Naivasha, Nakuru & the Rift Valley
The freshwater and soda lakes of Kenya’s Rift Valley offer dramatic scenery, a chance for relaxation, and some usual features such as steaming hot springs and, of course, wildlife.
Great flocks of flamingos and pelicans, dhows and fishing canoes, traditional villages, flower farms, tiny tropical islands, game reserves – the Rift Valley and lakes sustain an enormous diversity of life in their waters and on dry land. And, neighbouring the Rift Valley, forming a natural boundary between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, is the biggest lake of all, Lake Victoria. The Rift Valley is more heavily populated than other areas of the country.
A visit to this region showcases another facet of Kenya’s diversity. From the hundreds of thousands of flamingos massing in the alkaline waters of Lake Nakuru to the flower farms inland from Lake Naivasha to the Maasai community living around the shores of Lake Magadi. It’s all about scenic landscapes and cultural diversity plus the wildlife which makes its home here.
- Lake Nakuru National Park: Nakuru has an excellent diversity of wildlife including black and white rhinos, but no elephants. It's the best place to see the rare Rothschild's giraffe and you might even see tree-climbing lions. Look out for black and white colobus monkeys in the acacia woodland too. Importantly, it's famous for the thousands of flamingos. The birds took a preference for the shallower lakes of Baringo and Bogoria for a few years, but they seem to be back now (2020).
- Lake Naivasha: Within a couple of hours' drive of Nairobi, Naivasha is a freshwater lake surrounded by prime agricultural land and yellow acacia woodland. It is known as an excellent birding destination and wildlife found here includes impalas, waterbuck, giraffes, buffalo, colobus monkeys, hippos and warthogs.
- Hell's Gate National Park: This is a small park just south of Lake Naivasha. Good for guided bush walks, with a chance of seeing leopards and even lions here as well as a variety of plains game and good birdlife.
- Lesser-known Rift Valley lakes: They're less visited but all beautiful and fascinating in their own right.
Elementaita is a soda lake not far from Nakuru and known for its excellent birding.
Bogoria is a soda lake known for its population of lesser flamingos and its geysers and hot springs.
Baringo is a freshwater lake and a good birding destination.
Magadi is the most southerly soda lake, in a very dry area.
- When to visit the Rift Valley and lakes: See our When to Go page for more detail, but if it’s flamingos you are after then aim for January to February. Other good times to visit this area are March, September and October. If you want to avoid the rains then give April, May and (maybe) November a miss.