Lake Nakuru's Animal Attraction
Lake Nakuru National Park in Africa was declared a rhino sanctuary in 1983 but, as Ute Junker discovers, rhinos are just one reason to visit.
You may not have heard of Lake Nakuru, but chances are that you have seen it on the big screen. This shimmering stretch of water on the floor of the Great Rift Valley featured in one of the most magical scenes in the movie Out of Africa
, in which Robert Redford takes Meryl Streep up in his biplane. The sprawling lake with its huge flocks of flamingoes
enchanted not just Meryl, but cinemagoers around the world.
Those flamingoes were not extras hired for the movie. Lake Nakuru has long drawn huge flocks of these eye-catching birds, which come here to feast on the blue-green algae that flourishes in the lake’s salty waters. When the conditions are right and the algae is in bloom, it is not unusual to find thousands of flamingoes thronging to the lake, along with some 400 other species of birds. In stark contrast to the graceful flamingoes are ungainly marabou storks, often cited as the ugliest bird in the world, which use their huge beaks to scavenge.
Birdwatchers are not the only ones who will be dazzled by Lake Nakuru. The lake provides a lifeline to animals that live in the surrounding forests and grasslands
, which makes this a great place to go on a game drive. Whether you come in the early morning or head out in the late afternoon as the heat cools and animals become more active, you can expect to see a wide range of interesting wildlife
There are fleet-footed antelope, including skittish impalas and muscly waterbucks
with their fearsome antlers. Other frequent sightings include quirky warthogs and elegant Rothschild’s giraffes
with their distinctive markings. Head for the forest at the southern end of the lake and you may even spot leopards or lions
. If you don’t see any big cats straight away, look up: it is not uncommon to spot female lions snoozing on the low-hanging branches of some of the sturdiest trees.
Perhaps the most thrilling sighting, however, is one of the park’s population of rhinoceros. Rhinos are among Africa’s most endangered animals, thanks to the ever-present threat of poachers. There are only around 20,000 white rhinos
left in Africa, while the black rhino is even rarer, with only about 5,000 individuals left. As one of Africa’s best-known rhino sanctuaries
, Lake Nakuru National Park
is one of the few places where you may be able to spot them.
Don’t let the name fool you, by the way; both species of rhino are actually grey in colour and look remarkably similar. The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at their mouths. The white rhino has a square lip while the black rhino has a hooked lip. This reflects the difference in their diets: the white rhinos are grass eaters while black rhinos browse on leaves from bushes or trees, and the hooked lip helps them pull the leaves off. Luckily, the park’s beautiful landscape offers both grass plains and bushlands
, and has seen a healthy population boom. See the range of wildlife for yourself on our 14 Day Kenya and Tanzania Adventure.