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Birder's paradise in Kenya's Rift Valley...
The Rift Valley Lakes
Over 20 million years ago, significant plate movement beneath the earth's crust caused the area now known as the Rift Valley to tear itself apart and create a rift thousands of kilometres long bisecting Kenya and characterising the country with uninhabitable desert regions, fertile farmland, flat rolling plains and steep escarpments.
The rift valley can be simplistically thought of as great volcanic mountains which flank both sides of a valley floor which was named the the Great Rift Valley by the Scottish explorer John Walter Gregory.
The lowest region of the valley is at Lake Turkana and as the valley unfolds further south it rises at Lake Naivasha and before it decends again at the Tanzanian border.
The earths crust still moves today in this region as there are thirty active and semi active volcanoes in the Rift Valley and countless hot springs along its length, as well as numerous alkaline lakes famed for their bird life which is attracted due to the concentration of Algae growth.
The Rift Valley lakes each have a slightly different water composition ranging from freshwater to extremely alkaline, highly saline to brackish. Flying into Nairobi you are just fifty five from one of the string of Rift Valley lakes, Lake Naivasha. Naivasha is a freshwater lake and is a bird lovers paradise with over 400 species including water pelicans, cormorants and the gracious African Fish Eagle whose call is as punctuated on the lake as a lions roar in the bush.
In the centre of the lake is Cresent Island which can be visited by short boat ride. The Island is a sanctuary for wildlife where you can stroll along the banks in the peaceful presence of small herds of mammals such as giraffe, antelope, gazelle, eland, zebra and lot of birds.
To the south of the lake is Hells Gate national park which is famous for its hot geysers and extinct volcanoes. Once a very hostile environment the park is now populated by a very diverse selection of animals such as buffalo, giraffe, eland, Coke's Hartebeest, lion, leopard and the occasional cheetah. Hells Gate is a natural magnet to ornithologists as it is the perfect breeding ground for vultures, Verreaux’s Eagles and Augur buzzards in addition to a further 100 species recorded in the park. The park scenery is beautiful and a day or two here in combination with Lake Naivasha works wonderfully.
The Rift Valley lakes and especially Lake Nakuru National Park is host to one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife scenes; the shimmering pink horizon of pink flamingos. In years gone by the flamingos have numbered into the millions however with ever changing conditions of the soda lake their numbers are now somewhat lower and they often relocate entirely and then return again without pattern. If you are fortunate to be at Lake Nakuru this sight is as stunning as it has always been.
Lake Nakuru was declared a national park in 1961. The 200 square kilometre park has a great diversity of vegetation with over 500 different plant species to warthog, waterbuck impala, buffalo, eland, lion, leopard Rothschild giraffe and black rhino which have been slowly multiplying over the years and are now protected.