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Nairobi National Park


Game Warden
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The start of my Kenyan safari in February was in Nairobi - which is where we finished up before flying home. To read the rest of the combined trip report from @@Safaridude and myself, click here.

 

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It was a relief to arrive at the park gates: Nairobi traffic can be a real issue and the drive from the Fairview, where I had stayed on the night of my arrival in Kenya had proved to be the sum of all my fears. (It was nothing however compared to the drive the next day from the park gates to Wilson...)

 

Nairobi National Park was somewhere I was really keen to visit: since reading the words of Martin and Osa Johnson: the stretching Athi Plains with its teeming wildlife concentrations, seeing their photos taken in the 1920s. A park on the outskirts of a city: the ultimate case of human encroachment into the wilderness.

 

The gate proved to be a very touristy affair with shuka wrapped Maasai in all their finery dancing singing and jumping for visitors - for a price. We were in and out of the Friends of the Nairobi National Park office: it seemed run down. We waited in the car park to be met by my guide and ride from the Emakoko. Sun blazed down, the asphalt boiled beneath our feet: there was little shade. On one side, entrance to the orphanage, the other, the safari walk. I drank water from my bottle and looked through the gate, at the road which stretched into the park proper. Once through, I knew, I'd be starting my Kenyan safari proper...

 

 

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Glad to see this pop up. I regret not having time to visit NNP when I was in Kenya, it always sounded so unusual and appealing.

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Once the paperwork was sorted, I said goodbye to Jane - my contact from Bush and Beyond who had guided me through the chaotic traffic whilst all the time making me laugh, (it was she who had given me the mzungu ndevu moniker which stuck for the rest of the trip), and with the Main Gate behind us, the safari had really begun.

 

One starts down a tarmac road for most part hemmed in on both sides by the forest: however on the left, the animal orpanage, its pens visible through the bushes and trees is being developed, extended: you can read more about it in my photographic article here. The new area extends almost as far as the Ivory Burn site. It is once past the turn off for this that you really feel to be in the wild. We spent an good hour slowly driving through the park en route to the Emakoko which is where I'd be staying this night. Highlight of this drive, a sighting comprised of 2 white rhino cows with two calves together. We sat up watching them, just us - no other vehicles were close. (Due to the fact that the lens I have does not have a great focal length, no photos...) We also saw the proposed route of the Southern bypass which leads from the Mombasa Road in the east to Langata Road in the west, a row of buildings which delineate the park's boundary to the north of the Hyena Reservoir.

 

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Our route took us winding round past the Mokoyeti Picnic spot, on the other side of the Mbagathi River I could see farms and private houses it was the river and fence that divided "them and us": how much of that had been wild lands, how long ago? The Emakoko is approached down a steep rocky track, we switched to 4WD and below us the view of the lodge opened up. Not many come this way, only those staying. And in this car park, not more than a few days prior, a leopard had been seen strolling between the cars. My expectations were high...

 

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Thanks GW I'm in the process of planning our next visit and this is definitely a place that I'd like to stay, so a very timely report indeed. I look forward to more.

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@@PT123

 

@@twaffle wrote a TR about her stay at Emakoko. I liked what she read and stayed there ourselves in Sep 2013. We had to spend a night in Nairobi for flight connections and we used it to wind down from our other safari camps.

 

It is not cheap (compared to just staying in some hotel in Nairobi), but it is a wonderful place to stay in. In addition to wonderful hosts (Emma an Anton), staff (our Guide was a young man named James, an excellent birder), lodge and birdlife in the grounds, the food was also marvelous (and I'm a bit of a foodie).

 

Emakoko will pick up and drop off at either JKIA or Wilson too, and it's the quickest way I know of to get away from the traffic.

 

I would stay there again if ever I had to transit through Nairobi, and I highly recommend it.

 

Just my two bits :-)

 

Rgds,

John

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The approach to the lodge itself is over the Mbagathi River itself. The river forms the boundary of the park itself, therefore the lodge is just a stone's throw outside the park. However, the wildlife doesn't stay only on one side - it was below this bridge recently that a large old dagga boy died: you may see leopards, hippos, crocs etc and some wonderful birdlife from your veranda. (It also helps that your transfer from the gate to lodge acts as a game drive as well so you are immediately tuned into wildlife spotting...)

 

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A view to the bridge. It makes a great entry point to your stay.

 

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The welcoming sight of the lounge. at night the fire is lit and it is extremely cosy.

 

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Anton and I sat round the bar, discussing the history of the lodge, his and Emma's background and also mention was made of @@Safaridude - I believe among the first guests when the Emakoko first opened. I had a good indepth talk with my hosts and you can read more about the Emakoko and Anton and Emma in my Safaritalk interview with them here.

 

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Open plan dining Al fresco, or round a larger communal dining table: guests can take their pic. Being close to Nairobi, many use it as a romantic getaway from the bustle of city life and may well chose to sit alone...

 

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From the dining area it was a short walk to my room - perhaps they knew my liking for the bar...

 

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Comfortable furnishings and from the bed, a wide expansive view through to the river valley: wonderful to wake up to.

 

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And another cosy area in the room to sit round and talk about your upcoming safari, what you've already seen, or just slump into by the fire on a colder night.

 

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A place to relax, watch the birds, try to spot the leopard which was seen in the car park. When dozing on the bed, one can hear the scrabbling sound of claws on the veranda...

 

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Which is these guys at play - Rock Hyrax: I'd never seen one before so was excited to see them so close - there are a lot of them especially on the pathway which climbs up the side of the cliff to reach some other rooms. The higher you go, the better your view: question being, what would you rather have, the view, or possibly being closer to the animals which come up from the river to the grassy area by the swimming pool.

 

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Possibly an odd question, but can anyone tell me the exact species of tree that is on the right, with the yellow bark?

 

It is not cheap (compared to just staying in some hotel in Nairobi), but it is a wonderful place to stay in. In addition to wonderful hosts (Emma an Anton), staff (our Guide was a young man named James, an excellent birder), lodge and birdlife in the grounds, the food was also marvelous (and I'm a bit of a foodie).

 

I am very much into food as well (though of course I would never prioritize it over game drives). I wonder if there has ever been an ST thread about food.

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@@Marks I looks like a fever tree (yellow barked acacia) but I'm just guessing.

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@@PT123 @@inyathi Perfect, thanks! Trying to learn a little more about this stuff. The only book I have that really goes into any detail about tree species (The Biology of African Savannahs by Bryan Shorrocks) does so without much in the way of photography.

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I am very much into food as well (though of course I would never prioritize it over game drives). I wonder if there has ever been an ST thread about food.

 

 

@@Marks

 

I doubt there will be a thread about food on ST. I think most ST'ers would share the same sentiments as you have (as I do). And even if they did not, who would admit on ST that they valued the food quality more than the game viewing? Instant flaming; followed not a moment behind by excommunication. Banned and exiled forever to the nearest Michélin restaurant in a sea of urban high rises, never to be allowed an opinion again on the serene pages of ST :-D

 

Jill and I asked for the chef at Emakoko in order to pass on our compliments directly. Two of them came out. We had a brief chat, un-used as they were to such a request. One has plied his craft in different camps, and also professed strong influences from Thai cuisine. At least Thailand and Kenya, and not a little European in a fine culinary mix. I did intimate to Anton that they should make sure not to lose their chefs.

 

The food was a totally unexpected bonus at Emakoko.

 

John

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On 6/11/2014 at 1:42 AM, johnkok said:

 

On 6/10/2014 at 11:12 PM, Marks said:

 

I am very much into food as well (though of course I would never prioritize it over game drives). I wonder if there has ever been an ST thread about food.

 

 

@@Marks

 

I doubt there will be a thread about food on ST. I think most ST'ers would share the same sentiments as you have (as I do). And even if they did not, who would admit on ST that they valued the food quality more than the game viewing? Instant flaming; followed not a moment behind by excommunication. Banned and exiled forever to the nearest Michélin restaurant in a sea of urban high rises, never to be allowed an opinion again on the serene pages of ST :-D

 

Jill and I asked for the chef at Emakoko in order to pass on our compliments directly. Two of them came out. We had a brief chat, un-used as they were to such a request. One has plied his craft in different camps, and also professed strong influences from Thai cuisine. At least Thailand and Kenya, and not a little European in a fine culinary mix. I did intimate to Anton that they should make sure not to lose their chefs.

 

The food was a totally unexpected bonus at Emakoko.

 

John

 

 

You won't be excommunicated, John. In fact I think you'll spur a lot of closet-exiting - and some are already out! You better watch your Ps and Qs talking about pasta but.otherwise even I think it'd be fun. I wouldn't be joining in, but if you put it off-topic I think it's members-only and so you won't get people joining in order to talk about food. I don't see why it would be anything but fun.....

 

.... of course I couldn't absolutely guarantee that I wouldn't quote you on something said at some point in the future.. :P

 

 

@@Game Warden Thanks for the update. That's exactly how it is. You're up pretty high in the last picture - is that from a room or up at Anthony and Emma's place?

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@@pault That view is to the highest room. Anton and Emma's place is atop the hill itself in a private area.

 

The meals I had where very high quality and delicious.

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A short path leads down to the pool, the al fresco dining area, braai pit. You are advised not to venture far from the pool area itself, not stroll down to the river alone etc. It briefly crossed my mind to slip on the mankini...

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Whilst there, I did not eat outside but can imagine a balmy evening with a fire burning, the splashing of the Mbagathi River alongside, local wildlife strolling closeby, good conversation with like minded folk, glass of wine and a nice meal under the stars...

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In the video above, (which as not taken by me), one can see how the lodge is laid out, the placement of the rooms, the pool area etc.

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Later in the afternoon, Anton took me out to explore Nairobi National Park. We focused on the South East of the park, which, being further from the main gate, has less traffic: in fact we only saw a couple of tourist vehicles that whole afternoon. In the week before my arrival, a rhino had been poached close to one of the main roads - there was an obvious security presence - helicopters flying over head, KWS patrols. We drove the Rhino Circuit, which alas on this particular drive was devoid of rhino, and then made for the area of the Cheetah Gate. Many years ago cheetah roamed this area - however, it's reported there is only one which has been seen. We did not see it. But at times, without the vista of Nairobi, the sound of traffic, one could imagine they were far from any center of population. However, aircraft low overhead, propellor and jets reinforced that we were close. One of the issues with the park is the plastic bags, blown in and trapped in bushes, trees - white plastic flowers. One couldn't leave the car to retrieve them, but whenever we came across other rubbish in the road, we'd stop and pick it up.

 

Highlight of the afternoon was this lion sighting, (photo courtesy and copyright Anton Childs.) We also drove to see where an observation tower was to be built at a KWS ranger post: paid for by The Emakoko. At this stage, it was just a pile of component pieces - possibly by now it is already up and providing a 360º vista of the southern area of the park.

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I've forwarded this link to The Emakoko so they can see your feedback.

 

Matt.

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I had not expected such nit picking. n our visit, we had paid for a night plus the use of a day room as our flight out was near midnight. In the event, they told us to stay put (in our rooms) as Emakoko was not full and so we did not have any packing stress the day of our flight back to HK from NBO. We did spend some money on better wine with dinner (which was discreetly pointed out to us).

 

Again - we had a very good impression of the place and enjoyed our stay.

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Glad to see more food aficiandos popping up!

 

@@Game Warden Emakoko looks very comfortable and scenic. I spotted something that looks a bit like a hobbit hole at 1:12 in the video, is that a window in the hillside? And while it is a shame to hear of garbage in the park, it's very cool to make cleanup part of the drive.

Edited by Marks
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I apologise that the booking experiece was somewhat un-pleasant! I just wanted to take the opportunity to explain why there is an 'early bird' check in. We have a total of 4 vehicles which are allocated to each group or individual. Due to the nature of our logistics (we have 2 airports to chose from with a combined total of 180 flights - arriving and departing in a 24 hour period) it becomes impossible to manage all our guests arrivals and departures without having to hire in for these transfers. Our rates are all inclusive and we are responsible for collecting and getting our guests to and from the lodge. Between 6am and 11am is when all our guests leave and then our new arrivals arrive after 11am - this gives us enough time for our vehicles to get to 'collection sites'. When we have an arrival before that time it is impossible to collect and drop and for this reason we then have to hire a vehicle for collecting our arrivals. Vehicle hire in this country for a good quality 4WD is now USD$80 plus 16% VAT. There is on top of this a park fee issue (park fees last 24 hours, one second over and we are charged the same amount again). Thus the early bird fee was created to cushion the blow of hiring extra cars and the inevitable park fee - also there is a breakfast included in this! As our check out time is 10am no one is obligated to leave their room or the lodge before that time, and hence why rooms are not available until 11am. Having said this, if we have a room available you will be whisked into it immediately.

While you are with us we will ensure that you get as much game time (also if you would like to do any other visits / site seeing in the Karen area) as possible and most certainly you all have a game drive on your morning of departure time permitting.

I do hope that this explains this a little better and please let me know if you have any queries or questions, either by replying to my post or by emailing me direct on emandant@gmail.com.

Safari Njema!

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Interesting that although there was much protest against the bypass, nothing/nobody has stopped the contruction of electricity pylons which stride across the park in stark lines, the associated damage to the evironment at their bases, at the time I was there bare of powerlines: I don't know if these have been since added. It struck me that as more and more things like this creep into the park, the extension of the orphanage area and the damage that has caused to the forest, the initial work on the bypass, (which one wonders if one day it will still go ahead), perhaps sooner rather than later the park, (or part of it), will be degazetted and what a great shame that would be for not only the wildlife and ecosystems, but those Nairobi residents and schools which use the park as an educational resource as well as all the tourists who come to this wonderful place.

 

The light was receeding as we arrived back at the lodge down the rollercoaster of an approach road. Lanterns were aglow, lighting the bridge, our path to the lodge and a fire was lit in the lounge. It was an intimate dinner with another couple staying at the lodge and Anton, I was tired but of course enthusiastic for conversation and to find out where my fellow guests were off to next. I wanted to stay up as long as I could, would the hippo wander up to the swimming pool as I'd seen in pictures? I think I heard lions. I think I heard hyenas. What nocturnal wildlife would I see from my balcony? But all that went to pot as soon as I entered my room and sat on the bed...

 

Next morning an early start, breakfast and checking I had everything ready to go - a hug for Anton and goodbye, I wouldn't be seeing him when I returned with @@Safaridude for an afternoon at the end of the trip - he would be elsewhere. James, (not James Sengeny), my guide and driver helped me get my kit aboard and we were off. Laughing already - he's a young, enthusiatic chap with lots of stories and conversation. The plan was to set out early in order to have a longer drive through the park before going to Wilson. And our timing proved beneficial as we saw three hyenas loping along the road in front of us. We stayed with them a while: it was a great sighting. The hazy light revealed the Nairobi skyline like a ghostly grey galleon in the mist. We had a lot of time to reach the gate but that was not Jame's concern, it was the traffic on Langata Road. It can take a while said James. Of course, Wilson is only a few minutes from the gate - but one cannot turn right out of the park... therefore you exit the park, turn left, join the queue to the first roundabout and come back on yourself. In the queue. It took close on one and half hours to get from the gate of the park to the gate of the airport. There was much glee in fellow car drivers and passengers at the sight of the old mzungu ndevu - I laughed along with them, flipped them the peace sign and dozed off behind my shades...

 

James left me at Wilson: he knew everyone there and it was a quick and easy process to get me onto my flight. The pith helmet drew some interested looks and I was beside myself with excitement. Soon I'd be meeting the @@Safaridude and continuing the adventure - but as we lifted off over Nairobi National Park I felt a longing to have visited it in the early part of the twentieth century in company with Martin and Osa Johnson, when Nairobi was still undeveloped and the wildlife still had unrestricted migratory paths through the Athi Plains. The flight would take me north and visit some places which of course I'd heard of - and the bumpy flight would make me nauseous: I'd be arriving at Meru with sick in my beard sweating profusely. It was not the start I really wanted to my great Kenya adventure.

 

Continue reading here...

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you for picking up the plastic bags when you could. If everybody in the world picked up a couple of those bags each day and vowed not to contribute more, we'd have a heck of a planet clean up.

 

Nice male lion. I hope he is part of a healthy, stable pride.

 

I hope Emakoko can contribute to the well being of the park and succeeds.

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