Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru National Park was set up in 1960 to protect the flamingos and other birds in the plains and hills surrounding the lake. Its accessibility and close proximity to Nairobi (only 140 km to the South East) makes it one of the most frequented National Parks - popular with Kenyans and foreign tourists alike. The park's relatively small size (188 sq km) allows you drive around the entire park in half a day and although you will need to remain in a vehicle there are designated picnic and camping sites at which stops can be made.

The higher areas of the park are forested, while the lake itself is surrounded with enormous white crusts of salt, some with areas of up to 40 sq km. The warm alkaline waters encourage an unusual blue-green algae to flourish and it is this abundant food source that attracts hundreds of thousands of pink flamingos to the lake making it an unmissable sight at certain times of the year.

The best viewing point of this spectacle is from Baboon Cliffs on the western shore of the lake. Although the flamingos feed in Lake Nakuru this is not their breeding ground. Their favourite site for breeding is at Lake Natron over the border in Tanzania. At one time about 2 million flamingos came to Lake Nakuru, although numbers have diminished in recent years due, in some part, to intensive crop production methods which have reduced the ability of the soil to absorb water. Many flamingo now migrate to other lakes such as nearby Lake Elementaita.

While the flamingos undoubtedly remain the show stoppers at Nakuru, the park is also home to a spectacular array of wildlife including colobus monkey, leopard, spring hare, hippo, waterbuck, lion and roughly 450 species of bird life including the Fish Eagle who made the lake its home after Tilapia fish were introduced into the lake waters to curb the problem of malaria in the nearby town in the late 1950's.

Other notable park residents are the black rhino and white rhino. Indeed Nakuru has become the most successful sanctuary in East Africa for rhino and now houses healthy populations of both. Similarly the endangered Rothchild's giraffe from the Soy Plains of Eldoret was introduced in 1974 and it too has bred successfully. There are also quite a few pythons which can be spotted sometimes disconcertingly dangling from trees or crossing roads.

The park is so close to Nakuru town that it is fenced to stop animals wandering into the town and more importantly to prevent poachers from entering the park. The closeness of the park to the town means the local people have got to know their wildlife neighbours and school children are often bused in for game drives thus strengthening the links between the town and the park.