Gardening

Nyeri’s hidden paradise for birdwatchers

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The Wajee Nature Camp in Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Summary

  • From nature walks, camping facilities, prayer shrines and a "chilling spot", the park formerly a coffee farm is covered in mature forest inhabited by exotic bird species and wild animals.

Sandwiched between two water towers, Nyeri County offers spectacular views of the Aberdare ranges and Mt Kenya, which are home to some of the big five wild animals.

But buried deep in Mukurwe-ini Constituency, 40 kilometres from Nyeri Town sits Wajee Nature Park, an excursion into a man-made bird haven. It also means different things to hundreds of guests who throng the premises.

From nature walks, camping facilities, prayer shrines and a "chilling spot", the park, formerly a coffee farm, is covered in a mature forest inhabited by exotic bird species and wild animals.

The greenery offered from the uneven towering trees and flowers dotting the compound from the entrance to the lush green grass is refreshing.

According to Robert Muchunu, the park manager the facility is "more of a spiritual space than leisure." He says around 126 species of birds have been identified comprising resident and migrant birds.

They include golden weavers, African harrier hawks, montane white eyes, silver-cheeked hornbills and African wood owls.

But of these birds, the most famous is the Hinde’s Babbler, an endangered species that is endemic to the Mount Kenya region and East Africa.

"It is threatened due to encroachment of forest habitats," said Mr Muchunu.

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Robert Muchu birdwatching at Wajee Nature Camp. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Migrant birds like the Eurasian bee-eater, Willow warbler, African pygmy kingfisher, and black cuckoo shrike also come through. Migration of birds, mostly from the North of Africa as they evade winter starts in August, Mr Muchunu offered.

During an excursion on the nature trail through steep terrain, one can spot resident wildlife such as genet cats, sykes monkeys, African civets, banded mongoose and the rare side-striped jackals.

On-site museum

While paying a visit to the nature park, there's a guide who takes guests around the 22-acre space of pristine natural forest as they engage in bird watching and photography.

"You cannot trace all the birds at a go or in a 45- minute nature walk. There's a checklist where clients are shown specific birds," said Mr Muchunu.

Inside the park, the original home built in 1941 which was the residence of the owner of the farm now serves as a museum of the sort with photographs and books paraded for guests to learn about the family history.

After the demise of his parents, Jagi Gakunju, an environmentalist transformed the space into a park by clearing thousands of coffee bushes. In their place, he planted a forest.

Park charges

People often relax on the lush green grass at the park and engage in fun activities like swings for both children and adults. There's also an outdoor restaurant where guests are served traditional foods or any other preferred dishes.

For those who wish to spend the night outdoors, there are cottages that go for Sh2,000, and bandas at Sh1,500 a night per person.

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A cottage at the Wajee Nature Camp. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

There's also a banqueting facility away from the nature park that offers a great spot for families and friends to socialise and relax around a bonfire.

Charges for camping depends on the size of the group and season. The entry fee is Sh200.

While visiting, one needs to carry a camera to capture the sceneries and some of the animals they spot as they enjoy the nature walk, binoculars which will aid in bird watching and a flashlight for early morning or late evening nature walk.

To ensure that the park is always clean, the management has placed litter bins around it for guests to dispose of trash.

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