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Nairobi Arboretum

Nairobi, Kenya
The Arboretum, a 30-hectare green paradise in the city was established in 1907 by Mr. Batiscombe, then Deputy Conservator of Forests, to try out introduced forestry trees for Kenya.
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 the 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 for 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 are 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. The 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 common 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 the 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.
Nairobi Arboretum now hosts over 300 species of exotic and indigenous tree species. The arboretum also has over 100 species of migrant and resident bird species in addition to Sykes and Vervet monkeys.
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.
Activities available
  1. Learning about trees
  2. Resting
  3. Bird Watching
  4. Butterfly watching
  5. Running
  6. Picnicking
  7. Corporate events
  8. Concerts
  9. Team Building
  10. Weddings
  11. Religious activities
There are special areas available for hire for special events and group activities
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.
Getting there and around
Public Transport: board matatu no.48 Kileleshwa route from Odeon matatu terminus and alight at Shell. Walk to the pedestrian gate which is about 100 metres from the shell.
From CBD, one can choose to walk via Nairobi university way then to state house road up to the Arboretum main entry. It’s approximately 3 kilometres.
By private transport: Take the arboretum drive or University way and use the road next to Compuera academy, next to state house Gate C. Follow the road then take the next right turn to Arboretum main entry.
Taxi hire from town would be approximately 500 Kenyan shillings.
There is a guidebook available for purchase at 600 Kenyan shillings to help one get around the forest citing key areas too.
Visiting hours
Entry tickets can be purchased at the point of entry between 6:00 am and 6:30 pm.
Nairobi Arboretum Park Entry Requirements
What to wear and carry
Comfortable walking shoes or trainers, drinking water, binoculars, camera and wildlife books especially for birds and butterflies.
Important things to remember when visiting Arboretum forest:
  • Enjoy yourself; in addition to seeing, pause and listen regularly.
  • Stop to allow wildlife to move off the tracks before you pass.
  • Do not feed wild animals.
  • Do not start fires in the forest.
  • Do not take away animals, animal products, plants or plant parts.
  • Do not mark or deface tree stems, stones and other features.
  • Avoid unnecessary noise as it disturbs both wildlife and other visitors.
  • Take all the litter that you brought away with you.
  • Keep to the designated tracks and paths when walking and always be sure of where you are headed to or coming from as orientation in forests can be difficult.

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