Famously known for Lake Nakuru and its lovely pink flamingos, Nakuru is the newest city in Kenya.
Located within the Great Rift Valley, Nakuru features breathtaking natural scenery. It hosts a number of remarkable geographical features such as lakes, craters, wildlife parks, and reserves — plus it is home to unique and nearly extinct local tribes. And don’t forget the fusion of Nakuru’s diverse cultures and astonishing culinary arts that bring this vibrant and dazzling destination to life, local expert Angela Njehia reminds travellers.
After a visitor arrives in my city, I always recommend going straight to Lake Nakuru National Park because it gives people a chance to witness firsthand the beautiful pink flamingos and famous tree-climbing lions. Plus, it’s easy to spot rhinos and other rare wildlife species while on a game drive.
The best time to be here is early morning or late afternoon, as this is when most wildlife pop out of their habitats. That’s when they are out on a hunt. Also, the weather is not too hot, so the animals are not hiding away in the bushes.
I tell first-time travellers to make sure that they enjoy a boat ride on the marvellous Lake Nakuru for the magnificent feeling of watching the sunrise or sunset while on a boat in a Rift Valley lake. I also tell them to avoid late evenings in the park because, as stipulated by the Kenya Wildlife Service, all national parks should be closed by 6:00 p.m. daily.
People from here know better than to eat in the main lodges in the national park, not because they are not of good quality, but rather because they have a touristic ambiance that often doesn’t appeal to the locals. Instead, they should go out in the town and enjoy the local nyama choma (barbequed meat).
The best museum to start your journey and get a good sense of this city is the Hyrax Hill Museum, which is a prehistoric site and has been central to the development of archeological research in Kenya for more than 70 years. The museum depicts the lifestyles of seasonal settlements by prehistoric people at least 5,000 years old. There are numerous sites around the hill that belong to different time periods, with the earliest finds dating back to the neolithic period.
Parents should take their kids to Kivu Resort because it has two swimming pools and a kids fun park. It also has a remarkable restaurant that offers some of the best Kenyan dishes.
Food from the Heart
Among the food (or dishes) my city is most proud of is nyama choma, which is barbequed meat, with a side of ugali. This is an absolute must. I like to go to Taidy’s Restaurant and Sports Bar to really enjoy it. The restaurant is on the ground floor, where kids can comfortably eat and enjoy the environment. If you are a sports fan, you can catch up on the latest sporting action on the first floor of the building.
When we get together to celebrate, Tusker is what people here traditionally drink. I like to gather my friends and go to Platinum 7D Lounge for a round.
When I eat completely local, I will go to Fika & Feast. I know the food here is absolutely fresh and organic. Even better, most of its produce is sourced from the local vegetable farms within Nakuru County.
Another two classic, iconic restaurants include The Grill and Eagle Palace.
The part of town where locals come for traditional food is mainly in the town centre, where there are a variety of local small restaurants that you could easily access.
My city is known for making local handicrafts and fibre art. These make great home interior décor as well as stylish accessories to the African style and fashion.
The best outdoor food market in Nakuru is Wakulima Market. The market has a wide range of fresh and organic produce. And the best outdoor market to buy everyday items like ankara outfits or household items is in the shops on Kenyatta Avenue.
I always take visitors to Kenyatta Avenue to buy real, local souvenirs. The products are of good quality and the vibe is authentic. And we know to avoid downtown Nakuru city because it is densely populated and has some reported security incidents.
Getting Deeper Into Nakuru
A great book to learn more about my city is yet to be published, considering that Nakuru was only elevated to city status from just a town less than a year ago. However, there are many books written about the Great Rift Valley, including my all-time favourite for the birding community, “Birds of Kenya’s Rift Valley” by Adam Scott Kennedy (2014).
Most people know about the Lanet Site, a prehistoric site under the purview of the Hyrax Museum located adjacent to Lake Nakuru National Park, but Egerton Castle should also be visited because of the castle’s history. The castle’s foundation was laid in 1938 by Maurice Egerton, who was the fourth Baron Egerton, and constructed in 1954..
My city is a place people are attracted to because of the rich cultural and heritage diversification. It is a city where you will find all Kenyan tribes represented.
To really celebrate my city at its best, come during the weekends because there are always events and activities taking place, most showcasing local talent and arts.
Most people think of my city as a place to party — locally, it even has the nickname Naksvegas, mimicking Las Vegas. But really this is a destination to experience as a solo traveller or even with a family.
This is one of the best places in the world to experience the Great Rift Valley and its rich archeological findings. Locals are proud of that because, with the Rift Valley being home, most of their culture has also been preserved and conserved.
Getting Around Nakuru
One thing you should know about getting around my city is that it is easy to move around with a car or motorbike, which the locals refer to as boda bodas. Most roads are in good condition.
The best way to travel in my city to have as little impact as possible is by using the boda bodas. The only challenge is the noise pollution they cause. You could also use the local public transportation known as matatus.
Luckily this method of transportation also allows me to avoid the city’s traffic jams, which can be cumbersome, especially during rush hours in the morning and afternoon.
Outside the City
To get away and into the outdoors, I like to take hiking trips around Nakuru. There are many destinations that are absolutely fantastic to hike such as Lake Menengai Crater. On your visit there, if you are lucky to find a local, he might share thrilling myths and legends surrounding the crater.
For a day trip just beyond my city, I like to visit Lake Naivasha, where I engage in various activities such as boat trips or lake excursions.
I really enjoy the view of my city from the Milimani area, where you get a good overview of the city.
Connecting with Locals
When I want to have fun and celebrate being out in my city, I like to walk to the local stadium, where I can jog and do exercise stretches, followed by a visit to the local malls, where I can easily do my shopping.
To hang out with my friends and go to a real insider spot, I go to Chili’s bar and grill. When I’m here, I can enjoy cold beers and a good laugh, while enjoying some of Kenya’s best live band music, because they always have the coolest live bands playing.
The best resource for finding out what’s going on around town is definitely social media, local radio, and Ticketsasa.
When I want to enjoy my city without spending much (or any) money, I visit the bau game rocks, which are prehistoric rocks carved with bau game boards on them. The stones are near the base of the Hyrax Hill. While there, you can play bau, which was and still is a popular game in most African and Caribbean countries; you drop pebbles into opposite sets of dug-out indentations in wood.
Chili’s is my first choice for music because it plays good old R&B songs or has live bands. And when I feel like dancing, I go to Platinum 7D because the DJs always know how to set the mood right for a good dance.
Finding Solitude in Nakuru City
When I want to go somewhere to sit and meditate about my incredible city, I go to Subukia. Subukia is about 40 km from Nakuru, and it is where the world-famous Subukia Marian Shrine is. This is a pilgrimage point for Roman Catholics, but any person will benefit greatly from the visit just to connect with your spiritual side and maybe even have meditation time.
If I chose the one place that makes me most proud of my city, it would have to be the Egerton Castle grounds because they are so serene and pure that they genuinely make you feel connected to the environment.
When the Seasons Change, The Town Shines
Travellers who visit during the rainy season (April to June and November to mid-December) should know that it is possible to still go for your game drives because it doesn’t rain non-stop all day, just usually in the evening through the night. However, it’s best to do outdoor activities such as hiking in favourable weather conditions.
The dry season (December to March and July to October) is usually very hot during the day but becomes more manageable in the evening through the night. During this season, we also experience very early sunrises and late sunsets. Here’s my insider tip: If you are in love with sunrise and sunsets as I am, then be sure to start your game drives at least 15 minutes earlier than the usual time.