Pole-Walking in the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary 

Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary

The Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary is home to gems such as this pond.

Photo credit: John Fox

What you need to know:

  • Right from the entrance,  you can bear left to join the path that leads off by the pond.
  • Once deeper into the forest, we could hear so many birds calling from the high trees and low bushes.

My boys have laughed at me a few times for the many occasions I have mentioned the Nairobi-Mombasa Road in the 32 years I have been writing this Going Places column.

But where in the world can you find a road that has so many landscapes: from a cool highland forest, down to savannah plains, up the Mua Hills with, if you are lucky, a view of snow-capped Kilimanjaro, down again to the scrub land of Tsavo with its Yatta Plateau to the left and Taita Hills to the right, across the semi-desert of… and so on to the warm palm-fringe of the Indian Ocean. 

Kenya is a big and wonderful country, isn’t it? But where along that road can you get out of your car and walk?

I’m not one who often walks for the pleasure of it. I have enjoyed the thrill of competitive distance running; I have relished the risks of climbing rocks; I used to walk only when I had to.

But, now, I can’t race around a running track; I can’t scramble up rocks. And my doctor tells me I should walk more. But where?

Parks and forest reserves

Every time I drive from home, I pass the Jaffrey Sports Club, and I see people walking around and around the cricket boundary.

In line with my doctor’s advice and my wife’s encouragement, I have tried it. But I get no pleasure from it, unless there is a cricket match in play. Mind you, I would rather be watching England playing India on TV.

However, though there are few places with footpaths around Nairobi, as there are in the country I come from, I am gradually seeing the pleasure, as well as the benefits, of visiting the number of parks and forest reserves that still justify the name, Green City in the Sun.

For parks, there are the Arboretum and City Park, and both places are fairly busy with walkers and loungers, especially at weekends. For forest reserves, there are the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary, the Karura Forest Reserve, and the Oloolua Forest in Karen which are likely to be less busy, even at the weekends.

Last Sunday morning we took our dog, Badger, to the Miotoni Block of the Ngong Road Forest, where the Ngong Road crosses the Southern Bypass. And I also took along, to try, my two walking poles that my wife gave me as a present a few years ago.

It’s the very best of the forest walks we have tried over the last few years. For me, the reason is the pond.

Many birds calling

Right from the entrance, which is immediately after you join the Southern bypass, from the spacious carpark, you can bear left to join the path that leads off by the pond.

There are resting seats for the first few metres, so you can sit and look at the cover of water lilies in bloom and watch the water birds. That day there was a Jacana that was stepping so lightly on the lilies he seemed to be walking on water.

Once deeper into the forest, we could hear so many birds calling from the high trees and low bushes, but though we paused long and looked for them, we couldn’t see them.

I wish there was an app like the one for music – when you hear the song and it tells you the name of the bird. But I remember a friend back in the UK who asked me why we have to know the name of a bird or a tree or a flower before we can fully enjoy it. I couldn’t give him an answer then, and I couldn’t now.

There’s a lot of information on the internet about the Ngong Road Forest and its Miotoni Block. Let me just say that it cost us Sh514 for two of us and the car. Badger got in free, but he had to be kept on a leash.

And the walking poles? Wonderful. I imagined I was skiing. But you are never going to see me using them in the city streets.

John Fox is Chairman of iDC Email: [email protected]