Lake Nakuru National Park Area (117 sq km - 45 sq miles)
Location: Great Rift Valley 157 km (98 miles) from Nairobi
Altitude: 1,759 metres (5,770 feet)
Gazetted: Declared a National Park in 196O but not gazetted officially until 1968.
For all the doubts which were held for it when it was created a bird sanctuary, the first in Africa, in l960, in the few years preceding Kenya's Independence at the end of l963, Lake Nakuru was to prove one of the country's most popular -- as well as one of the most beautiful and world-famous -- of all Kenya's national parks. Nothing in that respect has changed since. It still is.
The lake shores are surrounded by wooded and bush grasslands, offering wide ecological diversity from lake water and woodland to rocky escarpments and ridges. The euphorbia forest on the slopes of Lion Hill is said to be the world's largest.
The park's population at most times of the year of over a million Greater and Lesser flamingo and other magnificent bird life has earned it the descriptions by world-famous writers and ornithologists of: 'The most staggering bird spectacle in my thirty-eight years of bird watching' (Roger Tory Petersen); 'The greatest bird spectacle on earth' (Peter Scott); and 'Like a scarlet scarf flung around the lake'(Sir Philip Sassoon).
Judged by any standards, the flamingos are a truly remarkable sight, whether wading the shallow alkaline waters along the wide western shoreline in a mumbling, muttering mass, or taking off in flight when water and sky become a noisy moving cloud of pastel pink. The Lesser flamingos are smaller in size but in greater numbers than the Greater, which can live either in fresh water or alkaline, which the Lesser cannot. There is an abundance in Lake Nakuru of the algae upon which they live.
It should not be too great a disappointment if a visit reveals that the flamingos, the star performers as it were, have moved elsewhere. There is plenty else of animal and bird life to see. Over 400 bird species have been recorded.
The flamingos move off seasonally, not always due to the rising or diminishing lake waters, but because Nakuru is not a breeding lake for them. They may go north to Lake Bogoria or south to Lakes Magadi and Natron. Without being too pessimistic, it also has to be borne in mind that there have been times, especially recently when, in years of acute drought (always too little or too much in Africa) the lake scenario changes dramatically when the waters have dried up. And when there is no water, the flamingos too have gone
While there is any water left at all -- even with the flamingos gone -- there is still plenty of action for the watcher of water and land birds. Pelican are splendid whether soaring the thermals above the Rift in their hundreds, or in huge flotillas on the lake. On the water or at the waterside there are numbers of marabous and other storks, cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, ibis, ducks, geese, coots, teals, stints, stilts, plovers, sandpipers and Cape widgeon.
Eagles in the park include the inevitable African fish eagle, the long-crested hawk eagle, Verreaux's eagle, the black-chested harrier eagle and, during the winter months, the migrant steppe eagle.
Birds of the woodlands include rollers, cuckoos, hoopoes, owls and owlets, cisticolas, drongos, shrikes, starlings, sunbirds, weavers, bee-eaters, woodpeckers and kingfishers. Take binoculars and a good bird reference book to make the most of your visit.
Animal viewing is easy, of: waterbuck, zebra, buffalo, leopard, lion, Rothschild's giraffe, black-and-white Colobus monkeys and, in the bushlands, eland, wart hog, impala, Bohor and mountain reedbuck and dikdik. Rock hyrax and klipspringer occupy the baboon cliffs and escarpment to the west of the lake, from which the view down onto the whole park is magnificent.
The Njoro, Lamuriak, Makalia and Nderit rivers all flow into the lake and a school of hippos lives at its north-east end, where springs have created a series of hippo pools.
In recent years, part of the park has provided a successful sanctuary for black rhino (Diceros bicornis) and white (wide-mouthed) rhino (Diceros simus) In l987, only two black rhino remained in the park following the ravages of poaching. By re-introducing breeding herds from the Laikipia, the Kenya Wildlife Service re-established both species and it is one of the best places in all Kenya for seeing them.
Three gates give entry into the park: Nderit Gate from the left turn off the main Nairobi/Nakuru road at Gilgil, entering the park from the east; Lanet Gate, from a left turn off the Nairobi/Nakuru road at Lanet, and the Main Gate from Nakuru town.
In-park accommodation includes two lodges: Sarova's luxury Lion Hill Lodge where 64 chalet-style rooms, each with their own verandah, overlook the lake and the distant hills. There is a fine restaurant and open-air swimming pool. The other is Lake Nakuru Lodge, developed from the beautiful house which was once known as Nderit, designed and built by Genesta Hamilton and her husband Lord Claude Hamilton and vividly described in her book A Stone's Throw, Travels from Africa in Six Decades. Alternative accommodation is in the Kenya Wildlife Service guest-house, three special and two public camp sites, a self-help banda and four picnic sites.