This Sunday morning’s sunrise was a breathtaking display of radiant colours – bright streaks of red that slowly overcame with the hues of pink. As dawn broke, the egg yolk-like sun rose from the horizon, filling the sky with endless rays of orange. The Ngong Hills along the Great Rift Valley, clear and majestic, anchored behind me in the distance to the west. The past few days seemed to disappear, and awe swept over me. The morning dew sparkled on the swaying sea of long-grazing grass and bejeweled acacias.
To be honest, when I was politely woken by the staff of the Nairobi Tented Camp at 5:30am with a steaming pot of black coffee, I was not convinced if the sunrise would be worth it. After all, it wasn’t like I was waking up to the spectacular landscapes and wilderness of more popular national parks or conservancies in Kenya – I was still in Nairobi.
But if there was ever a moment that I had been more happy to rub sleep out of my eyes so that I could be mesmerized by one of my favourite moments in life, watching the sunrise, this was definitely it. The sunrise at Nairobi National Park did not disappoint. Thanks to its unique ecosystem by being the only protected area in the world close to a capital city – only 7 km from the city centre – its open wildlife migration corridor and man-made dams, the park was teeming with wildlife and birds, all ignited into a chorus of melodies and washed over by warm golden light.
The first and only tented camp in Nairobi National Park
Nestled deep within a riverine forest inside Nairobi National Park’s 117 square kilometers of open grass plains and highland dry forest – where residents include Black rhino, lion, leoprd, cheetah, hyena, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, eland and more than 400 species of birdlife – Nairobi Tented Camp offers a unique wilderness escape from the heart of the world’s only urban safari getaway.
At the camp, focus lies on ecological practices and having minimal impact on the local environment. Solar power keeps your cameras and mobile phones charged and all waste water is treated and filtered so it can be safely poured away into the ground.
Nairobi Tented Camp welcomes its guests with the down-to-earth charm of an authentic bush experience. The nine tents are open, bright and generous; large bucket showers, chic vanity flanked with lantern fixtures and the covered verandah is a comfortable place of retreat. With plenty of space in between the tents, guests can enjoy the lush view in private. The central mess tent is a great place to rummage through the shelves of books and learn more about the 400 species of birdlife you’ll see on a game drive. Sinking into the comfortable couches with colourful fluffy pillows for afternoon tea is a must. My favourite spot was next to an oversized floor pillow, next to a tall white lantern that housed a large flickering candle in the early evening.
Returning from sundowners as the sun set behind Ngong Hills, a roaring campfire welcomed my companions and I. Today’s eventful game drive with occasional sounds of commercial aircraft, included Black rhinos, massive elands, herds of zebra and wildebeest, and a pride of lions. The campfire hummed of conversations and stories as dinner was being prepared. The fenceless camp sometimes entertains unexpected visitors, including a Black rhino that I had the pleasure of meeting around the campfire. The same campfire beckons after dessert for a night cap and a lengthy star gazing session. It’s hard to believe that even in Nairobi, a city known for its hustle and bustle; you can still find a great refuge where the magical night sky still twinkles brightly.
Plan your staycation
What’s better than spending a day in Nairobi National Park? Waking up in Nairobi National Park and then spending a day there.
From dusk until dawn, watch the charms and beauty of wilderness as Nairobi National Park goes through its daily rhythm – when the first rays of sunlight greet a young day, listen to the first melodies chirped by hundreds of species of birds, watch large cats lazily soak up the hot sun during midday, get haunted by howls of hyenas and other nocturnal creatures as the day leads to night, which has an unique dynamic under the starry nightscape.
You haven’t really experienced Nairobi National Park unless you’ve slept and woken there, and seen the ecosystem in the early and late hours when the crowds of day-time tourists have left, leaving the park completely unmasked.