You have all probably heard about ‘the only game park in a capital’s backyard’. Well I chose it to be my very first post since it is a jewel of this city.
Having been brought up in Nairobi, I must have visited the park at least a dozen times. However there is no exhausting the wildlife (flora and fauna alike) and fun at the 117 square kilometre (45 square mile) park that lies on the Athi-Kapiti plains west and south west of the city. It stretches almost as far as Ongata Rongai (quite far away) to the west and close to Athi-River town to the south.
The park is only a 15 minute drive away on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (J.K.I.A.) and a 5 minute drive away from Wilson Airport via the main gate.
An amazing truth about the protectorate is that it is only separated from the city by an electric fence hence allows one to view the city’s iconic skyline effortlessly from almost anywhere in the game park. The park is situated to the west of the regularly congested Mombasa road as is the ‘Uganda’ railway hence allowing a great view of the beautiful landscape and wildlife from the lunatic express.
Had Charles Miller considered this splendid view before writing his book ‘The Lunatic Express: An Entertainment in Imperialism'(from where the aforementioned name was coined) , perhaps he would have been less critical of it in the book’s poem;
Aboard the Lunatic Express
What it will cost no words can express;
What is its object no brain can suppose;
Where it will start from no one can guess;
Where it is going nobody knows;
What is the use of it none can conjecture;
What it will carry there’s none can define;
And in spite of George Curzon’s superior lecture,
It clearly is naught but a lunatic line.
We give the credit of the formation of such an influential conservatory to Kenyan-born Mervyn Hugh Cowie who was passionate about wildlife both in pre and post colonial Kenya.. He had to play the devil’s advocate by writing a letter as a pro-wildlife annihilation settler to the East African Standard to aggrevate public outcry that led to the establishment of the park in 1946.
Now the park is home to close to 100 mammal species compared to Tsavo East’s count of around 60 species despite only being less than 1% of Tsavo East’s area.
The numbers are now much higher with the park receiving close to 150,000 visitors each year.
This shows that the park has a very high animal species to area ratio which is probably the reason it receives such a high number of tourists per unit area. It actually received about the same number of tourists as the other side of Tsavo – the Tsavo West National Park on that same year (2009).
If you have not been to the park, then you might be wondering exactly what gets all these people flocking into the park in large numbers. You are the reason I decided to compile a list of the top attractions inside Kenya’s oldest game park:
This is the very reason for the park’s existence and there is plenty of reason to visit and re-visit the park as it has abundant wildlife, that is both flora and fauna.This is all managed by a national body mandated to do this known as the Kenya Wildlife Service or ‘KWS’ for short.
As I had mentioned earlier, there are close to 100 different mammal species including the famous endangered black rhino having a higher animal (black rhino) to area ratio than any other game park not only locally but also globally which has earned the game park the nickname ‘Kifaru Ark’.
This success is owed to numerous initiatives in the country to protect the endangered species and the commitment of the park’s and general KWS management in taking care of these precious animals.
“Nairobi National Park was nicknamed Kifaru Ark due to its groundbreaking work on rhinoceros conservation at its rhino sanctuary.”
The park is also home to 4 of the big 5 with all but the elephant being present. The big 5 comprises the lion, leopard,elephant, rhino and the buffalo.
There are many other mammal species in the park, the major ones being: cheetahs and leopards which can be a bit tricky to spot, giraffes, hyenas, zebras, hippos, wildebeests, warthogs, elands, gazelles, bush bucks, various types of monkeys etc. I could go on all day but I guess you’ll also have to discover some by yourself when you visit the park.
The park is also home to various reptiles such as snakes, crocodiles and tortoises.The park also has, as I had mentioned earlier, a very large bird collection with over 400 species sighted which is more than the number of species sighted in Mauritius and ‘the eighth planet’ ie Madagascar combined.
All these is attributed to the rich, diverse vegetation that can be found in the park- from the dominant dry savanna to the wooded savanna that house most of the herbivores (browsers and grazers alike) and their predators to the lush vegetation in the riverine forests on the embankments of the ever-enduring waterways that house the hippos, crocs and several other aquatic animals.
Therefore, visiting the park is just like the ultimate African Safari with game drives on old, sturdy land-cruisers maneuvering the dusty dirt roads across the awe-inspiring savanna landscape with wild animals being the only monotony-breakers but with a different twist-a backdrop of towering sky-scrapers!
NAIROBI SAFARI WALK
The Nairobi Safari Walk is just a stone throw away from the entrance of the park. It is a conservation based recreation facility at the park with a simulation of three totally different vegetation types – savanna, wetlands and forest – all in the same walk!
For a tourist planning to visit Kenya’s parks, it is the perfect tasting experience as to what the country has to offer in a single glance with an extremely rich array of species including the rare albino zebra and the bongo.
It is a 27 acre complex where one follows wooden walkways through the entire area with most parts being raised to get a good view of a larger area.
The wetland is the first area you’ll see and is usually a terraced ground-level walk amidst hippos and crocodiles lazily resting in the pools though it is common to find some feeding.
The tropical dry forest follows with the birds and plants being the main attraction while walking under the relaxing shade of the tall trees. It is a deeply soothing experience due to the calm breeze in the area. There are many benches where one can relax under these conditions here before proceeding onto a view point overlooking a waterhole in the park from where you can view a whole bunch of animals inside the park.
The final section is the elevated walk which is usually at tree top level in most parts and has a splendid view of the whole facility. From here you can even look at giraffes below here and the feeling here is just awesome!
In short, the safari walk is an extremely wonderful place by itself and a very well thought-out and executed idea. It seems to be in perfect sync with nature itself especially due to the “African Safari” theme that is brought out by the wooden poles and sisal used. Even the dustbins that litter the place (excuse my oxymoron) do seem to match this theme.This two-hour walk is definitely worth a try.
NAIROBI ANIMAL ORPHANAGE
The Nairobi Animal Orphanage is like an entirely different world on its own. The sight of people feeding cubs, playing with elephant calves and even taking photos with cheetahs (not so sure about selfies) is simply unbelievable and may even seem impractical at first sight.
The facility, which was opened to the public a month before Kenya attained full independence from Britain (November 1963), is a part of the greater Nairobi National Park.
The orphanage, which was established to act as a refuge for abandoned, injured and orphaned wild animals, provides an opportunity for a close-up view of the many animals found there. Because of this, the orphanage is a popular educational and recreational facility, receiving more than 200,000 visitors per year – a large number of these being local tourists and especially students and school-going children.
Animals that may be found here include: lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, warthogs, antelopes, serval sokoke cat, baboons, various monkeys, a buffalo, a rhino and birds such as parrots, guinea fowls, ostriches and crested cranes. Some animals may not be present since treated animals are sometimes returned to the wild.
Did You Know? A cheetah can travel up to a speed of 115 km/h (71 mph) and can accelerate from 0 to 103 km/h in just 3 seconds. This is more than two and a half times Usain Bolt’s top speed of approx. 44 km/h (27 mph)!
The park can be accessed from any of five public gates. However entry is now by safari card only which can be acquired and loaded only at the main gate.Charges for non-residents are: USD 30 for children and students and USD 55 for adults.
Make sure you book a trip to the park if you haven’t done that yet as this captivating park is the door to the rest of magical Kenya and only several kilometres from so many social amenities not found close to any other park in the world such as malls, restaurants and four and five star hotels.