In Kenya's capital city, you don't have to travel far to view wild animals in their natural habitat. The Nairobi National Park, which is acclaimed for being the only Wildlife Park located within the precincts of a capital city, is a must-visit location for local and foreign visitors. Despite being near a major city and housing settlements, tourists will be impressed with the wildlife that roams the grasslands against the backdrop of Nairobi's urban landscape. On a good day, it is possible to spot the famous Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and cheetah). Other frequently viewed animals include zebras, giraffes, gazelles, ostriches, Impalas, and a varied bird species.
This was the first National Park to be formally established in Kenya and was officially inaugurated in 1946. When British colonialists arrived in Nairobi, the area was teeming with wildlife that co-existed with local pastoralists and farming communities. Still, as the human population increased, the wildlife began to dwindle. Kenyan born conservationist Mervyn Cowie spearheaded a successful campaign to encourage the colonial government to establish a park for the protection of wildlife. Cowie designed the park and focused on developing a facility that would sustain human-animal interaction in a protected environment. The park, to date, remains a government-protected area and is run by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Tourists can either take personal or guided game drives where wildlife can be viewed in a natural setting. Individuals who prefer a more intimate interaction with wildlife can visit the Safari Walk and see animals at close range from a safe vantage point.
There are also designated picnic sites, including Kingfisher, Impala, and Mokoiyet, where you can have a bite to eat while taking in the sights and sounds. The facility also has provisions for events such as weddings, video/film shoots, team building sessions, and corporate functions. The Ranger's Restaurant, located at the edge of the park, offers patrons a chance to wine and dine while enjoying magnificent views of the park.
The park boasts a rhino sanctuary that plays a significant role in the re-population of species, such as the black rhino, which is on the brink of extinction. The animal orphanage, which is also located in the park, is a center that is responsible for the care of animals that have been orphaned in the wild. Visitors are allowed to visit these animals and even pet them under the supervision of the KWS personnel.
The Nairobi national park is fondly remembered as the location where former president Daniel Moi set ablaze a pile of ivory tusks that were seized from poachers. This event, which gained worldwide acclaim, occurred back in 1987 and is considered one of the key milestones in the efforts to curb the illegal ivory trade.
The park is also famous for being the place where the fastest man on earth came face to face with the fastest animal on earth. Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt visited the park in 2009 and frolicked with cheetahs, subsequently adopting a 3-month-old cub that he appropriately named 'lightning bolt.'