My friend and I had been wanting to go to the Nairobi National Park for a while. I hadn’t been in a few years, and he hadn’t been there since childhood. Growing up, I remember going to the park on multiple occasions. Sometimes with my local Sunday school group, sometimes on a school organised field trip, and sometimes with my family. As we drove through the large green iron cast gates to the Nairobi National Park, all the nostalgia from yester-years hit me immediately. I thought of mum’s ham sandwiches that she would pack me for lunch, sneaky monkeys that would try to steal my ham sandwiches, my bright red primary school dress, my flowery notebook that I would draw images of the day in with my trusty pink, rubber grip pen and the wandering warthogs in the parking lot.
At the parking lot.
What’s that? Wandering warthogs? Yup. There are warthogs that enjoy lounging about near the Park administration block, and occasionally you can spot them under one of the trees in the small grassy knoll near the parking lot. They are harmless, and friendly as far as I can tell, but visitors to the park are cautioned against feeding them. These warthogs, like all the animals at the park are on a special diet suited for their health and well being. No ham sandwiches for these guys.
Warthogs and children have right of way.
We didn’t spot any warthogs on this day, though. There was ample parking space, but I suppose this could be expected on a Thursday afternoon in the middle of November. The park plays host to several school groups throughout the school year – had we chosen to come on a Thursday afternoon in March, or July there would probably be about 3 or 4 school buses in the parking lot – and lots of eager little children all around. I mention this because community education is an important part of the National Park’s manifesto. They actively encourage children from all over the country to visit the park and learn more about the wildlife here in Kenya. They do this by subsidizing the entrance fee for minors into the park, and they have a lot of educational programs and material on hand for the kids.
When at the National Park, there are 3 different safari experiences to choose from. You can go on the “Safari Drive” in the Safari Park where you can drive around in your vehicle for the expanse of about 117 square km and try and spot as many animals as you can in the traditional “safari” way. You can go to the animal orphanage (which is a favourite for kids) and get up, close and personal with orphaned lions, cheetahs, zebras and hyenas that were rescued at infancy from the Safari Park, or you can go on the “Safari Walk”. Personally, I love the safari walk because it brings the best of the animal orphanage and the safari park together. On the safari walk, there is a trail that runs for about 2 kilometers around. On the trail, you will come across different wild animals in their enclosures living as they would in their natural habitats.
Wildlife Conservation Education.
All the animals at the Safari Walk are animals that were first rescued from the Safari Park and have lived in the Animal Orphanage. The Kenya Wildlife Service rehabilitated these animals so that they could better adjust to life in their new enclosures after living in the orphanage. The animals here have never actually lived in the wild, and would likely not be able to fend for themselves out there. They (Kenya Wildlife Service) set up the Safari Walk in 2006 with “Wildlife Conservation Education” in mind. The idea was for people to be able to observe these animals, gain an appreciation for them and learn something new about wildlife conservation. To this effect, there are numerous information plaques all along the trail on the Safari Walk. There are plaques on the animals one will see on the Safari Walk, as well as the birds and fauna in the area. These plaques are in English and Kiswahili and present the information in bright and humorous ways. For example, ever wondered about a Dik-dik’s natural diet? Here you go.
“Cream of lizard soup”…yum.
On the Safari Walk, there are a couple of great detours you can take if you choose to. There are the wildlife classrooms and there is the “Children’s Museum” – although I had a blast here, this place is great for all ages really.
The Children’s Museum.
The museum has several mounted antelopes and a few hides and skins from various wild animals on display. There are even two grown “taxidermy lions” in the room – these were acquired from an Arab hunter several decades ago. It is illegal in Kenya to hunt and kill wild animals for any purpose. The animals hides and skins on display here were all seized by the Government of Kenya from poachers and illegal hunters. They are put here for educational purposes with accompanying narratives on the importance of respecting and protecting our wildlife.
A male savannah grasslands lion. These males do not grow manes because of the heat in the Savannah.
In the spirit of “wildlife education”, this museum has a very interesting policy on the exhibits as well, “Please Touch Everything”. In this way, one is able to familiarise themselves with the animals – perhaps even empathise with them. Just make sure not to try and touch the animals you will meet along the Safari Walk. The route on the Safari Walk is beautiful and scenic. There are lots of trees and lots of birds in the trees. The animals are all easily visible from the path as well. Fun fact: The Safari Walk is home to all but one of “The Big 5” animals. Lions, Rhinos, Buffalos, and Leopards are all present here, but no elephants – you will have to go on the Safari Drive to see one of those. Here are some scenes from the Safari Walk.
A very restless rhino.
A pygmy hippo.
The fee to experience the Safari Walk is also quite affordable, making it possible for pretty much anybody to enjoy the scenes and learn more about the world around them. CITIZENS FEE: Adult – Ksh.215 Child – Ksh.125 RESIDENTS FEE: Adult – Ksh.300 Child – Ksh.170 NON- RESIDENTS FEE: Adult – USD. 22 Child USD. 13