In Summary
  • Sunrise on Nairobi’s open spaces is ethereal.
  • We missed the sunrise by a few minutes because it takes so long to get through the line at the Kenya Wildlife Service pay-station.

The Nairobi sky was red-hot before sunrise as we made our way to the gates of Nairobi National Park.

And l have to say this again with pride — it’s the only national park in a city centre that teems with wildlife such as the big cats — lions, leopards and most recently, a cheetah that was spotted after decades.

The natural wilderness park was established in 1946.

Feeling a little self-important because not everyone goes counting lions so near home — literally from my door to the gate minus traffic took 20 minutes- we the members of Friends of Nairobi National Park (FoNNaP) listened in rapt attention to the Lion Guardian research scientists giving instructions on how to go about logging in lions spotted by each team, with great prizes to be won for most lions sighted and most distance covered.

And the hunt began.

Sunrise on Nairobi’s open spaces is ethereal. We missed the sunrise by a few minutes because it takes so long to get through the line at the Kenya Wildlife Service pay-station.

But picture this — a rising mist over the great expanse and sky turning blue over the gold-coloured plains of the park.

With the lion ID sheet and camera ready to shoot, a thought crossed my mind. Each lion had to be photographed face-on, left face, and right face in clear pictures.

This is because lion whisker spots are like human fingerprints. They never change and you can identify an individual lion from the spots. But would the lion oblige?

Then we came across Nairobians like Patricia Heather-Hayes, who has been visiting the park every Sunday since she was a teenager.

She’s on first name basis with the lions. There are several people including youngsters, who are so addicted to the lions that you can see them in the park most weekends — and have created a Facebook page for FoNNaP, where they upload fantastic sightings.

In the early morning, the buffaloes herd was still limbering up having their morning drink at the stream. The ostriches strode the plains with the gazelles and giraffes.

At the dam near the Athi-Kitengela, a crocodile lay on the banks. We also spotted hippos, the critically endangered listed Grey crowned cranes and other water birds.

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