Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the alkaline Rift Valley lakes and a fantastic bird sanctuary famous for its huge flocks of flamingos that enjoy the alkaline waters of this shallow soda lake. Other than a million flamingos and many more species of birds, the park is also home to the white rhino, warthog, giraffe, hippo, ostrich and lion. Lake Nakuru is slowly recovering from several environmental pressures that caused its flamingo population to decline in the 1990’s. . The famous ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson defined it as “the greatest bird spectacle on earth”.
The Park was established in 1961 and covers an area of 180km² (69.5 square miles) and is situated in the Great Rift Valley – 156km northwest of Nairobi in the Nakuru district of the Rift Valley Province. The park is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Lake Nakuru is a large, shallow lake surrounded by marshes, woodland and grassland. There are some rocky outcrops and the largest euphorbia forest in Africa on the eastern side. The lake is fed by three main rivers; the Njoro, the Makalia and the Enderit rivers, as well as several springs. The park has very good roads and some excellent viewpoints overlooking the lake from Baboon Cliff and Lion Hill. Baboon Cliffs are the preferred habitat for some of the park’s species, while at the east; a part of Lion Hill is covered by a magnificent Euphorbia or candle tree forest, giving the landscape a prehistoric look.
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 park hosts several picnic areas and some hides have been erected nearby the lake for bird observation.
The lake supports the blue-green Cyanophyte Spirulina Platensis, which is the main food source for the brilliant pink flamingoes that can be found wading on the lake’s edge. At times, there can be up to two million greater and lesser flamingoes and tens of thousands of other birds.
In addition to birds and rhinos, the park is home for a large number of mammals, including carnivores such as lions, leopards, waterbucks, warthogs, impalas, buffalo, Rothschild giraffes, elands, endangered black rhinos, white rhinos and, occasionally, leopards.
The best time to visit is from June to September and January to March because the rains are not as bad as in other places and the roads are good throughout the year.
Lake Nakuru National Park is 156km northwest of Nairobi to the main gate and 4km from Nakuru Town. The most frequent way for accessing the park is the Main Gate, 4 km south of Nakuru downtown, next to the park’s headquarters, where you can reload your Smartcard. From Kenyatta Avenue, take Moi Road and turn left to Stadium Road, which will lead you right to the gate. Here there is also a map showing the spots of the latest animal sightings.
There are also other gates including the Lanet gate from the Nairobi-Nakuru road and the Nderit gate if travelling from Maasai Mara or Elementaita.
The Nairobi-Nakuru road is the starting route for many safaris. Therefore, plenty of visitors get their first sight of the Kenyan landscape from here. One can use their own Vehicle, take public transport or book an open-topped minibus or Safari Van tour with a tour guide. Suddenly, at the turn of a bend at the highlands’ rim, the earth opens up to the huge Rift Valley emptiness. Beside the stands offering their curios, a wooden lookout with a weak look displays a breathtaking view. The visitor obtains here a first impression of the primary role of the Rift Valley in East Africa’s physical geography. Some hundreds of meters below, the acacia-scattered Kedong Valley bed convey a neat and archetypical snapshot of the African landscape. Farther away, you get a glimpse of Mount Longonot, Hell’s Gate national park and Lake Naivasha.
The town of Nakuru is very well communicated with Nairobi. The train, the famous Lunatic Express, also calls here, or precisely all the way round, the city grew at the edge of the railroad, just as many of the major Kenyan towns. Plenty of buses and matatus cover the distance from Nairobi to Nakuru and back, as well as from the Rift capital to the most important towns in the valley and western Kenya.
Due to the proximity to Nakuru town, this is one of the only parks which can be visited in a taxi, though it is definitely not the best way to travel to the national park.
By Air, Chartered light aircrafts may land at Naishi airstrip, this offers the chance to fly from Nairobi right to the heart of the park, but only during the dry season.
Obviously, Nakuru is accessible as well from Nyeri via Nyahururu, bordering the Aberdare Range (170 km), from Kisumu at the Lake Victoria shore (116 km), or from Naivasha on the main Nairobi road (65 km). If your trip includes a Nakuru-Masai Mara journey or vice versa, you can use the road that joins both towns via Mau Narok traversing the Mau Escarpment (100 km), though during the rains this track may become a quagmire.
If you come from Nairobi and you want to avoid the Nakuru fuss, you can enter the park through Lanet Gate, though signposting is deficient. Before reaching the city, take the left turn signposted “Lanet Gate”, right in front of the Stem Hotel and ahead the railroad bridge. Just after take the right turn-off that runs parallel to the A104. This track will lead you directly to Lanet Gate.
Finally, Nderit Gate lies at the east side of the park, close to Lake Nakuru Lodge. This is a suitable way for visitors arriving from Mau Narok or Lake Elmenteita.
The park’s tracks are usually well-kept, still you may find some mud during the rains. The main road circles the lake completely. The north drive is very busy and is hence less interesting for wildlife viewing. The biggest stretch of land in the park is located south of the lake. There is a track network here which is much less visited and where you will have the chance to meet some of the park’s herbivores, such as Rothschild’s giraffes, the elusive black rhinos and the bulky elands.
Lodges and Hotels; There are two lodges within the park limits plus a hotel.
Lake Nakuru Lodge: The Lodge is located at the southeastern end of the park, close to Nderit Gate, on top of a hill overlooking the landscape around the south shore. The place used to be a farmhouse belonging to the vast Lord Delamere’s properties. It was purchased to broaden the park limits and was transformed into a lodge. There are 120 beds in attached huts, swimming pool, restaurant and bar. In front of the terrace there is a waterhole where some animals may be found.
Sarova Lion Hill Lodge: This lodge belonging to the Sarova chain is located near the eastern shore, above Lion Hill and the Euphorbia forest. Formerly it was a tented camp, which was re-built as a lodge. It has 65 rooms chalet-style, swimming pool, sauna, bar and restaurant, as well as an excellent service and a privileged location.
Merica Hotel: This is the only Hotel found within the park.
Naisha Guest House: Naisha Guest House is a self-service lodge belonging to Kenya Wildlife Service. It is composed of one house and an adjacent cottage, both fully furnished. The main building hosts’ two bedrooms, each with a king size bed and a single bed, plus an equipped kitchen, dining room and an outside terrace with pergolas. The maintenance staff takes care of cleaning and providing firewood, but guests must carry their own food. On the other hand, the cottage has only two single bedrooms, thus it is conceived as an annex to the main house and not an independent facility.
There are three public camp sites inside the park including Makalia, Backpackers and Njoro. All of them have water and latrines. The Backpackers Campsite is close to the park’s Main Gate, near the HQ. It is a very popular and usually crowded place, therefore you can expect everything but repose. It has full toilets. The second one, Njoro, is located next to the Njoro river, 1 km off the Main Gate and then the Makalia which is at the south end of the park, far off the lake and close to the waterfall. Actually there are two camp sites here, at both sides of the falls. They are much less used than the former two.
The number of special camp sites varies upon demand, but so far seven are usually available. The most popular ones, frequently used by safari companies, are Nyuki and Nyati, both beneath the acacia trees at the northeast shore, past the Hippo Point when driving from the Main Gate. The
latter is smaller. Other sites include Soysambu, Naishi, Reedbuck, Chui and Rhino.
You can also stay at Crater Lake lodge Naivasha which is one of Kenya’s best tent Camps and is only about 30km (19miles) from Lake Nakuru.