Sunday, September 21, 2014


My husband isn't one to let a single minute go to waste when we are traveling, and when he learned that our tour company was going to let us sleep in on our last day in Kenya, he made alternate plans. As long as there were more possibilities, he wasn't ready to be done safari-ing.

For a small fee, our driver Steven was willing to take us on a private safari tour of the Nairobi National Park. Honestly, I was tired and just about safari-ed out, but it was hard to pass up this unique opportunity.
Steven's well-worn copy of Collins Guide to African Wildlife in its customary spot on the dashboard.
Kenya is the only country in the world that has a national park inside a city: the Nairobi National Park, located only four miles from the city center. The park was created in 1946 and was, amazingly, the very first national park established in Kenya. Even Serengeti National Park, what I consider to be the granddaddy of them all, wasn't established until 1951.

At about 45 square miles, or 28,963 acres, NNP isn't very large in comparison to massive parks like the Serengeti (which is 5,700 square miles or 3,648,000 acres), but that's still a pretty big chunk of land to carve out of a city. By way of comparison, Griffith Park in Los Angeles is 1/7 the size at 4,217 acres, and New York's Central Park is only 778 acres. The largest zoo I've been to, the San Diego Zoo, is only 99 acres. Nairobi National Park is still plenty big.
As one would expect, this park is well-protected with electric fences to keep the animals in. I can only imagine what havoc a few stampeding rhinos or prowling lions could wreak on the Nairobi city center. The fence on one side of the park actually runs along the road that leads to the airport. Only three sides of NNP, however, are fenced. The border of the fourth side is the Mbagathi River, which means the park is open to the southern plains, allowing for animal migration. Before the population explosion in Nairobi (which had 11,000 people in 1906, about 100,000 in 1946 when the park was established, and 3,000,000 people now), there was a huge herbivore migration--supposedly as big as the Serengeti annual migration--between Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya that went right through this area. Now a much smaller number of animals comes during the dry season to take advantage of the man-made watering holes, but the migration ends in the park.
Nairobi National Park is one of Africa's most successful rhino sanctuaries; unfortunately, the rhino above and the one below are the only ones we saw:

Not too far inside the entrance gate, we were met by a not very friendly welcoming committee:
They need to work on their Travel & Tourism skills, along with their uniforms:
Good advice--I think. "Be aware" is very different from "Beware":

The Nairobi skyline lurks in the background, blanketed with a combination of morning mist and city smog. It is an eerie backdrop for a safari drive, a surreal juxtaposition of man and nature:
The animals pay the city no mind, however, as they go about their normal activities:

In fact, the animals don't pay any mind to anything human, as we learned when we happened upon a little tryst taking place in the tall grass
Photo by Bob
We can now add lions mating to our "We Can't Believe We Saw That!" list:
Photo by Bob
The variety and quantity of animals for such a small area was astonishing. We saw several herds of impala:

I wouldn't want to run into those horns, shaped and honed to a sharp point like barbecue tongs:
Photo by Bob
Two large impala had a difference of opinion and were having a face-off:
Photo by Bob
In spite of the drama, the other impala just continued with their nonchalant grazing:
Photo by Bob
The strangest-looking antelope has to be the eland, with its corkscrew horns and cowl-like drop of neck skin:
Eland Photos by Bob
Our second sighting during our trip of a hartebeest:
Hartebeest photos by Bob

The legs and necks of these two male ostriches looked weirdly pink, like a really bad sunburn:

Photo by Bob
Photo by Bob
The female was wearing her customary unpretentious outfit, and she was not shockingly pink like the males. Nope, only the males blush during the mating season.
Photo by Bob
My husband loves birds, and our driver Steven was good at helping him pick out different species, like this delicately patterned white-browed coucal:
Photo by Bob
. . . and this Diederich's cuckoo, snacking on a worm:
Photo by Bob
We had seen one of these before, the heaviest flying bird in the world, the Kori bustard:
Photo by Bob
Uh oh. Here we go again.
There must have been something in the water hole the day we were there, some kind of love potion. It was definitely mating season. This time, a large male giraffe was hanging out really close to a female about half his size.

She took a step, he took a step. She turned left, he turned left. She stopped, he, um, didn't.

Photo by Bob
Aw, so tender. Add it to the "I Can't Believe We Saw That" list.

Bob insisted on getting out of our Land Cruiser at this view point. Steven and I stayed inside the vehicle, and Steven was visibly nervous as he scanned the area--whether for wild animals or park rangers, I'm not sure.
Bob didn't see anything too exciting, so he came back and we were on our way.  These hyraxes watched us depart, relieved that they weren't going to be dinner:

Nairobi National Park is the #1 tourist attraction in Nairobi, but we saw almost no other vehicles in the park. We were there very early, but I would expect most visitors to be there early as mornings are typically the best time to see game. I think we lucked out by traveling just before the main tourist season.  Anyway, for non-residents, the park entrance fee is $50/adult, but Kenyans pay 500 Kenyan shillings, or about $5.50. It is a popular place for school field trips, and I'm sure there is a nice discount for students.

Besides being a game reserve, Nairobi Naional Park is an important conservation center. A meaningful place to visit in the park is the Ivory Burning Memorial.  In 1989, President Daniel arap Moi burned 2,000 elephant tusks weighing twelve tons and worth millions of dollars on this site in an effort to reduce the value of ivory and curtail the growing poaching problem. It was four years' worth of confiscated ivory. Moi said, ". . . to stop the poacher, the trader must also be stopped and to stop the trader, the final buyer must be convinced not to buy."
"Great objectives often require great sacrifices. I now call
upon the people of the world to join us in Kenya by
eliminating the trade in ivory once and for all."
President Daniel arap Moi
It is horrifying to think that each set of tusks represents a giant elephant:
Picture from here
What the pile looks like now:

The brass plaque reads: "This monument which commemorates the
burning of 12 tons of ivory by H. E. President Daniel arap Moi on
July 18 1989 was made possible by the generosity of the East African
Wildlife Society and the World Wide Fund for Nature."

We would have liked to spend more time here, including a visit to the animal orphanage that is part of the park, but we had to get back to the hotel to join the rest of our group for a little more tourism in Nairobi.

Next: Sights of Nairobi


  1. Several of our most fun sightings happened here: the mating lions, the mating giraffes and the eland (the only close-up view of an eland we got).

  2. Nice variety of African animals. I particularly like the ostrich picture (by Bob), with his bright pink, muscular legs.
    That pile of burning tusks is just sad.

  3. I am all about squeezing in as much as you can in the time that you have, It looks like it paid out in some amazing pictures.

  4. I'm back on safari with you. I thought immediately that this park's proximity to the city would be terrific for school classes and field trips, and sure enough, you mention it at the end. I enjoyed seeing the symmetry of the horns when the animals would do a face off/fight, and that IS a tender moment with that giraffe at the end (quick shutter fingers!)


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