The Rift Valley province in Kenya is home to seven national parks, including the two premium parks as designated by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Lake Nakuru National Park is one of those premium parks and will be the subject of this article.
Named the “Bird Watchers’ Paradise” by KWS, Lake Nakuru was first gazetted as a bird sanctuary in 1961. In 1964, the park was extended to the north, so it now covered the whole lake and a surrounding perimeter. In 1990, the lake was designated as a Ramsar site – the Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the protection, conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands of international importance, especially as waterfowl habitat.
Cyanophyte Spirulina platensis, the major food source for flamingos, thrives in the lake and supports huge numbers of Lesser Flamingo. Both Greater and Lesser Flamingos and other water birds are found in abundance, as well as a large variety of terrestrial birds, bringing the number of species found in Lake Nakuru National Park to nearly 450. There are approximately 56 mammal species residing in the park including both black and white rhinos. The park hosts unique vegetation including about 550 different plant species including yellow acacia woodlands and Africa’s largest Euphorbia candelabrum forest.
There are three viewpoints in the national park: Lion Hill, Baboon Cliff and Out of Africa. These are designated areas where you can get out of the vehicle, stretch your legs, and get some stunning photos of the lake and surrounds. There are also a few hills that are not established viewpoints (so you must stay in the vehicle) that also offer views of the picturesque landscape; Enasoit, Honeymoon and Lion Hill Ridge are three. Lake Nakuru also has a waterfall feeding it at the south end. Makalia Falls gushes during the wet season and is barely a trickle in the dry.
There are two public campsites within the National Park – one near the main gate and one at Makalia Falls. Although Makalia Falls’ location is preferable, running water is intermittent as are doors on the toilets. There are also several special campsites dotted around the park. There are no fences between you and the animals in these campsites, so you must be careful when you are cooking and make sure you do it in daylight hours. Camping fees are US$25 for non-residents, 500KES for residents and 200KES for East African citizens.
To enter the National Park, the fees are US$80 for non-residents, 1000KES for East African residents and citizens plus 300KES for a small vehicle (up to six seats). There are toilets, a restaurant and a curio shop at the main gate. Entry permits are valid for the day of entry only, and you must be out of the park by 6pm (or parked at the campsite if staying overnight). So it’s a good idea to get in early if you only have one day.
Packing a picnic is a cost-efficient and quite pleasant lunch option – the lookouts mentioned above make good lunch stops, just watch out for baboons! Baboon Cliff and Out of Africa lookouts both have toilets and covered areas. There is another picnic site in the middle of acacia woodlands. If you are in the park for just one day, Makalia Falls is also a nice place for a picnic.
It is definitely worth spending a day exploring Lake Nakuru National Park. As one of Kenya’s premium national parks, it is famous as the home to thousands of Greater and Lesser Flamingos. The park also provides sanctuary for Rothschild giraffe, rhino and leopard.