I am a huge fan of picnics. I always have been. When I was younger, we were that family. The ones who would spend a random Sunday afternoon with packed sandwiches, cold drinks, and a blanket to go and find a place to sit. In this world, while it is so easy to get engrossed in the day to day work life we shouldn’t forget to take a break once in a while. Even if it may not be possible to travel to a completely different country for holiday whenever we get the Monday blues, we can add small changes to help us relax like a family picnic, an exploration walk, or a little time in nature to sight see and remind you what is important.
There is actually a spot in our endlessly busy city that is reserved for such situations. Surrounded by the northern up-market suburbs of Muthaiga, Runda and Gigiri, with Kiambu Road on one side and Limuru Road on the other, Karura Forest exists. At 1,041 hectares, it is one of the largest urban gazetted forests in the world. The forest contains nearly all the 605 species of wildlife found in Nairobi including three types of antelope. It is managed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS).
Areas of Interest
There are important attractions that visitors to Karura Forest enjoy such as:
• Mau Mau caves
• Scenic waterfalls and rivers
• Picnic sites
• Marked walking trails
• Small wetlands that are habitats for birds
• The incinerator formerly used by Central Bank of Kenya to burn old currency notes
• The area around which the late Professor Wangari Maathai carried out a campaign against illegal acquisition of forest land.
In Karura Forest, one can undertake the following activities:
• Forest walks
• Forest drives
• Bird watching
• Butterfly watching
To get there the main entrance to Karura Forest is on the Limuru Road just after the Belgian Embassy. However, one can also use either the KFS main gate which is off Kiambu road and opposite CID Headquarters, or the Old Kiambu Gate which is on Old Kiambu road. If you would prefer to go by public transport Matatu (public service vehicle) numbers 11B, 106, 107, 108, 114 or 116 from Nairobi City Centre will get you to the main entrance on Limuru Road. To use the KFS main gate on Kiambu road, take matatu numbers 100 or 120. Taxi hire from the city centre costs approximately Ksh 1,000.
A few things I would suggest you carry would be comfortable walking shoes or trainers, drinking water, binoculars, camera and wildlife books to educate yourself, especially for birds and butterflies. Karura Forest is a gem in a rough, no wonder Wangari Maathai and other conservationists have fought so hard to keep it from harm because they realize its value. From the awe inspiring and jaw dropping waterfall gushing from its source, to the quiet hiking or cycling experience through the forest, birdwatching and being embraced into the very atmosphere of the beauty around you, or just a bonding picnic experience with friends and family, Karura Forest definitely nearly has it all.
There is no excuse of it being too far as it is located in Nairobi, so what are you waiting for? My suggestion, go next weekend!