A SAFARI IN THE WILD NAIROBI PARK
The most striking thing about Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s oldest national park (1946), is the very fact that it exists at all. This sliver of unspoiled Africa wilderness survives on the edge of a city of more than four million people. Where else can you get a photo of animals in their natural habitat with the city’s skyline backdrop?
Nairobi National Park in Kenya, named after the city it borders, is a distinctive wildlife sanctuary that stands out from others in the world. It offers an unparalleled combination of modern civilization and wild nature, unique to this location.
On a Kenya Safari here, you can witness a surreal sight of large animals like buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, zebra, wildebeest, and cheetah, wandering just a few steps away from the city’s high-rises, separated only by a steel wire fence. This spectacle defies the conventional notion of modern cities, but in Nairobi National Park, wild animals and humans coexist harmoniously.
Compared to other safari game parks and reserves in Kenya, Nairobi National Park is relatively small, covering only 117 square km (44 square miles). The park is characterized by open plains that slope gently from west to east and rocky ridges covered with lush vegetation. Seasonal streams flow southeast into the Mbagathi River, lined with yellow fever and acacia trees.
Despite the urban pressures, the park has a diverse range of wildlife for safari drives, which can be seen even during the dry season, thanks to the permanent water source. Nairobi National Park is home to four of the Big Five, except for elephants, which are absent due to the park’s size.
Nevertheless, the park’s abundant wildlife, stunning landscapes, and unique location make it an excellent destination for both wildlife enthusiasts and city-dwellers.
Where to go, what to see
On a safari drive in Nairobi Park, one can spot various animals such as zebra, impala, warthog, ostrich, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, lion, and cheetah. The park’s grasslands are home to these majestic predators, while the woodlands are browsed by Masai giraffes. Black rhinos occasionally appear around the forest area. There are over 400 species of permanent and migratory birds that can be seen in the park, making it a paradise for birdwatchers.
Apart from the wildlife, Nairobi National Park has plenty of recreational activities and attractions to offer. Visitors can enjoy picnics in the charming picnic sites or walk on the boardwalk that leads to the hippo pool, where they can observe these colossal creatures in their natural habitat. The park is also home to the famous ivory-burning site monument, which pays homage to Kenya’s rich conservation history.
For those interested in having a more interactive experience, the Kenya Wildlife Service’s Nairobi Safari Walk and Animal Orphanage are located near the main gate of the park. These attractions offer visitors an opportunity to walk around for about an hour and get up close to many of Kenya’s most iconic safari animals, kept in spacious natural enclosures.
If you wish to see baby elephants, you can visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust orphanage, which is located near the park’s main entrance. For a touch of luxury, Giraffe Manor and the Karen Blixen Museum are both less than 20 minutes drive east of the park’s main entrance. These attractions provide a unique and unforgettable experience while also offering a glimpse into Kenya’s colonial past.
- Closest safari game park in Kenya, 20 minutes outside Nairobi city, allowing self-drive tours.
- Good wildlife viewing with most safari animals present. Also, four of the Big Five are present: lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino.
- Incredible wildlife photography against the city backdrop
- Safari boardwalk with unusual animals, including bongo antelope, has animal orphanages and a high density of black rhino
Getting There And Around
A 20-minute drive from downtown Nairobi (7 km/4 miles), you can negotiate the park’s network of paved and all-weather dirt roads by regular cars; junctions are signposted and marked on the official park map, which you can pick up at the gate. Most local safari outfitters will arrange a half-day trip; otherwise, hire a taxi for a few hours. Rangers keep a careful note of the movements of the larger animals, so it’s worth asking at the gate where to look for lions or rhino.
When To Go
Nairobi National Park is good all year round, but the dry seasons—May to September and January to February—tend to offer the best game viewing since wildlife congregates around the waterholes and creeks and the clear air offers particularly spectacular views of the capital city.
WHERE TO STAY
Price from $965
Surrounded by 12 acres of private land, within 140 acres of indigenous forest, the iconic Giraffe Manor is famous for its resident herd of Rothschild giraffes that casually wanders around the spectacular grounds. This idyllic property in the Nairobi suburb of Langata gives guests the chance to interact with the rare and beautiful Rothschild’s giraffe. A peaceful spot in the fast-expanding Kenyan capital, At Giraffe Manor, breakfasts are a fun-filled affair.
The Emakoko Lodge
Price from $815
Located a 45-minute drive from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Emakoko is a luxurious paradise bush lodge in a seemingly remote and hidden valley. Dinners by the pool are a starlit experience. Log fires in the rooms turn cooler nights into sheer romance. However, windows and doors might have to be closed because of cheeky monkeys, and you’ll have to climb steep steps to reach the upper-level rooms. The access road to the lodge is steep and tricky for drivers.
Nairobi Tented Camp
Price from $120
Insulated by a hidden glade—home to leopard, lion, and hyena—Nairobi Tented Camp is in a secluded part of Nairobi National Park, providing an authentic bush experience within a few miles of the city center. Hammocks are strung in the trees for afternoon siestas. However, the Nairobi National Park entrance and camping fees are extra, the access road is bumpy with the last 200 meters on foot, and the tents are pretty close to each other.
Ololo Safari Lodge
Price from $250
Ololo was initially built as a traditional family farmhouse but has been beautifully converted into a lodge that showcases classic African style and warmth and exudes homey hospitality. It seamlessly combines classic safari living with the complete service and comfort of a luxury hotel. You have easy access to Nairobi National Park via the lodge’s private footbridge over the Mbagathi River or on afternoon and morning game drives. Meals prepared with fresh ingredients from its own ‘shambas’ (vegetable gardens).
Price from $385
Overlooking the Ngong Hills in Nairobi’s tranquil and upscale neighborhood of Karen, Hemingways Nairobi hotel’s spacious, high-ceilinged rooms are elegantly furnished in contemporary-chic décor, echoing the classic charm of East Africa’s 1920s safari era. Award-winning cuisine from the resident Michelin-starred chef is standard here, while a personalized butler service caters to your luxury Kenya safari niceties.
Price from $178
Set in the garden suburb of Langata to the southwest of Nairobi in central Kenya, Karen Gables is a privately owned Cape Dutch-style building, with rounded gables and white-washed walls., with guest accommodation in 7 rooms and providing access to a good range of activities in the area, notably including the baby elephant sanctuary.