Lake Nakuru National Park: Kenya’s Diverse Ecological Hotspot - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, September 06, 2021

Lake Nakuru National Park: Kenya’s Diverse Ecological Hotspot

Lesser Flamingos and their reflections on the waters of Lake Nakuru

It is a place where one can see the most fabulous bird spectacle in the world. It is a national park where one can spot most of Africa’s rich wildlife. It is one of Kenya’s two premium national parks and is a bird lover’s paradise. I am talking about Lake Nakuru national park, a Ramsar Wetland that is nestled in the vast great Rift valley.
A large herd of Rothchild's Giraffe at Lake Nakuru National Park     
Designated by UNESCO as one of Kenya’s lakes system world heritage sites, Lake Nakuru National Park is home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of the Black Rhinoceros. It’s ecosystem is comprised of lake surrounded by wooded and bushy grasslands. The lake is saline, which allows growing of many types of algae and the surrounding grassland is made up of highly adaptable alkaline grasses.   
The road that connects Lake Nakuru to Baboon's cliff     
It is this diverse ecosystem that makes it an important pitstop on the African – Eurasian migratory flyway. The star bird attractions are the Greater and the Lesser Flamingos, but one can also see yellow-billed storks, marabou storks, hammerkops, fish eagles, helmeted guineafowls, great white pelicans, African spoonbills, grey headed gulls, super starlings and close to 400 species of birds .
Lake Nakuru sees the largest concentration of flamingos in Kenya     
In terms of the other wildlife, one is guaranteed to see white rhinos, African buffalos, Rothschild giraffes, zebras, impalas, olive baboons, velvet monkeys, waterbucks, hippopotamuses, hyenas and jackals. And if you are lucky, you might even get to see lions, leopards, black rhinos, wild dogs, colobus monkeys and cheetahs. Apart from the African elephants, one can almost see all of Africa’s rich wildlife if they are staying inside the park for a few days.    
Cuddling Zebras at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya     
It is this insanely beautiful combination of plants, birds and rich wildlife that make Lake Nakuru national park so special. Add to it, its dusty jeep safaris and the panoramic vistas from Baboon cliff, Out of Africa and lion hill and you have a stunning African wildlife destination.    
Impala feeding at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya     
A wildlife safari at Lake Nakuru national park begins by the lake side at around sunrise. As the mist lifts from the surface of the water, you get to see a large maze of pink in the horizon. As the mist goes up and the golden rays of the sun fall on it, your eyes get treated to millions of lesser and greater flamingos that feed on the algae. And when you get closer to these gorgeous birds, you will see them take to the air, in the thousands together before descending on another stretch of the lake to continue feeding there. And this process continues, making for a fabulous spectacle.    
Great White Pelicans in the shallow waters of Lake Nakuru     
Once you move your attention away from the flamingos, you will notice the thousands of other water birds sharing the waters of the lake. They might not be as great a spectacle as the pink flamingos, but they offer diversity and fill up new colours in your viewfinder. And then there are the water buffalos that can be seen sharing the waters too.
Cape Buffalos seen from on top of Baboon's Cliff     
And you make your way into the woodlands, you will come across more grazers like the impalas, the black and the white rhinoceros and finally the gorgeously printed Rothschild Giraffe chomping on the juicy leaves of the trees in the woods.

Sub -Adult White Rhinoceros looking at us     
In between, you can also lay your sights on rowdy olive baboon families or the more playful black velvet monkeys. And if you get lucky, you might be able to spot some apex predators such as the leopards, cheetahs, lions or wild dogs.
The flamingos grab all the photographer's attention at Lake Nakuru     
And if you have some snacks or a picnic lunch with you, you can drive to the panoramic view points and enjoy the beautiful views at high noon while relishing a much needed bite after a whirlwind morning full of bird and animal sightings. These view points are also a great place to get a bird’s eye view of this diverse ecological hotspot while enjoying the cooler breeze during the hot part of the day.
A Group of Great White Pelicans and African Spoonbills     
As the sun starts making its way down, you can return to the woodlands, grasslands or the lake for more wildlife action before retiring to your place of stay within the national park or head out of the gate to the land beyond. And did I tell you that you can also go on a hike to a waterfall here. It is called Makalia falls and it carries decent amount of water during the wet season.
Locals admiring the view from Baboon's cliff     
Lake Nakuru national park is nothing short of wild miracle. It is one of Kenya’s most diverse ecological hotspots and a place that I much recommend for all wildlife and bird lovers. Do ensure that you stay here for at least two days so that you give yourselves the best chance to see all of its magic.     
An Olive Baboon family     
Fees and permits:

The fee per foreign national adult is USD 60 and USD 35 per foreign national child or student. If you are foreign adult residents of Kenya, the fee is KSH 1030 and KSH 515 for child or student.

Cape Buffalo rests in the swamp land of Lake Nakuru

In addition to the entry fees, there is a vehicle fee too and that depends on the vehicle and its number of seats. 
Superb Starling at Lake Nakuru National park, Kenya    
How to reach:      
If you are driving from Nairobi, take the Naironi-Nakuru highway. This is a scenic route and will give you good views of the Rift valley and the volcanoes. The total distance is 168 kms and will take you about 3 hours. It is best to have your own mode of transportation.

If you wish to fly, it is a 25 minute flight from Nairobi to the Naishi airstrip inside the national park.    
Yellow-Billed Stork at Lake Nakuru National park, Kenya

Best season to visit:    
The best season to visit Lake Nakuru national park is between July to December or January to March. These months also happen to be the peak tourist season and the dry season.

If you don’t mind some rains, you can visit during the other months of the year. These months also happen to be the low season.   
Hamerkop near the lake fringes - Lake Nakuru National park, Kenya

Where to stay:    
If you wish to stay inside the park, your only options are five star hotels. If you are okay with staying outside the park boundary, you will find budget hotels and backpacker hostels. There are also special and public campsites where you can pitch in your own tents. These campsites are basic, but they offer a stay in the wild experience.

If you are on a full on wildlife experience, I would recommend staying at the five star hotels so that you don’t have to drive long distances every day and can spend more time spotting and photographing wildlife. If budget is an issue, then you will have to stay outside the park. But, you can compensate by walking up real early in the morning to make it to the core of the national park at sunrise.   
Grey-headed gull - seen quite commonly around Lake Nakuru

Where to eat:    
There are a few restaurants outside the park boundary where you can find some basic food options. Your best bet for food would be your place of stay. And self-cooking in case you are camping.

Nakuru town is a good option in case you wish to indulge in local cuisine at local prices.
An African Spoonbill standing on one leg at Lake Nakuru national park, Kenya

Other wildlife reserves nearby:    
1) Hell’s Gate National park: A small national park known for its wide range of wildlife and for its cliff scenery

2) Lake Naivasha: A fresh water lake that is part of the Great Rift valley and that is home to more than 400 species of birds and a sizeable population of hippos

Black Faced Vervet Monkeys: Inquisitive brothers

3) Aberdare National Park: A high altitude national park that is home to a large variety of birds and mammals

4) Mount Kenya National park: A high altitude national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site

5) Maasai Mara: The 8th wonder of the world and home to one of the greatest wildlife migration in the world

6) Samburu National Reserve: An oasis of wildlife in arid North Kenya

7) Lake Elmenteita: It is a Ramsar site, an UNESCO World heritage site and home to over 400 species of birds
Marabou Stork gets ready to eat its prey at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Other tourist attractions nearby:    
1) Nairobi: The capital city, commercial and cultural hub

2) Nanyuki Equator Point: A great place to keep one step in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere

Helmeted Guineafowls at Lake Nakuru National Park

3) Hyrax hill: It is a prehistoric site in the Rift valley province of Kenya

4) Menengai crater: It is a massive shield volcano with one of the biggest calderas in the world

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