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A female white rhino and her calf resting in Lake Nakuru National Park.
  Lake Nakuru NP
Size: 188 km2/73 sq mi.
Best time to visit: All year round.
Wildlife: Leopard, black and white rhino, rothschild giraffe, huge numbers of flamingos.
Getting there: Three hours on fairly good tarmac from Nairobi. Lake Naivasha is halfway en route. The dirt roads inside the park are fairly good.
Lake Nakuru map
Lake Nakuru map.
Kenya map
Kenya map.
  More web sites
Lake Nakuru
Kenya Birds – Birds of Nakuru
Species list.
Safari glossary
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Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru is a soda lake in the Great Rift Valley, i.e. in the huge rift that cuts through Kenya from north to south. Lake Nakuru National Park includes the lake and land surrounding it. Unlike most parks in East Africa, it's fenced. The park is a rhino sanctuary, and the fence is a measure to protect the rhinos and other wildlife inside the park.

The wildlife includes many of the classic African safari animals, such as lions, African buffalos, hippos and antelopes. There are no elephants, though. It's one of the best parks in Kenya to see leopard, and a good park for bohor reedbuck, defassa waterbuck and black-and-white colobus monkey.

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The giraffes in Lake Nakuru are not the Masai giraffes found elsewhere in southern Kenya and in Tanzania, but a different giraffe subspecies called rothschild giraffes, brought to Lake Nakuru from areas in western Kenya in a conservation effort.

(Note: Modern research has indicated that some giraffe subspecies, including the rothschild giraffe, may in fact be separate species. More knowledge on this is hopefully to come.)

Lesser flamingos in Lake Nakuru.

Many yellow-barked acacias are seen in the national park, dominating the vegetation. There are also large areas of open grassland along the lakeside. Much of the euphorbia forest on the south-eastern side of the lake was destroyed in a recent bush fire.

Rhinos to the park
A re-introduction of black rhinos (also known as browse rhinos) began in the late 1980's. Rhinos were brought to Lake Nakuru from South Africa and from Solio Game Sanctuary in central Kenya. Also white rhinos (or grass rhinos) were later introduced. There are now stable populations of both species, and Lake Nakuru is the best park in Kenya to see them. The white rhinos are the least secretive, grazing in open land, and are easiest to spot.

The African wild dog (also called hunting dog) appears in the park on rare occasions. It's the most endangered large carnivore in Africa and seen by few visitors to Kenya. Don't expect to see it, though.

Birding in Lake Nakuru
Lake Nakuru originally became a national reserve to protect its rich bird life. It is well known for its many flamingos, which may sometimes be seen in millions on the lake. Apart from the flamingos, you may see great white and pink-backed pelican, African darter, hammerkop, white and black stork, African spoonbill, hadada ibis, glossy ibis, red-billed teal and Cape teal, spur-winged goose, African fish-eagle, Egyptian vulture, bat hawk, Wahlberg's eagle, martial eagle, Montagu's harrier and pallid harrier, three-banded plover, blacksmith plover, crowned plover, African skimmer, black-winged stilt, laughing dove and ring-necked dove, malachite kingfisher, broad-billed roller, white-fronted bee-eater, African scops owl, pearl-spotted owlet, narina trogon, red-billed hornbill, greater honeyguide and cliff chat.

A male rothschild giraffe feeding.

Visiting Lake Nakuru
Lake Nakuru National Park is fairly small, and most safari itineraries include a brief visit only, usually an afternoon game drive in the park followed by a night in one of the lodges in the area. As a result, mornings may be a nice time for game driving, as there are fewer vehicles seen than later during the day.

You can't see the Big Five in Lake Nakuru National Park, as there are no elephants. It's a good park for leopard, rhino and buffalo, though, and it's often combined with Masai Mara, where you may see lions and elephants.

The roads in the park are fairly good.

Menengai Crater and Lake Elementaita
The large Menengai Crater is just north of Nakuru Town, offering good views of the landscape and Lake Nakuru. Lake Elementaita, 15 km/10 mi south-east of Lake Nakuru, is also a soda lake, but is smaller and receives fewer visitors. The lake and the land surrounding it is a private reserve offering a good bird life and some wildlife.

Lake Elementaita.

There are two lodges, a tented camp and bandas inside the park, and more lodges and camps in the surrounding areas. There is also accommodation in hotels and camping sites in nearby Nakuru Town.

Sarova Lion Hill Lodge.Sarova Lion Hill Lodge is built on a hillside east of Lake Nakuru in the park, in a forested area that offers nice views of the lake. The lodge has some 60 rooms in bungalows, restaurant, bar, swimming pool, sauna, conference facilities and massage. It is enclosed by an electric fence.

More about Sarova Lion Hill Lodge

Web site:

Flamingo Hill Tented Camp.Flamingo Hill Tented Camp in northern Lake Nakuru National Park is not far from the main park gate. It has 25 furnished safari tents with ensuite bathrooms and verandas, a restaurant, bar and lounge, gift shop and conference facilities.

More about Flamingo Hill Tented Camp

Web site:

Lake Nakuru Lodge is a tourist class lodge situated in the south-eastern part of the park. There are some 60 rooms with ensuite bathrooms, restaurant, two bars, swimming pool, conference facilities, gift shop and Internet.

Web site:

Mbweha Camp is a good new lodge in a private conservancy just outside the eastern gate of Lake Nakuru National Park. The lodge has ten spacious lava stone cottages with ensuite bathrooms, a restaurant and bar. Mbweha Camp is set right in the bush and offers good opportunities for game driving, night game drives and bush walks. Balloon safaris are also offered.

Web site:

Maili Saba Camp is a good tented lodge on the edge of the Menengai Crater north of Nakuru Town, i.e. some 5 km/3 mi north of Nakuru National Park. It has ten tented rooms with ensuite bathrooms and wide views of the crater. The lodge has restaurant, bar, meeting facilities, e-mail service and swimming pool.

Web site:

Deloraine House is a colonial estate house built in 1920, situated in a 1,400 ha/3,500 ac farm on the lower slopes of Mount Londiani on the western edge of the Great Rift Valley, a 45-minute drive from Lake Nakuru. The house offers stays in elegant surroundings, including gardens, croquet lawn, tennis court and swimming pool. Deloraine Estate is mainly focused on riding, and has large stables, cross country course, polo ground, and surrounding countryside fine for riding.

Lake Elementaita Lodge is a former ranch by Lake Elementaita that now offers tourist class accommodation. The lodge has 33 rooms with ensuite bathrooms, satellite television, mini bar, safe and veranda. There are dining room, bar and conference facilities in the old main building, and a swimming pool in the garden. The lodge offers horse riding and bird watching.

Large numbers of flamingos in Lake Nakuru, seen from Baboon Cliff.

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Page updated 18 February 2009