Travel
Nairobi National Park at Dawn
November 15, 2017
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Buffalos at Hyena Dam, Nairobi National Park.
Wild cows against the backdrop of Lang’ata housing and UAP Towers.

I’m not a big fan of Whatsapp groups, but the photography ones I am in come in handy. A suggestion to visit the park for an early morning expedition was made because to see the big cats, you need to be there at dawn or late afternoon to dusk.

Nairobi skyline evening colours.
Gloomy evening sky at the Park.

On the appointed day I left home at 4:50 AM to ensure I got to the meeting point, the National Museum, in good time. I hitched a ride with my friend Mwarv and we headed to the Park. Driving in Nairobi at 6:00 AM is so smooth! If only it were that way all day. We were at the Park’s main gate in a few minutes. After paying the entrance fees, Josh, Paul and Nick joined us in Mwarv’s car and can I just say we were squeezed! I found myself in the middle back seat. We drove into the Park hopeful to see the lions we’d been told were nearby.

Nairobi skyline sunny day.
Nairobi skyline.

We got a grand welcome from the most epic sunrise I’ve seen thus far. A giant orange ball rising from the grassy plains. It felt like we were in a Nat Geo Wild documentary. No wonder foreigners come to Kenya, fall in love with the country, and refuse to leave.

We came upon a pride of 6 lions feeding on a recent kill. They were considerably far away so we couldn’t shoot (photos, not them ha-ha!). On the other side though, there was a Black rhino enjoying its breakfast. It was kind enough to pose long enough to our satisfaction.

Black Rhino at Nairobi National Park.
Nothing like an early morning breakfast.

We circled the track to see if the lions were visible from the other side. They weren’t. Sigh. They’d retreated into some bushes to rest after the heavy meal. Enthusiastic white-backed vultures perched on trees nearby waited for their turn to invade the carcass. We decided to look for more lions elsewhere. On the way, other animals like zebras and impalas showed up.

Vultures in a tree at Nairobi National Park.
Vultures waiting for their turn at the carcass.

The big cats were determined to evade us. Every time we met a group of other game enthusiasts, they told us they’d seen lions at a certain place, but when we got there we saw nothing. Or, it happened to be a spot we had just left a few minutes ago, again after missing them! Sigh. Still, I was surprised by the sighting of Wildebeest strutting along. Yes, there are Wildebeest in Nairobi National Park! Crocs exist too, if you know where to look.

Black-winged Stilt foraging at Hyena Dam, Nairobi National Park.
Black-winged Stilt foraging at Hyena Dam.

At Hyena Dam, a herd of Buffalos were quenching their thirst. Some stood defiantly in the middle of the track, and we had to wait for them to leave before proceeding. These beasts are huge when up close! I wouldn’t want to encounter one by myself. A number of waterfowl were also having a good time at the shore. There’s so much to see in this Park, it’s incredible. We even saw Hartebeest at some point (Google it).

A buffalo herd on the road at Nairobi National Park.
Standoff.

On our last attempt at spotting lions we came pretty close. Several open-top vans with guys looking out into the bush using binoculars, was a good sign. Turns out, they had seen the big cats. Yes! So we looked for the best view but guess what? They were laying low in the bushes! Some of us saw a tail moving and that was it. A herd of Zebra stood some distance away looking intently in that direction. About four of them walked towards the bush, stopped then advanced again. Talk of walking into your predator’s paws!

Zebra on the road at Nairobi National Park.
Zebra crossing ha-ha! See what I did there? 

We waited, hoping the lions would emerge and chase the Zebras, but ten minutes of no action marked the end of our little trip. Even the four Zebras gave up and walked away. That’s how it goes in the wild, there are no guarantees. You might spend several hours waiting with no success. Or spot 27 lions in one day like Paras, one of the most celebrated wildlife photographers who visits this Park daily. (Yes daily) I had the honour of meeting him on this day.

Vultures at Nairobi National Park.
Guys, I told you I didn’t do it!

It was only 10:00 AM when we drove out but the sun was already blazing. If we’d arrived earlier and been more patient, we might have seen those lions better. Maybe. Well, I definitely would like to return another day and see what other surprises this Park holds. If you haven’t been to Nairobi National Park (lately), take some time and swing by. You only need your national I.D and 430/- for Kenyan citizens. (Plus an additional 300/- for cars with 6 seats or less). It’s an amazing place that will leave you craving for repeat visits!

Grazing zebra at Nairobi National Park.
Can you imagine such beauty so close to the CBD? 
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About author

Michelle Ajema

Michelle Ajema is an artlover who is deeply fascinated by the exciting world of DSLR photography. She loves shooting nature, and can often be found stalking monkeys and birds in her backyard.

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