Short on time? A one-day safari in Kenya’s Lake Nakuru

May 8, 2022

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Two common misconceptions about taking an African safari are that you need to have a lot of money and a lot of time. When I was a broke backpacker, I spent time in Nairobi, Kenya, and found a $100 one-day trip to Lake Nakuru where I was able to enjoy a safari without committing to a multi-day excursion.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for TPG daily newsletter.

If you are stationed in Nairobi and are short on time, Lake Nakuru is a perfect way to spend a day out of the city. On tour day, expect to be picked up before the sun has risen, likely sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. Luckily, Kenya has some of the best coffee in the entire world thanks to its high altitude and ever-high presence of fertile soil.

A driver will meet you in your Nairobi hotel lobby. From there, you will begin your two-and-a-half hour journey from the city journey to Lake Nakuru. Along the way, you’ll likely stop for a coffee or a quick bite to fuel up for a long day. You might also stop at a shop where safari-goers can purchase locally crafted souvenirs. I remember seeing a necklace that I wanted badly, but as mentioned, I was traveling on a budget. Oh, the regret you’ll have for the things you didn’t buy!

Related: Everything you need to know about going on safari in Africa with renowned expert Marlon du Toit

Once you arrive to Lake Nakuru, each person must pay an entry fee of $35, but, depending on what type of tour you booked, this fee might already be included in your tour cost. Upon payment, you’ll receive your ticket and be granted entry into a world that feels far from anything you’ve seen before. Tip: Bring a good camera on any African safari. A GoPro or even an iPhone simply won’t do the trick.

(Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

Be prepared to move slowly and be utterly quiet. The animals don’t like to be disturbed, and in Lake Nakuru, animals’ needs reign higher than people’s needs. Though everyone’s experience will be different, you can expect to see gazelle, zebra, monkeys and even some rare rhinos thanks to the on-site sanctuary.

If you keep your eyes peeled, you may also spot lions, leopards, African bush elephants and African buffalo. I was fortunate enough to see black rhinoceros and African buffalo on my one day in Lake Nakuru, further proving that you don’t need a lot of time and/or money to enjoy a proper African safari.

Lake Nakuru is particularly known for its excessive flamingo population, which is what drew me to book this day-trip in the first place. However, as we pulled up to the actual lake, I was astounded to see there were hardly any flamingos at all.

Climate change has caused the water to dramatically flood over the past several years, making the flamingo population at the shore sparse. Don’t let those Google images fool you: It’s unlikely you will see the flocks of flamingos Lake Nakuru is so famous for.

As you drive past the lake and circle back toward the exit, be prepared to see giraffes slowly grazing and crossing the pathways. Watching these majestic creatures in their natural habitat will make you wonder how big-game hunters have the heart to do what they do.

(Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

Related: How to ensure your safari is ethical

As you finally exit Lake Nakuru, your tour guide will likely offer you an option to stop at Lake Naivasha on the ride back to Nairobi, where you can take a boat safari to see hippos and more birds. If you’re too tired or decide to opt out, you can instead stop for a traditional Kenyan meal of ugali and samaki. Don’t forget to try the local beer, Tusker.

(Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

While this one-day African safari means an early morning and a packed travel schedule, it’s a perfect option for those who are short on time, finances, or both when traveling through Kenya. Flights from New York – John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Nairobi start at 44,000 miles + $5.60 with United MileagePlus.

Related: Deal Alert: Marriott will open a luxury safari lodge in Masai Mara Reserve

Featured photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.