The Rift Valley Lakes of East Africa provide the incredible spectacle of immense flocks of flamingos gathering to feed and breed on these otherwise inhospitable stretches of sodic water. The juxtaposition of their delicate pink plumage and the almost lunar landscapes is a photographer’s dream, and makes for an unforgettable flamingo safari, and one of Kenya and Tanzania’s best safari experiences.
Our afternoon game drive along the shores of a Great Rift Valley Lake proved to be a real highlight of our luxury safari in East Africa. We were here primarily to see the thousands of flamingos that had gathered on the lake to feed, but as so often on this trip, we ended up seeing far more than we’d anticipated.
Although we were back in an open 4×4 vehicle, our excursion to the lake was taken at the sort of leisurely pace we’d been enjoying as part of our slow safari. Rather than having to speed up from time to time to make particular sightings, this was a game drive we could take at our own speed. The flamingos themselves seemed to move almost in slow motion, and we agreed that they were on to a good thing.
The Rift Valley Lakes attract flamingos for two main reasons – they are full of the algae and small shrimps that these tall, slender birds have evolved to feed on, and the flamingos feel safe from predators out on the lake. There are several you can visit, including Lake Manyara and Lake Magadi in Tanzania, and Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementeita in Kenya.
We learned a lot from our guide as we approached our chosen lake. Flamingos are filter feeders, and the algae they consume actually causes their feathers to change colour, giving them a delicate pinkish tint. ‘Like a blushing bride’, Jacob joked. We reasoned that flamingos must have an incredible sense of balance, as they are able to stand with their heads inverted, often on one leg, for hours at a time while they feed.
Despite our newly acquired knowledge, and the pictures we’d seen online while researching our flamingo safari, nothing could quite prepare us for not just a lake, but a sea of pink. There were thousands of these beautiful birds moving slowly through the shallows, and turning the lake a lovely rosy hue.