In early April, just before the restrictions of movement were put in place here in Kenya, we visited Lake Nakuru National Park for the day – only a ninety minute drive from Loldia House and the scenic shores of Lake Naivasha. We left Loldia just before dawn to ensure we reached the park nice and early to catch the morning’s golden rays – it was well worth it and we had the park to ourselves.
Lake Naukuru National Park – a haven for waterbirds – photo credit Alisa Karstad
Arriving at Lanet Gate (which is on the northeastern side of the Lake), we paid our park entry and descended straight down to the lakeshore. Within the first five minutes we were lucky enough to come across four Eastern black rhino, who were grazing on a kopje to the North of us. Lake Nakuru NNP is home to twenty five of these highly endangered species – and unlike the White Rhino, they are a lot shyer and tend to stick to the thicker foliage – so they can be quite hard to spot. What a treat to see them but unfortunately too difficult to photograph.
April is one of Kenya’s wettest months; the rain rejuvenates the grasses and creates alternative drinking sources of rainwater for the animals – since they cannot drink from the Lake due to its high alkalinity levels. We were delighted to see that the wildlife was thriving; we saw strong herds of eland, buffalo, waterbuck, impala and zebra, just to name a few, out on the open plains above the lake.
As we approached the lake, we drove through acacia forest that dominates much of the lake shore. Still early, Olive baboons and Vervet monkeys were descending from their nightly roosts in the trees: the youngsters were full of spritely mischief clearly testing the patience of the more groggy adult family members.
Curious Vervet monkey – photo credit Alisa Karstad
We also encountered two adult male buffalos rutting in the thicket; this being the mating season, testosterone levels are high and such behavioural displays are not uncommon between the months of March and June.
A Red-billed Oxpecker perched on a buffalo’s back – photo credit Alisa Karstad
Arriving at the lakeshore itself, it was clear to see why Lake Nakuru National Park is regarded as one of the best places in the world for birdlife; the beautiful morning light emphasised a kaleidoscope of colours from various bird species that were congregated both in and around the Lake. Pink feathered Greater and Lesser flamingos were happily indulging on the brine shrimp which thrive in these alkaline waters while Great white pelicans, Black-winged stilts, cormorants, egrets, Hotentot teals and Grey headed kingfishers were scattered about in their thousands. Did you know that Lake Nakuru National Park has over five hundred species of birds?
A multitude of bird species can be seen at the lakeshore – photo credit Alisa Karstad
The lake has no major outlet and it is relatively shallow, reaching only two and a half meters at its deepest – hence its high salinity. As a result of both of these factors, the lake levels fluctuate significantly from year to year; a clear indication of this is the many dead (or dying) acacia trees that can be seen far out into the water. The size of the Park is one hundred and eighty eight kilometers squared and the lake can cover anywhere between five to forty five kilometers squared depending on the time of year and rainfall patterns.
As we continued on with our trip, we headed south – passing by a group of over ten Southern white rhinos enjoying the mid morning sun. A highlight of this particular sighting was a mother and her calf of about twelve months old. The park is a sanctuary to over seventy Southern White rhino; to see both black and white rhino species is a bonus for guests, and one that many other parks and wildlife areas across the continent can’t offer.
Southern White rhino mother and calf – photo credit Alisa Karstad
On the very southern end of the park are the Makalia Falls – our final destination and where we decided to break for a picnic. The Makalia River was in full flow and we watched in awe as the water roared over the ten meter drop – well worth the visit and quite the spectacle! At the falls there are picnic tables provided under the shade of the acacias – thank you to Loldia House who had packed the most delicious breakfast for us.
Winding back up the western side of the lake, we stopped off at a number of viewpoints on the cliff tops that provided stunning views from over two hundred meters up; these vantage points give a good lay of the land and lake below. The area is home to large troops of Olive Baboons that roost safely on the cliff face at night. It is always a pleasure to sit back and watch these characters (when they aren’t trying to steal your food!), as they display very complex social structures and in many ways their behaviour is extremely similar to that of humans.
On the northwestern side of the park, we spotted a lone Guereza colobus catching some shade from the midday sun in the acacia forests by the lake shore. These monkeys are usually seen in highland areas of kenya; they feed only on plant foliage and unlike many of the old-world primates of Africa, they lack thumbs.
Lake Nakuru is definitely one of the ten best parks and nature attractions in Kenya – a real gem well worth visiting. Located on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, the area is a haven for a multitude of animal and bird species and offers an incredibly beautiful and unique landscape – we can’t recommend a visit highly enough.
A Silver-backed jackal pup on the lookout – photo credit Alisa Karstad
Easily accessed from Loldia House, part of the Governors’ Camp Collection of properties, Lake Nakuru National Park makes for a very enjoyable day trip and Big Five experience – especially the rhinos if that’s what you are after. We have put together a short video to give a better understanding of the excursion, and a small taster of what can be found in the park.
WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.
By Thor Karstad for Governors’ Camp Collection.