The famous Nairobi National Park is a few minutes drive from Nairobi’ CBD (Central Business District). Covering over 45 square miles of forests, rocky valleys, and grasslands, it is the oldest national park in Kenya and the only one worldwide located within a country’s capital. The park’s proximity to a busy urban centre doesn’t diminish its serene feel and wildlife diversity.
The park takes pride in hosting over 100 species of mammals and more than 500 different types of avi-fauna. One of the things that make Nairobi Park more interesting than other safari destinations in East Africa is that it features free grazing herbivores such as wildebeest, giraffe, eland, Thompson’s gazelle, and other animals. It is the only park where you can capture a picture of a free-roaming buffalo, leopard, rhino, lion, and other amazing animals in a natural ecology against a city skyline or the backdrop of Nairobi City’s skyscrapers.
Nairobi Park has both man-made and natural boundaries. It features fences carefully set around the 45 square mile area except for the southern edge. The southern area of the park is an open space primarily used by migratory animals whenever sources of water and new vegetation develop outside the national park. Nairobi park also has resident animals, making it an outstanding all-year round excursion during your wilderness holiday in Kenya. If you visit the park during a rainy season, get ready to be awed with an abundance of sweet-scented wildflowers, particularly the yellow daisies.
4 of the BIG 5
The Nairobi National Park has genuinely earned the nickname ‘Kiffaru Ark,’ a testament to its unwavering success as a kifaru (rhinoceros) sanctuary. It is home to 4 of the big 5 – rhinoceros, leopards, lion, and buffalo but not elephants. The Kenya Wildlife Service moved the elephants to deter the human-animal conflict… after all, the park is a wildlife sanctuary within Kenya’s capital.
Lions, the king of the jungle, and scavengers such as hyenas are commonly sighted within the Nairobi Park. For convenience, rangers at the park’s entrance often provide updates on lion movements. However, you will need a lot of luck and a bit of patience to spot the park’s resident leopards and cheetahs.
Nairobi National Park has other animals too
River Athi is a natural southern boundary. It is an admirable setting for a quiet bushwalk through the serene riverine forest filled with birds and monkeys. The area also has crocodiles and hippos majorly found in river pools. According to Lonely Planet, the park’s wetland areas host about 400 bird species, which is way more than bird species in the entire United Kingdom. Other regularly spotted animals include warthogs, giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, ostriches, and more.
The animal orphanage: a refuge for the wildlife
The Nairobi animal orphanage is located within the Nairobi Park. Receiving more than 200,000 visitors annually, the wildlife sanctuary has become more of an educational centre. A couple of months ago, I visited this animal orphanage in the company of Subhankar Bhattacharjee (Subha), Dr. William Njuguna, and Manojit (we nicknamed him Babu – grandpa).
According to the park’s administration, the animal orphanage was established in 1964, making it the oldest of its kind in the country. It serves as an educational and training ground for over 20 animal and bird species. The park facilitates the rehabilitation of animals that are injured and young ones that have been abandoned.
Though open to international tourists, the Nairobi Safari Walk and the Nairobi Animal Orphanage serve as an affordable attraction for Kenyans. It is not uncommon to meet school children, groups of young people, and adult Kenyans in this park. What caught my attention and that of my companions is the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service)’s dedication to taking care of the animals. Guess what, all the animals within the orphanage are fed and taken care of by the rangers!
As we walked around within the park, we came across many animals such as monkeys, baboons, warthogs, buffaloes, and carnivores such as cheetahs, lions, jackals, hyenas, and more. Dr. Njuguna had even bought a few bananas to feed the monkeys… it was fun to see how the monkeys would scramble for a single banana. At last, the dominant male took the banana and tried to follow Dr. Njuguna for more.
Parrots, crown crane, ostrich, and guinea fowl are some of the avi-fauna rescued, treated, and preserved by the orphanage. The facility’s administration says that all the animals get medical examinations and the right treatment before being placed in a carefully designed and feeding rehabilitation program based on their individual needs.
Other amazing places within the Nairobi Park
The ivory burning site: You must have heard about the second president of Kenya – Daniel Arap Moi. This is where he set on fire 12 tons of ivory in a bid to terminate poaching and mass slaughter of Africa’s elephants. Thanks to our beloved Moi, we still have a growing population of elephants in Kenyan parks.
Impala observation point: Here, you can have panoramic views of impalas and other animals. It is a great picnic spot. It has toilets too – thought you should know.
Hippo pools and nature trail: This is a short, self-guided nature trail (majorly patrolled by the KWS rangers). It leads out of a shaded picnic section along the River Athi, where you can see crocodiles, hippos, and monkeys. Beware of the sneaky monkeys that can grab a banana from your hands.
Kingfisher picnic site: This is a shaded area equipped with picnic tables. It is ideal for early morning meals.
Mokoyeti picnic site: This is an open cliff top area with shaded tables and ample parking. Nearby is a leopard cliff observation point. It’s a breath-taking experience looking down into the gorge.
Nairobi National Park and the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, according to Subha and Manojit, are some of the unique places in Africa. The park is about 15 minute-drive away from the capital’s CBD and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Despite this fact, it has always been an exceptional initiative to preserve wildlife and the general environment.
What other places in Kenya or on the continent would you like to know more about? Mention them in your comments.