Camping in your own back yard
Who hasn’t camped in their own back yard as a kid? Isn’t it great?! And who says you have to be a kid to enjoy camping in your back yard?! Our backyard camping trip was a little more adventurous than the usual patch of grass at the bottom of the garden. And our tent a little more luxurious than the cute A-frame from back in the days.
We went glamping in Nairobi’s own National Park, Kenya’s smallest National Park right in the capital city. It is ‘only’ 117 square kilometres but has an amazing variety of wildlife that can still roam free out of the park and to other areas like Amboseli NP to the south, although more and more people are building houses on that side and it remains to be seen how long this will remain open for the animals to migrate.
We had been to the Nairobi NP before, in fact it was the first National Park we saw in Kenya as we went for a drive during our familiarisation visit back in July 2014 before we moved here. We have also taken a few visitors here as it is very conveniently located and has a huge variety of animals. Apart from elephants you can find the big 5 right here in Nairobi, although technically speaking even the elephant roams the national park every single day as this is where the baby orphaned elephants go on their daily trip to eat, play and learn with their keepers.
Our plan was to head out to the park on Saturday before lunch, take a packed lunch and then head over to the tented camp late afternoon. Timing changed a bit when we spent half the day in doctors’ waiting rooms as Jude managed to nearly cut off her finger whilst preparing lunch, but 7 stitches and a few hours later we finally drove through the park’s gates at 4pm.
We enjoyed driving in the park, but unfortunately right on time Kenya’s wet season had started. This meant that for the last 2 nights the heavens had opened and some of the park’s tracks were impassable due to the black cotton soil, but we could still find tracks we had never been to before and happily explored the forested area. We were rewarded with spotting 2 new species for us; the common bush duiker and the suni.
The suni is the smallest antelope that can be found in Kenya (between 30 and 41 cm tall) and the duiker is not much bigger. They hide in the thick undergrowth and are very shy, making them agonisingly difficult to photograph.
We followed the detailed instructions to the tented camp, well hidden in the forested area of the park and found a lovely ‘living room’, ‘dining room’ and of course our own ‘bedroom’ all set up with canvas. Our tent came with its own toilet and shower and a huge double bed. After a lovely dinner and some gin & tonics at the campfire we had to run for our bedroom as the heavens yet again opened up at night. With the sound of raindrops hitting the canvas we fell asleep, rhinos, lions and antelopes roaming around our tent.
The next morning we were woken up with a cup of tea and some cookies in bed before we ventured out for an early morning game drive, followed by breakfast back at the tented camp. After a relaxed breakfast we hopped into our car again and a troop of baboons came to wave goodbye as a tiny suni rushed off into the bush right next to our car.
Again we explored mostly the forested areas and found quite a few tracks not many people seem to go to. At first we tried to avoid the muddier sections of the tracks, but of course we ended up finding ourselves in more and more mud the further away we went. The car was doing well until we got stuck in a seriously muddy bit. Thankfully we had bumped into Marcel on Saturday morning who had just come back from a visit to the park the previous day and had warned us about the mud. We had brought our maxtrax (sand ladders), just in case and we ended up having to use them for the first time in Kenya! The last time we got stuck – read New Year’s in the Mara on how we spent the night in our car in the Mara – our maxtrax were still in the sea container somewhere en route to Kenya. They worked really well in the mud, but digging them out after use took almost more time then getting us out. We were very happy we had brought them.
We were lucky to see 2 white rhinos and 2 black ones this time (both a mum with baby) and just as we were heading for the gate we almost drove over a lion sitting right beside the track. A second one came out and we watched them panting in the sun for a while (it was hot) until the big park tourist bus arrived and they disappeared behind the bush for some peace and quiet.
As the main entrance of the Nairobi National Park is so close to the elephant orphanage we had decided to put our little girl to bed. She is now 2 and a half years old and might soon be on her way to Tsavo East for the next step in her rehabilitation into the wild. Her small tusks are already out and she is doing really well, apparently she is a rather naughty girl pushing her fellow elephants when they are not expecting it… As we said goodnight she gave Jude a big, muddy kiss with her trunk, very sweet!
We had a great time glamping in our back yard! Make sure you go out camping in your back yard too – you’ll love it! (but hopefully you won’t bump into lions or rhinos in your back yard…!)