Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lake Nakuru National Park: The place to see the most fabulous bird spectacle in the world

Small in size, but rich in bio diversity, Lake Nakuru is known for its birdlife, with more than 500 species listed. The avian highlights are the the millions of flamingo that gather along its shore and the pelican that cluster on the southern floodplain. Nakuru is a stronghold for both of Africa’s endangered rhino species, and there is probably no better place in East Africa to observe the white rhino. While flamingo and rhino top most visitors’ wish list, Nakuru offers excellent game viewing and bird watching, with all the Big Five present, alongside Giraffe, waterbuck, gazelle and baboon.

These flamingos like the algae rich waters of the Rift Valley lakes especially Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria
Following are some of the key specialties of Lake Nakuru National Park:
A Marabou Stork lands next to Great White Pelicans and African Spoonbills
1) Flamingoes on Lake Nakuru

The shallow algae rich waters of Lake Nakuru attracts more than 2 million flamingoes. The biggest numbers can be seen during the dry season. When the lake is full, the flamingoes are known to migrate to another Rift valley lake, Lake Bogoria or sometimes Lake Turkana.

White Rhinoceros - the second largest land mammal in the world
2) Rhino Sightings

A dozen white and 20 black rhino were translocated to Lake Nakuru in the 1990s and have since bred to form populations of around 50 of each species. The white rhino in particular is common on the lake’s southern floodplain.

Brilliant contours on the common zebra3) Acacia Forest
The southern part of the park supports a cover of lush acacia woodland dominated by the fever tree. This is the best place to look for the black rhino, lion, leopard and woodland birds.

Stunning Lake Nakuru landscape from Baboon's cliff view point
4) Baboon Cliff

This view point, situated in the middle of the park offers great vistas of the lake and the surrounding hills and forests.

Rothchild's Giraffe
5) Rothschild’s Giraffe

Lake Nakuru is one of those few places in East Africa where one can see the Rothschild’s giraffe in the wild. The population of this Giraffe at Nakuru is the second highest after Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda and the largest in Kenya.

The flamingos grab all the photographer's attention at Lake Nakuru6) Euphorbia Forest
The Rift Valley escarpment rising to the southeast of Lake Nakuru supports Kenya’s largest concentration of the cactus-like euphorbia, a striking tree-sized succulent whose thick sap is poisonous to most animals.

Cape Buffalo rests in the swamp land of Lake Nakuru
Since Lake Nakuru is a small park, one can easily cover all of its routes within a single day. But, personally, I would recommend that you stay here for at least a couple of days to soak in the pristine beauty of this rift valley lake. Either people visit this lake as a day or weekend trip from Nairobi or visit enroute to Maasai Mara Game Reserve or Samburu National Reserve.

A male Impala walks on the jeep track at Lake Nakuru National Park
As with most other parks of Kenya, no one is allowed to get down from their vehicles during the safari. But, a small exception is made at 3 spots in this national park. One is the place near the lake, where birders can park their tripods and photograph the flamingos and pelicans. The other is the area around Baboon’s cliff and the third is the ‘Out of Africa’ view point. Both Baboon’s cliff and Out of Africa are popular picnic spots for the locals.

Hamerkop near the lake fringes
In terms of accommodation, the park has two wildlife lodges, Lion Hill Lodge and Lake Nakuru lodge. Apart from these, one can also pitch in their own camps, though mosquitoes and baboons can cause a racket.

An African Spoonbill standing on one leg
The safari timings remain sunrise to sunset, but unlike the other parks, most of the park stays dark due to the extremely tall tree cover. Hence it is my recommendation that you spend the sunrise and the sunset hours towards the southern side of the park where the golden hues will form a beautiful glow on the animals and the birds feeding in the floodplains.

Blue hues of the evening sky at Lake Nakuru
If hippos interest you, go near the mouth of the Makalia, Njoro or Enderit rivers as the hippos like the freshwater that the river brings. The best place to see the cape buffalo is in the swamps next to the lake. In all probability, you will see the buffalo wallowing in the mud.

Lesser Flamingos and their reflections on the waters of Lake Nakuru
This is one place that you should not miss while planning a wildlife holiday in Kenya. Just the sheer number of flamingos are enough to keep you enthralled for a couple of days.

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