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The Karura Forest is a green oasis inside the city, just a 15-minute drive from Nairobi’s central business district. Three rivers flow through the park and there is a 49-foot-high waterfall, a bamboo jungle, a series of caves and a wetland. The park also boasts up to 31 miles of walking trails.
The park is home to a large diversity of flora and fauna. Most of the native tree species found at Kenya’s higher elevations can be seen here; hundreds of species of birds, as well as bats, antelopes and various monkey species make their home in this forest. Until recently, very few Kenyans came to enjoy the natural beauty of the park as there were almost no facilities. However, a few years ago the park underwent significant improvements and new cycling and walking trails were built. Since then, the park has become a popular destination for Nairobi residents who come here to walk and enjoy picnics.
Until recently there was always the threat that this 1300-acre park would fall prey to the expanding city and real-estate developers. Crime also was a pressing problem. However, in 2005 a law was passed that allowed the people of the surrounding slums to help preserve the park – in return for revenue and natural resources. Since then the park’s facilities have vastly improved and park rangers patrol to increase security. The park was also enclosed by a fence. In 2011, Karura Forest was officially inaugurated as a leisure area and eco-tourism destination, and the park now offers a camp ground and other services.
In 2009, the park inaugurated a new 3-mile hiking trail: the Family Trail. This easy route leads to beautiful caves, which the local population regards as holy. These caves have also served as shelter for members of the Mau Mau movement. These guerrillas fought against British colonial rule in the 1950s. After less than a mile you will reach the waterfall. Until recently, most Nairobi residents didn’t even know about the existence of this peaceful location so close to home.
“The caves once sheltered the members of the Mau Mau guerrilla movement.”