Rift Valley Lakes

Grey crowned crane

Grey-crowned crane

The sheer basaltic cliffs of the Rift Valley northwest of Nairobi hem in a classic East African landscape of open savannah studded with jagged volcanic outcrops and strung with beautiful lakes. Large mammals are less prolific than in the likes of the Masai Mara or Amboseli, but the area is renowned for its prolific birdlife. The main attention-grabbers are the million-strong flocks of flamingos that frequently amass at saline lakes Nakuru and Bogoria.

Kenya, Lesser flamingos|

Lesser flamingos in Lake Naivasha

Then again, the freshwater lakes Naivasha and Baringo vie with each other for the accolade of ‘top general birding hotspot outside the natinal park system’. In addition, Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the best places in East Africa to look for both black and white rhino, while the likes of Crescent Island, Hell’s Gate National Park and Green Crater Lake Sanctuary offers great opportunities to see large wildlife on foot.

Highlights

Naivasha_Kenya The stunning Lake Naivasha during sunset

Fringed by fever-tree forests and low mountains, freshwater Lake Naivasha, only 90 km northwest of Nairobi, provides a superb ornithological primer for East Africa (resident birders talk glibly of ticking off 100 species before breakfast). The shallows host large numbers of hippo, while Crescent Island offers the opportunity to walk amongst giraffe, buffalo and waterbuck. A popular afternoon treat is high tea at Elsamere Field Study Centre, which boasts a small museum dedicated to its former owner Joy Adamson of Born Free fame, and lovely lakeshore gardens frequented by black-and-white colobus monkeys.

Hell's Gate National Park_Kenya Springbuck in Hell’s Gate National Park

Named after the twin basaltic cliffs that guard its northern entrance, Hell’s Gate National Park protects a dramatic volcanic landscape of ancient lava plugs, sulphuric water vents and obsidian outcrops. It is also one of the last places in East Africa where one can walk or bicycle unguided through herds of plains wildlife. Buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, gazelle and eland are resident, and elephant, lion and cheetah pass through occasionally.

Fish Eagle_Rift Valley_Kenya Fish Eagle, Lake Songasoi

The Green Crater Lake Sanctuary is a private reserve centred on the hyper-alkaline Lake Songasoi, which owes its verdant cast to a dense concentration of Spirulina algae. Nestled in a forested volcanic crater, the scenic lake often attracts large flocks of flamingo. Guided game walks or horseback excursions come with a good chance of spotting black-and-white Colobus monkey, buffalo and various antelope.

Mount Longonot_Kenya The impressive Mount Longonot

Dominating the skyline south of Naivasha, 2,776m-high Mount Longonot is a distinctive ragged-edged volcano that last erupted in the 1860s and is now protected in an eponymous national park. The crater rim offers fine views in all directions and the steep hike from the base takes around 90 minutes in either direction. It is also possible to the circumnavigate the full rim over 3-4 hours.

Lake Elmenteita_Kenya Lake Elmenteita drawns pleny of birds to it’s shores | Credit: Travel Notes

Situated entirely within the Delamere Estate, alkaline Lake Elmenteita has a primeval setting amongst a range of evocatively-shaped volcanic plugs. Superb views over the lake, whose shallows are frequently tinged pink by flamingos, can be obtained from a conspicuous hilltop cairn 2 km west of the main Naivasha-Nakuru Road.

Kariandusi Prehistoric Site_Kenya Excavated Homonid fossils at the Kariandusi Prehistoric Site

Excavated by Louis Leakey over 1928-31, Kariandusi Prehistoric Site was once a factory for the production of Stone Age tools, which have been unearthed there by the hundreds, made either from local lava rocks or from glassy obsidian sourced at nearby Mount Eburu.

Lake Nakuru_Kenya Lake Nakuru

An enduringly popular fixture on Kenya’s safari circuit, Lake Nakuru National Park is famed for its concentrations of up to two million flamingos, a phenomenon that Roger Tory Peterson proclaimed to be “the most fabulous bird spectacle in the world”. In recent years, the flamingos have more often been amassed at Lake Bogoria, but even without them, Nakuru is a splendid reserve, and an important stronghold for black rhino, white rhino and Rothschild’s giraffe. All the Big Five other than elephant are present too.

Nestled at the base of the sheer Laikipia Escarpment, Lake Bogoria National Reserve has in recent years replaced Nakuru as the place to see aggregations of hundreds of thousands of flamingos, which feed on the prolific blue-green algae. Other highlights include a scalding trio of primeval sulphuric geysers that empty into the alkaline lake along a network of multihued channels. Large wildlife is scarce in the surrounding overgrazed scrub, but the reserve is one of the last Kenyan strongholds for the greater kudu, which is most active at dusk.

Njemp Huts_Bogoria_Kenya Njemp children outside a traditional hut in Bogoria | Credit: Elsen Karstad

Freshwater Lake Baringo, set below the Rift Valley escarpment north of Bogoria, ranks among the top birding destinations in Kenya, with 500-plus species recorded in the immediate vicinity, notably such northern dry-country specials as white-crested turaco as well as Hemprich’s and Jackson’s hornbill. The lakeshore Njemps people specialise in fishing from flimsy balsa boats and a community project arranges boat trips to look for hippo, crocodile, monitors, lizards and aquatic birds.

Travel tips

  • Although domestic charter flights are available to certain sites, the Rift Valley lakes are readily accessible from Nairobi by surfaced roads, and the area is well-suited to self-drive tours or independent travel using public transport.

  • On more extended safaris, it is easy enough to divert to Naivasha en route between Nairobi and the Masai Mara. You could also stop overnight at Naivasha and/or Nakuru to break up the drive between the Masai Mara and more northerly reserves such as the Aberdares and Laikipia.

  • The shore of Lake Naivasha is lined with lodges, hotels and campsites catering to most tastes and budgets. At Lake Nakuru, a couple of upmarket lodges set within the park are supplemented by campsites and a few budget hotels in the neighbouring towns of Nakuru. There’s also good accommodation for all budget at Baringo. Options are fewer at Elmenteita and Bogoria.


You might also like

Luxury safari holiday in Kenya

Rekero Mara Camp Those with a taste for bush luxury can choose between a large selection of exclusive tented camps set community or private concessions bordering the Masai Mara and Amboseli or on the Laikipia Plateau. Typically these lodges combine classic ‘Out of Africa’-style accommodation with top-notch food, imported wines, well-trained staff and a range of expertly guided…

Highlights of Kenya

People keep coming back to Kenya for the amazing wildlife viewing | Credit: Kicheche Camps Kenya attracts plenty of repeat visitors. The main reason for this is the unpredictability of its game reserves (no two days on safari are ever alike) and its immense variety of safari destinations (it would be difficult to do full justice to more than half of them in the course of one…

Packing list for a Kenya holiday

Anti-malarial drugs are as good as essential and advice should be sought at least a few weeks in advance to be sure you use suitable medication. At the same time, check which (if any) vaccinations require updating. All over-the-counter medications are available at pharmacies in the larger cities, but not in game reserves or more isolated beach destinations, so best to buy any prescription…

Welcome to Kenya

The Great Migration in the Masai Mara is a highlight of a Kenyan safari Often regarded to be the ultimate safari destination, Kenya undoubtedly incorporates some of the continent’s most rewarding and exciting national parks and wildlife reserves. Best known is the incomparable Masai Mara, whose undulating green grasslands support staggering concentrations of lion, cheetah, spotted…

Kenya vs Uganda

Uganda is a great destination for a gorilla trekking safari Kenya is a better destination than Uganda when it comes to quality Big Five sightings and plains wildlife in general. Its game reserves tend to be far larger than their counterparts in Uganda, and to offer a more varied selection of lodges and tented camps. Equally, Uganda offers several attractions not found in Kenya or…

Lodges in Kenya: The dos and don’ts

Lake Nakuru Deloraine House Never walk unaccompanied after dark in the bush or an unfenced camp or lodge. Don’t feed the wildlife – not only does it encourage a dependency on handouts to survive, but it may also foster problem animals. Don’t leave cash or other valuables lying around in the room. Do cover up in the evenings, spray exposed skin with repellent, and sleep under a…

Popular Kenya Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

Asilia Africa | Spectacular July to September Wildebeest River Crossings  (10 days)

Spectacular July to September Wildebeest River Crossings (10 days)

Experience one of Africa's greatest spectacles – smell the dust and hear the noise of thousands of animals crossing the Mara River in an epic struggle for survival...

 | Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania (8 days)

Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania (8 days)

See the beauty of nature's greatest wildlife spectacle in two countries...

 | Gorilla trekking and the Great Migration Combined (11 days)

Gorilla trekking and the Great Migration Combined (11 days)

Unforgettable experience in the jungles of Rwanda to track the last Mountain gorillas on earth and view the awesome Great Migration river crossings...

Giraffes | Special Five Safari in Kenya’s Samburu (8 days)

Special Five Safari in Kenya's Samburu (8 days)

Even if you've seen the Big Five and the Great Migration, you'll appreciate the different beauty of animals like reticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, gerenuk and bongo...

 | Best of Africa Safari (16 days)

Best of Africa Safari (16 days)

Experience the best of Africa, from the Okavango Delta – one of Africa's Seven Natural Wonders – to the endangered mountain gorillas and East Africa's Great Migration...

Enjoying a sundowner whilst watching the wildebeest migration.  | HerdTracker Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Journey (7 days)

HerdTracker Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Journey (7 days)

Witness the wildebeest migration in Kenya's iconic Masai Mara National Reserve with HerdTracker...

 | Wilderness safari in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe (10 days)

Wilderness safari in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe (10 days)

Why not visit more than one exciting African destination? See the Great Migration, Victoria Falls and wildlife-rich Hwange National Park...

 | Masai Mara Safari Adventure (6 days)

Masai Mara Safari Adventure (6 days)

Explore the jewel in Kenya's crown; the wildlife-rich Masai Mara National Reserve...

 | Kenya Naturalist Safari (7 days)

Kenya Naturalist Safari (7 days)

Search for the near-extinct hirola antelope in Tsavo East, find Africa's largest elephants and visit Chyulu Hills to see Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak...

 | Kenya Bush and Beach Family Safari Itinerary (12 days)

Kenya Bush and Beach Family Safari Itinerary (12 days)

It's easy to see why so many visitors flock to Kenya from around the world to experience a truly unique African adventure in one of the world’s most pristine safari destinations....

Ready to start your adventure?

Your tailor-made African holiday starts here...

How can we get hold of you?

How many people will be travelling?

Details

Please tell us more about your travel plans?


Discover Africa needs the contact information you provide, to us to contact you. You may unsubscribe from these communications at anytime.

Submitting your inquiry

Thank you, your enquiry has been received

Thank you, your enquiry has been received

Reference:


   discover.africa
    info@discoverafrica.com
    8AM - 5PM GMT+2