinerary to suit your budget and your interests.
Read what previous visitors have to say here: Safari Guide Impressions: September in the Maasai Mara and Nakuru