Located about 164 kilometers Northwest of Nairobi, Lake Nakuru National Park is remarkably one of the most outstanding safari destinations that is worth exploring and discovering while you are on safari in Kenya. It lies along the rift valley Nakuru County and its ecosystem largely consists of the Lake which covers about 27% of the park’s area while its vegetation features more than 550 species of plants and distinct woodland which comprises of euphorbia, acacia woodlands and olea forests; busy grassland that you can find along its border areas. The largest portion of this park mainly acts as wildlife protected area while the land along the catchment area is intensively used for agriculture, ranching and forestry. The park’s main gate is located 4 kilometers from Nakuru town. For interested travelers, Lake Nakuru National Park is reachable by air via the 12 kilometer long Naishi airstrip in the southern side of the protected area. However, there is a gate at Lanet which connects the protected area to Nairobi-Nakuru highway.
Lake Nakuru was gazetted as a National Park in 1961 where it extended up to 188 square kilometers mainly to offer a perimeter buffer zone to conserve the Lake from encroachment especially by settlements and also to reduce the effect of urban and agricultural development in the immediate catchment as well as protect its stunning mountains. It was designated as a Rhino Sanctuary in 1993 and today, the park boasts of more than 45 black and 31 white Rhinos. Lake Nakuru also features as one of the RAMSAR sites in Kenya. A safari to this park also rewards travelers with remarkable views of its numerous pink flamingos which are commonly spotted along the Lake shore and not to forget other wildlife species that are all confined within this small protected area. The key wildlife species for you to catch a glimpse at while on safari to this national park include lions, bat eared fox, wild cat, colobus monkeys, the unique long eared nosed bat, hippos, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards, pythons, antelope families, birds, baboons, black and white rhinos, warthogs and many more. The park is exceptionally one of the most excellent destinations that are worth exploring while on safari in Africa. Lake Nakuru features as a soda Lake and it is located within altitude 1754 meters.
The park is accessible by road which takes you through a tarmac road up to Nairobi and this covers about 156 kilometers Northwest of Nairobi along the main route A104. The commonly used road is through the main gate and it is around 4 kilometers from Nakuru town center. Visitors can also access the park through the main Nairobi Nakuru route at Lanet gate. The Nderit gate is commonly used by travelers who are connecting from Maasai Mara or Elementaita. The park consists of 3 gates the main gate and Lanet gate which connect the protected area with Nairobi-Nakuru highway and the less used Nderit gate. For travelers who are planning their trips to this conservation area, you are advised to use at least 4 wheel drive vehicles to help you transverse through the remotest and hilly sides of the park. You can also take a flight which takes visitors about 25 minutes from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to the Naishi airstrip.
Lake Nakuru National Park can be visited from 7:00am and in case you are from Nairobi, you will take the Nairobi-Nakuru highway and this will reward you with the most stunning views of the mighty rift valley. For visitors who start their journeys from Nairobi, you will spend about half an hour driving to a scenic overview of over 2200 meters above sea level where you will also have a chance to catch a glimpse of the park’s remarkable volcanoes like Longonot and Suswa.
Depending on what your travel interests are in this park, however, the enormous number of pink flamingos at Lake Nakuru attracts travelers across the boundaries and the their number differs depending on the Alkalinity of the Lake. Too much precipitation reduces the alkalinity and there is less algae for birdlife and this means that flamingos are forced to relocate to other nearby soda Lakes in Kenya especially Bogoria and Natron for some time. If you are interested in catching a glimpse at the flamingos then consider visiting this protected area in the dry season between January and February. This also doesn’t guarantee you with large encounters at this remarkable bird species as most of them feed and nest at the Lake which provides the largest quantity of algae depending on the seasonal rain variations. The advantage with the long dry season, there are fewer fresh water sources where wildlife can converge which offers travelers opportunity to catch a glimpse of enormous wildlife species and there are minimal cases of mosquitoes.
Unlike other areas of Kenya, Nakuru area also experiences an extra rain during the cool dry season from July to October. This is a period migratory birds start arriving and they stay up to April. The short rains usually begin in November till December. Its rainfall amount is marginal compared to the long rains and features less effect while on wildlife safaris in Kenya. Between January and February, the weather tends to be dry and humidly hot with sprinkles of rain and most travelers flock to this protected area mainly to escape from the cold winters in Europe and the United States of America.
The park experiences long rains starting from late March to June and April and May feature as the primary months of the long rains. This means that the precipitation regains and there can be grass and pools as main rain water sources for wildlife species in the park as most of them do not like drinking from the Soda Lake of Nakuru given its high alkaline levels. You may also have a chance to catch a glimpse at most of wildlife species that have given birth during the wet season. The park experiences moderate temperatures except during evenings when it can be cool and because of this, you will need a jacket, sweater to help you participate in both early morning and afternoon activities at the park. Generally, the best time for you to pay a visit to Lake Nakuru National Park should be from June to September and January to March.
Tourist activities in Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park offers more than 56 distinct mammal species which include the white rhinos, tree climbing lions, Thomson’s grant gazelle, long eared leaf nosed bat colobus monkey, hippos, leopards, lions, rock hyrax, waterbuck, striped hyenas, golden cat, impala and many more.
The park also features more than 450 bird species with about 1.5 million flamingos that thrive along its shores. Other bird species include arrow marked babbler, bateleur, Abyssinian thrush, black tailed godwit, black winged lapwing, brimstone canary, broad ringed white eye, brown backed scrub robin, crab plover, European roller, grey crowned crane, grey headed woodpecker, greater spotted eagle, great snipe, grey crested helmet shrike, imperial eagle, Hildebrandt’s starling, lesser kestrel, lappet faced vulture, Kenya Rufous sparrow, long tailed widowbird, pallid harrier, northern puff back, maccoa duck, red capped lark, white fronted bee eater, white headed vulture, western reef heron, Speke’s weaver, sooty falcon, Rufous necked wryneck, Rupell’s griffon vulture, Rupell’s robin chat, Schawlow’s wheatear. In case you are interested in viewing migrant birds, you can visit the park from November to April. This is a breeding season and most of the migrant birds flock into the park.
Where to stay in Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park features a number of lodging and accommodation facilities where visitors can spend a night while on safari in Kenya. The notable accommodation facilities include Lake Nakuru Lodge, Sarova Lion Hill Lodge, Naishi Guesthouse, as well as campsites like Reedbuck campsite, Chui campsite, baboon cliff, pelican picnic site, acacia picnic site, soysambu campsite, Kambi Nyati campsite, Kambi Nyuki campsite, rhino campsite, flamingo camp and many more.
In conclusion, if you are planning your safari to Kenya, Lake Nakuru National Park should be one of a must to visit safari destination in Africa. There is a lot more that a waits for you to explore and discover while on African safari.