LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK, KENYA
Lake Nakuru National Park is among Kenya safari’s if-you-have-the-time finest attractions, usually a later addition after exploring Kenya’s big safari attractions. This delightful and compact park features vast open plains, rocky escarpments, pockets of acacia forest, and a waterfall surrounding Lake Nakuru on the floor of the Great Rift Valley. Until a few years ago, it was most famous for the countless colorful flamingos that painted the lake’s landscapes and fed on the algae in the shallows. The park is also featured in Sydney Pollack’s 1985 epic romantic drama ‘Out of Africa’, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the finest attractions on Kenya safari, usually added as a later addition after exploring Kenya’s big safari attractions. This delightful and compact park covers around 73 square miles (188 square km) of rocky escarpments, pockets of acacia forest, and a waterfall surrounding Lake Nakuru on the floor of the Great Rift Valley. Until a few years ago, it was most famous for the countless colorful flamingos that painted the lake’s landscapes and fed on the algae in the shallows.
Although the rising lake levels have caused the water to lose much of its salinity, repelling the swarms of flamingos, some flamingos still wade the lake’s edge, but not as massive as before 2014. Nevertheless, Lake Nakuru is still gorgeous year-round, a very rewarding birding spot, and an easy park to visit.
Lake Nakuru National Park is home to more than 400 bird species and incredible wild game, including leopard (often seen in daylight hours), lions, a relatively high number of black and white rhino, big herds of buffalo, endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, waterbuck, and eland. The park offers a unique game safari drive experience, as many animals are familiar with the presence of tourist vehicles on the small network of roads that encircle the lake, and they may allow visitors to get very close.
The scenery is spectacular too, with the lake surrounded by escarpments covered in thick acacia bush. Visitors should not miss stopping at the viewpoint at Baboon Cliffs for the expansive view down to the lake, but as the name suggests, they should keep an eye out for the mischievous baboons.
Things To Do
The best spot for wildlife viewing game drives is the southern end of Lake Nakuru. The forested area below Flamingo Hill is a favorite lion-spotting point where lionesses love to sleep in the trees. Leopards frequent the same area, and visitors sometimes report spotting them around the Makalia camp.
The rocky “Out of Africa” viewpoint is the best vantage point to view the massive expanse of Lake Nakuru National Park. The viewpoint receives less tourist traffic than the lower Baboon Clif. The incline is steeper, but it offers sweeping views over the lake and fond memories of Sydney Pollack’s epic drama Out of Africa starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Some of the movie scenes were shot on location in the park.
Another popular viewpoint and one-time lunch spot are Baboon Cliffs. The viewpoint boasts exceptional views yonder the lake, with some fine aerial vistas onto the flooded lakeshore. Baboons, however, are a nuisance and may raid vehicles for food. Visit in the early morning before they ruin the spot.
The untamed Makalia Falls at the Lake Nakuru National Park’s extreme southern end is worth checking out if you love nature hiking and camping. The falls are at their best during the rains when they swell. You can camp at the nearby park campsite overnight.
Getting There And Around
Lake Nakuru National Park is 166 km (103 miles) northwest of Nairobi, about a 2-3-hour drive along the main A104 road. You can drive around the park in just three hours, and this is one of the few parks you can get around in a standard car (not 4×4). Many taxi drivers in Nakuru town know the park well and can take you around, and for an extra fee, you can hire an expert local Kenya safari guide. A trip to Lake Nakuru with a local safari operator is often combined with a stay at Lake Naivasha or included on a longer safari to the Masai Mara.
When To Go
Lake Nakuru is good all year round, though the rains might interfere with your vacation during the main Wet season of March, April, and May. However, June to March, where there’s little rain, is the best season for a relaxed vacation around Lake Nakuru. Although there is excellent birdlife at Lake Nakuru, conditions in recent years have become unfriendly for the colorful pink flamingos, which used to be a prime attraction here. As a result, the flamingos have moved to other lakes in the Rift Valley but not entirely.
- Stunning Rift Valley scenery: Kenya’s most Scenically beautiful national park with a large, shallow lake supporting excellent birdlife, including big flocks of pelicans and variable flocks of flamingos
- Varied habitats support an excellent range of wildlife, including leopards, lions, black and white rhino, big herds of buffalo, endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, waterbuck, and eland.
- Easy access between Nairobi, Masai Mara, Samburu, and Mount Kenya
Tailored Kenya Safaris
WHERE TO STAY
Lake Nakuru Sopa Lodge
Price from $150
If you’d like to do an overnight in Lake Nakuru National Park, this smart mid-range Sopa lodge is a good choice, thanks to its commanding position high up on a ridge in the quiet western area. You get amazing lake views from the rooms, easy game-viewing drives, and wheelchair-friendly. However, the swimming pool is not heated, and it can be too cold to swim in, and room rates don’t include park fees.
Lake Nakuru Lodge
Price from $142
For a group safari in Lake Nakuru National Park, this Lake Nakuru Lodge is a perfect choice. The lodge inside the park offers comfortable stays with rooms to accommodate up to 120 people. You get fantastic lake views from the rooms, easy game-viewing drives, great meals, and it’s suitable for the family. However, it’s not a better choice for privacy, for it can get crowdy during peak season. Room rates don’t include park fees.
Price from $280
Mbweha Camp is a mid-range accommodation that offers ten hut-like stone cottages. Set within a 6,400-acre private Congreve Conservancy on the southern edge of the park, the tranquil ambiance of the camp is precisely what off-the-beaten-track adventurers crave, especially photographers and wildlife documentaries filmmakers. It’s also great for solo and family vacation.