The changing face of Lake Nakuru

Our final stop on the way to Nairobi and home was Lake Nakuru. This is the third time I’ve been and this time we persuaded Andrew to go early (normally we set off at 9 or 10 but the animals tend to start slowing down mid morning).

It was quite a shock this time. The lake was raised somewhat in 2012 when we visited it but it was so much worse this time. The water had nearly reached the main gate and you couldn’t go in that way due to t e flooding. It has been necessary to build a whole series of new roads away from the lake as it continues to rise. Indeed even some of these are in real danger of flooding and they are making new roads even further away. On one road we came across a land cruiser stuck in a flooded part.

Lake Nakuru in Feb 2011

Lake Nakuru in Feb 2011

Flooded Lake Nakuru. The water has covered much of the plain. Nakuru in August 2012 (The trees here are the ones at the very top left of the 2011 picure

Flooded Lake Nakuru. The water has covered much of the plain. Nakuru in August 2012 (The trees here are the ones at the very top left of the 2011 picure

The reason for the flooding is that Lake Nakuru only has water entering it and the only way it leaves is through evaporation and the rains in the past two years have been heavier than normal (indeed august rains have compounded it by being heavy). The two pictures here show what it was like in 2011 and this August

The consequences are not only bad for the roads in Nakuru but also the birdlife at Nakuru. Normally over a million flamingos are on lake nakuru with many other birds such as pelicans. This time we saw many fewer water birds there which was very sad. It has also had an impact on tourism (a major source of local income) as Lake Nakuru is especially known for its birdlife. So, when we went around the lake on Thursday it was far less crowded than our guide thought was normal.

Our guide, David, was great – he was a Masai and told us of his time spent in the bush when he was 18 and how he and the others in the group survived there. He was able to hep us to find many animals on our safari and it was good to see that the animals are there and appear unaffected by the flooding. Indeed it was great to see so many great animals there – and we saw lions!! Finally!!  As well as lions we saw black and white rhino, giraffes, gazelle, antelope, oryx, zebras and another first – an ostrich!

We also saw a lot of the park rangers this time. What is really cool about them is that they are able to walk through the forests and grassland on foot to ensure that all is well and to deter and counter poachers. They also captured a lion that had escaped the park whilst we were there – and it was amusing to watch them taking pictures of the drugged lion and jumping into their vans as they gave it a serum to wake it up.

Orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Centre in Nairobi

Orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Centre in Nairobi

The other thing that came into focus was that we visited the elephant sanctuary in Nairobi on Saturday. The rangers at parks like Nakuru try to deter poaching. At the sanctuary in Nairobi the keepers showed us the consequences of poaching. We were showed a number of baby elephants orphaned by poachers. They believe that over 200 elephants are poached each year mainly for their tusks (as are rhinos). A sad state of affairs and not helped by lenient anti-poaching laws (their is a maximum fine of about £500 and six months no matter how much poaching someone has done). They also told us how they eventually release them back into the wild and how some of them come back if they have been hurt for help or to show them their own young – very sweet!

Note: Sorry if you got an email on Sunday am about a post – published a draft by mistake at Nairobi airport and had to delete it.

Usual tip: Click on a picture to see a larger version or to see a carousel of them.


6 comments on “The changing face of Lake Nakuru

  1. Angela Hope
    August 19, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    How absolutely amazing.
    Can’t believe the difference in the water levels, it is such a shame but to see lions absolutely brilliant. Can’t wait to experience it all again soon.
    Angela Hope

  2. Chris
    August 19, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    Glad you and the family are finding time to enjoy some of the beauty of Kenya; as to the rain and lakes ‘over filling’ – one can only assume that it’s better than the alternative no rain, after all you can ‘waste; an abundance but none at all leaves you with very few options!
    The Africa programme by David Attenborough, showed how the drought years devastated the elephant population of Amboseli, although now recovered to pre-drought numbers it took years of healthy rain fall to do so. As to the Elephant orphanage in Nairobi Susan and i also visited this on our trip last year and found that the work that these guys do was fantastic.


    • Will Cookson
      August 19, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      Hi Angela, it was a great experience again and lovely to have the girls with me.

      Chris, I think that you are mainly right. In 1962 the lake was totally dry and it took until the 1970s to recover. Indeed when I went two years ago there were real fears of the lake drying again. The reservation is twofold. Firstly the impact on the bird life – numbers seem seriously low (go to the menu and under rush there is A ‘kenya 2011’ page. Select ‘more pictures of the safari ‘ to see more birds then this time). Secondly the impact on the tourism trade there. Poverty is such a huge issue and this will impact lots of the poorest.

  3. Chris
    August 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    It was a similar story when we went last year – instead of 100’s of thousands of flamingo’s one of the most famous ‘birdie’ sights in the world there was a hand full (well a few 1000 scattered around) – but it they had simply gone else where!

    The guide we were with – as fairly upbeat as the mammals were doing better – and therefore so were the Lions 🙂

    Poverty is indeed an issue – but with water comes other opportunities, such as the flower farms… with drought there is no opportunities. The African’s we meet were a resilient bunch and most travel all over the continent to where the work is (as one person said – “as we have always have done”

  4. Will Cookson
    August 21, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    I agree that water does bring opportunities. Certainly, it helps with agriculture and Andrew was sure that it was helping (though Lucy was concerned that Maize crops might rot instead of being harvested).

    We were told that they were thinking of bringing extra Lions from the Masai Mara to Lake Nakuru (though I don’t know if this was true). I was also told that they had three families of Lions in Nakuru at present.

  5. Chris
    August 21, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

    And the unique thing about the Lions in Nakuru is that they can sleep in trees…

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