Imagine driving over the hills of the Great Rift Valley, turning a corner and seeing a shimmering lake between the hills. Welcome to Lake Nakuru! Just a four hour drive from Nairobi, this 45 km² lake lies at the foot of Lake Nakuru National Park. At 88 km², this national park is relatively small, but it is home to four of the Big Five.
Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the soda lakes in the Great Rift Valley. The Great Rift Valley is an intracontinental rift whose East African part also runs through Kenya. The soda lakes in the Great Rift Valley are special because they are usually filled with algae, which attract many flamingos.
Lake Nakuru used to have millions of flamingos, but ten years ago rising water levels caused these birds to move elsewhere. For a time, they all but disappeared. They slowly returned, but there are not the numbers as there used to be. Still, Lake Nakuru, with its more than 50 species of mammals such as the rare Rothschild’s giraffe, buffalo, zebra, leopard, lion and more than 400 different species of birds.
In collaboration with the Rhino Rescue Charitable Appeal Trust, the Kenyan government established the first rhino sanctuary here in 1987. When the sanctuary was officially opened, 17 rhinos from a private ranch in Solio joined the 2 rhinos already in the park, and later 11 more rhinos were added to the sanctuary. Since the rhinos require water on a daily basis, the lake is an ideal habitat for the rhinos. There are currently 150 rhinos living in Lake Nakuru National Park, 80% of which are white rhino and 20% black rhino. It is especially easy to spot the white rhino at the edge of the lake – a unique sight.
If you like viewpoints, you can take a trip to Baboon Cliff – a rock formation where baboons cavort. However, hold on to your camera and personal belongings tightly, as baboons are excellent thieves!
Lake Nakuru National Park is a good stopover on the way from Nairobi to the Masai Mara. It is also possible to go there for just one day/night. Stay in one of the lodges on the edge of the hills surrounding the lake and enjoy the magnificent view!