Lake Nakuru is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most famous lake in Kenya. It is known for its flocks of flamingos. However with rising water levels the flamingos fled in 2014 - and are yet to return. Our current feeling is that the area feels less and less wild and due to water levels is increasingly tricky to explore. The flamingos have been more reliably seen at Lake Borgoria in recent years but their presence depends entirely on the alkalinity of the lakes so please do speak to us if seeing the flamingos is your priority for visiting this area.
Being only a couple of hours drive from Nairobi we often use the Great Lakes area as a vital stop-off point on our driving safaris on the way to the Masai Mara or as a stepping stone between the Laikipia/Mount Meru area and the Mara - it is a very long drive without stopping off here! One night to recharge the batteries is perfect although if wishing to explore the lake itself then two nights is essential. You can look for black and white rhino, tree climbing lions, leopard and Rothschild's giraffe.
Stopover lodges include the good value Sopa Naivasha, the lovely small Sunbird Lodge or the luxury Serena Elementaita at Lake Elementaita. We also like Chui Lodge in the private Oserian Wildlife Conservancy and the new Cliff Lodge at Nakuru.
Lake Nakuru is one of several alkaline lakes found in the Great Rift Valley and has been a National Park since 1961. Although not particularly large (just under 170 square kilometres its biggest claim to fame is the spectacular numbers of pink flamingo that used to visit it every year. Over 2,000,000 have been seen on the Lake at any one time, feeding on the algae that thrive in its warm waters, although the numbers can vary greatly depending on the conditions. They wade in great flocks through the shallow waters, turning the whole lake into a shimmering shade of pink. Water levels do fluctuate and it is possible the flamingo will return but at the moment they are not there.
Lake Nakuru is a good destination to visit to search for two of the big 5 you often struggle to see elsewhere. It is home to a population of rhino who graze in the early morning on the sweet vegetation on the lake's edge. With both Black and White Rhino present and comparatively little open grazing, it makes spotting them much easier than in some of the larger reserves. It is also an good place for trying to see leopard, undoubtedly the hardest of the big 5 to see. Another rare animal in the park is the Rothschild giraffes, an endangered species from Western Kenya, introduced in the 1970s to help protect its future.
As well as the 2 types of resident flamingos, there are also pelicans and cormorants on the lake, and over 400 other species of bird. As the lake can vary from 6 to over 40 square kilometres, depending on the season, there is a great variation on what can be seen at any one time.
There are only a couple of lodges inside the park, with several others situated nearby in Nakuru town. Many visitors opt to stay at the nearby Lake Naivasha or Lake Elementaita and travel to Nakuru for a day trip.
Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake with many birds and hippos in the shallows. This is a key agricultural area with many farms and orchards thriving on the fertile soil. It feels increasingly urban. You can go for boat rides on the lake, visit local schools or take in the views on horseback but we prefer to be further north at quieter and prettier Lake Elementaita.
This shallow soda lake is to the south east of Nakuru and is much less developed. Rustic Sunbird Lodge offers glorious views while the luxury Serena camp is perfect for R&R.
Lake Bogoria National Reserve
Water levels have risen at Lake Borgoria and much of the road around the lake is now under water. The lake is quite a bit further north than Nakuru. However, there have been decent levels of lesser flamingos just inside the reserve's gates,as reported by our guides in recent years.
An excellent small group guided safari tour of both Kenya and Tanzania
A wonderful private drive-in safari visiting Mt Kenya, Ol Pejeta, Samburu, the Great Rift Valley Lakes and the Masai Mara
An escorted small group safari visiting the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Lake Elementeita and the Masai Mara
A drive-in safari aimed at seeing all the Big Five in one week and with time in the Masai Mara, Laikipia and Great Lakes.