Expert Reviews – Abijatta-Shalla NP
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
Protecting a stretch of semi-arid savannah and the two Rift Valley lakes for which it is named, Abijatta-Shalla is quite a scenic park but likely to disappoint anybody whose primary interest isn’t birdwatching. Shallow Lake Abijatta, surrounded by an open floodplain due to its declining water level, is particularly rewarding for resident and seasonal waders. Overlooked by a newly opened lodge, a scenic highlight is the small but picturesque Lake Chitu Crater Lake, which is nestled within a tuff explosion crater and harbours a semi-resident flock of around 15,000 flamingos. A seasonal flock of up to 300,000 greater and lesser flamingos usually arrives on Lake Abijatta towards the end of the rainy season (September and October) and might stick around for up to four months. The park is also good for acacia-associated birds and you may also see antelope such as lesser kudu and dik-dik.
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
Flamingos in the Rift Valley
Due to human encroachment there is unfortunately not a lot of wildlife left in Abijatta-Shalla. Driving through, you might encounter a few skittish Grant’s gazelles or a troop of Anubis baboons, but not much else. But the main reason for exploring this park is to marvel at the big flocks of greater and lesser flamingo that feed both in Lake Abijatta and in a small but scenic crater lake called Chitu. The shallow shores of these Rift Valley lakes also attract a big variety of waders, while the surrounding acacia woodland is home to colorful dry-country barbets, bee-eaters and the like. It is worth timing a visit to Abijatta-Shalla carefully. The landscape tends to look harsh and forbidding in the midday glare, but towards dusk, when thousands of flamingos are silhouetted against still waters below the setting sun, it’s a visual treat that will stay with you forever.