Roaming Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park
I’ve never been an early morning riser. 7AM is the most I can manage. How does one manage intend to wake up to get to a National Park at 630AM?

Well, one doesn’t.

Unfortunately, because of my stubbornness, I cannot get up early enough to see the various games at Nairobi National Park. Leaving at 8AM, it takes about 30 minutes through Nairobi from Loresha without much traffic. Since a driver was there, an additional car was not needed. However, unlike Lake Elmenteita Serena Lodge, there was no ranger around to help guide us.

Let me tell you about this park.

As one enters it, there is a prominent sign that states “this is a corruption-free zone”, which for the most part, I hear is very true. However, the service is wanting.

When asked for a ranger to help guide us, they carelessly said, NO. Not even if they were being paid would they join. You are given an expensive card at the office to enter. Oh no, not to enter but to move your car up about 6 ft where there is another guy who takes that card from you and requires you to sign in. What was the use of the card? And why was the ticket office and admittance office, which is one and the same, doing 2 different tasks? If you find that strange, you’ll be amazed when I asked for a map, they said, “we don’t have any but you can buy it at the gift shop.” The gift shop that is sitting OUTSIDE THE GATE! I didn’t even bother to go ask for a map because an organized park would be prepared to give its visitors these basic things.

What was incredibly bafflling is upon entrance into the park, there are 3 rangers sitting at the first post signs just chit chatting and lazing around. When asked how to get to the Hippo Pool, they all said “uh, we don’t know where that is. Do you have a map?” What? You work at the park as a ranger and you don’t even know where tourists spots are located? What is your purpose at the park?

Seething already, I try to keep calm and enjoy the safari. It’s a bumpy ride through mud and potholes from the previous night’s rainstorm. I was told, the road is not as bad despite some roads being completely covered in water causing the driver to backtrack on a one lane road.

Crocodiles at Nairobi National Park
The first animals seen were deer-like animals, lots of birds and a funny mohawk bird. The first dangerous animal I saw was the crocodile who sat by the edge of water bank, its mouth wide open, waiting for its prey to accidentally walk into it. What a strange animal indeed.

Water buffalos at Nairobi National Park
After about an hour of aimless driving, orienting myself with pre-printed map (small wonders), and the compass in the car, we were on our way to the hippo pool. However, a quarter of the way there, we ran into water buffalos, which were quite funny looking but apparently the most dangerous of all the Big Five in Kenya (the others are lions, leopards, elephant, and rhinoceros).

Helping a van stuck in mud at Nairobi National Park
At this point, there was a van on our one-lane road that was stuck in a mud! I was in a 4-wheel rangerover-like car, which is great for these safari trip. But who in their right mind would bring a caravan or even a sedan into this type of journey? You’ll be stuck in mud and rocks and water! Anyways, after helping to pull them out, the way to hippo lake was over.

Antelopes at Nairobi National Park

Giraffes at Nairobi National Park
After another hour of wondering to see antelopes, gazelles, and ostriches, and an up-close shot of the timid giraffe, we had to head back for lunch. The saddest thing about Nairobi National Park is that it doesn’t feel authentic. On one end of the horizon, you can see the cityscape and condos at the edge of the park. The other is empty vast land. I felt a bit cheated out of my safari. If I wanted to see the city in the background, I might as well just go to Disneyworld–not fly several thousand miles to see this.

Our short safari journey ended with us trying to go to the safari walk. Be aware, Nairobi National Park does not have the same admittance to the park, the orphanage, or the safari walk. Despite the fact that are all next to each other and owned by the same company, you have to pay a separate entrance fee and the parking is individual. If you go to the other area, you have to re-park your car.

Also, if you’re a tourist, the safari walk is basically a zoo. If your city has a zoo, it’s probably a waste to see the walk. It’s more for the locals, if they can afford it. Overall, I was disappointed with the park. I got a few good photos but I felt like it was more of a charade than the real thing.

After lunch, I went to do some tourist shopping at the Masai market, which on that particular day was at the Junction Mall.
Masai market at The Junction Mall roof in Nairobi, Kenya

Despite it being Christmas, the mall was packed. Security greets you at all the entrance after the incident at Westgate. But the Masai market is mainly a “flea market” where the locals sell their art and wares, though most were selling the same thing. Since I went with a local living there, there was A LOT of haggling going on for all the gifts I bought. At least, I ended up paying a decent amount for all my family.

If you’ve ever been to Beijing shopping area, it’s very much like that. I felt harassed and pulled by various vendors to buy their things. I felt inundated and surrounded. I was constantly trying to keep my purse close to me, and guilt wracked me to see their poverty while I was able to easily spend. Few tourists were there.

Ever since the bombing, the terrorists up by the norther borders, and even the beaches, Kenya ‘s tourism has dropped almost 70%. Some people are even afraid because of Ebola which is thousands of miles to towards the west. If anything, ebola is closer to Paris than Nairobi but people hear “Africa” and it’s all and one the same place.

It’s the trouble of one-story. Though some people may live in poverty, there are others who flourish in luxury, hot water, running water, television, movie viewing, etc. It is as commercial as the next city with poverty in its backyard. Even New York City cannot escape that fact either. While areas are so expensive, they coexist beside the struggling projects.