Karura: The forest in a concrete jungle

It has truly become a part of the story of life as a Nairobian

In Summary

• If these trees could talk, they would give the history of Kenya and making of Nairobi

Karura Waterfall
Karura Waterfall

Karura forest has always been a part of Nairobi that I enjoy going to. I have been there for all manner of things. Perhaps the most notable ones are: in 2018, when I went faithfully every Sunday for two months, to train for the Nairobi Standard Chartered Marathon, and it was worth it; and in 2017, when one of my lecturers at the university decided to organise a literal amazing race through the forest for a CAT. Therefore, when the third lockdown was announced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I found myself going to Karura, given that there were very few places one could go outside the house.

Located in the periphery of Nairobi City, Karura forest is a 20-minute drive from the Nairobi CBD and can be accessed from two gates, one along Kiambu Road and the other along Limuru Road. For Kenyan citizens, the Friends of Karura who manage the forest charge an entry fee of Sh100 for adults and Sh50 for children. For citizens who are classified as non-citizens living in Kenya, the forest entrance fee is Sh200 for adults and Sh100 for children. And for non-residents, the forest entrance fee is Sh600 for adults and Sh300 for children.

For this particular visit, I was accompanied by two of my friends, and the plan was to do a nature walk in the forest trails and then proceed to do a bit of cycling. After paying the entry fee, the guards particularly checked that we had not carried non-reusable plastics. Thereafter, we proceeded to do the nature walk.

Given that I had not been in Karura for more than a year, it was interesting to see how much the forest had expanded. It now has a picnic site and they have opened up more forest trails. However, the best part of the forest is the waterfall and cave trail. During my visit, it had just rained and the waterfall was roaring in the sheer volume of water.

It is in this part that you also get to see some of the oldest trees in the forest. If these trees could talk, they would give you the history of Kenya and the making of Nairobi city. These are trees that have fought for their right to be Kenyan and if we go back in time, we are reminded of how the late Prof Wangari Mathai fought a spirited fight in the late '90s to save them.

After about 2 hours of exploring the forest on foot, we decided to rent bikes, which one can do at Sh500 for 2 hours. Cycling in Karura is a thrill on its own; it gives you a chance of exploring large swathes of the forest in a short period of time.

As we concluded our cycling and prepared to leave, I reflect on how Karura has become an integral part of the social life of Nairobians. From families taking strolls, friends loud in banter, prayer groups petitioning God, children frolicking with bikes, runners enjoying the canopy and lovebirds chilling on the benches, it is the perfect getaway. This forest has truly become a part of the story of life as a Nairobian.

This story first appeared on the digital magazine Star Sasa, accessible on Sundays for Sh10 by dialling *550*3#

Edited by T Jalio

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