The Great Rift Valley cuts Kenya in two and stretches beyond its borders north to Ethiopia and south across Tanzania all the way to Mozambique. Along the Rift Valley floor there is a series of beautiful lakes, including some of the oldest, the deepest and largest […]

Rift Valley Lakes

The Great Rift Valley cuts Kenya in two and stretches beyond its borders north to Ethiopia and south across Tanzania all the way to Mozambique. Along the Rift Valley floor there is a series of beautiful lakes, including some of the oldest, the deepest and largest in the world. In Kenya the main lakes are, from north to south, Lake Turkana, Lake Logipi, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Elementeita and Lake Magadi. Just across the border into Tanzania is Lake Natron. 

Most of these lakes are alkaline and a couple of them, Naivasha and Baringo, are fresh water lakes and host an amazing concentration of birds species, both on the shores and on the lake itself. Photographically, Lake Turkana is amazing for landscapes, especially when seen from the air, less so for wildlife. One of the main wildlife attractions on the alkaline lake are the colonies of Lesser and Greater Flamingos. Hundreds of thousands of these amazing birds thrive on these lakes. They breed primarily on Lake Natron, in Tanzania, and then move across the Rift Valley following the best conditions to find food. 

Historically, Lake Nakuru has been the most popular place to see them and photograph them. However, in recent years (since 2012), the water level of the lake has risen so high that Flamingos have basically abandoned this lake as the salinity of the water is not enough to produce the algae they feed on in the desired quantities. Flamingos are highly mobile and predicting exactly where they will concentrate is very difficult as it strongly depends on the rain pattern and the availability of food. Lake Bogoria is often the best place to see them, although also here the water level has risen significantly in recent years, covering almost completely the hot springs on the shores. 

Lake Nakuru is the heart of the Lake Nakuru National Park, which also hosts a great concentration of wildlife in the forests and plains surrounding the lake. This includes Black and White Rhinoceroses, Rotschild’s Giraffes, Leopards and tree-climbing Lions. The Yellow-fever Acacia forest is amazing and provides a unique habitat for wildlife. Game viewing is not as stunning as it was ten years ago, due to the lake having covered most of the plains and the network of tracks, but there are still good opportunities and a visit here is recommended if you are keen on images of wildlife in beautiful habitats. 

Lake Magadi, almost at the border with Tanzania, is a stunning soda lake at the heart of a very arid area, swept by dust.storms. The colors on the lake are truly amazing and unique, and are best observed from the air. Colors are constantly changing according to the water levels. Flamingos inhabit the lake and photographing them from the air is a thrilling experience. The surrounding wilderness is a community conservancy which still hosts Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards, Elephants along with plains game. A visit here is highly recommended in the dry season.