Welcome to Kenya’s most accessible yet incongruous safari experience. Set on the city’s southern outskirts, Nairobi National Park (at 117 sq km, one of Africa’s smallest) has abundant wildlife that can, in places, be viewed against a backdrop of city skyscrapers and planes coming in to land – it's one of the only national parks on earth bordering a capital city.
Remarkably, the animals seem utterly unperturbed by it all.The park has acquired the nickname ‘Kifaru Ark’, a testament to its success as a rhinoceros (kifaru in Kiswahili) sanctuary. The park is home to the world's densest concentration of black rhinos (more than 50), though even the park's strong antipoaching measures couldn't prevent poachers from killing one of the rhinos in August 2013 and then again in January 2014. They were the first such attacks in six years, and reflect the current sky-high Asian black-market price for rhino horn.
Lions and hyenas are also commonly sighted within the park; rangers at the entrance usually have updates on lion movements. You’ll need a bit of patience and a lot of luck to spot the park’s resident cheetahs and leopards. Other regularly spotted species include gazelles, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, ostriches and buffaloes.
The park’s wetland areas sustain approximately 400 bird species, which is more than in the whole of the UK.
Getting to Nairobi National Park
A short drive out of Nairobi’s central business district is the Nairobi National Park. Wide open grass plains and backdrop of the city scrapers, scattered acacia bush play host to a wide variety of wildlife including the endangered black rhino, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes and diverse birdlife with over 400 species recorded. Visitors can enjoy the park’s picnic sites, three campsites and the walking trails for hikers.
Matatus (minibuses) 125 and 126 (KSh50, 30 to 45 minutes) pass by the main park entrance from the train station. You can also go by private vehicle and most Nairobi tour companies offer half-day safaris (from US$75 per person).
Apart from the main entrance, which lies 7km from the city centre, there are other gates on Magadi Rd and the Athi River gate; the latter is handy if you’re continuing on to Mombasa, Amboseli or the Tanzanian border. The roads in the park are passable with 2WDs, but travelling in a 4WD is never a bad idea, especially if the rains have been heavy.
Unless you already have your own vehicle, the cheapest way to see the park is on the shuttle, a big Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) bus that leaves the main gate at 2pm on Sunday for a 2½-hour tour. You need to book in person at the main gate by 1.30pm, but do call ahead if you want to do the tour, as times can change.
10 Things to Know About Nairobi National Park
1. It is the only capital city national park in the world. While in the park you can actually see many of the tall buildings in the City Centre.
2. The Nairobi National Park is the oldest park in East Africa. It was gazetted in 1946.
3. There are over 400 species of birds in Nairobi National Park. You will also find Zebra, Leopards, lions, Giraffes, Hippos, buffalo, antelopes, crocodiles, Cheetah and Gazelles. Find more pictures here.
4. Nairobi National Park and Nakuru National Park are the only parks which do not have elephants. In Nairobi National Park it is because they were transplanted to reduce Human – wildlife conflict. Not to worry you can still find four of the Big Five (lion, Buffalo, leopard and Rhino)
5. A thriving rhino sanctuary. The Nairobi National Park has the highest density of black rhino in the country.
6. The Nairobi National Park has a club house which is open to everybody. It is open until 6 in the evening. The club house has some beautiful grounds where you can hold functions like weddings or parties.
7. If you want an exciting tour with one of the park guides you can book the 2-3 hours safari package (early morning or late afternoon) where you are taken around in the four wheel drive. It costs Ksh. 7,500 for this.
8. There are other attractions at the park namely Nairobi Safari Walk and the Animal Orphanage. This Nairobi Safari Walk is a wooden boardwalk where people can view animals in enclosures that mimic their natural environment.
9. The Mini Animal Orphanage: the orphanage is home to many orphaned, abandoned or wounded animals. This is a great place to take kids to see animals up close and personal.
10. Where to stay
There is a KWS camp within the park where tourists can stay. It costs 200 shillings a night.
There is also luxurious camping at the Nairobi Tented camp. This is the first and only tented camp inside the Nairobi National Park.
|Languages spoken||English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Kenya Shillings (KES)|
|Area (km2)||117 SQ. KM|