During peak season Lake Nakuru, in southwestern Kenya, hosts between one and two million flamingos. It’s a gathering that has been described as the greatest bird spectacle on Earth.
Flamingos flock to the lake to feed on its algae. The algae grows there partly because the lake is shallow and alkaline – conditions that algae thrive in – but also because there is so much bird poop in the water. It’s a chicken and egg paradox.
Lake Nakuru National Park
But Lake Nakuru National Park supports more than just birds. In fact the park has been considered a refuge for imperilled animals since the 1970s. The first refugees to Nakuru were a bunch of Rothschild’s Giraffes. Eastern White Rhinoceros followed. And Eastern Black Rhinoceros came behind them. Nakuru now has one of the highest concentrations of black rhinos in Africa.
The refugees were brought here to guard them from poachers. An electrified fence keeps the poachers out. Unfortunately the fence also restricts the animal’s movements, and prohibits migratory species from wandering through the park. Further expansions of the park’s boundaries are under consideration.
Ever wondered how much a rhinoceros poops? Me too.
Now I know.
The electric fence also allows the national park to extend right up to the edge of Nakuru township. Humans and wild animals living side-by-side, free of conflict over food and land. All thanks to the fence.
Speaking of dangerous animals, Cape Buffalo are a cantankerous creature at the best of times, but the ones in Nakuru are particularly nasty. Each buffalo we passed made it clear they intended to run us down if we came anywhere near them. Keep your distance from these brutes.
The Marabou Stork is my favourite bird in Africa. It’s the Grim Reaper of birds. The baby-delivering-stork that turned bad and now deals crack on the street corner.
We pulled up alongside this Olive Baboon as we noticed it was eating something peculiar. It’s lunchtime meal turned out to be a baby gazelle. I’ve heard they also eat the flamingos.
Think taking part in a safari takes extensive planning, preparation, and cost?
Well, it doesn’t. Just arrive in Nakuru the night before your intended visit to the park. Ask around the hotels and restaurants and you’ll find someone willing to take you into the national park in their car. It’ll cost about the same as hiring a taxi for the day. You might want to inspect the car first.
Nakuru is only 160 kilometres from Nairobi, so it can be done as a long day trip if desired. The best time to be in the park is early morning though, so it’s better to overnight in Nakuru.
Water levels dropped alarmingly in the 1990s, and there was concern that decades of deforestation, urbanisation, and conversion of woodland to crop-based agriculture in Kenya, along with climate change, had irreversibly altered the environmental conditions that created Lake Nakuru.
Water levels have increased again in recent years, but the same threat remains, and climate change is inescapable. All the more reason to start planning that trip to Lake Nakuru now.
Practical information and how to reach Lake Nakuru:
Nakuru is a 4 hour drive from Nairobi. We visited in October 2009. More transport info here.