Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru forms part of the Eastern Rift Valley, and has been a National Park since 1968. It was especially famous for the millions of flamingoes, which would flock to the soda lake for its rich blue-green algae. However, since the raise in water levels, flamingoes only flock to the lake when the conditions are just right. The park is beautiful all year round, with acacia forests, a savannah, as well as a swamp and the Makalia Falls which is situated on the southern end of the park. Lake Nakuru is also world-famous for the 400 different bird species that can be spotted there, making it a birdwatchers dream come true.

  • Best Time To Go

    June-March; Bird breeding season (November-April)

  • Average Safari Cost

    $100 - $600 pp/day

  • Highlights

    The elusive leopard, black and white rhino, flamingoes (when the conditions are right) tree-climbing lions, cheetahs and the wild cat, four of the Big Five, newborn animals in the Wet season, Rothschild giraffes, Makalia Falls

Why Visit Lake Nakuru?

The mesmerizing vision of pink on the water had always been the main draw of Lake Nakuru. The flamingoes gathered there in the millions, drawn to the blue-green algae. However, this changed in 2014, when water levels rose, and forced the beautiful pink birds to migrate to a different soda lake in Rift Valley.

The park is considered to be breathtaking all year round, with steep rocky escarpments on three sides, dense woodland forests in which different species of monkeys claim as their homes, and bushy grassland which makes for the perfect stalking ground for large and small predators. The park also contains a savannah, a swamp, and the Makalia Falls. Lake Nakuru is situated at a higher altitude than most national parks, which creates the perfect opportunity for visitors to view the remarkable landscape from countless hilltops.

Although Lake Nakuru is too small to support any elephants, it is still the most popular National Park in Kenya, with the other four member of the Big Five present.

Pros And Cons

This small National Park is ideal for first-time safari goers, as well as for families with small children.

Both the Black rhinos, and the endangered Rothschild’s giraffes, are protected at the park. Occasionally, an elusive leopard may by spotted in the trees, and, perhaps even rarer, a cheetah hunting in the grasslands. The park is also home to other predators, such as lions, wild cats and hyenas. Buffalo, impala, gazelle, hippo, as well as many other mammals claim Lake Nakuru as their home, as well.

The land is not only the thing that blooms and grows when the rains come. The baby animals are usually born during the Wet season, and I for one, would consider seeing the calves and cubs worth any trouble that the wet weather would cause the game drive.

Birdwatching is one of the main attractions to Lake Nakuru, as the park hosts roughly 400 different bird species, including flamingoes, pelicans, eagles, and many more.


Best Time To Visit

The dry season (June-February), is usually the best time to visit Lake Nakuru. This time of the year is sunny and dry, but rarely hot, since Lake Nakuru is situtated at a higher altitude.

During the wet season (March-May), the game drives are not as exciting, as the ground will be wet, and there will be an increase in mosquitoes, all of which makes for an uncomfortable journey.

The dry season is best for bird watching, as migratory birds will arrive from October, in order to avoid the cold European weather. Another thing to consider is that, from November to April, is breeding season for birds, and many will be nesting at Lake Nakuru during this time. The grasses are also usually longer in the wet season, which, coupled with rainy weather, will make game viewing more challenging.

If you are interested in a less crowded drive, with possibly lower rates, and viewing newborn animals, then the wet season may be best for you. However, the dry season offers great game viewing, as well as bird watching. It does get rather crowed in the dry season, but the beautiful Rift Valley scenery, and the abundance of game and birds, makes it all worth it.

For more details about when to visit broken down by months/seasons see our Botswana overview.

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Wildlife And Birds

The game reserve was created to surround the lake in 1968, and Black rhino and Rothschild giraffes are protected here. Lions, hyena, the elusive leopard and a rarely seen cheetah, all claim the park as their home, along with Bohor reedbuck, defassa waterbuck, hippo and many more. The park also offers a variety of monkeys hiding in the acacia trees.

If you are passing through Lake Nakuru to the Mara, or Aberdares, then the lake and its surrounds makes for a great overnight camping spot and, if you are visiting Lake Nakuru for the day, the lake is the perfect spot for a picnic.

List Of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • White Rhino

Rare Animals:

  • Cheetah
  • Tree-climbing lion
  • Wild cat
  • Wildebeest
  • Rothschild giraffes

Frequently Seen Animals:

  • White rhiano
  • Bohor reedbuck
  • Defassa waterbuck
  • Hippos
  • Thomson’s gazelle
  • Buffalo
  • Burchell’s zebra
  • Vervet monkey
  • Olive baboon
  • Black-and-white colobus monkey

Infrequently Seen Animals:

Black rhino

  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Hyena


Lake Nakuru is known as an ‘ornithological paradise’ due to the millions of flamingoes that converge at the lake. It is the ‘greatest bird spectacle on earth’, and draws birdwatchers from around the globe. The lake is also ‘an important stop on the African-Eurasian migratory flyway’, which makes it possible to see 400 different species of birds during their nesting and breeding period between November and April. Along with the flamingoes, there are spoonbills, eagles, hundreds of pelicans, and many more.

Endangered Birds:

  • White-headed Vulture
  • Lappet-faced Vulture
  • White-backed Vulture
  • Rueppell’s Griffon
  • Greater-spotted Eagle
  • Imperial Eagle
  • Gray Crowned Crane
  • Abyssinian Thrush

Endemic Birds:

  • Arrow-marked babbler
  • Bateleur
  • Black-tailed godwit
  • Black-tailed lapwing
  • Brimstone canary
  • Brown-back scrub robin
  • Crab-plover
  • European roler
  • Grey-headed woodpecker
  • Great snipe
  • Hildebrandt’s starling
  • Kenya rufous sparrow
  • Lesser flamingo
  • Lesser kestrel
  • Long-tailed windowbird
  • Maccoa duck
  • Montane white-eye
  • Northern puffback
  • Pallid harrier
  • Red-capped lark
  • Rufous-throated wryneck
  • Rϋppell’s robin-chat
  • Schalow’s wheatear
  • Shining sunbird
  • Slender-biled greenbul
  • Sooty falcon
  • Speke’s weaver
  • Western reef heron
  • White-faced bee-eater

Getting There And Safety

Located at 155km northwest of Nairobi, and 5km from the town of Nakuru, Lake Nakuru is an easy destination to get to by car.

Nairobi is the entry point by which many visitors arrive to Kenya. Internal flights arrive in Jomo Kenyatta Internal Airport (HBO), and from there, it is 15km to Nairobi.

Lake Nakuru can also be reached from several other parks that fall into the Eastern Rift Valley. If you are coming from Masai Mara, the drive time would be roughly six hours, from Samburu to Lake Nakuru would be five and a half hours, and coming from Laikipia Plateau, the drive could be between three and seven hours, largely depending on which reserve you are coming from.


If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Kenya

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Kenya

For more details about flights, see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Kenya. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check the World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of the safari trip cover.

What To Pack

A hat, sunscreen and insect repellent, are staples on a game drive. It is not advisable to wear bright or colorful clothing. Do not wear heavy perfume either. You should bring warm clothes along, especially for early morning drives and overnight stays at the park, since Lake Nakuru is situated at a higher altitude, and the weather will be cooler between sunset and sunrise.

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.

Security Of The Park
Security at the park is high, and as such, the park itself is considered safe, even for overnight stays. It is always adivisable to listen to your guide and follow all instructions and safety precautions. It is also a good idea not to wander off from the group, not even to pee behind a push. If this becomes a concern, ask the guide for advice on where to go.
Walking In The Park
Caution is advised when walking around any of the townships in Kenya. It is important never to go anywhere alone, and having a guide is preferable. Do not wear jewelry, or have money visible. Do not walk around with your passport or credit cards – leave them in a safety deposit box at the hotel. It is also important that you do not walk around at night – take a taxi if you are out at night. It is also a good idea to check with hotel staff first, as to whether the area is safe or not.
Malaria Risk And Vaccinations

Most Safari parks are high-risk zones, and before coming to Nairobi, you should ensure that all your vaccinations are up-to-date. This is especially important during the rainy season.

For more details about malaria and vaccinations, see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.