Lake Elementeita ( also spelled Elementaita or Lake Elmenteita) is a small soda lake with a size of 18 square kilometers. The word Elementeita is derived from the Maasai word muteita, meaning “dust place”. A reference to the dryness and dustiness’ of the area, especially between January and March.
Lake Elementeita which is alkaline is close to Lake Nakuru National Park, part of it is within Soysambu Conservancy.
It is globally recognized as an Important Bird Area. Lake Elementeita has also been designated as one of the wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites) in Kenya since 2005. Lake Elementeita is one of the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley, a natural property of exceptional splendor, comprises three inter-linked fairly shallow lakes (Lake Bogoria, 10,700 hectares Lake Nakuru 18,800 hectares, and Lake Elementaita 2,534 hectares) on the floor of Great Rift Valley and covers an entire area of 32,034 hectares.
Lake Elementeita is home to 13 globally threatened bird species and some of the highest bird diversities in the world. Due to the assemblage of various birds of conservation concern, such as the threatened, range-restricted Grey-crested Helmet-shrike (Near threatened) which occurs in the surrounding woodland where it may be resident.
It also sustains significant populations of over 100 species of Palearctic migratory birds by offering a vital wintering ground for them. Making this one of the greatest ornithological spectacles on earth, the lake forms part of the Great Rift Valley migratory flyway system for migratory birds. Lake Elementeita is fed by the Kikopey hot springs at its southern end, and two small streams, the Meroronyi and Kariandusi, flowing from the eastern plateau. The surrounding landscape is characterized by dramatic rocky faults, volcanic outcrops, and cones. Rainfall is erratic and averages less than 600 mm/year.
Birdlife in lake Elementeita is prolific; over 400 bird species have been recorded. Birding in Lake Elementeita is pretty easy because it is done while walking as opposed to many areas where it is done while driving vehicles. On a good birdwatching day, you can record up to 200 bird species. Both Greater and Lesser Flamingo varieties are attracted to Lake Elmenteita by the insect larvae, crustaceans, and blue-green algae. Close to four million Lesser Flamingos travel between the three lakes (Lakes Elmenteita, Nakuru, and Bogoria).
Great White Pelicans Breeding Site
In addition, lake Elementeita supports one of the major breeding colonies of the Great White Pelicans in the world with over 8000 breeding pairs in the three islands. The breeding islands are sometimes filled with side-by-side nesting birds and a closely packed host of dark-colored young ones. Breeding is high during the wet season as the water levels of the Lake are high and rocky outcrops in the eastern sector are flooded to form islands that are perfect for safe nesting.
Lake Elementeita does not have an adequate fish supply for all these huge birds so they fly to Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha to fish and bring the catch back in their large beak-pouches to their young. Great White Pelicans often feed in tightly packed groups, submerging heads and beaks in unison often referred to as synchronized feeding; prey has minimal chances of escaping
The sky is often filled with flocks of pelicans circling in formation, seeking the thermals to lift them up the sky. The Great White pelicans move in waves of the tightly packed flock, that fly in and crash land onto the water before scooping their enormous beaks deep down and coming up with large mouthfuls of Tilapia Grahami fish. The noise that is formed from all the wing flapping is deafening and sounds like a small jet flying low over your head, They return in the late afternoon and regurgitate fish from their throat pouches for their young
The natural vegetation is mainly Acacia and Tarconanthus camphoratus bushland interspersed with Themeda triandra grassland.
Patches of Acacia xanthophloea woodland occur near the shore, and formerly covered a large area south of the lake