A Guide To Nairobi Arboretum Park
Nairobi Arboretum is a 30.4 hectares of wooded landscape, an oasis close to the heart of the city situated in the Kilimani area, about 3 km from city centre and adjacent to the State House. It is bounded by the Kirichwa Kubwa River, Arboretum Drive and Kenya Girl Guide Headquarters. It is one of Nairobi’s few remaining green spaces, It has shaded walkways, picnic lawns and jogging trails.
The Nairobi Arboretum was established in 1907 by Mr. Batiscombe, then Deputy Conservator of Forests, to try out introduced forestry trees for Kenya. It was gazetted as a national reserve in 1932 and in 1996 a title deed issued by Commissioner of land designating it as a public owned reserve. It was a trial plot for fast growing exotic tree species, to meet the high demand of fuel wood required for the newly constructed Kenya- Uganda railway line and thus help save Kenya’s indigenous forests.
What to see in Nairobi Arboretum Park
Nairobi Arboretum is holding over 350 species of indigenous and exotic plants, most of which are labelled, home to over 100 species of birds, and a significant population of Sykes and Vervet monkeys.
Nairobi Arboretum – Trees
is a dry forest type of vegetation. It holds a large collection (over 350 species) of indigenous and exotic of trees, shrubs and grasses from tropics and throughout the world. Its diverse vegetation includes a variety of mature trees and woody shrubs. The tree inventory identified and recorded trees with trunks over a diameter of 15 cm, but many small saplings and woody shrubs were not included. The collection includes a mix of both indigenous and exotic plant species originating from all parts of the world.
The trees have, however, been randomly planted to no obvious plan: mixtures of exotics of different genus and origin being interspersed with indigenous species. The creation of thematic planting exhibits in any chosen location will, therefore, be problematic and it is suggested that further study is undertaken to survey the smaller trees and shrubs, to analyze the tree collection and to expand the data collected in the tree inventory study.
Much of the existing vegetation is overgrown and in need of pruning, thinning and removal (in the case of dangerous hanging trees and branches). Little maintenance work has been carried out in recent years and weed species (for example Lantana and Furcraea) have, in some areas, taken over the under storey layer, suffocating more fragile species. Considerable selective clearance and pruning work is therefore urgently required to prevent further loss of species. After clearing, consideration should be given to planting unrepresented species to be led by FONA, KFS and NMK.
Local people have many uses for selected plants which grow in their area, including the trees. Tree uses include timber, medicine, poison, food flavouring, edible fruit, leaves, seeds, oil, soap, carving, fodder, walking sticks, hedges, stuffing for bedding and many other uses. In addition, almost every tree can provide firewood, still the most commonly uses fuel in most Kenyan households. Many trees are multipurpose, for example, the yellow flowered Markhamia lutea, “Muu” in Kikuyu, seen easily in the Central Lawn. The tiny winged seeds disperse easily and germinate easily so have been planted to provide mulch, fodder, firewood and a windbreak. It grows fast and coppices well but, if left to maturity, it provides a good general purpose timber.
Nairobi Arboretum – Birds
There are many birds seen in the Arboretum where over 100 bird species have been recorded. Some of the most notable ones are the most common birds to be seen in the Arboretum with relative ease in different habitats.
Other birds include the African black duck, Variable sunbird, Olive thrush, Baglafecht weaver, Speckled mouse bird, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Bronze manikin, White-eyed slaty flycatcher, Hadada ibis, Red-eyed dove, African goshawk, Little sparrow hawk, African harrier hawk, Bronze sunbird, Silvery-cheeked hornbill, Grey-olive greenbul, Narina trogon and African goshawk, various types of weaver birds, etc.
Some of the rare forest-dependent birds recorded include the Grey wagtail migrants from Europe and the Eurasian cuckoo and the Willow warbler from Asia.
Bird ringing is regularly carried out in the Nairobi Arboretum by the Ornithology Section of the National Museums of Kenya. This involves capture of birds in mist nets, then tagging and then releasing them. This exercise, over time, has provided valuable scientific data.
Nairobi Arboretum – Butterflies
Among the harder to -see, forest-dwelling species the arboretum is particularly rich in butterflies. Butterflies are the adult stage of an insect, and feed solely on nectar provided by flowers, or on rotting materials. The Golden Piper, Green-banded swallowtail (Papilio phorcas), and Green-veined charaxes (Charaxes candiope) are common. Many butterflies live in open, sunny areas exhibiting a variety of colours. One of these you may see in the Arboretum is the African migrant (Catopsilia florella).
Nairobi Arboretum – Reptiles
Jackson’s three-horned chameleon (Chamaeleo jacksonii) may be seen in the arboretum, and only occurs naturally in Kenya and Tanzania. Another common Nairobi chameleon is the High-casqued chameleon (Chamaeleo hoehne). Another group of lizards that may be seen in the arboretum is the skink family.
Nairobi Arboretum – Mammals
Two monkey species may be seen in the arboretum, the Vervet monkey or Black-faced guenon (Cercopithecus aethiops) and the Sykes’ monkey (Cercopithecus mitis).There are fewer Sykes’ monkeys in the arboretum than vervet. The vervet has a black face, with greyish-white fur around the face and on the chest and underside. The upper side is yellowish-grey, with grey legs and a long, black-tipped tail. By contrast, the Sykes’ monkey is generally dark grey with a distinct white throat, chest patch and a reddish back.
Other mammals, including the Greater galago, fruit bats, mongooses and squirrels, may also be seen in the arboretum. These are mostly nocturnal animals unlikely to be seen during the day.
What to do at Nairobi Arboretum Park
Nairobi Arboretum is also a popular recreational park for city residents, who come looking for tranquillity, to take long walks, hold picnics or to commune with their God. Large groups often come on weekends for team-building activities and games in the central lawn at the park, while love-birds enjoy spending romantic moments in its secluded spots. Runners also love to jog around the Arboretum’s forest trails.
How to get to Nairobi Arboretum Park
The Nairobi Arboretum is situated 3km from the city centre. Its close proximity to the city centre makes it easily accessible on foot. To get to its main entrance, get onto State House Road near St Andrew’s Church, go past St Paul’s Cathedral, YMCA Nairobi Central, University of Nairobi Halls of residence, and past the Arboretum Drive junction. At the point where State House road makes a sharp left turn, take the little road that goes straight ahead. The Nairobi Arboretum main entrance is about 300m ahead. There’s also a car park at the main entrance for vehicles.
Another entrance to the Nairobi Arboretum is on Arboretum Drive in Kileleshwa.
Nairobi Arboretum Park Entry Requirements
The Park is open for free to the public.
When To Visit
The Arboretum is open 365 days of the year from dawn to dusk since 1907. Visitors may enter from 6:00am to 6:15pm.
Office hours : The Tree Centre, open every weekday from 9am to 4pm
Nairobi Arboretum Contacts
Attraction Type: Scenery & Landscapes, Wildlife
Category: Forest, Birding Site, Wildlife Conservancy
City / Town: Nairobi
Road / Street: Ring-road Kileleshwa
Telephone: 254 727 300933
Entrance Fee: Yes
Nairobi Arboretum Video
Nairobi Arboretum Park News
Nairobi Arboretum Park Now Introduces Entry Fees
Source: Daily Nation
The government has introduced user fees for Nairobi Arboretum, a popular city picnic spot, triggering outrage from the civil society.
From last month adults entering the park near State House are required to pay Sh50 while those below 18 years pay Sh20.
“Please note that from 1st September 2016, Nairobi Arboretum will be charging everyone for entrance,” read a message posted on the website of the arboretum.
The Green Belt Movement, founded by the late Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai, and the Kilimani Project Foundation have opposed the new fee, terming the move commercialisation and privatisation of public spaces.
They said it was a slap in the face of the urban poor who, faced with more pressing financial needs, don’t have the luxury of spending Sh50 to enjoy the facility.
Friends of Nairobi Arboretum (Fona), a non-government support organisation that runs the arboretum in conjunction with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), argues the charges will help manage the park sustainably.
“Our admission fees go towards our efforts to protect and do physical improvement as well as carry a variety of educational and public awareness activities at the Arboretum. Your contribution will also help us fulfil our mission to build and maintain a unique place in the middle of Nairobi City which provides a green space for recreation and education on nature and environment,” its said.
But the lobbyists said the fee goes against the spirit of giving Kenyans unhindered access to public spaces and that further privatisation of public spaces must be avoided by all means .
“We cannot keep using the excuse of development or maintenance to commercialise and privatise public spaces which exist for public good. The fee will restrict people from enjoying the free park, so the KFS should look for other ways of financing,” said Green Belt Movement executive director Aisha Karanja.
Ms Karanja said the KFS should not abdicate its role and punish Kenyans for enjoying public spaces.
“They are custodians of this public space and should not penalise the public for use and enjoyment,” she said.
The Kilimani Project Foundation said that the park is one of the few spaces in the city that are frequented by an array of visitors across economic, social, religious and age barriers. But the introduction of the fee, it observed, would reverse this.
“At a time when Nairobi is experiencing diminishing public space, increased densification and increasing poverty levels the imposition of an entry fee is an injustice to the society,” said Irungu Houghton, chairperson of the Kilimani Project Foundation.
Mr Houghton said among those to be most affected are the working class who ordinarily walk through the Arboretum on their way to and from work and university students who use it for recreational activities.
The Foundation said it was willing to join hands with the Friends of Nairobi Arboretum to find other means of maintaining the public space.
“We believe that other alternative financing options could be explored to keep this important public space in Kilimani free to all.”
The Arboretum located three kilometres from the city centre is considered one of the ‘lungs’ of the city, important for the health and well-being of residents.
The lobbies cited the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda to emphasise the need for public spaces for all.
“Goal 11, Target 7 states that: ‘By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.’ Where does this place Nairobi and Kenya as whole with regard to Vision 2030?” it posed.
The KFS had not responded to our questions on the row by the time of going to press.