- A picnic may sound like an old-fashioned pursuit, but there are many places where families can unpack platters of food, bottles of drinks, wireless speakers, boxes of dominoes, and actually enjoy without worrying over coronavirus.
Speakers blast rhumba soundtrack, a man marinates goat with soy sauce near a grill, potato crisps and groundnuts are put in plates and a crowd of nine people talk, laugh, some break from the conversation to dancing a few steps, with masks swinging down their chins. In Covid-19 times partying indoors is no longer safe but there are plenty of outdoor spaces for Christmas get-togethers.
A picnic may sound like an old-fashioned pursuit, but there are many places where families can unpack platters of food, bottles of drinks, wireless speakers, boxes of dominoes, and actually enjoy without worrying over coronavirus.
If you sit still at this garden Hidden in Kerrarapon, Nairobi’s Karen, the only sounds you will hear are of the birds chirping and the water trickling down rocks, and through the stream. In the middle of this serenity, there are seats made from stone where people can host picnics.
When Wilfred Samoire was designing Sinkale Gardens, he was keen on maintaining its original form. The garden has over 200 trees, with the oldest being over 70 years old. Along the stream, he has planted a vibrant mix of flowers, attracting over 150 bird species.
Picnickers can carry their food, games, and drinks and hire a barbecue grill.
“We charge Sh500 per person and Sh2,000 for campers,” says Samoire, adding that they have reduced the number of people to ensure it adheres to Covid-19 regulations. Unlike other picnic sites, Sinkale is designed for dogs. “Quarantine has been hard on them too, so this is a place you can bring them out to play,” Samoire says, who also does dog-training, dog daycare, and pet-sitting if one is travelling.
There is station for pampering pets. It has a bathtub with warm water and grooming tools, and a kitchen where Samoire and his team can prepare healthy food for the dogs.
Alpha Mtana, the manager of Paradise Lost has been a nature enthusiast since childhood. So enthralled was he by the outdoors that he ended up studying conservation in university.
“I wanted to create an inland resort that’s a stone throw away from the city, for people to come to relax and interact in nature,” Mtana says. This was 20 years ago.
Today, Paradise Lost is a quiet, serene 54-acre piece of land ideal for outdoor parties. Initially, the idea was a hard sell to the landowners because it was during a time when people were commercialising large parcels of land. “They’re now grateful because it’s an investment that’s paying off,” he says.
On every inch of available space, one can spread out their picnic shawl under the tall trees, or pitch their tents and camp. “People can bring their food and camping gear. They can also barbecue their meats,” he says.
The park also boasts of a variety of activities to keep its visitors entertained.
There is an archer’s range, a quad bike section, horse riding, and nature and cycling trails. Along the playground’s borders are flags from different countries. Perhaps put there to test your flag knowledge as you watch the children play. Additionally, there is a man-made cave and a waterfall whose clean water steadily streams into a dam, for boat riding and zip-lining.
Traffic to Paradise Lost increased tremendously during the quarantine. As a result, the business fared better than the previous year.
Mr Mtana and his team have planted most of the trees and each lot of trees tells a story, from Wangari Maathai’s death to Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“Right now, we’re planting 600 Covid-19 trees,” he says adding that the oldest tree is over 150 years old.
Having trees has increased the bird's population. Just recently, they were awarded for having the most bird species sighted in one hour.
One need not carry entertainment when picnicking. “Let the melodious chirping of the birds, the sound of the gushing waterfall and the rustling of trees swaying in the wind, and the sounds of others enjoying nature be your entertainment,” Mr Mtana says.
It has village-like feel to it. It is a large space with tents, a dam with boats, and a sizeable vegetable farm with huge banana trees hanging heavy with fruit.
A former avocado plantation, Wahu Gakunju, decided to convert it into a suburban park.
“We were looking to provide a cheap way of going out,” the director says. In 2003, they started a journey of creating a place of unique stillness, where one could sit and bask under the warm sun with a view unobstructed by tall, unattractive buildings. With the dam already there, they planted grass, trees, and flowers. The result: a beautiful 10-acre expanse of green space with trees providing much-needed shade and fresh air.
One can bring their packed food or can cook/barbecue while there while other family members engage in activities such as cycling, boat, and horse riding. For those who would rather not go through the hustle of packing food, they can order from the two restaurants in the park. Picnickers also get to tour the farm.
“The children play with the soil, see and touch the vegetables, and then pick the produce they want their parents to buy for them. For some, this is their first interaction with food crops in their natural environment and not in a supermarket,” she says.
Imagine having a cold beer while fishing then feasting on your catch. “Mornings and evenings are popular for fishing. We have tilapia, mudfish, and black basses,” Wahu explains. As much as the fish population is maintained naturally, fishing is controlled. One can also camp here provided they come with their camping gear.
Wahu says that the park was very popular with Indians. Known for their love for korogas, they would come here early in the morning, set up, cook, and stay on until evening with their friends and family. With Covid-19, she has seen an increase in the number of visitors. “Many people have discovered that the outdoors are ideal places to hangout.”
On a normal weekend, they can have up to 1,000 visitors – a number far higher than pre-pandemic times.
With Christmas approaching, they are prepared to handle the large numbers.
“Lucky for us, the area is large enough to accommodate many people while observing social distancing measures.”