Flamin’ Flamingos

Flamingos in Africa

With their sunrise pink plumage and gentle rhythmic moves, flamingos flock in great numbers in Africa and it’s a special sight to see. Tourists come from all over the world to witness the colourful migration. Yet these spectacular birds in the wild cannot be expected at every lake and wetland throughout the year because their movement is based on a number of variables.

Interesting fact – flamingos move in unison when they feel threatened to make it difficult to identify a single bird.

Here we share with you information to help plan a holiday that takes in flamingos in Africa, whether it’s visiting East Africa’s Tanzania and Kenya or Southern Africa’s Botswana or Namibia

Flamingos in Africa

The different flamingo species

First up, let’s learn about the different species of flamingos in Africa. There are the lesser and greater flamingos.

The Lesser Flamingo is the shortest of the five species in the world (two in Africa). Primarily found in the Rift Valley Lakes and further south in Namibia and Botswana, this species can also be seen in Ethiopia and parts of Sudan. The Lesser Flamingo have pale pink plumage, legs and bills and small heads. They stand no more than a metre tall and the females tend to be smaller than the males. They can live up to 50 years on the wild.

The Greater Flamingo is the largest of the flamingo family with the most impressive wingspan between 1.4 and 1.7 metres.   Young birds are grey before they get their full adult plumage. The Greater Flamingo has a loud deep honking call similar to a goose and are most vocal during courtship. Their legs and necks are long and bills pink with a black tip.

Image courtesy of L. Harris

Flamingos in Africa

The natural habitat of Flamingos

Flamingos are wading birds and have evolved to live in some of the planet’s most extreme wetland environments. They prefer the shallow waters where feeding is easy and algae abundant. They also need small insects, crustaceans, small fish and molluscs in the water to thrive.

Flamingos have very few natural predators because they live in remote, inhospitable places. In Africa, they are sometimes hunted by starving predators in desperate times.

Flamingos in Africa

Best places to see flamingo

Lake Natron | Tanzania

We take you to Tanzania’s Lake Natron at the base of Africa’s only active volcano, Oldonyo Lengai. Here, the lake is highly alkaline which makes it hostile to all forms of life except for spirulina – the main food source for lesser flamingos. It is also the source that triggers the famous bright pink and orange colouring. What this means is you can see birds flock here by the thousands to feed and breed. Some 75% of the world’s lesser flamingos depend on this lake to breed. The best time to visit to see the lesser flamingo in Africa is September through to December.

An affordable accommodation option in the area is Lake Natron Tented Camp

Flamingos in Africa

Best places to see flamingo

Lake Bogoria | Kenya

Moving across the border into Kenya, we come to Lake Bogoria with its bubbling thermal springs and steaming geysers. This is home to massive flocks of flamingos capable of reaching the millions at peak times of the year. This is home at times to one of the world’s largest populations of lesser flamingos. These birds used to feed at Lake Nakuru but intense farming has pushed them here. This is an ideal location for spotting flamingo anytime of the year due to the sheer number of them.

For an affordable accommodation option check out Lake Bogoria Spa Resort. We love its naturally heated spa poo known for therapeutic healing.

Image courtesy of K&T Smith

Flamingos in Africa

Best places to see flamingo

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans | Botswana

Further south in Africa is an exceptionally impressive salt pans that fills in the rainy season. This rain attracts vast numbers of wildlife including the lesser flamingo.

The Makgadikgadi salt pan complex is one of Africa’s largest ephemeral wetlands and comprises the most important breeding site in southern Africa for both Greater and Lesser Flamingos which are in a massive decline in this region. The integrity of the wetland is at threat with heavy overgrazing along the inflowing rivers. Fortunately fantastic work began some years ago with the Makgadikgadi Wetlands Working group monitoring the environment and wildlife in a bid to protect the wetlands ecosystem.   The best time to visit is December to May.

Our favourite accommodation is Jack’s Camp for those with a budget. If you’re self driving check out Nata Lodge and those wanting comfort without compromise, Camp Kalahari.

Image courtesy of J&B Bass

Flamingos in Africa

Best places to see flamingo

Namibia

One of Africa’s most exciting bird spectacles is large flocks of flamingo and Namibia sees them gathering on salt pans and wetlands. Both species can be seen here.

The greater flamingos are known to gather in flocks of around 50,000 at shallow lakes, salt pans, lagoons, estuaries and sandy beaches. Etosha is a highlight when the pans are full of water. Breeding pairs arrive in vast numbers. Greater Flamingo are also down on the coast at Walvis Bay and the Swakopmund salt works on the diamond coast.

Image courtesy of J&B Bass

Flamingos in Africa

Flying Flamingo Itineraries

Here we share with you a few quick itineraries for inspiration should you be keen to see flamingos along with other African wildlife on a safari holiday sometime soon.

The Long Way Round 14 nights Tanzania

Lake Natron is situated on the east side of the famous Serengeti so why not take in Tanzania’s highlights. We love to do this with private guide and vehicle and away you go. You will see the whole of the Serengeti in a circular route, visit Lake Natron, drive past the flamingo filled lakes located at the Ol Doinyo Dengai volcano – a road that’s scenically beautiful yet not for the faint hearted. It is quite a long route and off road so 4×4 and experienced guides essential!

Day 1 – You will arrive into Arusha for the night. Rivertrees Country Inn

Day 2 & 3 – Tarangire National Park for spectacular scenery and wildlife. Tarangire Ndovu Camp

Day 4 & 5– Spoil yourself with Gibbs Farm for a few nights

Day 5 – Ngorongoro Crater drive

Day 6 &7 – Onwards to Olduvai gorge. Arrive in Southern Serengeti. On safari 2 nights at Chaka Camp

Day 8 & 9– Serian Serengeti North Camp 2 nights

Day 10 – Suyan Camp for a night to break up the journey

Day 11 & 12 – Two nights at Lake Natron Camp, exploring the region

Day 13 & 14 –Wayo Manyara Green Camp for the ultimate expereince

Day 15 – Back to Arusha. End

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Five days of Flamingos Kenya Rift Valley Lakes

Kenya is home to an impressive array of Rift Valley Lakes not to mention flamingo populations. Whilst we rave about Lake Baringo, it is also worth visiting LakeNakuru

Because these two are the largest gathering sites in the country for greater and lesser flamingo species. Then we have Lake Naivasha and Lake Elementaita, both protected nesting sites for pelicans and flamingos. Of course it’s not just about the birds, you will have game drives in national parks that are also home to lion, elephant, rhino and other species we crave to see in the wild.

Day 1 – Arrive Nairobi. Meet your private driver and vehicle and head to Lake Nakuru. 4 nights

Day 2- spend the day in Nakuru. It has one of the highest bird diversities in the world not to mention impressive gathering of greater and lesser flamingo not to mention lion, buffalo, waterbuck and leopard if you are lucky plus the endangered Rothschild Giraffe, black and white rhino.

Day 3 – Full day trip out to Lake Bogoria or choose to venture further north to Lake Baringo. Enjoy the pink carpet of flamingos and see the active volcanic lake along the western shoreline with its sprouting geysers and bubbling springs.

Day 4- Visit Elementaita for its flamingo along the lake and Soysambu where you can spot the Rothschild giraffe.

Day 5 – Head back to Nairobi or continue the excitement and add on the magical Masai Mara

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Botswana Flamingo beauty 6 nights

Taking in the best of Botswana at the right time, you’ll see the desert in full glory and the delta’s myriad of waterways and big wildlife.

Day 1- Arrive into Maun. Exhilarating light aircraft flight to the Makgadigadi Salt Pans. Jack’s Camp 3 nights

Day 4 – Light aircraft flight to the famous Okavango Delta. Kwando Splash Camp or Kwara Camp 3 nights

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Namibia Flying Flamingos

This is an awesome flying safari around Namibia, taking in the highlights and of course maximising your chances of seeing flamingo in the wild. Explore Walvis Bay, the famous Skeleton Coast, and the stunning scenery of Kaokoveld.

Day 1 – Arrive Windhoek, enjoy dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse. Galton House 1 night

Day 2 – Fly to Swakopmund. Road transfer to Walvis Bay. Protea Hotel Pelican Bay 2 nights

Day 3 – Walvis Bay Kayaking excursion to see flamingos or motorised boat seal and dolphin excursion

Day 4 – Fly to Skeleton Coast. Road transfer Mowe bay to Skeleton Coast Shipwreck Lodge. Two nights

Day 5 – Full day excursion to Mowe Bay to visit the seal colony

Day 6 – Fly to Sesfontein. Road transfer to Kaokoveld. Hoanib Valley Camp two nights

Day 7 – Spend the day enjoying the activities on offer: Game drives, nature walks, rhino tracking, cultural experience with local Herero people

Day 8 – Transfer to Sesfontein. Fly to Windhoek. End

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