Good weekend!

So, my fourth weekend in Nairobi. Gareth’s friend Ben stopped by on the way to London from the Congo where he had spent the last two years. He’d not seen a tarmac road for four months and not seen a supermarket for god knows how long and very excited about being in the ‘big city’. Classic lines from the weekend included ‘Wow, there’s more light coming from that fridge than I’ve seen in a month’ and ‘You don’t like ugali? Seriously? The white stuff? It’s like heaven!’.

Ben wanted to see Nairobi so we came up with a touristy plan: feeding giraffes on Saturday afternoon and a trip to the national park on Sunday afternoon. And beer of course. He nearly cried when a taxi was ordered 3.30 on Saturday morning and he realised that he couldn’t have another beer. When I rang him on Saturday afternoon to go to the giraffes he was too hungover to come so Laura and Andrea and I went on our own.

Feeding giraffes is cool. They have blue tongues that are 15cm long. Enough said.


Feeding giraffes

Giraffes are cool

That evening Ben invited us over for dinner and a ‘quite drink’. Needless to say we find ourselves at two in the morning speeding along in a taxi to a 24 hour open Nakumatt supermarket to buy pies, chocolate and more beer. The woman behind the counter stares blankly at us as we ask her opinion on the different kinds of pies available. Back in the flat an argument over the relative merits of different Rolling Stones records ensues and bed time happens way after the sun has risen. Half an our later we are are woken by the church next door. Ever heard an African church on a Sunday morning? Well, you can imagine.


Pies at three in the morning

A few hours, a handful of paracetamol, bacon and eggs and copious amounts of lemon squash later and we are on our way to National Park. In a taxi. The taxi driver is much more excited than we are, apparently the last time he saw wild animals was when he was 15.

Inside the park we are a bit disappointed at the low number of animals. I, who hasn’t shut up about how great the park is, feels slightly embarassed. The massive herds of zebra and wildebeest that I remember have all gone. Ben spends most of the time sleeping in the backseat and only wakes up when we stop to look at some animal or other. Nonetheless we still see zebras, buffalos, giraffes, a hippo, bushbuck and…’lion!’, Laura suddenly screams and shouts at the driver to reverse the car. And there she is – ears barely visible above the long grass – a lioness. After a while she stands up and we can see that she has two small cubs with her. Laura looks visibly relaxed as we drive off. Ben falls asleep again.


Ben sleeping

Animals are sooo exciting

The lack of animals has worried me so when we get back to the flat I decide to do some internet-based research. The National Park is apparently fenced on three sides, but the south side is open. Traditionally the animals have migrated out of the park towards Tanzania in the rainy season. Over the last ten years or so, however, the migration corridor has seen som much development that it is almost closed off. This combined with a large population increase has left almost no animals in the park. In 1993 there were 10,000 wildebeest in the system. Today there are 120. The lack of herbivores has had a massive effect on the lions and they have started attacking cattle and getting shot. Out of 50 lions only seven remain. I can’t believe how lucky we were to see one!

The state of the park, and particularly the lions, has resulted in some people getting together to form the organisation Save the Nairobi National Park Lions. I find this really upsetting, what used to be a really good National Park is now almost totally gone. I wonder what the people in Kenya Wildlife Services are doing? Do they not realise the importance of tourism, as Kenya’s highest income earner, for development?


1 Comment

  1. […] National Park Almost a year ago now, I wrote about the lack of animals in Nairobi National Park. The number of lions had decreased from about 50 to only nine, there was […]

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