Rift Valley Lakes: Lake Nakuru, Naivasha & Elmenteita

Some of Kenya’s most enduring images have been captured in and around the country’s Rift Valley lakes, their surfaces a shimmering mass of thousands of pink flamingos.

The Kenyan section of the Rift Valley is home to eight lakes, the most famous surely being Lake Nakuru, whose algae-rich warm alkaline waters attract thousands if not millions of pink flamingo. Its shores – protected by a national park that shares its name – are home to both black and white rhino as well as a number of rare Rothschild’s giraffe.

Lake Elmenteita lies about an hour by road to Nakuru’s southeast, a much smaller, shallower soda lake whose waters are a deep blue-green. A RAMSAR site since 2005, Elmenteita is paradise for bird-watchers with over 400 individual avian species recorded in and around the lake including two types of flamingo, African Spoonbill and Great White Pelican. Close to the lake is the Kariandusi Museum, which showcases the prehistoric site where paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey discovered tools used by Early Stone age man in 1928.

Freshwater Lake Naivasha is the farthest south and in addition to prolific birdlife, boasts a sizeable population of hippos. Small but spectacular Hells Gate National Park is situated nearby, and offers visitors an opportunity to hike and cycle amid extinct volcanoes, towering cliffs and deep gorges inhabited by a range of wild animals including zebra, eland and gazelle. Look up, because this park is home to an array of endangered raptors and vultures that are commonly seen circling overhead.


Rift Valley Lakes Highlights

  • See some of Kenya’s most iconic scenery
  • Rich birdlife including flocks of flamingo
  • Rhinos in Lake Nakuru National Park
  • Impressive Hells’ Gate National Park
  • Fascinating volcanic landscapes and early human history

When To Go

These three Rift Valley lakes lie at quite high elevations, so the climate is relatively mild all year round. If you’re hoping to see flamingos, it’s worth noting that their population varies according to the alkalinity of the soda lakes. As such, the more rainfall there is, the less alkaline the waters and consequently, the less flamingos there are likely to be. Therefore it might be worthwhile planning your trip to coincide with the drier months (July to October).

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Rift Valley Lakes Accommodation

The following are some of the safari lodges that we recommend in the Rift Valley Lakes region. For information on additional accommodation not featured, please contact us.

Featured Private Kenya Sample Itineraries

The following itineraries are just some of the many experiences that we can design for you. All of our tours are private, independent and tailor-made to your personal travelling requirements. Please contact us to begin creating your personalised Kenya experience.

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Kenya Overview

Why Kenya: Since the early 19th century Kenya has captivated visitors with its astounding quantity and diversity of wildlife as well as with its majestic scenery. The country has well-established tourist infrastructure and a good standard of accommodation.

Game Viewing: Excellent game-viewing year round. Jul-Sep is popular when the wildebeest migration is in the Masai Mara.

Culture: Maasai and Samburu pastoralists who continue their traditional way of life.

Climate: Temperate climate (22°- 25°C) due to high altitude but hot in low-lying areas like the Rift Valley (30°- 35°C). Hot and humid along the coast. “Long rains” take place in Apr/May, whilst “short rains” occur in mid-Oct to mid-Dec.

Combine With: Tanzania, which is situated on Kenya’s southern border and is easily reached by road or air from Nairobi. Mt Kilimanjaro straddles the two countries and Kenya’s Masai Mara is part of Tanzania’s Serengeti ecosystem, the arena for the wildebeest migration.

Getting There: The gateway to Kenya is Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Nairobi is linked by daily air services from Australia via the UAE or Qatar in the Middle East or via Johannesburg in South Africa.

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