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A 3 hour Sunday Drive in Nairobi National Park on Aug 2


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Left Panari Hotel at 6:00 a.m. in an Eastern and Southern Safaris pop-top minibus with a box breakfast on a private departure. We arrived at the park gate at 6:15 a.m. A sign stated "Warthogs and Children have Right of Way.” For the record, I saw 4 warthogs and no children in the park.


Tickets took 5 minutes and then we waited while other vehicles were waved through ahead of us. I didn't understand that business, but didn't ask. It was still dark anyway. We drove through the iron gates decorated with giant lion silhouettes at 6:30 am.


First sighting:

One lone buffalo. The first animal I ever saw on safari was a giraffe in Nairobi National Park in 1994. Not long into our drive there was another lone buffalo on a side road with giraffe behind it. Two first sightings pairing up.



Wildlife Sightings:

~Many Coke’s hartebeest (kongoni), some exhibited their tremendous speed as they chased each other for morning exercise.



~Lots of zebra


~One sizeable herd of wildebeest and a few stragglers here and there. The guide remarked, "There used to be so many wildebeest." Not as many now because of encroaching buildings that blocked migration routes the animals used to follow. Also cattle grazing within park boundaries reduced the wilde numbers.


~a couple dozen scattered giraffe

~eland in herds and small groups, but they were quite shy, despite being the largest antelope.

~ostrich, up to 8 at a time

~2 pairs of warthogs


~big herd of buffalo, probably 150+, some were posed so that the city skyline was visible behind them, a unique backdrop for Nairobi National Park. Lone males were scattered throughout the park.


~1 rock hyrax

~numerous impala

~2 Grant's gazelles

~2 separate lion sightings, described below.


~5 black rhino, consisting of 2 pairs of mother and calf plus a solo, all described below. All of the rhino were seen in the last 45 minutes of the 3-hour safari, not at the crack of dawn. The guide estimated there were 25 in the park. The most recent game count found 12, with estimates there could be double that, again pointing to about 25. So I saw around 20% of the black rhino population. Not bad!



~birds, nothing significant aside from the many ostrich, a jacana, a lilac breasted roller, a secretary bird, and a relaxed white browed coucal that posed for a photo. We were not really bird watching, though.



All of these animals, even the most of birds mentioned, could be photographed. The photo link at the bottom does not include pictures of all of these, but it would have been entirely possible to snap some shots of all the animals listed, though they might not be great photos.

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Lion #1:

There was a call on the radio that some lions had been spotted moving to thicker up on the hillsides. We drove to the area and saw one female moving purposefully up the hill. About 30 seconds and two mediocre photos later, she was gone.


Lion #2:

We were just driving along when I saw a lioness walking on the side of the road. We watched her move off the road and stop. She was gazing across the valley to the hills on the other side. I followed her gaze and excitedly announced, "Two rhinos!" The lioness vanished into the bush.



Seeing a lion and black rhino mother and calf in one view is pretty darn impressive for any safari anywhere! It was a first for me and a Big Score for Nairobi National Park!


Black rhinos #1 and #2:

Thanks to the lioness, we saw a mother and a young calf slowly ascending the brush covered slopes on the hill across from us. We watched them about 5 minutes until they were gone.



Black rhinos #3 and #4:

About 10 minutes later, we saw another mother and larger calf moving through a clearing. They were trotting away from us and were hidden by brush after about 30 seconds.




Black rhino #5:

The guide saw a lone rhino in the distance.


Cheetah, or lack thereof:

My guide David and I both shared the same favorite animal—the cheetah. I had seen my first cheetah in Nairobi National Park on an afternoon drive in 1994 (but no lions or rhinos back then). The guide said it had been several years since he had seen a cheetah in the park and the most recent game count found one male. The lack of gazelle may help account for the lack of cheetah.


Vehicle traffic in the 44 sq mile/117 sq km park:

Despite being a Sunday when local residents enjoy the park, our biggest crowd was 4 cars at Lion #1. We were the third car and by the time the fourth car arrived, the lioness had all but disappeared. There were 3 cars at the buffalo & giraffe combo. When we initially spotted the buffalo herd in the distance, I counted 4 parked cars. By the time we approached the herd, all of the vehicles were gone. While driving around, we encountered maybe a total of 4 or 5 vehicles. There were long stretches of only scenery, animal sightings, and us. The majority of our time in the park, I saw no other vehicle.



Big houses:

At the periphery of the park, there were a few mansions. I thought they were lodges they were so huge. They did not form a continuous barrier, but were noticeable. Apparently they also were noticeable to some of the animals and therefore acted as a barrier to animals that might otherwise migrate beyond them.



The border between park and city is fenced. I never saw it, except for the entrance and exit gate.



When we left, using a gate about 10 minutes from Panari Hotel (a different location from where we entered), there was a herd of maybe 30 cows. Apparently some of the guards have family members who are herdsman and permit them access.


Timing and Time on Tour:

Most tours are 4 hours total and include transport to/from your Nairobi hotel and they also usually include a walking tour in addition to the driving part of the tour. I requested that we only do the driving part due to limited time. Most tours are offered in the morning and the afternoon. If doing the morning tour, the earlier, the better. I thought 3 hours driving in the park was about right and it fit well with my schedule since I had an international flight departing at 12:30 pm and got to the airport just after 10:00 am.


More on Panari Hotel:

The staff members I encountered were very proud of the hotel and mentioned that Bill Clinton would be staying in the near future to attend a conference. I remarked that maybe he could see some lions in Kenya because he did not see any in Chobe, Botswana when he visited back when he was president. I had an impressive view of Nairobi National Park from Room 918, shown here. The room itself was very nice. The location is excellent if you wish to be near the airport or make a quick trip to Nairobi National Park. I’ll book it again.






NBO National Park


This is a link to 15 photos, some of which can be seen in this report. All the animals listed above could have been photographed, especially with a 10x optical zoom. It’s not like they were merely dots on the horizon or offered only fleeting glimpses. I included just a few photos because it was a hazy, overcast day, not conducive to taking lots of good pictures, at least not at my skill level.


If I lived in Nairobi, I’d be in Nairobi National Park all the time.



Right after I finished this report I became aware (thanks to Twaffle) of a terrible situation in Nairobi National Park. Cattle keepers slashed the fences and allowed up to 20,000 cattle into the park. The cows are weak and dying and there is dead cattle all over.

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Time well spent indeed and good publicity (except the last link…) for Nairobi NP that’s usually “not recommended”. Did the minibus make you behave badly harassing the wildlife?


The photo link leads me to the lovely Akagera.

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Time well spent indeed and good publicity (except the last link…) for Nairobi NP that’s usually “not recommended”. Did the minibus make you behave badly harassing the wildlife?


The photo link leads me to the lovely Akagera.


I never was good with directions. Thank you for the editing and clicking on my link. I'll fix it.


As soon as I entered the minibus I had the urge to fling items from my breakfast box at anything that moved. I curtailed the urge.

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I hope you were careless, reckless and mad in your minibus--and encouraged/expected the same from your uneducated creep of a driver. I am looking forward to reading more of your report. But get well first.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've added a few photos to the report. So now it is officially complete.

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Such an amazing wildlife resource on the doorstep of Nairobi - I hope that future planing allows wildlife corridors to remain, and the creation of more for the safe passage of animals to and from this area.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Excellent report Lynn. Very interesting - I was wondering if this park would be worth checking out and am amazed at the sightings you had. For some reason I imagined Nairobi NP as central park with a few stray wildebeast...



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As Warden states, the challenge is to maintain the park's diversity and its ability to sustain decent numbers. The cattle encroachment is not good and the burgeoning population is cutting off migratory routes. I just hope it does not end up a central park with a few stray wildebeest.


Another traveler who I think lives in Africa informed me that he was in the park the very same day. His sightings were completely different and very impressive. I know he saw some hyenas and I think a cheetah, which is a rarity. The lions he saw were mating and fighting and for birds there was a crowned crane flock. So add that with what I saw and you have a very successful day in the park.


Thanks for your interest in this place.

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