Nairobi National Park lies within sight of Nairobi city, and animals can be seen against a backdrop of high-rise buildings. The park’s proximity to a large urban center is unique in Africa and wildlife viewing is surprisingly good. Most big safari animals are present (except elephants). There is a small walk at the entrance leading through indigenous forest and several wildlife enclosures.
Nairobi NP has a decent variety of wildlife. Aside from elephants, all of the Big Five are present. There is a good population of both black and white rhino and the latter are often seen grazing on the open plains. Leopards are shy, but a lion, cheetah, and hyena are regularly spotted. In July and August, a mini migration of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle crosses into the park from the surrounding areas.
Nairobi National Park has a good variety of wildlife. Apart from elephants, most big safari animals are present. There is a very good chance of seeing rhino. White rhinos are easiest to spot as they graze on the open plains, but the park is one of Kenya’s most successful sanctuaries for black rhino, which like to keep hidden in the thickets.
Lion, cheetah, Masai giraffe, and buffalo are just some of the animals you can encounter on a half-day trip in Nairobi NP. It is also a good place to see some of the more unusual antelope species including oribi, grassland special. Coke’s hartebeest is quite common and if lucky, a herd of shy eland will come into view. Pairs of little kirk’s dik-dik can be spotted as well.
The best time to visit Nairobi National Park is in the Dry season (from June to September) when animals gather around remaining water sources, although it can be visited throughout the year. The long rains (March to May) and short rains (October to November) usually make animal spotting more difficult. Rain can interfere with your game drive and the vegetation tends to be very high.
Most of Nairobi National Park consists of open grassland. The city’s high-rise buildings are visible and, from a wilderness point of view, are quite disturbing – although it does create opportunities for unusual pictures. The Athi river track in the south of the park offers views over the scenic waterway, ridge, and cliffs. The safari walk at the entrance of the park meanders through a beautiful patch of indigenous forest.
The weather is predictable at Nairobi National Park as it adheres to longstanding climatic patterns. The Dry season (June to October) is marked by an absence of rain and loads of sunshine. The Wet season (November to May) has two periods of rain (November to December, and March to May), with an intervening period of drier weather. The park’s high altitude means cool air is the norm at night.
Visitors will be treated to dust-free skies and an abundance of baby animals and migratory birds during the wettest period of the year (March to May). However, the wildlife will be harder to track down and driving conditions will be testing, to say the least. Your best bets for animal spotting are the other months of the year, which are drier and sunnier.
With over 500 bird species recorded, Nairobi NP probably gives Kenya’s capital the longest bird list of all cities in the world. The park’s substantial area of undisturbed grassland is of great importance for species such as the restricted-range Jackson’s widowbird, which breeds here regularly after good rains. Other grassland birds include ostriches, secretary birds, and bustards. Nairobi NP is a popular birding destination and it’s easy to book a full or half-day guided birding trip at short notice.
Nairobi NP offers good bird watching throughout the year, but the best time is from November to April when the migrants from Europe and North Africa are present. Many species are nesting at this time as it coincides with the breeding season. The spectacular Jackson’s widowbird displays from March to May. Although good for birding, April tends to be very wet and is a less productive time for general wildlife viewing.
Wildlife viewing is at its finest in the Dry season (when animals can easily be seen around water sources), from June to September, although it’s possible to visit Nairobi NP any time. Wildlife watching is usually more difficult during the long rains (March to May) and the short rains (October to November). During these months, rainfall might restrict game drives and the grass tends to be very high.
Nairobi has a cool and temperate climate. Temperatures are reasonably constant year-round, and it cools off considerably at night. There is very little rain in the Dry season between June and October. November to May, the Wet season, has two periods of rain. The ‘short rains’ are heaviest in November, and the ‘long rains’ are at their peak in April.
Dry season –June to October
It rains very little in the Dry season, although when the first rains fall is changeable. July and August are the coolest months, and temperatures increase in September through October before the rain breaks.
June, July, August & September – Lots of sunshine with very little rain. Afternoons are pleasant with temperatures around 24°C/75°F, but evenings and early mornings are cold with temperatures of around 12°C/54°F.
October – It is warming up a bit with afternoon temperatures of about 26°C/79°F. The short rains might start towards the end of the month, or it might be later in November. Temperatures drop after the rains.
Wet season –November to May
The Wet season is comprised of three distinct parts: the ‘short rains’ from November to December and the ‘long rains’ from March to May, with a dry period separating them.
November & December – ‘Short rains’: October or November sees the start of the short rains, which normally peak in November. Temperatures increase before it rains, drop immediately after, and average at 25°C/77°F in the afternoon.
January & February – The rains dry up in these months, separating the two rainy seasons. It’s the hottest time of year with average afternoon temperatures of 28°C/82°F.
March, April & May – ‘Long rains’: April is the wettest month and rain might interfere with your game drives. Road conditions deteriorate. The rain diminishes in May, but the roads may still be problematic until later that month. Afternoon temperatures are around 26°C/79°F.
Nairobi National Park is located 9km/ 5mi south of Nairobi. The park is usually visited as a half-day or full-day trip from a hotel in the city. Getting to the city of Nairobi is easy – it’s one of the biggest and busiest transport hubs on the continent. International flights arrive in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi.
Nairobi National Park, like most parks in Kenya, is very safe to visit, in our opinion. Nairobi city though has a bad reputation for crime. If you venture into the city independently, please read ‘Cities and Other Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ accessed by the link below. When visiting the park, you should be picked up and dropped off at your hotel.
Several vaccinations need to be taken before coming to Kenya. Nairobi lies at a high altitude and malaria is not a real concern here, but if you are visiting other places in Kenya, you should take all necessary precautions. Aside from antimalarials, the use of mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective) and covering up in the evening is highly recommended to minimize the risk of getting bitten.
Listen to the instructions and advice provided by your guide when watching wildlife. Although incidents are extremely rare, keep in mind the potential danger and unpredictability of wildlife encounters.