National Parks & Reserves
KENYAN NATIONAL PARKS & RESERVES
NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK
The Park which was opened in December 1946 is located just 10 Kilometers from Kenya’s cosmopolitan Capital city, Nairobi; the only city in the world which neighbours a natural game protection area. The size of the Park is 117Km Sq and has got an altitude of 5,000 feet and it borders the traditional South Kapiti plains and Kitengela Migration corridor thus attracting a range of exciting game. The Black Rhino, Cheetahs, herds of plains of zebras, wildebeests, Elands, Hippos, crocodiles, Oryx and bongo are just but a few animals you can spot in the park. It is also an ideal starting point for ornithological safaris with over 400 species of birdlife recorded.
The Park was Kenya’s first National Park, and in 1989 the second President of the Republic of Kenya Daniel arap Moi made a dramatic ivory bonfire In 1989 by torching 10 tons of ivory worth Ksh 60 Million in a bid to eliminate mass slaughter of African Elephants for tusks. The site is located near the main gate. Since then, the fire has been lit twice more to banish confiscated stocks of poached rhino horn and ivory. The Park is ideal for family outing, picnics (there are 6 Picnic sites), camping and game viewing.
LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
The Park was opened in 1968 and has an area of 188 Km sq and an altitude of 4,000 – 5,767 ft and is located 160 Km from Nairobi. The Park is often reffered to as the Bird watchers paradise with plenty of flamingoes which literally turns the Lake’s shore pink, and many other, over 400 species of bird life recorded. It is thus worldly re-known as the beacon for leading ornithologists, scientists and wildlife film makers. The Lake occupies about a third of the park. The park stuns an attractive range of wooded and bush grasslands around the lake, offering a large ecological diversity. The lake catchment is bounded by Menengai crater to the North, Bahati Hills to the North- East, Lion Hill Ranges to the East, Eburu crater to the South and the Mau escarpment to the West. Major rivers draining into the lake are Nderit, Njoro and Makalia rivers. The foundation of the Parks food is the ‘cyanophyte spirulina platensis’ which supports huge numbers of lesser flamingoes.
Game viewing is relatively easy, you will find buffalo, leopard, lion, Rothschild giraffe, White and black colobus monkeys, are plenty in the forest. In the bush lands you will find eland, steenbok, chandler’s reedbuck and dik dik, whereas on the rock is the klipspringer.
HELL’S GATE NATIONAL PARK
The Park which was opened in 1984 is Located in Naivasha and has an area of 68.25 Km sq and an altitude of 5,000 – 7,000 feet and is situated about 90 Kilometers from Nairobi. It is characterized by diverse topography and geological scenery. Despite the name, it is very ideal for family gate aways. The Park boasts of plenty activities like spectacular gorge walk, visiting the natural hot geysers, eagle and vulture breeding grounds, driving, walking, cycling and also rock climbing as well as horseback safaris upon arrangements. The special location includes the Fischer’s tower which is formerly a volcano’s plug, the Central Tower and Njorowa Gorges. Two extinct volcanoes; Olkaria and Hobbleys are worth a trip as well where Natural steam vents rise from fissures in the volcanic rocks. The game view includes buffalo, lion, giraffe, Grants & Thompsons gazelle and Klipspringer as well as plenty of bird life where 103 species have been recorded.
AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Amboseli lies North West of Mount Kilimanjaro on the Tanzanian border. Opened in 1948 and gazetted as a Park in 1974, the Park covers 392 sq. Km and forms part of the larger 3,000 sq. km Amboseli ecosystem. The Park embodies 5 main wildlife habitats namely; open plains, acacia woodlands, rocky thorn bush country, swamps and marshlands. Within the Park basin is a temporary Lake that floods during rainy season. The Park stands at an Altitude of 1150 Meters above sea Level and has a climate of hot and dry with a Maximum average Temperature of 33 degrees Celsius during day, while that of coldest Months is 27 – 28 Degrees. An annual rainfall of 300 mm per annum is distributed in two seasons, April/May and November/ December. Despite sometimes being dry and dusty, the park has an endless water supply from Mount Kilimanjaro snow melt. These underground streams converge into two clear water springs in the heart of the park.
The Main attractions includes a vast of elephants (Which has got some of the largest tusks in Kenya), buffaloes, Lions, zebras, impala, leopards, caracal, serval cat, hippos and plenty of birdlife in which over 400 species have been recorded some of which includes Pelicans, king fisher’s, Pygmy Falcon, Egyptian Goose. Other Major attractions are the Observation Hill which allows the view for the whole Park and it was inhabited many years ago by the hunter- gatherer people; Ndorobo. Amboseli is an important rangeland in Maasai culture and the ranch areas outside the Park offers wealth of game viewing and walking safaris.
TSAVO EAST NATIONAL PARK
Tsavo East lies at an altitude of 500-4,000 ft and has an area of 11,747 Km sq located some 333 kilometers from Nairobi. This is one of the oldest and largest National parks covering at least 40% of all Kenya’s Parks. It’s beautiful landscape and proximity to the coast makes it a popular safari destination. The Park is accredited as one of the World’s leading biodiversity strongholds, bushy grassland and open plains alternating with savannah and semi-arid acacia scrubs and woodland. The park is ideal for photographers due to its fabulous light and great views like the Mudanda Rock and Yatta plateau which is the World’s largest Lava flow. Lugard falls on the Galana River are remarkable for the shaped water-worn rocks. There is plenty of game in the Park like the elephants, rhino, lion, waterbuck, Kudu, leopard and crocodiles. The elephants glow red after dust baths blowing the red vivid dust through their trunks over their bodies. There are also plenty of birdlife with over 500 species recorded, for instance the Ostrich and the migratory Kestrels and buzzards.
TSAVO WEST NATIONAL PARK
In the 1900s, the notorious lions preyed on the railway linesmen building the great Uganda railway and were called “Man Eaters of Tsavo”. This Park has important historic connections as a major battle ground in World War 1 where the British and German troops battled for supremacy. The Park is 240 Kilometers from Nairobi and lies at an altitude of 500 – 6000 ft with an area of 9,065 Km sq. Located in the Nairobi – Mombasa road, the Park offers tremendous views and diverse habitats ranging from mountains, river forest, plains, lakes and wooded grassland. Its plains border the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania. It offers a great advantage to those who enjoy walking, as it offers a number of nature trails and opportunity to explore Chaimu Volcanic crater, the Mzima springs which is a pool of spring water with underwater towers to view hippos. The Game available in the park includes Elephants, Leopard, Cheetahs, Buffalo, and Rhino, giraffe, zebra, crocodiles and hippos among others.
MOUNT LONGONOT NATIONAL PARK
The Park was opened in 1983 and has an area of 52 Kilometers square with an altitude of 6,000 – 7,000 feet, and is only 90 Kilometers from Nairobi. Its name is derived from Mount Longonot which is a young Volcano which rises to 2,776 M above sea level. Created amongst the massive eruptions which formed the Great Rift Valley, its sides now have beautiful V-shaped valleys and ridges with impenetrable forest around the area of the crater giving it a lush aspect. The park surrounds the Volcano. Mount Longonot offers wide range of attractions like hiking, rock climbing, biking, birdlife viewing. Due to the nature of the terrain, the park has no roads thus visitors hike with guides on the ground.
ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK
This Park which is 767 sq. Km with an Altitude of 1,829 – 4,001 meters above sea level and just 180 km from Nairobi, is encircled by the wild and the beautiful moorlands of the third highest mountain range in Kenya; Aberdares Ranges which is an isolated volcanic range that forms the Eastern wall of the Rift Valley. This atmospheric Park offers a mist wreathed realm where elephants roam through lichen-hung forests, spectacular waterfalls into churning pools and plenty of streams cascade through mossy dells. The Park has plenty of falls like Karuru Falls which drops 300m, the impressive Gura Falls which torrent from the opposite side of the same gorge, the sheer drop of the Chania Falls and enchanting Magura Falls which cascade across the yawning mouth of Queens Cave. The Aberdares has got two Main Peaks; Ol Donyo Le Satima (3,999 Meters)and Kinangop (3,90 Meters)separated by a long saddle of alpine moorland at over 3,000 meters. These ranges are also main water catchment areas providing water for rivers Tana and Athi and also part of the Central Rift and Northern Drainage basins.
Aberdares National Park has got a rich history. Culturally its an important place for the Kikuyus who believed that the forest is the home of Ngai (God) and was originally called ‘Nyandarua’ (the dying hide) due to the distinctive folds of its silhouette but later the name was changed in 1884 by the explorer Joseph Thompson after Lord Aberdare – the president of the Royal Geographical Society. The ranges were also dubbed “the White highlands” due to the large numbers of the Europeans who settled there in 1920’s. In the 1950’s the dense forests and bamboo thickets witnessed much action between British Forces and the Mau Mau freedom fighters. Also in 1952, the young princess Elizabeth descended its steps as Queen 11 of England.
The Main attractions in the Park includes Lesatima and Kinangop Peaks, waterfalls, walks in the moorland, hide outs of the Mau Mau (Caves), Wildlife like elephants, black rhino, Rare Bongo, Giant Forest Hog, Rare Wild dogs, endemic Mole Rat and Mole Shrew, Leopard, Reptiles and plenty of bird life where 250 species had been recorded.
MOUNT KENYA NATIONAL PARK
The Park stands at an altitude of 3,200 Meters and covers an area of 715 sq. Km. The Park was opened in 1949. At 5,199 m high, Mount Kenya is the second highest Mountain in Africa and is listed as a UNESCO world Heritage site. It has got Three Peaks; Batian which is the highest with 17,057 ft, Nelion, Second highest at 17,021 ft and Lenana Peak at 16,355 ft. These peaks were as a result of a Volcanic eruption during its formation about 3 Million years ago which opened the African Rift. Visitors visiting Mount Kenya can have an expedition to the breathtaking views of jagged cliffs, glaciers, rolling slopes covered in Alpine vegetation and the beautiful snow capped peaks. There are established routes for climbers and hikers.
The Park has diverse ecosystem with eight vegetation bands from the base of the Mountain to the highest point. There are dense rainforests and bamboo thickets and it turns meadows higher up. The Park is endowed with captivating wildlife attraction which includes three of the big Five – Leopard, Buffalo and Elephant. It is a Home to Sykes Monkeys, Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Albino Zebra, Bush pig, Olive Baboon, Giant Forest hog, white-tailed mongoose and Black-fronted duiker. The Park is also an excellent bird watching base with over 130 species recorded. The Park is 175 Kilometer from Nairobi.
OL DONYO SABUK NATIONAL PARK
This is a fascinating park for a day trip out of Nairobi. Located only 85 Km away from the busy capital city, Nairobi, the mountain rises to 8,000 ft and covers 20 km sq. The name is a Maasai word meaning “Mountain of buffalo”. The Park is ideal for hikers and family outings. The main attractions here are its beauty and views of Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. Also the baboons, colobus Monkeys, bushbucks, Impalas, duiker and abundant birdlife can be spotted here. Near the summit lies the graves of Sir William Northup McMillan (1872-1925) and his wife lady Lucie, who was a huge Scot and arrived in Kenya in 1901 for the big game shooting, they were great philanthropists together and created the MacMillan Library in Central Nairobi.
MERU NATIONAL PARK
The Park is located 384 Kilometers from Nairobi and is 870 sq. Km. It is the home for Joy and George Adamson who released their most famous Elsa the lioness back into the wild. It has an altitude of 366 – 914 Meters above sea level and the vegetation is mainly thorny bush land in the North, wooded grassland in the West and open grassland in the rest of the region. A fine example of the classic savannah landscape, Meru’s character is defined by the rivers that form its perimeters; the Tana to the South, the Ura to the South West and the Rojeweru to the East. The Park has 14 streams which drain to the nearby Nyambene Hills.
Meru’s diversity of its habitats offers unique wildlife watching opportunities; the main animal attraction includes Elephants, Lion, Cheetah, Beisa Oryx, hartebeest, reticulated giraffe, Zebras and antelopes in the Northern plains. The Southern plain which has dense woodlands boasts gerenuk, common Eland, Kirks Dik-dik, and warthogs. The Park also has plenty of bird life, with over 300 species recorded some of which includes Ibis, Heron, African Fish Eagle, black bellied sunbird, hornbills and flocks of glorious golden breasted starlings.
LAKE BOGORIA NATIONAL RESERVE
The Reserve was opened in 1970 and has an area of 107 Sq Km and an altitude of 3,200 ft. Most of the Reserve is occupied by the lake which is a spectacular sight reflecting searing blue skies and the rose pink of flamingoes. The Reserve has a significant ornithological interest with over 135 species of birds being recorded. There are Hot Springs and geysers and also baths from the Natural spa which makes this reserve unique. In the surrounding bushed grassland, there are herds of rare Kudu, buffalo, zebra, impala and dik dik among other plenty animals. The south shore has acacia-ficus woodland and to the North is a papyrus swamp.
MAASAI MARA GAME RESERVE
The Maasai Mara game reserve is administered by the local county councils and is famous for its annual wildebeest migration from the neighbouring Serengeti National Reserve in Tanzania. The Reserve lies in an altitude of 5,000 ft and covers an area of 1,510 sq Km. It is located 275 Kilometers from Nairobi and was opened in 1974. The maximum daily Temperatures lies between 26 and 30 degrees, whilst the rainfalls in two seasons; Long rains, form March – June, Short rains, November – December. The reserve offers breath taking views as seen in the film “Out of Africa” as much of it was shot here and also an extraordinary density of animals including the “Big Five” of the Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard, Lion and Rhino. The impressive plains animals featured in the migration are Zebras, Gazelles and Millions of Wildebeests which cause a scene while crossing the river, where most of them fall prey to the Crocodiles and many more drown. As they cross over, they also fall prey to the predators of the lion, leopard, cheetahs and hyenas, and most often you will not miss the Vultures feeding on the dozens of carcasses. This scenario takes place in early July to early November. There are also over 400 species of birds recorded and the tremendous views of the rolling hills and plains are just amazing. The Reserve is surrounded by the local Maasai people, and the group ranges as well, thus making it easier to visit the Maasai ‘Manyattas” (Small round villages) and interact with the local people.
MWEA NATIONAL RESERVE
The reserve was opened in 1976 and has an altitude of 3,000-5,000 ft and covers an area of 68 sq km just 180 Kilometers from Nairobi. Its main feature is the meeting of the Tana and Thiba rivers within the reserve and the Kaburu and Masinga Hydro-electric dams. Main attractions are the elephants, buffalo, impala, hippo, baboon, vervet and Sykes monkeys, warthog, bushbuck, hartebeest, lesser kudu, jackal and also crocodiles in the dams. It has two picnic sites, Gichuki Island and Hippo point.
SAMBURU GAME RESERVE