Nairobi National Park located only 8 miles (13 km) south of Nairobi, covers 45 square miles (117 sq. km) and has a variety of wildlife. Among the animals in Nairobi National Park are several types of antelope, hippo, black rhino, and even the occasional lion, cheetah, and a bit of everything except the elephant. The park is a sure Kenya safari destination to meet black rhinos with one of the highest concentrations of black rhinos in Africa, with a current population of over 100. Nairobi National Park is a linking corridor to the Athi-Kapiti Plains and Kitengela for a wildlife migration to Amboseli National Park.
Most of the park is open plains with areas of scattered acacia bush. The permanent Athi River is fringed by yellow-barked fever trees, and there is a small patch of highland forest dominated by crotons. An impressive list of birds has been recorded, but the occurrence is seasonal for many species. Should you consider Nairobi National Park Day tours; among the characteristic varieties to encounter here include; ostrich, secretary bird, black-headed heron, augur buzzard, little bee-eater, and Jackson’s widowbird.
There is something very strange about being in the midst of wild game while still within sight of a city skyline. Altitude ranges from 4,950 to 5,850 feet (1,500 to 1,785 m) above sea level. The David Sheldrick Trust manages a small animal orphanage near the main park entrance, caring for hurt, sick or stray animals. The side of the park facing Nairobi is fenced. There is an extensive network of gravel roads, and apart from a few steep ones in the hilly south, most are navigable in an ordinary car but a 4wd vehicle is recommended in the rainy season for your Nairobi National Park safari.
The open grassy plains of the national park, dotted with acacia trees and man-made dams, offer rewarding game viewing only a 15-minute drive from city center for an arranged Nairobi National Park day trip. A map can be bought at the Main Gate with detailed numbered points that match road junctions in the park however, for a better experience, booking within a Kenya safari operator is recommended. Staff at this gate may provide information on where to locate the park’s wildlife, especially lion and cheetah, which are monitored closely but with lack of expert knowledge a safari guide may have, locating the animals on your own will be hard. A rewarding game drive takes 3–4 hours for you to see most of the park, its picnic sites and the nature trail at the Hippo Pool on the Athi river.
How to get to Nairobi National Park?
While there are several gates open to Nairobi National Park day tours, the Main Gate is located just beyond Wilson Airport, is the most suitable point of access. The headquarters of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the office of the Safety and Communication Centre are both located in a cluster of buildings here. You will also find a park information center in this complex, along with such facilities as a car park, cafés, the Ranger’s restaurant and a shop that sells gifts and maps of the park. Two of the park’s most popular attractions, the Safari Walk and the Animal Orphanage, are situated near Main Gate. To the left of the gate is the office day trip visitors pay for and top up their Safari Card.
The Safari Walk in Nairobi National Park was opened in 2006 and funded by the European Union, this is a fantastic walk through 40 acres of forest that is home to some 150 indigenous species of flora, which in turn attract plenty of birds. The walk starts on a paved path and rises into the forest on a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk that eventually winds its way to overlook a waterhole. As part of your Nairobi National Park Safari, ensure to hire a guide at the gate, or make their own way around by reading the notice boards that not only describe the animals but also provide information about the human-animal conflict in the wild.
Animals inhabit spacious grassy mounds that are separated by moats and single electric fencing. Despite this, the atmosphere is anything but zoo-like. Resident wildlife includes the big cats, buffalo, monkey, pygmy hippo, rhino, plains zebra, hyena, ostrich, unusual albino zebras, and the rare bongo antelope. Lions can be seen behind a glass barrier at grass level in a sunken hide, while leopards can be viewed from above, at tree level. At the cheetah enclosure, visitors are permitted to enter and pat the cat and take photographs. At the beginning of the walk is a time capsule earmarked to be opened in 2050. Inside are messages from local people about what improvements they would like to see for the welfare of wildlife in Kenya.
The Animal Orphanage in Nairobi National Park provides a refuge for sick and orphaned animals. Some of these animals are brought here from the country’s various national parks for cure and care, while others, such as baby cheetahs that were captured to become pets, have been rescued from poachers by KWS staff. Whenever possible, animals are reintroduced into the wild. When this is not possible, the orphanage becomes their home for the rest of their lives. Informative boards narrate the story of each individual animal, and when there are cubs resident, visitors are permitted into the enclosures for a close-up photograph. Although the orphanage was established in 1964, the enclosures are regularly added to and improved upon, including the one for a leopard that has been built around a tree.
While the western, northern, and eastern sides of Nairobi National Park are fenced to keep wildlife out of Nairobi’s residential areas and off the Nairobi–Mombasa Highway, the southern boundary is unfenced and provides access to the Athi Plains. Owned by group ranches and private land owners, this dispersal area covers approximately 1,000 sq km (385 sq miles) and is an essential component of the park’s ecosystem, particularly because it serves as a natural open corridor for migrating wildlife. Many herbivores migrate to the Athi Plains during the rainy season that starts in November. They move back to the park’s permanent waterholes during the dry season from July to August. Large populations of giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, eland, and Thomson’s gazelle can be seen grazing across the seemingly endless plains. A number of birds, including the strutting secretary bird, crested crane, and ostrich, are also plentiful during this time.
Athi River and Hippo Pool
One of the most magnificent areas of Nairobi National Park is along its southwestern boundary, which has steep valleys created by streams joining the Athi river. The Athi enters the park in the southeastern corner and forms a natural boundary along the park’s southern edge. Hyraxes are plentiful on the rocks and the sure-sighted may even spot a klipspringer or mountain reedbuck. The Athi’s park side is favored by zebras. A stretch on the river’s southern boundary known as the Hippo Pool is a popular picnic spot. There is a ranger post here, allowing people to leave their vehicles. An armed warden will accompany day trip visitors on the short, shady walk through a riverine forest well populated with vervet monkeys. Pigeons, barbets, and starlings feed on the fig trees here, while the acacia trees are a favorite roost for white-backed and Ruppell’s griffon vultures.