White rhinos and their rare black counterparts roam free in the Lake Nakuru reserve in Kenya. The African country is working to protect the endangered animals, almost hunted to the edge of extinction by poachers
Pauline Kimata, recommends Nakuru, Kenya
Welcome to my country, Kenya, one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my opinion. We are a sovereign state in East Africa with wildlife-rich savannah grasslands, smart cities and a population of about 44 million.
Despite being born in Gatundu – a small area where the first Kenyan President, Jomo Kenyatta and his son, Uhuru, the current and fourth President of Kenya, come from – I moved to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi when I was 14-years-old. It’s a big city and feels a million miles from the mountains and cooling waterfalls of my birth village where you get milk straight from the cow. But that’s the thing about Kenya – it offers everything from deserts and rainforests to beaches and rolling plains. Which is why, like many people, I love exploring my country beyond my own boundaries.
I particularly like the town of Nakuru – which means ‘Dust or Dusty Place’ in the Maasai language – because it has a relaxed atmosphere and is right on the doorstep of one of Kenya’s largest national parks, Lake Nakuru. The chances of seeing animals there are much better than in other reserves.
Lying about 1850m above sea level, the history of the town can be traced back to the prehistoric period from archeological discoveries found at the nearby Hyrax Hill reserve. Nakuru has grown into quite the cosmopolitan town, now the fourth largest urban centre in the country.
So whether you want a touch of urban life, some wildlife or a peaceful life, Nakuru can offer it all to you and more.
My favourite place Lake Nakuru National Park is a good place to see lots of amazing animals, especially when they migrate from Tanzania between June and August. Created in 1961, it sprawls over 188 square km with some breathtakingly beautiful scenery. The reserve is known for its thousands (at times millions) of flamingos nesting along the lake’s shores. There are sometimes so many birds that a feather blanket of dusty pink hides the water – one of the Rift Valley soda lakes. You can also spot some of the ‘Big Five’ – lion, rhinos and buffalos. Clamber up Baboon Cliff for the best vantage point in the park.
Highlights The best bit about Nakuru is the climate. It’s much cooler than the capital due to the greenery. It also offers everything from waterfalls to safari. A must-see here though is Menengai Crater. This extinct volcano, 2490 m high and the second largest surviving volcanic crater in the world, offers excellent views over Lake Nakuru. The summit is accessible by foot or vehicle. Another historic site worth visiting is Hyrax Hill, which contains Neolithic and Iron-Age burial pits and settlements. Major tourist attractions Lake Bogoria and Lake Baringo are easily accessible from Nakuru too, as is Kerichio Valley, where fragrant black tea is grown.
Lowlights Transport is a problem unless you hire a car because taxis are pretty scarce. If you do drive, it can be a bumpy ride as some of the roads frankly leave a lot to be desired. And you better hope that it doesn’t rain because you could well end up stuck in the mud or curtailed by a big pothole.
Souvenirs You’ll find lots of sculptures and incredible jewellery with antique trade beads. The beautifully locally blown glass, Kitengela, offers some unique pieces. Tea and coffee is amazing, of course. The local dark honey is also good for foodies. But I recommend a handmade ship with bright white sails.
Where to stay There may not be a Grand Hyatt there but you’ll find a lot of luxury camps and lodges around the park with traditional African design and hospitality. If you’re on a budget though, there are plenty of affordable hotel rooms for as little as RO5 a night.