Lake Nakuru National Park

www.kws.org

This national park is just 4 km south of Nakuru town in central Kenya and 140 km northwest of Nairobi. It was established in 1960 as the first bird sanctuary in Africa to protect the flamingos and the other birds in the hills and plains around the lake. It covers 188 sq km and the lake is fringed by swamp, and surrounded by dry savannah. The upper areas within the national park are forested. The lake itself is in the centre of the park surrounded by huge white salt crusts, whose surface area varies from five to 40 sq km.

Ins and outs

Game viewing is very easy and rewarding here, and the whole park can be driven around in half a day. You will need to be in a vehicle, although you are allowed to get out at the picnic and camp sites. If you don't have your own car the most logical way of exploring is by picking up a taxi in Nakuru and negotiating a price for half a day, which obviously can be shared among a group. Alternatively arrange an excursion through
Shoor Travel
on Moi Road. 
The park's tracks are usually well kept, although you may find some mud during the rains. The main road circles the lake completely. The north drive is very busy and is hence less interesting for wildlife viewing. The biggest stretch of land in the park is located south of the lake. There is a track network here which is much less visited and where you will have the chance to see some of the park's herbivores, such as Rothschild's giraffe, black and white rhino and eland.

Sights

The blue-green algae
Spirulina platensis
flourishes in the alkaline waters and is a primary food source for the flamingo population. Both the lesser and greater flamingo is present. In 1958 alkaline-tolerant
Tilapia grahami
were introduced to the lake to try to curb the problem of malaria in the nearby town.
Fish eagles
appeared in this area shortly afterwards thanks to the abundant supply of these fish. There is a wide variety of wildlife: bat, colobus monkey, spring hare, otter, rock hyrax, hippo, buffalo, waterbuck, lion, hyena, and giraffe, but the most popular reason for visiting is the wonderful sight of hundreds of thousands of flamingos. At one time there were thought to be around two million flamingos here, about one third of the world's entire population, but the numbers have considerably diminished in recent years. Now, the number of flamingos varies from several thousand to a few hundred, depending on the water level and their frequent migration to the other lakes in the Rift Valley. Usually, the lake recedes during the dry season and floods during the wet season, and in recent years, there have been wide variations between the dry and wet seasons' water levels. It's suspected that this is caused by increasing watershed
conversion to intensive crop production and urbanization, both which reduce the capacity of soil to absorb water, recharge groundwaters and increase seasonal flooding. This has caused the flamingos to migrate to other lakes; namely Elmenteita, Simbi Nyaima and Bogoria.

The best viewing point is from the
Baboon Cliffs
on the western shores of the lake. There are also more than 450 other species of bird here. Thousands of both little grebes and white winged black terns are seen as are stilts, avocets, ducks, and in the European winter the migrant waders. Another highlight is the very healthy population of black and white rhino; Nakuru was declared a sanctuary for the protection of these endangered animals in 1987. Both black and white rhino have been reintroduced, and the park has become the most successful refuge for rhino in East Africa - you'll literally trip over them here. There are quite a few leopard too, which are often, and unusually, spotted during the day in the acacia forest at the entrance to the park. Lion favour the savannah area to the south of the lake. In
1974 the endangered Rothchild's giraffe was introduced from the Soy plains of Eldoret where they have bred successfully. There are also a fair number of pythons, which may be seen crossing roads or dangling from trees. Because of its proximity to Nakuru town, the park is fenced, to stop the animals wandering into town and, previously, to stop poachers wandering into the park. It's so close to the city that it's not out of the ordinary to be watching a lion within the park, and at the same time watching a woman doing her washing outside her house beyond the fence! The advantage of being so close is that local people get to know the wildlife - the park buses in local school children for game drives.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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