Nairobi National Park- Early Morning Edition

Nairobi. The only capital city in the world with a national park right in the middle. Way cool, right? Yet it’s amazing how a good number of Nairobians don’t visit this treasure. And I’m not immune either. In my twenty plus years of living in Kenya, I’ve been to the Park countable times. How embarrassing! I had an amazing time there last year (check out my experience here –>Going wild in the City). A few weeks ago I had an even more exciting time, read on to find out!

Buffalos at Hyena Dam, Nairobi National Park.
Wild cows against the backdrop of Lang’ata housing and UAP Towers.

I’m not a big fan of Whatsapp groups, but the photography ones I’m in are quite helpful. That’s where the plan of going to the Park came from. The suggestion was made and those of us who were available chose a date (27th September) for the visit. Unlike last year, this was to be an early morning expedition. To see the big cats you need to be there preferably at dawn or late afternoon to dusk.

Nairobi skyline evening colours.
Gloomy evening sky last year at the Park.

On the appointed day I left home at 4:50 am (yikes!) to ensure I got to the National Museum in good time. Which I did. From there I hitched a ride with my good friend Mwarv and we headed to the Park. Driving in Nairobi at 6:00 am is so smooth! If only it were that way all day. We were at the Park’s main gate in a few minutes. After paying the entrance fees Josh, Paul and Nick joined us in Mwarv’s car ans can I just say we were squeeeezed! Especially me since I took the middle back seat. We drove into the Park hopeful to see the lions we’d been informed were nearby.

Nairobi skyline sunny day.
That Nairobi skyline though!

But before the lions, a grand welcome by the most epic sunrise I’ve seen thus far. It felt like we were in a Nat Geo Wild documentary, you know? A giant orange ball rising from the grassy plains. No wonder foreigners come to Kenya and refuse to leave after falling in love with the country. But I digress. Indeed we saw a pride of 6 lions feeding on a recent kill. They were considerably far away so we couldn’t shoot (photograph) them. On the other side though there was a Black rhino enjoying its breakfast. It was kind enough to pose long enough to our satisfaction.

Black Rhino at Nairobi National Park.
Nothing like a good early morning breakfast.

We circled the track to see if the lions were visible from the other side…but nope. They’d retreated into some bushes to rest after the heavy meal. Enthusiastic White-backed Vultures perched in trees nearby waiting for their turn to invade the carcass. We decided to look for more lions elsewhere. On the way other animals like Zebras and Impala showed up from time to time.

Vultures in a tree at Nairobi National Park.
Vultures waiting for their turn at the carcass.

The big cats were determined to evade us today though. Every time we met a group they told us they’d seen lions at a certain place, but when we got there we saw nothing. Or it happened to be a spot we had just left a few minutes ago, again after missing them! Sigh. Still, I was surprised by the sighting of Wildebeest strutting along. Yes, there are Wildebeest in Nairobi National Park! Crocs exist too, if only you know where to look.

Black-winged Stilt foraging at Hyena Dam, Nairobi National Park.
Black-winged Stilt busy foraging at Hyena Dam.

At Hyena Dam a herd of Buffalos were quenching their thirst. Some stood defiantly in the middle of the track, and we had to wait for them to leave before proceeding. These beasts are huge when up close! I wouldn’t want to encounter one when alone. A number of waterfowl were also having a good time at the shore. There’s so much to see in this Park, it’s incredible. We even saw Hartebeest at some point.

A buffalo herd on the road at Nairobi National Park.

On our last attempt at spotting lions we actually came pretty close. Several open-top vans with guys looking out into the bush using binoculars was a good sign. Upon inquiring, it emerged they had seen the big cats. Yes! So we looked for the best view but guess what? They were laying low in the bushes! Some of us saw a tail moving and that was it. A herd of Zebra stood some distance away looking intently in that direction. About four of them walked towards the bush, stopped then advanced again. Talk of walking into your predator’s paws!

Zebra on the road at Nairobi National Park.
Zebra crossing. (Sorry, I just had to.) 🙂

We waited hoping the lions would emerge and chase the Zebras, but 10 minutes of no action marked the end of our little trip. Even the four Zebras gave up and walked away. That’s how it goes in the wild, there are no guarantees. You might spend several hours waiting with no success. Or spot 27 lions in one day like Paras, one of the most celebrated wildlife photographers who visits this Park daily. Yes daily. I had the honour of meeting him on this day.

Vultures at Nairobi National Park.
Guys, I told you I didn’t do it!

The sun was blazing as we drove out yet it was only 10:00 am. If we’d arrived earlier and been more patient we might have seen those lions better. Maybe. Well, I definitely would like to return another day and see what other surprises this Park holds. If you haven’t been to Nairobi National Park (lately), take some time and swing by. You only need your national I.D and 430/- for Kenyan citizens. (Plus an additional 300/- for cars with 6 seats or less). It’s an amazing place that will leave you craving for repeat visits!

Grazing zebra at Nairobi National Park.
Can you imagine such beauty so close to the CBD? (Top right)

16 thoughts on “Nairobi National Park- Early Morning Edition

  1. Great write up, I hope many “Nairobians” can realize how much this park has to offer. I always saw its a “Masai Mara” minus the migration. Its has so much


  2. Mitch,
    Thanks for sharing the story & the nice photos of The world most underrated national park. You challenge me to share my work as I do a lot of wildlife & Landscapes photography.
    Great stuff & keep it up.


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