Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park is one of the most surprising such refuges in the world because it is so rich in Kenya wildlife in such close proximity to a large urban center. The Nairobi city center is only four miles away, and over the years since the park was established as the first national park in the country in 1946, the urban area has grown up to enclose virtually the entire park. This Nairobi safari park is the only protected area in the world with a large concentration of wild game in its natural habitat near a capital city. Its almost 30,000 acres contains dry highland forest, savannah and plains, acacia bushland, and riverine ecosystems filled with more than 400 species of birds and scores of other mammals and reptiles, including rhinos (both black and white), giraffe, hippos, lions, cheetah (sadly only a single male was counted in the February 2010 count), hyena, warthogs, zebra, wildebeest, impala, gazelles, and several other antelope species. If lucky, you might also spot the Egyptian king cobra or an ostrich family with a dozen or more chicks. The only one of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhino) among the Kenya wildlife that is missing are elephants. You will be very lucky indeed to spot a leopard, as these are shy nocturnal creatures who remain perfectly camouflaged throughout much of the day.

Those who have not booked a longer Kenya wildlife safari because they are only in the country for a short time will find that a day excursion with a picnic lunch provides a wonderful experience. If you only have half a day or prefer a sit down meal, there are several excellent dining options only a few minutes away, including the lovely Karen Blixen Coffee Garden, which is full of the history of Kenya and the newer Ranger’s Restaurant overlooking a waterhole of the park.

Many people come to Kenya only to spend a few days in Nairobi hotels while on business, and they often take time for a Kenya wildlife safari while here. One of the city hotels that is also one of its safari lodges is located on the Giraffe Center grounds. This is Giraffe Manor, a lovely old colonial manor house where your breakfast is apt to be interrupted by a giraffe sticking its long neck through the window to snatch a piece of fruit off your plate. It is possible to book Nairobi National Park tours from the hotel.

Finally there is the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that is literally inside the park. It was founded by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, not long after her husband, David, died in 1977. He was the founder and first Warden of Tsavo National Park, the largest of the Kenya wildlife parks that takes up a huge portion of the eastern part of the country from close to Mombasa on the east all the way to the Tanzania border on the south. Orphaned elephant babies (and occasionally rhinos) are brought here from around the country, raised, and then reintegrated into the wilds of Tsavo or other parks. On Sunday mornings, the facility is open to the public, and you can visit for a modest entry fee to see the adorable baby elephants up close. If you happen to be a Sheldrick foster parent ($50 a year in return for monthly updates on “your” baby), it is possible to book a private dusk visit to watch the babies and their devoted keepers come in from the day they spent in the Nairobi safari park and get bottle-fed milk and bedded down for the night. You can talk to keepers, touch the babies, and perhaps get a photo of yourself with your own foster baby. There is also some excellent shopping to found here in the vicinity. Any of all these attractions together with a visit to Nairobi National Park are apt to be included in the price of Kenya vacation packages. Some people might decide on visit to the Nairobi safari park only after their longer safari is over and before they leave for home. They do this for that one last chance to see a leopard or another animal that they missed on safari.

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