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


Aug 24th, 2009, 02:10 PM
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A 3-hour Sunday Drive on Aug 2 in Nairobi National Park

It was 3 hours well spent.

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 waived 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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Aug 24th, 2009, 02:15 PM
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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 in the first photo in the album below. The room itself was very nice. The location is excellent if you wish to be near the airport or make a quite trip to Nairobi National Park. I’ll book it again.

This is a link to 15 photos with the first being a view of Nairobi National Park from my room at Panari Hotel. 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 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 are dead cattle all over.

Tougher restrictions on grazing are needed or Nairobi National Park won't last.

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Aug 24th, 2009, 02:32 PM
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Thanks for the report, Lynn. Your last post is heartbreaking, both for the wildlife and the Kenyans trying to keep their cattle alive. Having grown up on a small cattle ranch, I understand their desire to keep their cattle alive, but there has to be a way to do it without destroying the park.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 06:37 PM
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Not to mention the two dead rhinos in the Park that died from anthrax - which was supposedly caused by the cattle.

"Apparently some of the guards have family members who are herdsman and permit them access". These guards should be fired! This needs to be reported to KWS - not that they would do anything
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Aug 24th, 2009, 07:28 PM
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Great report of a good day trip, Lynn. Very sad about the cattle in the park. And very sad consequences of the drought for people and animals.
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Aug 24th, 2009, 11:29 PM
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Thanks for the report on NNP, it is a great little park but human encroachment is making it very difficult for it to flourish.
I loved the coucal, it must have been quite close. I wonder how often kongoni have twins and whether these will survive. I didn't realise that you got such good views from Panari, could you see any animals with binoculars?
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Aug 25th, 2009, 05:48 AM
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Yes, such a sad predicament. It was your link, Twaffle that notified me of the recent unfortunate events in the park. I also wonder if such incursions are not routine, but the anthrax situation is what made this one more sensational.

DanaPhx, The sympathies toward the cattle keepers permeate all levels of authority as so many in Africa depend on cattle for survival.

In a different country, on a similar note, I was discussing the plight of Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is suffering from human encroachment, including cattle grazing. I was told the president of Uganda has a herding background so there is often a lack of strict enforcement of rules against grazing.

I just hope this little gem of a park in the capital city can be preserved.
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Aug 25th, 2009, 06:15 AM
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Lynn, loved your pics. Beautiful shot of the coucal! What camera are you using? Nairobi NP was also our "first", so we too have fond memories of it.

We leave Saturday for Brazil and hope to be as lucky as you were re: jaguar sightings. After reading your Southern Pantanal trip report, I'm sorry we didn't extend our trip to include it. Another time....

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Aug 25th, 2009, 06:18 AM
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Don't be too concerned about cattle encroachment.... some of the best parks in the world have cattle grazing alongside wildlife.

In fact, before the national parks were formed, the Maasai, their cattle, and wildlife, co-existed very nicely in Kenya for hundreds of years!!
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Aug 25th, 2009, 02:45 PM
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I couldn't agree more! It's been proven that wildlife did much better in the far earlier days when its was allowed to mingle with cattle....


A very detailed report! Congrats! Must have taken loads of notes.
I am always puzzled that Americans are very particular in their descriptions and "bookkeeping" on sightings etc.
Europeans seem to be some kind of lax in that - or at least many of them ;-) .

Enjoyed the report! Would never have dreamed about visiting or spending hours in NNP. You have chánged that perception.


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Aug 25th, 2009, 05:10 PM
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Best wishes for a great Pantanal trip with many hornero sightings (ovenbirds). So you're another whose maiden safari was to NBO Nat Park. I used a Sony DSC H2 point and shoot, 12x optical zoom with image stabilization.

I could have seen buffalo from my window without binocs even, if they had been in the area.

A hopeful thought you have provided regarding the grazing. I'm just wondering about the balance of cattle and parkland since the amount of parkland is fixed and the number of grazing cattle that use the park seems to keep growing. The dead cows and anthrax part is also a concern. If cattle in the park is no big deal though, that would be great.

Mingling is fine, but 20,000 overrunning the park is troubling. For me, snapping photos is a good replacement for notetaking. The bookkeeping on sightings has more to do with my background and work duties/habits than anything else, in my case.

I hope lots of people take time to visit Nairobi National Park at the outset of their safaris or if they have a day's layover in Nairobi.
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Aug 26th, 2009, 06:12 AM
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You must have had the best time ever.Most people don't see as much.You were very lucky to see the rhino's and the lions.I do visit Nairobi National Park very often and it's not guranteed to see some animals especially the rhinos.Next time you come contact us [email protected] for good rates for the same and more rhinos and may be even the leopards.
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Aug 26th, 2009, 07:21 AM
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Atrvelynn - I was in the park on that Sunday as well. We entered at around 6:00 am. We spotted a mating couple near 7/8 and she was not having any of him at all. He approached her twice and she fought hard. The noise was awesome and the dust and photo's spectacular.

We did not get to see any of the Rhino's but we saw heaps of plains game, as well as a few Hyaena, and a flock of around 30 Crested Cranes.

We saw a Cheetah again around 7/8 about 6 months ago. A friend saw it near the plains around 3 months ago.
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Aug 26th, 2009, 11:54 AM
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Thanks for your report and photos, Lynn! I also hadn't given much thought to a NNP visit until reading this.
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Aug 27th, 2009, 05:21 PM
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I realize rhinos are certainly not guaranteed and I had not expected to see any, much less rhinos and a lion in one view, Kenyasafaris. Just a hint--you're not supposed to advertise.

Oh my goodness, Roadwarrior, maybe I saw you. Your sightings are significant because they were entirely different from what I saw and represent some sought after species. So all of this was happening on one Sunday morning.

What's your take on the cattle Road Warrior or Kenya Safaris?

Patty, if NNP fits, I think it is worth it.
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Sep 1st, 2009, 05:16 AM
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Went into NNP on Saturday at around 3pm. There was a huge society wedding at ivory burning site (more than 1500 guests). We went looking for lion near number 7 & 19. Did not find them so went nearby to a picnic site for sundowners. Had the chapagne out and while nibilng a herd of buffalo ran by. That was a bit scary. All of a sudden a huge roar and we were in the car. Quickly threw everything in the car a heard more roars. We did not see them but felt them. We drove 500 m away closer to where the roar was coming from and saw 3 rhino. A huge male huge female and baby rhino. After 45 minutes we had to leave the park and came across two lionesses.

We saw several dead cow carcasses that really stank. Unfortunatley the masai are taking the cows in at night. Very controversial.

My take on Kenyan safaris - I love Kenya and want everyone to see Kenya. But the impact of mass tourisim on the environment is detrimental to the land and the animals. Tanzania and Botswana have done more to look after their natural resources but this has been done through high prices which locks out most tourists. I would say if park entry fees were increased to at least $100 per day and mini vans were locked out it would really help. Also if the number of lodges in places like the mara were halved and more stringently managed the animals and environment will last longer. Unfortunatley most lodge and camp owners are greedy and only care about their own pockets so are very short sighted and typically do not care about the environment. That is my 2 cents worth.
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Sep 1st, 2009, 03:16 PM
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Thanks for the 2 cents, Road Warrior.
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 10:06 AM
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Yes, Roadwarrior, your "shilingi mbili" 's worth is not without some truth. Thanks.
From being a counrty whose gameparks and natural resources were the best organised and managed in East Africa in the 50s, 60s and 70s, Kenya's cache in tourism seems to have slipped greatly.
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 03:01 PM
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roadwarrior...where else did you go?

were you in samburu too?

I've read the 'dead carcasses' are even worse in samburu...
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 04:52 PM
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How would all of this affect plans for a dry season 2010 Kenya safari?

I'm asking this same question on the "death of Kenyan safari thread."
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