Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is one of Kenya’s two Premium Parks, and is a birdlover’s paradise. It surrounds Lake Nakuru, located in the Central Rift Conservation Area in the Southern Rift Valley region of Kenya. Originally protected as a bird sanctuary, this park hosts over 400 bird species, including 5 globally threatened species, and is an important stop on the African-Eurasian Migratory Flyway. This park was also the first national Rhino sanctuary and hosts one of the world’s highest concentrations of the Black Rhinoceros.
Lake Nakuru National Park is one of Kenya’s 23 National Parks and one of two in the Premium category, along with Amboseli National Park. It can be found in Central Kenya, about 90 miles (140km) northwest of Nairobi, in the Nakuru district of the Rift Valley Province. The ecosystem is comprised of the lake, surrounded by wooded and bushy grasslands. The park supports a wide ecological diversity including Flamingos (Greater and Lesser) and other water birds, and the Black and White Rhinoceros which are the major attractions of the area.
Lake Nakuru National Park started as a bird viewing and sport shooting area of migratory birds in 1950s, but has since been expanded and fenced to protect populations of endangered giraffes and rhinoceros.
- 1957 - declared a conservation area
- 1961 - Southern two thirds designated a bird sanctuary
- 1964 - the bird sanctuary was extended covering the whole lake and a small strip of land around it
- 1968 - gazetted as National Park
- 1977- a number of Rothschild Giraffes translocated to the park from western Kenya for their protection
- 1984 - established as first government managed rhino sanctuary
- 1986 - an electric fence was erected around the park to replace the earlier chainlink
- 1987 - the park was declared a rhino sanctuary.
- 1990 - the lake was designated as a Ramsar site
- 2009 - designated as IBA (450 identified bird species)
- 2011 – Designated by UNESCO as one of the Kenya Lakes System (Lakes Elementaita, Nakuru and Bogoria) World Heritage Sites
Depending on the season, Lake Nakuru can cover up to about 25 miles2 (40 km2), and the entire park covers about 116 miles2 (188 km2). The lake is highly saline, so it is surrounded by a grassland of highly adaptable alkaline grasses. This park also has many hills with established viewpoints from which the lake, the woodlands, and often times the herds of buffalo can be seen.
Flora and Fauna
In addition to its 400 species of birds, Lake Nakuru National Park is home to 50+ mammal species, and over 500 species of flora. This park is famous for the flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingos that gather around the lake, sometimes with as many as 2 million! You can find this great pink mass around the lake for a good part of the year, as these iconic birds stay mostly within the Rift Valley, migrating from lake to lake. Because Lake Nakuru National Park was fenced to protect endangered Rhinos and Giraffes, it can’t support African Elephants, so you won’t find any here!
You are guaranteed to see: White Rhinos, African Buffalos, Rothschild Giraffes, Zebras, Impalas, Olive Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Waterbucks, a variety of water birds (Yellow-billed Pelicans, Marabou Storks, Hammerkops, Fish Eagles, etc.)
Common in the park: Hyenas, Jackals, Lesser Flamingos, Hippopotamus, Pythons
If you are lucky you may see: Lions, Leopards, Black Rhinos, Wild Dogs, Colobus Monkeys, Cheetahs
Don’t forget the plants! In Lake Nakuru National Park you can see a wide variety of beautiful landscapes: from grasslands to dense forests, and the very rare tarconanthus bushlands and euphorbia forests.
Lake Nakuru National Park is officially classified as dry sub-humid to semi-arid, which basically means it’s not too wet and not too dry, or too hot or cold. The climate in this area is really beautiful, you won’t fry in the sun here like you would in Amboseli or Tsavo. You are likely however, to get rained on. Late afternoon is the most common time for rain showers. If you want the best chance of avoiding these rains, consider coming some time between July to December or January to March. However, avoiding the rain is not guaranteed, even during these dryer months. Also, these months are in the peak tourism season, so the park will be very crowded with tourist vehicles. If you don’t mind a little rain and you want to avoid the crowd, come in December or April to June (you’d also save money coming at this time!). Another great thing about this park- it’s fenced, so even during the wet months you will see wildlife because they cannot migrate away from the park.
The park opens at 7am. If you are traveling from Nairobi, then take the Naironi-Nakuru highway. On the way to Nakuru you will have a great view of the Rift Valley, so drive slow and enjoy the scenery! From Nairobi, it is about a 30-minute drive to a scenic overlook at 7200 feet (2200 meters) above sea level and from here you can get a spectacular view of the volcanoes Suswa and Mount Longonot. There are also a group of great little curio shops at this stop where you can buy souvenirs. Seeing the entire park could take you a full day, so plan to arrive around 9am unless you have more than a day in the area. It might take you few minutes to get your ticket and the vehicle checked.
The park has very well established roads that make most parts of the park accessible by 2-wheel-drive vehicles. Some less-traveled parts and most viewpoint hills will require 4-wheel-drive. The park has three gates: the Main Gate and Lanet Gate that link the park with the Nairobi-Nakuru highway and the less-used Nderit Gate.
If you choose to fly: It’s about a 25-minute flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to the Naishi airstrip inside the park.
The entry fee is $80 for adult, nonresident foreigners, $40 for nonresident children and students. If possible, pay in US$. If the fee is paid in Kenyan Shillings (KSH), the fee is converted to US$ at a highly unfavorable rate. For Kenyan nationals the fee is KSH 1,000 for adults, KSH 200 for children; for foreign adult residents of Kenya the fee is KSH 1,000 and one-half that amount for resident children ages 3 through 17. If you’re using a currency other than the US$, see here for an up-to-date exchange rate calculator: http://www.kws.org/tourism/exchange.html
A really cool new thing that KWS has started is called SafariCard. You can buy a permanent one ahead of time and load it up with money to use at several of Kenya’s parks, or you can buy a temporary one at the gate, surrendered at the gate when you leave. See the details here: http://www.kws.org/about/safaricard.html
An additional vehicle fee is required, the amount of which is determined by the number of seats in your vehicle.
The best way to get around almost any national park is by car. For a list of safari companies that are a part of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, see http://www.katokenya.org/katomembers.asp
Do & See
- Game Driving
Viewpoints (established- means you can park your vehicle, get out, and enjoy the view, take photos, even have a picnic on picnic tables present at these sites):
- Lion Hill
- Baboon Cliff
- Out of Africa
Hills (not established viewpoints):
- Lion Ridge
- Makalia Falls (you can leave your vehicle here too, and take a short hike over to the falls)
It’s suggested that any gear you might need like sunscreen, bug repellant, camping gear, etc. be brought with you to Kenya as the highest quality stuff may not be readily available to you once you get there. If you’re staying in Nairobi you can probably find a lot of this stuff at a Tusky’s (large supermarket chain in Kenya), but it may still be a good idea to bring it from home.
Souvenirs can be bought inside the park in the lodge gift shops, but if you want to buy from one of these places make sure you budget for it. Stuff in these gift shops is not cheap. If you have time, it’s better to spend it exploring and shopping in the nearby Nakuru town. You can find the same stuff from locals here for 1/3 the price lodge gift shops ask for.
Eat & Drink
If you are staying outside the park or will only be in the area for a day, you should definitely bring your own food and drinks and enjoy them at one of the scenic picnic spots throughout the park. However, if your budget allows it, you can stop at one of the lodges in the park and try the buffet or the a la carte menu. These lodges also have poolside bars where you can grab a cold drink (try a Tusker!). Keep in mind though: eating at a lodge won’t be cheap (it’s usually around $40/person for lunch or dinner!).
If you plan to stay at a lodge in the park, they usually offer some sort of meal package that includes packed lunches for your day of game driving.
If you are staying in Nakuru town, see the page here for some restaurant suggestions.
If you are camping inside the park, you should also bring all your own food and supplies.
In the park
- Lake Nakuru Lodge, ☎ (254-051) 850228/850518, fax: (254-051) 216250, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Spacious rooms, beautiful view, good service, fine cuisine. Offer organized game drives with tour companies that they associate with. Low season: $200-$420. High Season: $300-$715.
- Sarova Lion Hill Lodge, ☎ +254 0202315139/0202316931, fax: +254 51 2210836, e-mail: email@example.com. This lodge offers similar accommodations to Lake Nakuru Lodge. $300-$400
- Nakuru Backpackers Hostel, ☎ +254 (0) 721 543 406. Opposite Kamba bus station, along Nakuru - Eldoret highway (Just off Eldoret-Nakuru highway). check-in: 24h; checkout: 10AM. Hostel with a bar and hot showers. $10 per person.
- Merica Hotel, ☎ 254-051-2214232/2216013, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A beautiful Hotel in the heart of Nakuru Town. Offer many activities such as: game drives to Lakes Nakuru, Elementaita, Bogoria, Baringo and Hell’s Gate and Aberdare National Parks, climbing Mount Longonot, and visits to St. Egerton Castle. Also offer packed lunches for game drives. $100-$305
Special Campsites- include the grounds only
- Naishi, Chui, Rhino, Soysambu, Nyati, Nyuki, Reedbuck
Public Campsites- include water and latrines
- Makalia, Backpacker’s
To make reservations: Nakuru Tel: 254 20-2664071, 254 20-2664079 , 254 20-2671686 Fax: +254-20-607024 E-mail: email@example.com
Some general common-courtesy, safari-etiquette things that will keep you safe and keep you from getting yourself kicked out of the park:
- Don’t harass the animals
- Don’t feed the animals
- Don’t litter
- Don’t leave your vehicle
- Never ever drive off of the designated roads- it could get you removed from the park, land you with a fine, and strip your tour driver of his tour license
- If you see something really awesome, pull over to the side of the road, shut off your vehicle, keep quiet and watch. Don’t try to get closer or coax the animal into coming closer to you, and don’t block other people from seeing whatever you’re seeing
For KWS’s official list of park rules and regulations, click here: http://www.kws.org/tourism/park_rules.html
The park closes at 6pm, and the last car is let in at 5:15. There are many things to see and do just outside Lake Nakuru National Park.
- Nearby National Parks to check out: Hell’s Gate, Mount Longonot.
- For more birdwatching, check out these other Ramsar sites: Lakes Naivasha, Bogoria, Baringo, and Elementaita
- Menegai Crater