Waiting At The Water – Article by Gareth Jones
Waiting At The Water In The Nairobi National Park
Over many years I have noted that most of us are still in “City mode” when we enter a national park and would like to see as much of the created wonders as possible, our challenge is to quickly snap out of “City mode” into “Bush mode”. The quickest way to unwind and relax is to find a place in the park where you can relax, and just let nature happen around you. All too often people, spend hours rushing around the park trying to find that special something, and often such people look really tired and perhaps a bit frustrated when they don’t see what they hoped to see.
This week I thought it would be helpful to note some points that work for me. There is always something attractive about water, perhaps because it brings life, but we 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. In recent times, the park continues to face the ongoing challenge of pollution from the City into the park, either through water and in the air. In January this year, we were thankful that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) acted swiftly to address toxic human waste leaking into the hyena dam from a broken sewer main pipe. Thankfully a few months later the smell has gone and the dam’s ecosystem appears to be thriving with many bird species returning.
During drier times when water levels are lower, it can be very rewarding to plan your visit to the park by maximizing your time at various water points. For example, if you decide to spend time at the Athi Dam, find a parking position that will ensure good clear vision, so that waiting will have wonderful rewards, as nature happens around you. Very often large herds come and drink, like zebra, buffalo and Eland. Shy antelope, like bohor reedbuck, are often hidden by the thick vegetation around wetlands. It is also interesting to watch the many bird species at the same time. Wetland water birds can be very rewarding to watch as there are so many species around the dams and along the river. Species like ducks, herons, jacanas, blake crakes, African rails, African spoonbills, purple swamphens, fish eagles, and many more. Occasionally hippos and a number of crocodiles can be seen. Sightings of predators like lions are also mostly seen by those who wait patiently. Sometimes the predators are actually near the water and just lying down. Then suddenly they appear and become active and perhaps interesting.
I know that sitting still and just being quiet is not easy at times, especially if there are children in the vehicle as well. However, should the ideal opportunity arise, it is well worth the effort to merely just sit waiting at the water for a couple of hours as you begin to observe the rhythms and habits of the creatures around you. I have a simple belief that God also created nature for mankind to enjoy in many ways, and there is much that we can learn and observe from various creatures. Eventually, if you are quiet enough, the birds and other creatures seemingly forget that you are even there and behave completely naturally. In my personal experience, it takes a minimum of about 10 minutes after switching off the noisy car engine for some of the birds to start emerging and much longer for the shy creatures to eventually appear. For those that might be interested, there are also many interesting insects worth trying to watch and identify.
The following items are also useful, the Nairobi National Park – Guide book [Kifaru shop ( main gate) & FONNAP office (Langata Link)], a good East African bird book, Binoculars, a decent camera. Plus whatever you enjoying reading to relax. We almost always pack a few nice tasty snacks and a thermo-flask of hot coffee, plus plenty of water for drinking on hot days. When waiting and watching, it is always good to have some refreshments with you.
I hope that your time just waiting at the water will be restful and be like a “soul tonic”, with wonderful moments of watching nature in action.