NAIROBI, Kenya –It was a chilly morning and we were all prepared for a quiet but fun day at the Nairobi National Park. Located some eight kilometers from the central business district, the Nairobi National Park is the only park in the world that is situated within a city and yet one where you can find zebras and giraffes browsing against the silhouettes of apartment buildings and office skyscrapers.
This unique mix of environments teams with wildlife and is home to more than 400 species of birds, 80 species of mammals, 40 species of reptiles, and more than 500 plant species. This notwithstanding, the surroundings are serene and boast miles of rolling grass plains, making them suitable locations for solitude and meditation.
Situated in the Lang’ata suburb, the Nairobi National Park is about 10 minutes drive from the city centre if you are lucky enough not to encounter the irritating traffic jams within the city. There are three ways to get there: One, if you live near the park, all you need to do is walk there. If travelling by public transport, take buses or matatus (mini buses in Swahili) plying the Lang’ata road and get off at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) headquarters gate. The third option is to drive there.
Lunch at the Picnic Spot
If you don’t have a personal car, don’t worry. The Kenya Wildlife Services provides transport to the park, complete with a guide, at a nominal fee. Small cars can be used, but four-wheel-drives are preferable considering the scenic route is on all-weather rough roads. Being in the company of an experienced driver and professional guide, we eagerly anticipated the game drive of our lives. The first signs of wildlife were fresh buffalo droppings. Further a field, a heard of zebras quietly grazed against the magnificent backdrop of the city. We could make out the silhouettes of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) and Times Towers.
In the Heart of the Park
Our driver maneuvered the harsh terrain and made straight for the stripped mammals to enable us get a better view. Suddenly a male ostrich appeared as if it had been summoned by the sound of our engine. He looked up at us, then sideways, and walked away casually. We took a break at one of the specially created picnic spots to have lunch. These designated areas are the only places where you can get off and walk safely. The Kingfisher picnic site for instance, is a cool, green shaded area with picnic tables and is ideal for morning bush breakfasts, lunchtime relaxation or evening sundowners. Guests are free to cook their own meals and do barbecues at any of the picnic sites.
Hippo pools are on the eastern side of the park (although it relatively easy to lose your bearing) but we were not lucky enough to see any hippos. We did see a lot of favorite wild animals, but we failed to locate the king of the jungle – the lion. The lions, hippos, rhinos are located in a different location called safari walk. Most of the animals are in a fenced area where you can walk and see them. My Korean friends who had come to visit me were mesmerized by what they saw.
Ivory Burning Site
The Ivory Burning site stands out, perhaps because it sits closer to the main gate. It is here where, in 1989, former president Daniel Moi set on fire 12 tones of stockpiled ivory in what was then an aggressive campaign to stop the mass slaughter of Africa’s elephants. The ashes of the burnt ivory still speckle the place.
About Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi National Park was gazzeted in 1946. It is the first and only one of a kind in the world. It covers an area of 117 sq. km. of the “big five”, only the lion, buffalo, leopard and, rhino can be found here. The national park opens daily to both domestic and international tourists. Part of the parks beauty lies in the dry highland forest at the western end, riverine forested areas to the south and rolling grassland vegetations. The road network goes on for more than 250km and is well maintained. Sign posts are placed strategically all over the National Park, making it impossible anyone to lose their way through this vast savanna. Although the park looks safe to take a walk, this is highly prohibited because you never know when the wild animals will appear. In 1900, the park was a grazing ground for the Maasai and Somali herdsmen. The onset of the First World War changed all that when the colonial masters designated the park as a training ground for its solders. During the Second World War, it served as a firing range until it was gazzeted in 1946. The picnic spots can be booked for weddings, parties, and business meetings.
Hilary Kimyu (right) lived in the ROK for six years and now translates Korean in the Kenyan law Court and also writes for the People News paper in Kenya. For more information and feedback email him at firstname.lastname@example.org