Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is one of Kenya’s two Premium Parks, and is a birdlover’s paradise. It surrounds Lake Nakuru, located in the Central Rift Conservation Area in the Southern Rift Valley region of Kenya. Originally protected as a bird sanctuary, this park hosts over 400 bird species, including 5 globally threatened species, and is an important stop on the African-Eurasian Migratory Flyway. This park was also the first national Rhino sanctuary and hosts one of the world’s highest concentrations of the Black Rhinoceros.
Lake Nakuru National Park is one of Kenya’s 23 National Parks and one of two in the Premium category, along with Amboseli National Park. It can be found in Central Kenya, about 90 miles (140km) northwest of Nairobi, in the Nakuru district of the Rift Valley Province. The ecosystem is comprised of the lake, surrounded by wooded and bushy grasslands. The park supports a wide ecological diversity including Flamingos (Greater and Lesser) and other water birds, and the Black and White Rhinoceros which are the major attractions of the area.
Lake Nakuru National Park started as a bird viewing and sport shooting area of migratory birds in 1950s, but has since been expanded and fenced to protect populations of endangered giraffes and rhinoceros.
Depending on the season, Lake Nakuru can cover up to about 25 miles2 (40 km2), and the entire park covers about 116 miles2 (188 km2). The lake is highly saline, so it is surrounded by a grassland of highly adaptable alkaline grasses. This park also has many hills with established viewpoints from which the lake, the woodlands, and often times the herds of buffalo can be seen.
Flora and Fauna
In addition to its 400 species of birds, Lake Nakuru National Park is home to 50+ mammal species, and over 500 species of flora. This park is famous for the flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingos that gather around the lake, sometimes with as many as 2 million! You can find this great pink mass around the lake for a good part of the year, as these iconic birds stay mostly within the Rift Valley, migrating from lake to lake. Because Lake Nakuru National Park was fenced to protect endangered Rhinos and Giraffes, it can’t support African Elephants, so you won’t find any here!
You are guaranteed to see: White Rhinos, African Buffalos, Rothschild Giraffes, Zebras, Impalas, Olive Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Waterbucks, a variety of water birds (Yellow-billed Pelicans, Marabou Storks, Hammerkops, Fish Eagles, etc.)
Common in the park: Hyenas, Jackals, Lesser Flamingos, Hippopotamus, Pythons
If you are lucky you may see: Lions, Leopards, Black Rhinos, Wild Dogs, Colobus Monkeys, Cheetahs
Don’t forget the plants! In Lake Nakuru National Park you can see a wide variety of beautiful landscapes: from grasslands to dense forests, and the very rare tarconanthus bushlands and euphorbia forests.
Lake Nakuru National Park is officially classified as dry sub-humid to semi-arid, which basically means it’s not too wet and not too dry, or too hot or cold. The climate in this area is really beautiful, you won’t fry in the sun here like you would in Amboseli or Tsavo. You are likely however, to get rained on. Late afternoon is the most common time for rain showers. If you want the best chance of avoiding these rains, consider coming some time between July to December or January to March. However, avoiding the rain is not guaranteed, even during these dryer months. Also, these months are in the peak tourism season, so the park will be very crowded with tourist vehicles. If you don’t mind a little rain and you want to avoid the crowd, come in December or April to June (you’d also save money coming at this time!). Another great thing about this park- it’s fenced, so even during the wet months you will see wildlife because they cannot migrate away from the park.
The park opens at 7am. If you are traveling from Nairobi, then take the Naironi-Nakuru highway. On the way to Nakuru you will have a great view of the Rift Valley, so drive slow and enjoy the scenery! From Nairobi, it is about a 30-minute drive to a scenic overlook at 7200 feet (2200 meters) above sea level and from here you can get a spectacular view of the volcanoes Suswa and Longonot. There are also a group of great little curio shops at this stop where you can buy souvenirs. Seeing the entire park could take you a full day, so plan to arrive around 9am unless you have more than a day in the area. It might take you few minutes to get your ticket and the vehicle checked.
The park has very well established roads that make most parts of the park accessible by 2-wheel-drive vehicles. Some less-traveled parts and most viewpoint hills will require 4-wheel-drive. The park has three gates: the Main Gate and Lanet Gate that link the park with the Nairobi-Nakuru highway and the less-used Nderit Gate.
If you choose to fly: It’s about a 25-minute flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to the Naishi airstrip inside the park.
The entry fee is $60 for non-resident adult and $35 for non-resident child/student. If possible, pay in US$. If the fee is paid in Kenyan Shillings (KSH), the fee is converted to US$ at a highly unfavorable rate. For Kenyan nationals the fee is KSH 860 for adult, KSH 215 for child/student; for foreign adult residents of Kenya the fee is KSH 1,030 and one-half KSH 515 for child/student.
A really cool new thing that KWS has started is called SafariCard. You can buy a permanent one ahead of time and load it up with money to use at several of Kenya’s parks, or you can buy a temporary one at the gate, surrendered at the gate when you leave.
An additional vehicle fee is required, the amount of which is determined by the number of seats in your vehicle.
The best way to get around almost any national park is by car.
Do & See
Viewpoints (established- means you can park your vehicle, get out, and enjoy the view, take photos, even have a picnic on picnic tables present at these sites):
Hills (not established viewpoints):
It’s suggested that any gear you might need like sunscreen, bug repellant, camping gear, etc. be brought with you to Kenya as the highest quality stuff may not be readily available to you once you get there. If you’re staying in Nairobi you can probably find a lot of this stuff at a Tusky’s (large supermarket chain in Kenya), but it may still be a good idea to bring it from home.
Souvenirs can be bought inside the park in the lodge gift shops, but if you want to buy from one of these places make sure you budget for it. Stuff in these gift shops is not cheap. If you have time, it’s better to spend it exploring and shopping in the nearby Nakuru town. You can find the same stuff from locals here for 1/3 the price lodge gift shops ask for.
Eat & Drink
If you are staying outside the park or will only be in the area for a day, you should definitely bring your own food and drinks and enjoy them at one of the scenic picnic spots throughout the park. However, if your budget allows it, you can stop at one of the lodges in the park and try the buffet or the a la carte menu. These lodges also have poolside bars where you can grab a cold drink (try a Tusker!). Keep in mind though: eating at a lodge won’t be cheap (it’s usually around $40/person for lunch or dinner!).
If you plan to stay at a lodge in the park, they usually offer some sort of meal package that includes packed lunches for your day of game driving.
If you are staying in Nakuru town, see the page here for some restaurant suggestions.
If you are camping inside the park, you should also bring all your own food and supplies.
In the park
Special Campsites- include the grounds only
Public Campsites- include water and latrines
Note that there is NO water at Makalia and nothing else other than latrines but this is far better sight than Backpacker's which is at main gate and very noisy etc. Just make sure that you are self sufficient. You are almost certain to be visited by buffalo at night and hear the distant roar of lion - or maybe if you are lucky not o distant!!
To make reservations: Nakuru Tel: 254 20-2664071, 254 20-2664079 , 254 20-2671686 Fax: +254-20-607024 E-mail: [email protected]
Some general common-courtesy, safari-etiquette things that will keep you safe and keep you from getting yourself kicked out of the park:
For KWS’s official list of park rules and regulations, click here: http://www.kws.org/tourism/park_rules.html
The park closes at 6pm, and the last car is let in at 5:15. There are many things to see and do just outside Lake Nakuru National Park.