NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK was gazetted (that is, legally constituted) in 1946. Only 44 miles in area and six miles from the city center, this former inter-tribal limbo on the Athi Plains between Masai and Kikuyu land had been part of the settlers Southern reserve, then of the Somali shepherds Nairobi commonage camp trining ground and road to the front in the first world war, then army firing range in the animals are free to come and go as grazing dictates the usual faunal reservoir adjacent is in this case the Ngong Hills Game reserves. (the fences along the Mombasa road like the experimental excloses are exceptional features rarely found in Kenyan parks).
The best game runs are made from opening time to mid-morning; then the nocturnal game may still be up late and lions not yet hiding from the heat of the day. The rise after 4 p.m. the next best time for viewing. Rangers keep the prides tracked with near-military accuracy, but the encircling cluster of sightseeing car-loads pin-points them equally well. An understandable delight, the lioness and playful cubs steal the thunder of some 80 other species (elephants a notable exception). The parks list of birds now outnumbers Britain’s. Near its long southern edge are the Kalembi Valley Circuit south of the Main gate crosses country better suited to cheeters, leopards and a score of rhinoceri.
Despite the drought of 1973-74, which reduced by three quarters the wildbeast and zebra population and eliminated the kongonis and despite poaching from the Athi-Kipiti area, sometimes by Masaai deprived of grazing, this compact wildlife community is unique in its natural survival so near to the capital city. It should be remembered that, for all its urbanity the game is as anywhere: national park rules apply strictly.