Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!!!- Article by Gareth Jones
Nairobi National Park – Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!
Nairobi normally has 2 seasonal rain cycles annually. At the beginning of November 2019, what is known as the “short rains”, began. At first, the rains seemed normal, however, as the weeks become months and the intensity of the rains did not stop, so the Nairobi National Park became a very wet muddy place. The normally accessible park roads suddenly became very challenging and even not drivable in places. Even as I write now, at the beginning of February 2020, it is raining outside, and this is the start of the 4th month of rain, the “short” rains have now become the ‘long” rains. Many parts of the park have become swamped and very boggy in places, therefore, causing the road surfaces, to become thick muddy undrivable challenges, especially the notorious black cotton sections. KWS also has a sign at the main gate stating that the roads are in a bad state and are not drivable, even for 4×4 vehicles.
However, even though this muddy wet season is frustrating, in that, it is not suitable for us humans to view much wildlife. Many species of wildlife thrive when the park is wet. Just imagine some rhino all covered with nice fresh wet mud, after enjoying wallowing in a muddy stream, the rhino version of a “health spa”. Then seeing the wet mud on them, as they were singing a rhino song like “mud, mud ..glorious mud! there is nothing quite like it for cooling the blood!” Seasons come and seasons go, we are not in control of the weather. God has ways that are higher than our ways. I believe that at times it is good for wildlife to be without human interference. There are many sensitive species that thrive best when left alone. It is expected that during the month of February the rains will stop so that the park can begin to dry out.
There is always something attractive about water, perhaps because it brings life. People also seem to be fascinated by water power like waves, waterfalls and flooding. The park has a number of water points spread across a wide area and includes many dams like the Athi dam and a number of seasonal streams that flow into the Mbagathi River. Apart from actual water availability, the condition of the water is also very important. The condition of water flowing into the park from Nairobi can also impact the park negatively especially when there is reduced water flow. For example, the well-known Hyena dam has lost much of the reed and plant vegetation that used to grow around the dam, especially over the past two years. The vegetation was an important part of the water ecosystem, with many bird species also living and breeding in the reeds. Both uncommon and rarely seen bird species used to be seen at the dam, for example, African rail, purple swamphen, Painted snipe etc. Various reasons are possible including chemical toxins and excessive sewerage waste from human habitation. The heavy rains over the last 3 months also have an effect in purging and cleaning the waterways to restore the biological balance within these sensitive ecosystems.
However, even with heavy rains and just driving on the tar road and some of the drivable main roads, it is still amazing to note the variation of wildlife that can still be seen, with many of the species behaving differently due to the rains, some seemed to be celebrating by running around in the mud, or splashing in the water. Many bird species appeared to be hard at work with nest building and finding food. There are also many beautiful plants flowering now. In the Nairobi National Park, there is always something interesting to see when it is wet and wonderful, and bursting with new life! The park is currently looking very lush and green, but it is currently not advisable to visit if driving a normal passenger sedan, until the rains slow down and the roads are dry enough! Please be wise in the wet, while enjoying the wonderful spectacle of nature in this precious national park.
It is hoped that the month of February will be a month of much more sunshine days to allow the park to begin the process of drying out so that people can drive to many of their favourite places in the park without having to be concerned about getting stuck. Who knows some of us might even happily sing as we drive, maybe even singing silly crazy songs like “mud, mud ..glorious mud! there is nothing quite like it for cooling the blood”. Have fun out there!