Gazetted in 1946 as the first East Africa park, Nairobi National Park is famous for it’s close proximity to Nairobi City. It’s a mixture of grass plains and highland dry forest, including a permanent river.
Over 100 species of mammals and 400 species of birds have been recorded in the park. It’s such a source of amazement that such a variety of wildlife can be viewed within sight of the skyscrapers and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and four of the BIG 5 can be seen here – leopard, lion, buffalo, and rhino, but no elephant.
As in all national parks, the animals are free to come and go as grazing dictates; the usual ‘faunal reservoir’ adjacent in this case the Kitengela Conservation Area and the Ngong Hills Game Reserve.
For all its ‘urbanity’, remember the game is as wild as anywhere.
It is because of the park’s location within the city that Nairobi is fondly known as ‘The Safari Capital of the World’.
A day tour at Nairobi National Park offers a gentle orientation into the world of safari giving you a taste of what to expect from the bigger parks spread around the country.
Few things can be as exciting as watching the game all morning but sitting down for a picnic lunch inside the park during your day tour is a unique experience to look forward to.
There are plenty of other activities for those taking a full day tour including taking a walk at the hippo pools, checking out the historic ivory burning site and visiting the Nairobi Safari Walk. Some of the other fun activities to engage in the park include camping, and hiking, corporate events, team building sessions, weddings and video and film production.
Nairobi National Park was initially part of the Great Southern Game Reserve created in 1900, but remained a grazing ground for pastrolists until the beginning of World War I.
It then became a training ground for the King’s Africa Rifles, and was declared the first national park in East Africa in December 1946 after its gazettement.
Despite a drought between 1973-74, which disseminated the wildebeest and zebra population by nearly 75%, and despite conflicts from the Athi-Kapiti area, sometimes by Maasai seeking grazing land, this compact wildlife community is unique in its natural survival so near the capital city.
Black and white rhinos, Maasai giraffes, buffaloes, Coke’s hartebeests, wildebeests. A good chance of lions and cheetahs, and leopards and spotted hyenas also resident; also olive baboons, vervet and blue monkeys, hippos and Nile crocodiles.
Plains zebra, Masai giraffes, buffaloes, antelopes, and gazelles complement the cat list. The park has Kenya’s highest density of black rhinos, and there’s a good chance of seeing white rhino. Spotted hyenas and leopards also occur.
Small antelopes – oribis, steinbucks, Kirk’s dik-diks and bushbucks – live among the whistling thorn and Cardia bushes.
Impala Point is a good place from which to scan the grasslands for rhinos, giraffes, buffaloes, and antelopes such as elands and kongonis. Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelles, impalas and warthogs can be encountered virtually anywhere on the plains.
Wildebeests and plains zebra cross the park’s southern boundary to disperse across the Kitengela plains during the rains, but few are present year-round.
Hippos wallow in the Athi River, emerging to graze on the banks at night, and terrapins and Nile crocodiles bask on exposed mud.
Opportunistic pied crows and black kites due to the close proximity to the city; red-winged sterlings, platoons of marabou storks and cattle egret, and chittering flocks of little swifts are not endemic to the park but are present.
Variable sun-birds are a must see, maybe a common Bul-Bul or two, iridescent greater blue-eared sterlings, rufous sparrows and speckled mousebirds, silvery-cheeked hornbills and showy Hartlaub’s turacos are common, and even the comical honking of the Hadada ibises can be heard on most days.