NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 – The gentle swish and sway of the branches, the strong musty odour from animals and plants, the strumming of a guitar, banter in the background and the gentle stream of sunshine trying to steal through my sunglasses makes me want to close my eyes and enjoy this moment for the rest of my life.
This is despite the fact that the events just before this blissful moment almost made my well planned visit to the park not come to pass.
Previous assignments had meant that our office car was late. Then the heavy traffic jam within the City Centre and along Langata road – characteristic of any Friday afternoon in Nairobi – could make you forget how just a short drive could allow you the enjoyment of such a tranquil and peaceful moment within a destination that most Kenyans have come to take for granted, the Nairobi National Park.
My pleasant host, KWS Marketing Executive Gladys Kosgei and I are seated at the beautiful Twiga Terrace of the Rangers Restaurant. She informs me that despite Nairobi Nationals Park’s convenient location it does not attract as many visitors compared to its counterparts in the country. Apparently, they rarely get repeat visitors even though this is the only park within a city in the entire world.
As I sip my juice while watching some monkeys swinging from one tree branch to another and a pair of buffaloes lazily walking towards the Kisima Hole to quench their thirst, I ask myself why the park’s performance is so poor.
Why would one not want to spend their time within this beautiful restaurant built along the design of an Africa house on two levels; a place that allows you a clear view of game right from the terrace? Notwithstanding that from the restaurant you could go for guided tours at the Nairobi Safari Walk to view lions, cheetahs, leopards, buffaloes and other game?
The Safari Walk is educative and it allows you to let the children enjoy themselves – they could run around, jump, or shout, without you having to chaperone their every movement.
Ms Kosgei proudly informs me that the Nature Walk is a favorite of the park’s patrons due to the large walking plank that allows both children and adults to enjoy themselves in a secure area full of fun and learning. There is also the Children’s Museum, a weather station, and games at the entrance of the walking park, and a clean changing room as well as bathrooms.
Yet nobody could claim to have spent a day at the Nairobi National Park without taking the renowned game drive in the world’s only wildlife capital.
And who would be in a better position to take me through this animal and plant den than the Senior Warden himself, Michael Wanjau.
Mr Wanjau pleasantly informs me that this park hosts the Big Four with the exception of the elephant, and a variety of species of birds and plants. He further points out that the Hippos would best be cited in the Athi dam as well as other aquatic life like crocodiles and various kinds of fish.
He says for one to site the Black Rhino you would need to visit the valleys and plains while to see the lions you cannot go wrong with hanging around where most of the herbivores are.
Interestingly, the Park’s management has recently introduced night game drives where Mr Wanjau promises that one could see, especially, lions lying along the road.
Picnic sites are another attraction for visitors within this park in the city. Here, a patron could enjoy grilling facilities for some ‘nyama choma delicacy’ bang in the middle of the park, on nice open grounds and proper sanitary facilities.
The picnic sites differ in size, with the Ivory Burning site as the largest. This is where, more than 20 years ago, former President Daniel Arap Moi set ablaze a pile of ivory to demonstrate Kenya’s opposition to poaching.
The Kingfisher site is a smaller but very popular with the weekenders. This, MrWanjau says, is because of its location – an area with less wind and many animals grazing around it.
The park’s management is also working on more attractions like camping sites that will mainly target out-of-town visitors and international tourists.
All said and done, it’s my view that Nairobi National Park is a jewel within the city that, sadly, has been taken for granted for a very long time.
Anyone with an adventurous streak would enjoy a day in this beautiful facility. You could kick off with breakfast at the Rangers restaurant, a stroll at the Nature Walk, a visit to the animal orphanage, lunch at the nearby Maasai Lodge, a sundowner drink or picnic within the park or even the newly-introduced night game drive.