I was stuck at home in Ngong, Kajiado with nothing to do, itching for an adventure when it occurred to me that there was one exciting adventure that I could do right at the heart of Nairobi – a game-walk at the only national park in a city – The Nairobi National Park’s Safari Walk.
Forty-five minutes later, I am at the entry gate of the Nairobi National Park, along Langata Road. The nearest I could get to the wild, the warden at the entry told me, was to do a safari walk – the boardwalk. Two hours are enough to do the entire boardwalk.
I have done this boardwalk three times before, and each time there is something new that makes the game-walk fascinating. Today, my focus was to learn more about the animals and their natural environments – what animals are found in which ecosystem and why they love such habitants.
“If it is your lucky day, you will be able to see almost many wild animals found in the three ecosystems, but we do not promise anything. You can come here and see very few animals or no animals at all as the environment that they live in is similar to the one found in the parks and reserves,” the warden says.
Unobtrusive fences erected in deep trenches create an immense experience, making a trip to the Nairobi Safari Walk safe and a pleasant adventure. To make the walk easy and fascinating, raised boardwalks meander through different enclosures, with built signboards along the boardwalk that provide useful information on species of plants and animals found within the three ecosystems.
There too, are strategically located viewpoints close to the enclosures that offer a close-up look at the occupants minding their own business as they go about their daily lives.
While doing the boardwalk, one does not need to have a guide as information has been engraved in strategically placed plaques. From these plagues, I get to learn that my game-walk will take me through three ecosystems – wetlands, savannah, and woodlands.
At the entry to the first ecosystem, there is a museum for children, but unfortunately, this particular Sunday it was locked and I did not get to see what it hosted.
My first encounter was with the Rhino, a massive animal that probably out of boredom has walked in circles in its habitant until it has left a circular path. I learn that after their catastrophic decline due to poaching in the 1970s and 80s, KWS established a programme in 1980 as an intervention tool. Now Kenya is leading the world in bringing rhinos back from the brink of extinction.
The next encounter was the king of the jungle, two lions, a male, and a female. The female seemed restless and kept prodding his sleepy companion to wake up from the deep green savannah land.
A few metres walk from the “lion’s den” brought me to the leopard’s environment and after flowing the lead of other visitors, I was able to spot a leopard up a tree. He must have had his meal already because he seemed to care least about the ongoing around him.
The sneaky big cat I learned is the most elusive and shrewdest of the large carnivores. It is also the strongest climber of the large cats and can kill prey larger than it is.
I found two pigmy hippos grazing majestically at their wetlands habitation, which they share with a Nile crocodile.
The pygmy hippo is a superb swimmer and graceful dancer. Even though it weighs 160-230 kg, it is a dwarf when compared to its 1,800kg cousin the Nile hippo. By the time I came to the end of my walk, I felt like I had been to a game park after sampling the country’s rich animal life including the rare bongo, white rhino, and albino zebra as well as big cats, antelopes, and primates and part of some of the 150 species of local trees.