East Africa, Kenya

Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha

Flamingos on Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha

These lakes, located in the near northwest of Nairobi, are part of the Rift Valley, a gargantuan bit of geology that, John Gunther once wrote, “makes the Grand Canyon of the Colorado look like a line scratched with a toothpick.” Gunther was being dramatic, but the overall significance of the Rift Valley is far greater than the canyon caused by the Colorado; it marks the steady tectonic dismembering of the African continent, and long, deep lakes like Turkana and Tanganyika (earth’s second deepest lake), and shallower lakes like Nakuru and Naivasha are previews of an Atlantic-sized ocean that will one day split Africa into two.

Lake Nakuru, centerpiece of the national park by the same name, is most famous for the two million or so flamingos that feast on the lake’s algae. This is the lake that Isak Dinesen and Denys Finch Hatton (portrayed by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford) flew over in the movie Out of Africa—which, if you haven’t, you really should see, if only for the moment when the lake seems to come to life and only heaven knows how many hundreds of thousands of flamingos lift off in a magnificent pink cloud. This is just another of Africa’s many natural, theatrical spectacles.

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