Since major flooding incidents of 2012 to 2014, few of the wading birds choose to feed or breed in the national park, but abundant wildlife continues to enthral visitors
Karen Karimi @PeopleDailyKe
One of Kenya’s classic and most popular national parks, Lake Nakuru was once famed for the mirage-like mega-flock of pink flamingos that covered large parts of its shallow waters.
Their numbers tended to vary from year to year, but since major floods from 2012 to 2014 impacted the park, very few lesser flamingos choose to feed or breed here anymore. So don’t be misled by the hype from some safari companies, flamingos are not on the menu at Lake Nakuru National Park.
So, what is the main reason this park attracts many visitors? Why is it on so many itineraries? Good populations of large mammals in a small, contained area where sightings are as reliable as you could hope for. Plus the convenient location of the park roughly equidistant between Samburu and the Masai Mara, making it a permanent fixture and rest place on the long-established safari circuit, still beloved of Kenya’s mass-market safari operators of scheduled group trips.
Nakuru Town is located 86 miles (139 km) northeast of Nairobi straight as the crow flies but the driving distance is 158 km (a two-hour drive, normally three hours because of traffic jams). The lake lies on the southern fringes of Kenya’s fourth largest town, Nakuru.
The most commonly used route into the park is via the main gate, 4km from Nakuru town centre. It is also possible to enter the park from the main Nairobi-Nakuru road at Lanet Gate. The Nderit Gate is used by people accessing the park from Masai Mara or Elementaita.
Since the severe flooding, infrastructure around the lake has been rebuilt.
The main park road circles the lake and can be tackled in a couple of hours with occasional stops.
However, with the typically good wildlife sightings you’ll get here, a visit can easily be extended to six hours. The park’s woodland hosts a good population of leopards and lions, though they can be frustratingly hard to see. Black rhinos are usually tucked in thick bush too, while by contrast the unmistakably huge grazing forms of southern white rhinos are very easy to spot on the plains south of the lake.
Down here you’re also sure to see plenty of buffalos, hefty eland and shaggy waterbuck (Nakuru is Maasai for Place of the Waterbuck. Rare Rothschild giraffes can be seen on the open plains too. Notable absentees here are elephants and cheetahs.
Along the west side of the lake, the old lakeshore road is submerged, but a new road has been built that climbs through dense forest to the Baboon Cliff View Point and Picnic Site – a good place to take in the whole landscape of the park.
Lake Nakuru’s birdlife may no longer feature flamingos since the deeper, less alkaline waters don’t sustain the kind of saline ecosystem they need, but there’s a glorious roster of other birds for keen birders to enjoy, from pelicans and fish eagles to dozens of waterfowls. More than 400 other species from Verreaux’s eagle to Narina trogon are hosted here.
The best part of my trip was a one night stay at the Lake Nakuru Lodge courtesy of George Kamau, the hotel’s marketing manager. Lake Nakuru Lodge is a beautiful eco-lodge situated inside the park, boasting unobstructed views of the lake and wildlife.
The lodge is an oasis of comfort and excellent service. This property also has one of the best-rated locations in Nakuru. Meals may be ordered at the onsite restaurant, which prepares a variety of dishes. The bar/lounge serves as a relaxation spot for guests.
The hotel also boasts a large Olympic-sized outdoor pool where guests can enjoy swimming sessions. Couples will find the double bedrooms ideal while some of the other rooms have an additional single bed. Sliding glass doors lead to a raised front-deck that has patio furniture so you can relax and enjoy views of the gardens, lake or the park and perchance watch visiting birds and small animals.
The premises are equipped with CCTV cameras and guarded by security personnel. Families travelling with kids will find Lake Nakuru National Park a safari destination like no other, with less tourist traffic, breathtaking open space.
After an early morning drive of your Nakuru lake trip, you can head back to the lodge in time for a hot buffet breakfast at Mutarakwa Restaurant. Afterwards, you can relax beside the pool in easy loungers or stop at the Mama Nikki Bar. A buffet lunch and perhaps a quick siesta awaits you until it is time for your afternoon game drive.
The afternoons are a fine time to visit the acacia and euphorbia forests because they offer a cool, shady environ for many animals from the heat of the sun. The southern end of the lake is the best place to see wildlife. The forested area below Flamingo Hill is a favourite lion-spotting point – lionesses love to sleep in the trees – while leopards frequent the same area, and are also sometimes seen around the Makalia camp.
The lodge can also arrange a picnic lunch for you at the Hippo Pool close to the Baharini Springs. Visit the Mama Nikki Bar for evening cocktails and enjoy the cultural events the lodge organises for guests to make their adventurous East African holiday even more memorable. Relish a barbecue dinner under the stars or a buffet dinner at the restaurant before you turn in for the day.