Fortunately, in view of the flamingos’ here-today-gone-tomorrow caprice, there’s a lot more to the lake’s spectacle than the pink flocks it was once famous for. There’s a good number of mammals which are very easily seen and often come remarkably close to vehicles. Hippos have flourished in the less briny water, and by day can be seen snorting and splashing at various points around the lake. Nakuru has also become a popular venue for introduced species: there are Rothschild’s giraffe from the wild herd near Kitale, and lions and secretive leopards from wherever they’re causing a nuisance.
In the early 1990s, a number of black rhinos were relocated from Solio Game Ranch (see p.196), and ten white rhinos were donated by South Africa in 1994. These have bred exceptionally well, but despite the electric fencing around the entire perimeter of the park, Nakuru has not avoided the scourge of recent rhino poaching and it sadly lost five in 2014. Each rhino is now heavily guarded by armed KWS rangers and, as in other KWS parks, population numbers are no longer made available to the public. Nevertheless, as a visitor to the park, you have a very good chance of spotting one, and both KWS rangers and lodge staff will point you in the right direction.
Nakuru is Swahili for “place of the waterbuck”, and the park is indeed waterbuck heaven. With only a handful of lions and small numbers of leopards to check their population, the large, shaggy beasts number several thousand, and the herds (either bachelor groups or a buck and his harem) are large and exceptionally tame. Impala, too, are very numerous, though their lack of fear means you rarely witness the graceful flight of a herd vaulting through the bush.
The two other most often seen mammals are buffalo – which you’ll repeatedly mistake for rhinos until you get a look through binoculars – and warthog, scuttling nervously in singles and family parties everywhere you look. Elephants are absent, but you’re likely to see zebra, dik-dik, ostrich and jackal and, in the southern part of the park, eland and Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle. More rarely you can encounter reedbuck down by the shore and bushbuck dashing briskly through the herbage. Along the eastern road, near Lake Nakuru Lodge, are several over-tame baboon troops to be wary of. The park is also renowned for its very large pythons – the patches of dense woodland in the southwest, between the lakeshore and the steep cliffs, are a favourite habitat.
Finally, though the reduced salinity may have put paid to flamingo numbers, the higher water levels have attracted other species of birds to Lake Nakuru in large numbers, including pelicans, fish eagles, herons, egrets, hammerkops and grebes.