A day in the Nairobi National Park

This shared article, received from Porini Camps’ Aleema Noormohamed, is an absolute ‘Must Read’ as it describes the marvels of having a national park at the fringes of one of Africa’s major cities where just 10 miles from the Central Business District a new world opens for visitors. Thank you Aleema for sharing!

A hidden gem in bustling Nairobi

by Porini Camps on January 29, 2014 in Travel

Written by:Aleema Noormohamed

Born in Canada, bred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and having lived in Kenya for the last 20 years, travel is in my blood. I made a resolution 14 years ago, when the world was supposedly ending due to the dramatic turn of the century, that I would visit ONE new place every year, and to never stop exploring.

13 years later, I have seen more than 25 places in the world, some international, some local – and I can say with confidence that this is a resolution is attainable by everybody. So forget the long list of resolutions that you make at the end of every year. That list is unrealistic.

2013 for me, was a year of local exploration. Not venturing too far from home (Nairobi), I decided to re-explore a place I had not been to in many years; The Nairobi National Park. We take it for granted and often people wonder whether there could REALLY be ANY wildlife in such a small area of land that is surrounded by an entire throbbing and buzzing city? You would be surprised.

My sister and I visited on a Sunday morning, leaving home at 7am to get to the main gate at 7:30. There were already a few others ahead of us so we joined the line of parked vehicles as we got our entry tickets. A few minutes later the Kenya Wildlife Service rangers gave us a look over and said “enjoy your day girls”.

We drove in behind other park lovers. They took a right, we took a left. We were leaving the city behind. We drove for two minutes before seeing another 4WD parked to the right of the road. One of the guys in the car had binoculars and was pointing at something in the grass.

The grassy stems were very long and dry. We searched and waited. The silence of the park was incredible (especially knowing that the city was not too far behind us). We heard a ruffle and a soft crunch. The grass swayed gently and then we saw her move. Her ears flicked and she stuck her tongue out – a lioness – and we hadn’t spent more than 10 minutes in the Nairobi National Park!

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We waited for a few more minutes, hoping she would stand up. It didn’t seem like she had any intention of doing so. We were more than happy with our first sighting and decided to move on. As we drove on, we started spotting little herds of gazelles and trotting warthogs.

antelope

I was told about a little bush camp that was nestled in the middle of a forest in the park, so we kept an eye out for it (as we had left the directions at home). As we drove on, I looked around us, and there was no one else! Not a single vehicle in sight. There came a small herd of buffalos and our favourite striped animals, the zebras. Then a rhino and its little one crossed the road in front of us! I wasn’t ready for THAT!

We passed a little family of crowned cranes, and some guinea fowl jogged by heading over to the picnic site where baboons were waiting to prey on some unsuspecting tourist’s sandwich. We continued on and met with giraffes, and ONE eland among a throng of antelopes! I wondered if he was adopted.

nairobi-national-park

We reached the underbrush of what became thick forest, and hoped (in vain) that we would spot a leopard. It was so green around us. All we could hear was the slow humming of our engine and the rustling of the leaves. The sun’s rays were shining through the forest top reflecting a shimmer of green all around us, making us feel like we were in a fairy tale. Even though the wildlife stayed hidden in the woods, the drive through brought a sense of serenity. We drove past a sign that said “NTC”.

“STOP!” I told my sister. “We need to turn there! That’s the camp we are looking for!” She reversed the car, and we turned onto a path that crissed-crossed through the forest. We reached a “parking area” where we were met by a young Maasai. He smiled and guided us down a path. A bush buck calmly sat next to the path, looking at us through her long lashes.

buck

As we approached the camp, a tall giraffe welcomed us. What a comfortable and classy set up! A pleasant surprise to a long morning of driving around in the park!

The camp manager offered us a welcome drink and a seat in the mess tent. We exchanged stories about our morning adventure with some of her daily adventures activities around the camp. She hears lions roaring at night, has witnessed a rhino close up, has had to wait for a buffalo to move out of her path, has said good morning to a giraffe near the manager’s tent and has nicknamed a warthog, that has madeNairobi Tented Camp his home, Simon.

For a second we forgot we were in Nairobi!

nairobi-tent-camp

What a wonderful place to relax and unwind! I couldn’t believe this was just 20 minutes away from home! The manager kindly let us know what routes to take as we wanted to continue our adventure in the park. As we left Nairobi Tented Camp, I promised myself that I would come back to spend one night!

nairobi-tented-camp

The afternoon continued unfolding in all its glory. As we exited the forest, we met a sunbathing hippo and further on we spotted a giraffe and a buffalo sharing a common space in an amicable manner. In the distance, a bird flew high in the sky and an ostrich ran as if training for the next Olympic marathon. As our day came to a close, we realised we had spent seven full hours in the park without a dull moment!

One Response

  1. Wonderful to hear that the park is still as exciting as it was for me over 50 years ago when I first came here. I acquired an old “affordable” mini car and for its first outing ventured into the park. I spent all day exploring a world all new to me. Still watching and sketching a group of lions , suddenly the Park warden (a Uniformed Brit) drove up beside me to remind me the park was closing. Promptly my old “bargain” vehicle refused to start. I had to get out of the car to get under the bonnet to reconnect the fuel line, under protest from the warden because of the proximity of the lions, who by now almost seemed amused watching us. Eventually the warden agreed to stand guard, gun in hand while I disobeyed the law by leaving the safety of my car.
    All went well of course although I received a stern warning from the warden (who was, by now most certainly late for his dinner). I sent his wife flowers later. I managed to get a better vehicle and spent all my free time in the park all the years before I moved up-country. I am thrilled to read Aleema’s story.

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