Did you know that Nairobi is the only major city in the world with a national wildlife park within 10km of the city centre? It’s also the only national wildlife park in the world with a skyscraper backdrop. The Nairobi National Park is a quick 30 minute drive from the city, but don’t let that put you off going, because as soon as you drive through the gates, it really feels like you’re in the bush and away from it all. Established in 1946, just 7 km from the city, the park is home to lions, leopards, rhino, buffalo, hippos, cheetah, and even Nile crocodile.
A day trip to the park is the perfect way to escape the frenetic city, but an overnight visit is even better! There are dedicated picnic spots at view points throughout the park, and even a tented camp located within the heart of the park itself. In fact, there are 3 beautiful and very different properties within the Nairobi National Park where you can spend the night surrounded by nature, feeling a thousand miles away from city life. Nairobi National Park is really the perfect place to spend a night or two en route to or from a trip further afield into Kenya, especially if you want to make the most of your time in Kenya before heading home. Here’s my guide on everything you need to know about staying inside the Nairobi National Park.
How to get to the Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi National Park is set within the city limits, and is easy to reach by road, whether you’re driving yourself, taking public transport or booking a tour operator to drive you. If you’re taking an Uber, a boda boda (motorbike taxi) or another form of public transport, you can rent a six seater Land Cruiser at the main gate, or catch the bus departing from the main gate from 1pm for an afternoon game drive. There’s also a shuttle departing from the centre of town (next to Nakumatt Moi Avenue) at 10 am every weekend and public holiday. If you’re staying at any of the properties in this article, you can arrange a transfer from the main gate with the property. You can also arrange game drives with the property if you’re not in your own vehicle.
What to expect at the Nairobi National Park
You might be asking yourself “is it worth going to the Nairobi National Park?” and as someone who has lived in Nairobi for the past two years, I say yes. Because once you’re inside the park, it really does feel like you’re in nature. The Nairobi National Park is Kenya’s oldest park, and visitors have the opportunity to experience wild animals in just over 100 sq km. The park is easy to navigate in a 4×4, although some patches can get hairy in the rainy season (Apr-June and Oct-Nov). There are a few iconic spots you must visit, which are all pinned on this very handy Google Map. Make sure to download it so that you can access it even if you’re out of service.
Rates: $35 per person
Hours: 6am – 6pm
Staying inside the Nairobi National Park
1 Nairobi Tented Camp
Hidden in the middle of the Nairobi National Park is the Nairobi Tented Camp. It’s a little safari getaway within an hour’s drive from touchdown at the airport, with 10 tents and no boundaries between the camp and the wild – as you sit around the bonfire after dinner, you can hear lions roaring not far away. Maasai guides even walk you to your tent in the evenings!
The tents are very comfortable, with en-suite bathrooms and your own deck. Hot water is brought to your tent for your evening or morning shower and you’ll find a hot water bottle in your bed in the evening. The food is delicious, with dinner and breakfast included.
Rates: From $115 per person per night
2 The Emakoko
Perched on the edge of the park, The Emakoko is located a 45 minute drive from the main gate, which gives you an opportunity to enjoy a game drive on your way in. The location offers expansive views over the park from every room, which guest can enjoy from the deck, from bed or even from the bath.
We spent hours enjoying cocktails by the pool, before a romantic dinner under the stars. Here again, the food is delicious and a full-board stay includes lunch, dinner and breakfast. One of the best things about the property is the funicular, which shuttles guests up to their room. The Emakoko is more high end than the Nairobi Tented Camp, and the experience is more luxurious.
Rates: From $700 per person per night
3 Ololo Lodge
An old Kenyan homestead has been converted into this luxurious lodge set on banks of the Mbagathi River which forms the southern border of the Nairobi National Park. I’ve only visited for lunch, but I’d love to go back for a weekend getaway. The accommodation options at Ololo Lodge range from converted stables to tented cottages to suites in the main house of the lodge.
Most of the food served at the lodge – which is a real highlight! – is grown on their own organic farm, and guests have the opportunity to collect their own eggs for breakfast, milk the cow for the coffee, and learn about our sustainable farming practices. This property also offers the opportunity to enjoy a 45 minute drive in through the park spotting wildlife on the way in.
Rates: From $400 per person per night
Almost all properties and parks in Kenya offer local and resident rates, so the rates reflected in this article are for international visitors only. If you are travelling from South Africa, it is worth reaching out directly to the property and asking whether they have any African Citizen rates available, or whether they would be willing to offer you a rate in ZAR instead of USD.
I hope this guide on where to stay inside the Nairobi National Park has been helpful! If you don’t follow me on Instagram yet, make sure you do for frequent updates from Kenya and beyond.
Top 10 Travel Tips for Visiting Nairobi
- Visitors from outside of Africa require a visa to enter Kenya, which needs to be purchased online ahead of arrival. Visit the eVisa website for more details
- You really can’t overestimate the traffic. The main stretches to watch out for when you’re planning travel in the city are Wayaki Way and Ngong Road. Both of these busy roads can add hours to your travel time and can make getting from one side of Nairobi to the next a nightmare. If you’re travelling in peak morning or evening hours, plan accordingly or try a boda-boda motorbike taxi
- Tipping is customary in Kenya and at least 10% is recommended. If you’re paying with cash or a card at a restaurant, you should either tip the waiter directly with cash or ask them for the cellphone number and send their tip using Mpesa
- Make sure to update your telephone number to your local number within the Uber app when you are using it Kenya, as drivers tend to call you as soon as you request a cab within the app to ask where you are and where you are going (don’t ask me why)
- The soil in Nairobi is red and it can absolutely ruin your shoes if you plan on walking in the forest or visiting in the rainy season. White sneakers are not recommended
- In fact, Nairobi is not a particularly walkable city, so don’t expect to stroll down a cobblestoned street, hopping from one coffee shop or bar to the next
- While much of Kenya is highlighted on healthcare websites as “malaria hotspots”, malaria is not common in Nairobi and anti-malarial medication is not required
- If you are planning to fly to the coast or Maasai Mara from Nairobi, it is recommended to fly from Wilson domestic airport, which is located within the city and is a much easier travel experience than flying domestically from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Local airlines like Skywards Express and Fly540 depart from Wilson regularly
- Kenyans absolutely love it when visitors use a little Swahili, so don’t be shy to use “Jambo” (hi), “Asante” (thanks) and “Sawa” (ok)
- Nairobi has some really tight security around public spaces like airports and shopping centres, so don’t be surprised when your car is checked by security and you’re required to walk through a metal detector upon entry
- BONUS: If you’re in Nairobi for more than a couple of days, you should definitely consider a day trip to a tea plantation or Browns Cheese in Kiambu. Read more about these day trips from Nairobi here