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Lake Nakuru

Coordinates: 0°22′S 36°05′E / 0.367°S 36.083°E / -0.367; 36.083
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Lake Nakuru
View of lake from Baboon cliff
Location of lake in Kenya
Location of lake in Kenya
Lake Nakuru
LocationRift valley
Coordinates0°22′S 36°05′E / 0.367°S 36.083°E / -0.367; 36.083
Lake typealkaline lake
Primary outflowsLake Nakuru has no outflow. No rivers or cracks flowing out of Lake Nakuru
Basin countriesKenya
Surface area5 to 45 km2 (1.9 to 17.4 sq mi)
Average depth1 foot (0.30 m)
Max. depth6 feet (1.8 m)
Surface elevation1,754 m (5,755 ft)
FrozenLake Nakuru is nestled in the vast great Rift Valley. The lake never freezes.
Designated5 June 1990
Reference no.476[1]

Lake Nakuru is one of the Rift Valley lakes, located 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.

The lake's abundance of algae used to attract a vast quantity of flamingos that famously lined the shore. Other birds also flourish in the area, as do warthogs, baboons and other large mammals. Eastern black rhinos and southern white rhinos have also been introduced.

About 10,000 years ago, Lake Nakuru, together with neighboring Lake Elementaita and Lake Naivasha (60 km further south), formed one single, deep freshwater lake that eventually dried up, leaving the three lakes as remnants.[2]

Water levels in Lake Nakuru have since varied considerably, with the lake almost drying up several times over the past 50 years.[2]  The latest significant drop happened in the early 1990s. In 2013, levels again increased rapidly, leading to the migration of many flamingos to Lake Bogoria in search of food supply.[3] Between 2010 and 2020 Lake Nakuru increased in surface area from 40 to 68 square kilometres (15 to 26 sq mi).[4] 677 households, parts of Nakuru town and some National Park areas had been flooded.[5]

Nakuru means "Dust or Dusty Place" in the Maasai language. Lake Nakuru National Park, close to Nakuru town, was established in 1961. It started off small, only encompassing the famous lake and the surrounding mountainous vicinity, but has since been extended to include a large part of the savannahs.

Lake Nakuru is protected under the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.[6]

Lake Nakuru National Park

National Park entrance
Flamingos feeding at Lake Nakuru

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 [7]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 [8]and the best vantage point is from Baboon Cliff. Also, of interest is an area of 188 km (117 mi)around the lake fenced off as a sanctuary to protect giraffes as well as both black and white rhinos.

The park has recently been enlarged partly to provide a sanctuary for black rhinos. This endeavour has necessitated a fence - to keep out poachers rather than to restrict the movement of wildlife. The park stretches for 12.1 km (7.5 mi) 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.[9]

As well as flamingos, there are a myriad of other 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.

Lake Nakuru panoramic from Baboon Cliff

Habitat and wildlife

White Rhinos

Lake Nakuru, a small (varying from 5 to 45 square kilometres [1.9 to 17.4 sq mi]) shallow alkaline lake on the southern edge of the town of Nakuru lies about 164 kilometres (102 mi) north of Nairobi. It can therefore be visited in a day tour from the capital or more likely as part of a circuit including the Masai Mara (Also Maasai Mara) or Lake Baringo and eastwards up to Samburu. The lake is world-famous as the location of one of the greatest bird spectacle on earth – myriads of fuchsia pink flamingos, of which there are often more than a million, or even two million.[10] 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 (550,000 lb) of algae per hectare of surface area per year.

There are two types of flamingo species: the lesser flamingo (shorter and lighter) and the greater flamingo (taller and darker). The lesser flamingos are more commonly pictured in documentaries mainly because their larger numbers. The number of flamingos has been decreasing recently, possibly due to too much tourism or by pollution resulting from industrial waste dumping into the water sources in the surrounding area - changes in water quality make the lake temporarily inhospitable for flamingoes. Usually, the lake recedes during the dry season and floods during the wet season.[11][12]

In recent years, there have been wide variations between the dry and wet seasons' water levels. It is suspected that this is caused by increasing watershed land conversion to intensive crop production and urbanization, both which reduce the capacity of soils to absorb water, recharge ground water and thus increase seasonal flooding.[13] Pollution and drought destroy the flamingos' food, Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, causing them to migrate to the nearby Lakes, more recently lakes Elementaita, Simbi Nyaima and Bogoria.[14] Local climate changes have also been hypothesized to contribute to the changing environmental conditions in the lakes catchment. Recent media reports indicate increasing concern among stakeholders, as mass flamingo migrations and deaths could spell doom to the tourism industry.[15]

The flamingos feed on algae, created from their droppings into 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 bird life too. 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.

Zooplankton: The monogonont rotifer species Brachionus sp. Austria (belonging to the Brachionus plicatilis cryptic species complex) occurs in the lake.

Flamingos on Lake Nakuru

See also


Properties and lodges


(listed alphabetically)[16]


  1. ^ "Lake Nakuru". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Lake Nakuru | Lake Nakuru | World Lake Database - ILEC". wldb.ilec.or.jp. Retrieved 2024-04-09.
  3. ^ "Lake Nakuru water levels rise as flamingoes move to Lake Bogoria". Archived from the original on 2014-05-29. Retrieved 2014-05-29.
  4. ^ Tobiko, Keriako (2021). "Rising Water Levels in Kenya's Rift Valley Lakes, Turkwel Gorge Dam and Lake Victoria" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2022-04-28. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  5. ^ Baraka, Carey (2022-03-17). "A drowning world: Kenya's quiet slide underwater". the Guardian. Retrieved 2022-03-17.
  6. ^ "Small Grants Fund project on ecotourism potential at Kenya's Lake Nakuru". Ramsar. 2006-03-28. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
  7. ^ "New hope for flamingo birds in Lake Nakuru". Nation. 2024-02-02. Retrieved 2024-03-30.
  8. ^ Chebet, Caroline. "Why flamingo populations are on the decline". The Standard. Retrieved 2024-03-30.
  9. ^ Kahenda, Mercy. "Residents' nightmare as rare visitors come calling, wreak havoc". The Standard. Retrieved 2024-03-30.
  10. ^ "Long-missed pink flamingos return to Kenya's Lake Nakuru". Reuters. 2020-09-03. Retrieved 2023-01-03.
  11. ^ The Lewiston Tribune. The Lewiston Tribune.
  12. ^ St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg Times.
  13. ^ Park City Daily News. Park City Daily News.
  14. ^ The Victoria Advocate. The Victoria Advocate.
  15. ^ Reading Eagle. Reading Eagle.
  16. ^ Lake Nakura National Park