The Ultimate Guide to the Nairobi National Park
For a person born, raised and living in Nairobi, (and one who enjoys safaris for that matter) I have only been to the Nairobi National Park once, as a kid. There is no particular reason why I do not frequent the Park, perhaps it is a case of me not appreciating what is in my backyard. I am happy to report that that has changed and here are all the reasons why you should visit Nairobi National Park.
For starters, Nairobi is the only capital city in the world that has a national park. Where else can you enjoy an urban safari in a metropolitan city? With regards to nature, Nairobi National Park is home to a large, diverse wildlife population and a variety of plant species. It has four of the Big Five with the exception of elephants and interesting bird species.
Here is a video of my experience at the Park.
Enough talk, here is all you need to know about visiting Nairobi National Park.
Everything you need to know about Nairobi National Park
The Park headquarters is in Lang’ata, which is conveniently located about thirty minutes away from Nairobi CBD, near major malls, hospitals and airports.
It is easily accessible by both public and private means. If using public means, board a matatu going to Lang’ata (number 15) from Bus Station or board a matatu going to Ongata Rongai (number 125/126) from Railways Bus Station. Alternatively, you can hail a taxi to and from your home or accommodation.
Nairobi National Park Entry Fees
Please note that payment is cashless, so load your MPesa or cards.
The Park is open daily from 6 am and it’s closed at 6 pm.
Nairobi National Park Game Drive Experience
We got to the Park at 9 am and started our game drive thirty minutes later. The first thing that happens upon getting to the Park is sanitising and having your temperature checked. After that, you pay the park fees and are good to go.
We opted to self-drive though you can hire vehicles at the Park for an extra fee. Alternatively, you can book a game drive with a travel agency of your choice.
The Ivory Burning Historic Site
Our first stop on the game drive was the Ivory Burning historic site, which is about a kilometre away from the main gate. This is where the late former President Daniel Moi ordered the burning of 11 tonnes of seized ivory from poachers in 1989. This event was monumental to show the government’s commitment to saving elephants and a non-tolerance for poaching. The Site also doubles as a picnic site.
Right after, we stopped by Nagolomoni Dam. There was not much to see at the Dam, other than some Cattle Egrets.
From that point, we opted to take the left turn to Lion Valley, with hopes of spotting the resident lions.
Minutes into the drive we got to see a giraffe and herds of Impalas, Elands, Hartebeests, Zebras, Wildebeest, and Gazelles.
It is hard to believe you are in Nairobi city with such views.
Spectacular view of Ngong Hills.
Game viewing with the city as a backdrop doesn’t get any better than this.
Peep the towering SGR line snaking its way through the Park.
After driving in circles, we gave up on our pursuit of the lions and decided to freestyle.
Can you see the two Black Rhinos? The Park is one of the most successful rhinoceros sanctuaries in the country where visitors are able to see them roaming freely.
We saw two others but they were quite far.
After driving aimlessly for a while, we stumbled upon this picnic site, which was a lovely surprise. We stopped for a good stretch and you know I love nature trails, so I was very excited.
The trail is quite short, we took about fifteen minutes to and fro, which was not the worst thing because of the scorching sun. We saw one hippo, a crocodile, two terrapins and a number of birds. The rest of the hippos were probably submerged in the river to avoid the hot midday sun.
All in all, I do recommend visiting hippo pools just for a different pace in your game drive. Accessing the nature trail is free however, an armed ranger has to accompany you for safety purposes.
The Park has two other picnic sites: Kingfisher and Mokoiyet picnic sites where you can relax, take in the views and enjoy a meal. Carry your lunch or some bitings and have a little picnic.
After the nature trail, we made peace with the fact that we were not going to see any lions. We were so tired at this point, all we wanted to do was head out of the Park.
More Things to Do at Nairobi National Park
Aside from game viewing in the park, you can go on a walking safari at the Nairobi Safari Walk or learn more about the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, which is a treatment and rehabilitation centre for wild animals. Both of these are located inside the Park headquarters in Lang’ata.
Things to note about Nairobi National Park
- Make sure you start your game drive early in the morning or late afternoon. That is the best time to see the animals. The animals are less active because of the heat during the day. If you go to the Park as early as 6 am or 4 pm, your chances of viewing more animals are higher. You might be extremely lucky and see the elusive leopards.
- For Kenyan citizens, make sure you carry your ID and for residents and foreigners, have your passports with you for identification and payment purposes.
- At the time of my visit, a lot of the signposts further inside the park were under repair and so I struggled with figuring out directions. That is very frustrating because you can end up driving in circles and end up wasting time and fuel. The last thing you want is to be stranded inside a park, especially in the evening. That is something to bear in mind if you opt to self-drive. I encourage you to follow other drivers if you are new to the park.
- If you opt to self-drive, I suggest following tour drivers because they are usually very conversant with the Parks and they often know where the best sightings are. Alternatively, you can ask them if they have seen any animals of interest and they can give you general directions to where they are. Otherwise, you may run the risk of driving going round and round and not seeing any animal.
- Game drives can be quite tiring especially if you are self-driving. I suggest stopping at any of the four picnic sites to stretch, have something to eat, take in the view, enjoy the fresh air and relieve yourself. That way you will be rejuvenated for the rest of your game drive.
- Generally, a 2WD vehicle with good ground clearance can handle the terrain inside the Park but a 4WD is best if you are visiting during the rainy seasons.
- Game drives are all about timing and luck. A group ahead of you can spot some buffaloes but by the time you get to that point they could have already left. It is therefore imperative that you are open minded and patient. Keep your eyes open and be observant, you might be surprised by the animals you see. If you have a pair of binoculars, even better.
- Lastly have fun! Enjoy every moment. I reckon that this is a fantastic activity for all ages and the kiddos would be very excited to see the different types of animals.
Places to Stay within Nairobi National Park
Other good options near the park are:
Check out these vacation rentals.
Overall, it was a really good experience and I want to be visiting the park on a regular basis. Hopefully next time I will get to see the big cats. The KWS staff we encountered were so lovely. I highly recommend visiting the park as a day trip, it is the perfect green escape within Nairobi. If you are looking for other activities to do in Nairobi, check these posts (here and here) for some fun budget-friendly ideas.
Let me know in the comments if you have been to the Nairobi National Park and what your experience was.
Until next time, Bye!