Lake Nakuru is one of the main feeding and breeding sites of the East African population of Lesser Flamingos. It is an alkaline lake, whose shallow waters are rich in nutrients for the flamingos that gather here in their thousands, especially during the months of June to September. However, the movement of the Flamingos is affected by the water levels in the various lakes along the Rift Valley. If water levels are too high, the algae on which Flamingos feed will not develop, causing the Flamingos to move to other lakes. The Rift Valley population of Flamingos breeds mostly in Lake Natron, in Northern Tanzania, between December and February. From there they move to other alkaline lakes in search of feeding, from Lakes Manyara, Magadi, in the Ngorongoro Crater, all the way to Lake Logipi in Northern Kenya. In Kenya, the best sites to see Flamingos are Lake Nakuru, Bogoria and Oloidien when conditions are right.
In Lake Nakuru NP, photo opportunities with these extraordinary birds are plentiful, especially at and shortly after dawn and sunset. The beach surrounding the lake is a favorite hunting ground for the resident Spotted Hyenas, who have developed a technique to catch the flamingos. They launch into the water towards the flock, running tirelessly until a weak example is singled out. Then the Steppe Eagles, Fish Eagles and Marabous share the scraps of the Hyenas’ meals, providing some interesting interactions.
From the year 2011 the number of Flamingos visiting Lake Nakuru has diminished dramatically, due to the sharp increase in the water level in the lake after abundant rains in the country for the past few years. The lake has become a fresh water lake, and the Flamingos cannot find their food anymore. This attracted many other water birds instead, such as Pelicans and Storks. The plains surrounding the lake have all been covered by water. Even the main road circling around the lake has been taken over by the rising water and has become in many parts unaccessible.
Besides the Flamingos, when the water level is high due to heavy rainfall, also fresh-water birds frequent the lake, such as Great White Pelicans and Yellow-billed Storks use the lake as their fishing ground, and hundreds of them can be seen near where the sweet water’s streams enter the lake.
But Lake Nakuru NP is not only a heaven for aquatic birds. Around the lake open savannah plains and Yellow-fever Acacia forests spread out. Here most species of herbivores thrive, among which the White and Black Rhinoceroses stand out. It is one of the best places in Kenya to watch Rhinos. White Rhinos in particular are extremely common and are easily approached and photographed, sometimes with the nice morning mist surrounding them, or with the calves trotting behind their mothers.
The park is home also to a good population of Lions and Leopards which can be seen in the Acacia forest or on rocky slopes.
It is an excellent location for photographers due to the high concentration of animals and the colony of Flamingos. The network of tracks and roads is limited and there is a strict no-off road policy, except on the beach on the lake shore. Though it is a relatively small park, at only 188 sq kms, an extended stay provides better opportunities to find the ideal conditions for photography.
Many of our scheduled safaris include Lake Nakuru NP in the itinerary. We always sleep inside the park, in order to be able to reach the lake shore or the Acacia forest well before sunrise, in the most fascinating light and when the morning mist appear.
Check out our “Best of Kenya” safaris and the “Migration and Flamingos” programs or contact us to plan a tailored itinerary centered on the Rift Valley lakes.
See the full photo gallery of Lake Nakuru.