Day 2: Day Trip to Lake Nakuru National Park
The second day of our 3 days in Kenya itinerary is spent in one of Kenya’s finest national parks. We’ll get a very early start and drive through the Great Rift Valley to Lake Nakuru National Park, revered for the flocks of pink flamingos that can be seen here along with other “wild celebrities”.
Pro tip: it’s back to the Rift Valley once again tomorrow. If you wish to minimize driving times, you can swap the itinerary mentioned in Day 2 with that of Day 3 and sleep in the vicinity of either Hell’s Gate National Park or Lake Nakuru (see accommodation options). I personally had a preference for using Nairobi as a base. Lake Nakuru is the furthest point from Nairobi on this 3 days in Kenya itinerary.
Drive from Nairobi to Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru is located about 160 km northeast of Nairobi on the floor of the Great Rift Valley. If you leave very early in the morning, you will beat the traffic and reach it in about 2.5 hours, plenty of time to learn the words to Kenya’s unofficial anthem, Jambo Bwana, better known as “Hakuna Matata”.
Once you leave metropolitan Nairobi, the A104 highway quickly turns into a scenic road as it enters the fertile Great Rift Valley. It’s a pleasant drive with multiple opportunities to pause in scenic lookouts and enjoy the view, though visibility not only depends on the weather but also on the level of air pollution which can be extremely bad. Before entering the park, you’ll drive through the town of Nakuru. It’s one of Kenya’s largest towns but there’s not much to do here apart from buying a picnic lunch.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Designated a bird sanctuary in 1960 and established as a national park in 1968, Lake Nakuru National Park is one of Kenya’s finest wildlife attractions. At an elevation of 1,200-1,800 meters above sea level, the park covers 188 km2 of diverse habitat including thick woodlands, flat grasslands, and high ridges.
The park’s most famous residents are the pink flamingos that like to hang around the lake, but you can also expect to encounter hippos, black and black rhinos, gazelles, giraffes, buffalo, monkeys, zebras, and if you’re lucky, lions!
Once you enter the park grounds, there’s a circular route to follow with a few detours here and there. If your visit coincides with the pink flamingo migration, the lake is the best place to see them from up close. The park’s roads and paths offer the chance to really see the wildlife from up close.
Other than driving at your own pace around the park, be sure to stop at Baboon Cliff View Point for a spectacular panoramic view of Lake Nakuru and the park. Keep your eyes peeled, especially if the sun is high, as you’re likely to spot lizards and other animals basking in the heat of the day.
It’s also worth taking the long track to Makalia Falls, located at the edge of the park. From here, we crossed the small stream and headed to the western side of the lake to complete the loop. Taking this longer approach, as opposed to the more popular short circular route, turned out to be a great move as it was in the far side of the park that we saw the most game.
Driving out of the stream and entering the vast expanse of savannah was one of the more memorable parts of the visit. We immediately saw numerous flocks of animals all grazing near each other in harmony. There were giraffes, zebras, wild pigs, and gazelle all roaming around, and we were the only ones here.
Though I didn’t see any lions on this day and my visit didn’t coincide with the mass flamingo migration, the day trip from Nairobi to Lake Nakuru still vividly lives in my memory. It might not be in the same league as the Tsavo, Amboseli, or Masai Mara, but it deserves a visit if you aren’t able to make it to those three or if you enjoy bird watching.