Lake Nakuru is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes at an elevation of 1,754 m (5,755 ft) above sea level. It lies to the south of Nakuru, in the rift valley of Kenya and is protected by Lake Nakuru National Park.
Lake Nakuru National Park (188 km2, 73 mi2), was created in 1961 around Lake Nakuru, near Nakuru Town. It is best known for its thousands, sometimes millions of flamingos nesting along the shores. The surface of the shallow lake is often hardly recognizable due to the continually shifting mass of pink. The number of flamingos on the lake varies with water and food conditions and the best vantage point is from Baboon Cliff. Also of interest is an area of 188 km (116 mi) around the lake fenced off as a sanctuary to protect giraffes as well as both black and white rhinos.
Lake Nakuru National Park has recently been enlarged partly to provide the sanctuary for the black rhinos. This undertaking has necessitated a fence – to keep out poachers rather than to restrict the movement of wildlife. The park marches for 12.1 km on the south-eastern boundary with the Soysambu conservancy which represents a possible future expansion of habitat for the rhinos and the only remaining wildlife corridor to Lake Naivasha.
The park now (2009) has more than 25 eastern black rhinoceros, one of the largest concentrations in the country, plus around 70 southern white rhinos. There are also a number of Rothschild’s giraffe, again relocated for safety from western Kenya beginning in 1977. Waterbuck are very common and both the Kenyan subspecies are found here. Among the predators are lions, cheetahs, and leopards, the latter being seen much more frequently in recent times. The park also has large sized pythons that inhabit the dense woodlands, and can often be seen crossing the roads or dangling from trees.
Lake Nakuru National Park is world-famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth – myriads of fuchsia pink flamingos whose numbers are legion, often more than a million – or even two million. They feed on the abundant algae, which thrives in the warm waters. Scientists reckon that the flamingo population at Nakuru consumes about 250,000 kg of algae per hectare of surface area per year.
There are two types of flamingo species: the lesser flamingo can be distinguished by its deep red carmine bill and pink plumage unlike the greater, which has a bill with a black tip. The lesser flamingos are ones that are commonly pictured in documentaries mainly because they are large in number.
The flamingos feed on algae, created from their droppings mixing in the warm alkaline waters, and plankton. But flamingo are not the only avian attraction, also present are two large fish-eating birds, pelicans, and cormorants. Despite the tepid and alkaline waters, a diminutive fish, Alcolapia grahami has flourished after being introduced in the early 1960s. The lake is rich in other birdlife. There are over 400 resident species on the lake and in the surrounding park. Thousands of both little grebes and white-winged black terns are frequently seen as are stilts, avocets, ducks, and in the European winter the migrant waders.
As well as flamingos, Lake Nakuru National Park houses plenty of bird species that inhabit the lake and the area surrounding it, such as African fish eagle, Goliath heron, hamerkop, pied kingfisher and Verreaux’s eagle among others of their kind.
Other wildlife animals include warthogs, baboons and other large mammals, Giraffe, Eastern black rhinos and southern white rhinos.