East Africa is the Africa that intrepid travellers dream of as it spans over 20 diverse territories. This magnetic region of the continent is a wild realm of breathtaking landscapes.
Here, wildebeest stampede in their millions across boundless savannas. Snow gathers on the peaks of extinct volcanoes that tower above the surrounding plains, and lush montane forests provide solace to the world’s last remaining silver-back gorillas. Winding their way through these diverse terrains, lakes large enough to swallow a small European country, give life to the land. These are the siren songs that beckon visitors to East Africa and East Africa Lakes.
The origin of East Africa lakes dates back to 12 million years ago. Here, the tectonic plates of the region moved to the northeast of the rest of Africa. The violent movement created the Great Rift Valley. This diverted the flow of rivers into deep depressions that developed into lakes. Most of these lakes lie in the East African Rift Valley, wrapping their way around iconic safari destinations by the likes of Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
With around 15 Lakes In Kenya, 4 in Tanzania, and four Great Lakes on the borders of Uganda, these classic safari destinations have a lot more going for them than epic wildlife viewing. A tour to any of the lakes in East Africa promises plenty of sunny day pursuits and breathtaking scenery.
Great Lakes in Kenya Map
Lake Nakuru in Kenya
Lake Nakuru is arguably one of Kenya’s most iconic scenes and one of the many popular East Africa lakes. It is blazing with a sea of deep pink flamingos that is a must-see for your Kenya tour of the Great Rift Valley. Nakuru means “Dust or Dusty Place” in the Maasai language. However, Lake Nakuru’s tranquil, alkaline waters seem to flow into the horizon during the wet season.
This great lake is surrounded by a rich topography of hills and grasslands. It is one of the region’s most underrated wildlife-watching destinations. Lake Nakuru is world-famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth. Here, myriads of fuchsia pink flamingos whose numbers are legion flock to the algae rich waters to feed.
Moreover, it doesn’t stop there. Lake Nakuru is situated in the heart of its eponymously named national park. There are epic lookout spots that give visitors ample opportunity to spot big safari wildlife. This includes lion, cheetah, leopard, and buffalo.
Wildlife in Lake Nakuru National Park/Lake Nakuru Safari
Lake Nakuru has a variety of diverse and beautiful eco-systems. It is composed of rocky escarpments, acacia forests, wooded areas and grasslands. These eco-systems support several big safari mammals.
Additionally, an almost full cast of the Big Five makes an appearance except Elephants. Safari-goers can also look forward to spotting the continent’s most beloved grazers. This includes Rothschild Giraffes, Zebra, Impala, Gazelle, Waterbuck, Bushbuck and Buffalo.
There’s never a dull moment in this wild pocket of Kenya. Although you can visit Lake Nakuru throughout the year, wildlife viewing may be more difficult during the wet months of April and May.
Furthermore, rain might interfere with your game drives where the grass tends to be very high. This makes animal spotting a bit more challenging, yet not impossible. The best time to go on a Lake Nakuru Safari is during the dry season from July to December. Here the grasslands are lower and the wildlife are easier to spot.
Stay at Lake Nakuru Lodge
Lake Nakuru is special for its colour, breathtaking landscapes and epic wildlife watching. Such is the diversity of this scenic pocket of the Great Rift Valley that it warrants more than one day to appreciate its splendour. And, if you do decide to stay, the Lake Nakuru Lodge is the perfect place to soak in the scenery.
This laid back eco-lodge is situated inside Lake Nakuru National Park. It boasts unobstructed views of the lake and wildlife. Lake Nakuru Lodge is the perfect introduction to the African wild as it is surrounded by nature.
An action-packed offering of bucket-list activities is made available. This includes horse riding, safari game drives, and guided excursions to the area’s many legendary viewpoints. This gives guests a chance to get their boots dirty. When it comes time to recharge, the spacious rooms provide all the creature comforts to rest.
See the Lake Nakuru Flamingos
Lake Nakuru is world-famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth. Each year, when Kenya’s rainy season draws to a close, masses of pink flamingos flock to this great lake’s algae rich shoreline. Here, they feast in staggering numbers.
In its heyday, Lake Nakuru was a bird watcher’s paradise. It attracted millions of flamingos until rising water levels and pollution forced the park’s famous flamingos to flee. However, recent years have seen the return of the region’s most beloved birds. In addition, a horde of over 400 resident feathered cohorts by the likes of white-winged black terns, stilts, avocets, ducks, and many more.
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The glittering waters of Lake Naivasha seem to extend like a vast, sunlit sea with no visible outlet. It is hugged by thick papyrus and sand olive trees. It is located on the highest elevation of the Kenyan Rift Valley. This expansive freshwater lake is a perfect oasis away from the congested streets of Nairobi. Two hours north of the capital, en-route to Lake Nakuru and Mount Kenya, Lake Naivasha is a place for relaxing and recharging the batteries.
Wildlife in Lake Naivasha National Park/ Lake Naivasha Safari
In the past, this serene lake was the bustling gateway into Kenya for the British Overseas Airways Corporation’s Empire and Solent flying-boats. They would land here after their four-day journey from Southampton. Today, nature has reclaimed the land and Lake Naivasha once again enjoys a wild atmosphere. Here, hippos while away the hours in shallow waters. Giraffes wander among the acacia. Buffalo wallow in the swamps and over 400 different species of bird call out from the skies.
Lake Naivasha is not the place to find the big five, but the absence of these animals open up new safari opportunities. Here, walking and lake cruise safaris give guests a front-row seat to Lake Naivasha’s epic wildlife diversity and scenery. Nearby, Hell’s Gate National Park is well worth a visit too, for its spectacular canyons, hot springs and epic wildlife.
Lake Naivasha Accommodation
This ancient freshwater lake in the Great Rift Valley is an ideal escape away from the bustle of city life. With its deep blue lakes, rich acacia forests, extinct volcanoes, waterfalls, imposing towers and bottomless gorges – it’s easy to see how Born Free author Joy Adamson found inspiration in this patch of wilderness.
Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge
Set in one hundred and fifty acres of grassland, the Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge is an ideal spot to live out your African safari adventure. Sopa Lodge’s prime position on the shores of Lake Naivasha, gives guests unparalleled views of the bathing hippo. As well as giraffe, waterbuck, vervet and colobus monkeys that frequent the grounds.
To complete the experience, the lodge’s 84 rooms are inspired by traditional African-style rondavels. It features spacious and private balconies where you can spend hours watching the resident wildlife. In addition to soaking in the stunning bush views. If you can pry yourself away from the comfort of your room, there are a handful of sunny day pursuits. This includes horseback safaris and boat rides. This is most likely to keep you enthralled.
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Take a Lake Naivasha Boat Ride
A Lake Naivasha boat ride is one of the best ways of enjoying this scenic region of Kenya. The leisurely boat ride lasts for about 90 minutes. Here, you get to witness dozens of hippos wallowing in water and the different species of birds on Crescent Island.
The Lake Turkana in Kenya
Situated in the arid desert region of the Kenyan Rift Valley, Lake Turkana is the world’s largest permanent desert lake. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This legendary lake is Africa’s fourth-largest and the most saline Rift Valley Lake. It encompasses three national parks that serve as a stopover for migratory birds. Additionally, one could spot a handful of Nile crocodiles and hippopotamus.
An abundance of fossils has been found in the area around Lake Turkana. Sibiloi National Park is known as “the cradle of mankind” as it is home to important archaeological sites. This includes the well-known Koobi Fora. This is where fossils have led to a greater understanding of human evolution than any other site on the continent.
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Wildlife of Lake Turkana National Parks / Lake Turkana Safari
The lunar landscape that surrounds the lake’s jade waters appears to be devoid of life. However, life has found a way to thrive. Lake Turkana is an imperative resource for people and wildlife in the surrounding desert region. It is unlikely to spot the Big Five in this area. Although, Lake Turkana’s National Parks introduce visitors to the continent’s most underrated wildlife. Below the Jade Sea, water’s surface is over 60 species of fish. Here, legions of migratory birds sojourn on the lake’s islands. This includes flamingos, cormorants, and kingfishers. Resident Nile Crocodiles and hippos bask in the sunlight along the shores.
Lake Turkana Lodge
Spilling into the border of Ethiopia at its northernmost end, this desert oasis is located in the arid region of the Kenyan Rift Valley. It is accessible by 4X4 only. Vast stretches of lunar-like lands, strong desert winds, and sudden storms, give Lake Turkana a final frontier appeal. Thus, those up to the challenge of exploring its beauty are well rewarded.
The vastness of the region demands more than a day’s worth of exploration. Hence, the best place to stay is the Lake Turkana Lodge. With 16 rustic cabins, this small but charming lodge is located on the western shores of the lake. It is the ideal spot for intrepid travellers to sojourn while immersing in the region’s epic diversity.
When it comes to amenities, the lodge is completely back to basics. The self-contained cabins feature comfortable rooms, showers, purified water, and open verandas. This offers expansive views over the lake.
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Lake Turkana Crocodiles
Lake Turkana holds the world’s largest crocodile colony. In the 1960s, biologists estimated it had 14,000 Nile crocs alone. While the records have not been consistent over the years, these apex predators abound the shorelines of this epic lake. For the best crocodile viewing in Lake Turkana, head to the South Island National Park. Here, huge volcanic sandbanks play host to some monstrously proportioned reptiles.
Lake Turkana Cultural Festival
Furthermore, few travellers take the road to Lake Turkana. Even fewer still have a chance to immerse themselves in the local culture. The Lake Turkana Cultural Festival takes place in the small desert town of Loiyangalani and is the first and only of its kind. Held annually, this eclectic desert museum gives travellers a chance to discover the cultures and lifestyles of the eight communities that live in this area. Taking place over three days, the festival celebrates the rich cultures of El Molo, Samburu, Gabbra, Rendile, Watta, Dasannach, and the Turkana all who live around the Jade Sea.
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Lake Victoria – A Freshwater Lake in Kenya
Known in Kenya as Nam Lowe (body of endless water) and in Uganda as ’Nnalubaale (Home of the Gods) – both alluding to the grand scale of the lake. This expansive great lake is East Africa’s largest and most important geographical feature.
Moreover, it was renamed Lake Victoria by the explorer John Hanning Speke. This boundless water feature spills across Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Making it the world’s largest tropical lake and the world’s second-largest freshwater lake. Appearing more like a sea than a lake, it’s the perfect place to while away relaxed evenings. Here, the red African sun sinks out of view and the distinctive cry of Fish Eagles ring from above.
Given its awe-inspiring beauty and epic wildlife, the lake is seen by surprisingly few visitors. But, those who do venture forth are well-rewarded with the chance to explore the region’s barely touched national parks.
Lake Victoria Animals
A visit to Lake Victoria is highly recommended towards the end of a Masai Mara safari. However, that is not to say it is devoid of wildlife. Lake Victoria is a haven for an array of birdlife, wetland animals and other iconic African animals. This includes crocodile, hippo, elephant, buffalo, chimpanzee, and wildebeest.
Lake Victoria Entebbe Hotel
Established as a recreation centre back in 1948, this colonial estate has been hosting the whos-who of British nobility that frequented Lake Victoria’s shorelines. And, while much has changed since then, the Entebbe Hotel remains a staple sojourn on the Ugandan corner of Lake Victoria. Complete with a buffet-style restaurant, sun terrace, spa, and 24-hour concierge, the hotel’s amenities are sure to keep guests comfortable. This is while immersing in the natural beauty that East Africa has to offer.
Lake Manyara in Tanzania
Often overlooked, Lake Manyara’s diverse ecosystems are a breath of fresh air. It is away from the bustle of Tanzania’s more famous northern-circuit destinations. The lakes’s landscape supports one of the highest biomass densities of large mammals in the world. It ranges from its Rift Valley soda lake to dense woodlands. As well as steep mountainsides and evergreen forests.
Lake Manyara, like many of the animals which frequent it, comes and goes with the seasons. In the peak of the rainy months, the lake covers two-thirds of the park. Come the dry season, it shrinks considerably as the waters evaporate. At times, the lake has dried up completely. Still, Lake Manyara National Park offers a wilderness experience like no other.
Lake Manyara National Park/ Lake Manyara Safari
In addition to its spectacular scenery, Lake Manyara is a wildlife mecca in East Africa. The life-giving waters of the lake and its surrounding habitats support an assortment of the continent’s most treasured wildlife. On a Lake Manyara safari, guests have a chance to follow the giant footprints of elephants. You are able to catch a glimpse of rare tree-climbing lions, as well as spot herds of buffalo. You can also spot Masai giraffes and impala that roam the lake shores and the forested valley slopes.
Lake Manyara Flamingos
Lake Manyara is an excellent bird-watching destination, particularly famous for its flamingos. During Tanzania’s wet season – between March and May – the algae rich Lake Manyara is awash with hundreds of pink flamingos. They wade languidly in its shallow waters. In addition to Lake Manyara’s flamingos, more than 400 species of birds are spotted in and around the soda lake. This includes waterfowl and other fascinating species
Lake Manyara Accommodation
Lake Manyara is a popular stop-off on the way to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro regions. However, if the prospect of spotting the area’s notoriously elusive tree-climbing lions and other fascinating wildlife have convinced you to linger, then here’s where you should be staying in Lake Manyara.
Lake Manyara Serena Lodge
Additionally, Perched on the edge on an escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley, this elegant hotel is the perfect place to soak in the jaw-dropping beauty of the region. The Serena Lodge is a blend of traditional African style and modern comfort. It is replete with infinity pools, well-stocked bars and sumptuous restaurants. Not forgetting the panoramic views over the lake itself. It is a great option for both families and adventure travellers. It features a menu of sunny-day activities such as village walks, late afternoon game drives, and epic biking trails.
While in East Africa, why not also explore Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda
Lake Bunyonyi is one of East Africa’s most scenic great lakes. Believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa, this vast stretch of water is one of the country’s top natural treasures. Its winding shoreline encircles 29 verdant islands. It is surrounded by steep terraced hillsides that take on an air of magic when the morning mist rolls in. Best of all, Bunyoni is bilharzia, crocodile, and hippo free. Hence, its crystal-clear waters are all yours to swim in.
Lake Bunyonyi Activities
Moreover, Lake Bunyonyi and its surrounding area are a magnet for wildlife lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike. Also known as ‘Place of Many Birds’, the region is a bird watcher’s paradise. You can find over 200 species of resident birds and a handful of migratory visitors that flock to its shores throughout the year.
In addition to this, Lake Bunyonyi also offers a wealth of summery day pursuits on its glistening waters and surrounding land. From leisurely canoe rides to island hopping, hiking the highlands. You can visit local villages and there are plenty of ways to immerse in the beauty of this region.
Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort
This eco-resort offers guests a tranquil rest stop after gorilla tracking in Bwindi impenetrable forest. It is set high on the saddle of a tree-clad ridge above the banks of the lake. There are ten spacious rooms, tucked into the dunes and in-between the shrubs. Each room offers spectacular views of the forest, lake Bunyonyi and the surrounding community.