Two of the better-known lakes in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha are within easy reach of the capital, Nairobi. Each offers a distinctive safari experience and are often included in a Kenyan safari.

  • Part of the Great Rift Valley lake system
  • Within a one- to two-hour drive of Nairobi
  • Often included in Kenyan safari itineraries
  • Lake Nakuru is a soda lake, best known for its incredible numbers of flamingo and other water birds
  • Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake, a favourite feeding spot for a wealth of fish-eating birds, hippo and other wildlife

Great lakes of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Nakuru is situated some 160 km northwest of Nairobi and Lake Naivasha is only 102 km from the capital. Both offer a totally different safari experience and are easy to include on your itinerary.

Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru is often one of the first stops on Kenya safari itineraries for two reasons. It's a soda lake renowned for its incredibly large flocks of flamingos which literally turn the lake pink, their numbers reaching into the hundreds of thousands. It's said to be the 'greatest bird spectacle in the world'.

As it's within easy reach of Nairobi and is one of the few fenced national parks, it's a safe haven for black and white rhino because the rangers are better able to protect them from poachers. White rhinos are grazers and are found on the grassy floodplains around the lake. Black rhinos are browsers. They are found in the thick acacia woodlands in the southern reaches of the lake.

Lake Nakuru Lion Bibhash I Unsplash

Lake Nakuru lion

(Image: Bibhash I Unsplash)

Wildlife is plentiful and some of the more notable species include the endemic Rothschild's giraffe, large numbers of buffalo, waterbuck, reedbuck and other antelope and small numbers of lion and leopard. Apart from the flamingos, bird lovers should be able to spot large numbers of white pelicans and a myriad of other woodland and water birds.

Lake Naivasha

Lake Naivasha is an ancient freshwater lake in the Great Rift Valley and is set at its highest point, 1,890 m (6,200 ft) above sea level. The outlet for this lake, Njorwa Gorge, forms the entrance to Hell's Gate National Park which has spectacular examples of rock formations and an abundance of flora and fauna, including some extremely rare breeding pairs of Lammergeyers, also known as bearded vultures.

Lake Naivasha Pelican Photos by Beks I Unsplash

Lake Naivasha pelican

(Image: Photos by Beks I Unsplash)

Lake Naivasha is home to a wide variety of wildlife including a healthy population of hippo, a variety of freshwater fish like black bass, tilapia and crayfish, and many fish-eating birds like fish eagles, pelicans, kingfishers and cormorants.

Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort

Family friendly resort which attracts giraffe, waterbuck, Vervet and Colobus monkeys and hippos.

Mbweha Camp
Mbweha Camp - Lake Nakuru - Kenya

In addition to daily game drives through the scenic and game-rich Congreve Conservancy, Mbweha Camp in the Lake Nakuru area offers a variety of activities. This includes visits to hot springs at nearby Lake Elementaita, local prehistoric sites and the Menengai Crater as well as bicycle safaris and hot air ballooning over the majestic Great Rift Valley

Hell's Gate National Park

Birdwatcher, photographer, hiker, horseback rider, cyclist and camper wildlife haven.

Africa Travel Nairobi Giraffe Looks at Capital City Skyline from Nairobi National Park

Nairobi is usually your gateway into Kenya. While most safari visitors spend one night in the city on their way to or from their wildlife experience, Nairobi has great lodges and unique boutique hotels. The city is bursting with life from informal Maasai Markets lining the streets selling handmade arts and crafts to local tailors who can finish a beautifully made, bargain-friendly safari suit in 24 hours. Nairobi National Park with its dense concentration of black rhino is no more than 7 km from Nairobi's city centre.

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