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The Great Rift Valley - The Kenya Lakes System

Date of Submission: 12/02/2010
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Kenya Wildlife Service
State, Province or Region:
Rift Valley Province
Ref.: 5513

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party



Lake Elementaita: S0 15 E36 01
Lake Nakuru: S0 17 E36 01
Lake Bogoria: N0 15 E36 06

The Kenya Lakes System consists of three separate but geologically and ecologically related lakes. The lakes are; Lake Elementaita (6,300 ha), Lake Nakuru (18,800ha) and Lake Bogoria (10,700ha) all of which lie in basins on the floor of the Great Rift Valley which transects Kenya North-South. All the three lakes are shallow, alkaline and are hydro-geologically connected through sub surface seepage of water. The alkalinity of the three lakes supports the abundant growth of the green algae (spirulina platensis) which is the food of the lesser flamingoes which congregate in the lakes in great numbers.

Lake Elementaita

Lake Elementaita is situated 100 Km NNW of Nairobi and lies at altitude of 1670 metres ASL. It is fed by hot springs at its southern end and two small streams; the Mereroni Kariandusi and Mbaruk flowing from the Eastern plateau. The surrounding landscape is characterized by rocky faults, volcanic out crops and cones. To the east, the lake is flanked by small scale agriculture while Ututu and Soysambu wildlife conservancies surround the remainder.

Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru is 160 Km from Nairobi and is at an altitude of 1750 metres ASL. It is bordered by Nakuru Town on its eastern side while on the western side is the Nakuru National Park. The catchment area of the lake includes Menengai Crater and Bahati highlands to the north and north-east respectively while to the west is the Mau escarpment. The major source of water that feed surface flow to the lake are the Njoro, Makalia and Nderit Rivers while Baharini Springs close the shore of the lake also contribute to the surface flow.

Lake Bogoria

Lake Bogoria is 275 Km from Nairobi and lies at altitude of 1,000 metres ASL. It is bounded by the Siracho escarpment eastern side while the western side is characterized by a relatively flat shore with a series of hot springs and geysers. The lakes catchment area is the Subukia highlands with the main surface flow of water being the Waiseges River.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The three lakes are a network that constitutes the most significant natural habitat for in-situ conservation of threatened and endangered species. The habitat

  • Sustains 75% of the global population of the lesser flamingo making this one of the greatest ornithological spectacles on earth.
  • Supports one of the major breeding colonies of the great white pelicans
  • Provides a vital wintering ground for over 100 species of migratory birds and is part of the palaeartic African migratory flyway system.

The three lakes share faulted geological landscape and hydro-geological connectivity and Lake Bogoria particularly has the highest concentration of true geysers in Africa.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The three lakes are protected by the government of Kenya and their alkaline their water has not been exploited for domestic or industrial use. All the three lakes have been designated as Ramsar sites further strengthening their status as protected areas. Management of the lakes has been done through collaboration between government of Kenya and the local communities. There are local conservancies such as the Ututu, Lake Elementaita and Soysambu conservancies that collaborate with the government in conserving the lake Elementaita. Lake Nakuru is solely protected by the Kenya Wildlife Service as a National Park while Lake Bogoria is managed by the Koibatek/Baringo County Councils in cooperation with the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Lakes Elementaita, Nakuru and Bogoria share some similarities with Lake Malawi which is listed in the World Heritage List. Lake Malawi is similar to the Kenyan lakes in the sense that it is also a Rift Valley lake. However, Elementaita, Nakuru and Bogoria are all alkaline while the Malawi is a fresh water lake. The alkaline lakes in the Rift Valley of eastern Africa are among the most productive natural ecosystems with a conspicuous feature of high concentrations of the lesser flamingos that feed on the blue-green algae. Flamingoes exist elsewhere in Africa (Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Uganda) but in nowhere near the concentrations found in the three lakes in the Kenyan Rift Valley but with exception of Lake Natron in Tanzania where lesser flamingo concentration are high during the breeding season. The main soda lakes in the region are the lake Elementaita, Nakuru and Bogoria as well as lakes Magadi and Logipi in Kenya; Natron and Eyasi in Tanzania and Langano Awass and Abijata-shala in Ethiopia.