A piercing scream storms into your ears at that very moment and you brace yourself, ready to dash into the crowded alleys. But you realize that the scream is coming from a
matatu tout who is screaming to attract passengers into his colorful mini-bus. Its not just an empty scream since he is actually screaming the words, ‘kumi westlands!’ Ten Shillings to westlands! As if on cue, two hawkers to your left begin informing the world as loudly as they can that, ‘socks hamsini! Ng’ara na hamsini pekee!’ Socks for fifty shillings! Look smart for only fifty shillings!
This is no way to spend your birthday. As you take a few more tentative steps, you feel as if noise and chaos were invented right here at River Road in downtown Nairobi. But worry not. I am about to tell you, why you should hop onto one of those matatus and escape into a beautiful world of Serenity.
Karura Forest is less than fifteen minutes drive from Nairobi’s Central Business District. Even with the Capital City’s notorious jam, the 2,570 acre forest is still less than an hour from the CBD. The forest has seven gates with Gate A being the one closest to the CBD. It is off Limuru Road across from the Belgian Embassy. If you are using public means, you can get there using the matatus to Gachie (108) or Banana Hill (106). These matatus can be boarded at the downtown fire station and koja bus stop respectively.
Once you arrive at Gate A, you will pay 100 shillings (300 if you are non-resident), after which the forest will welcome you with green, open arms.
Since its your birthday, you should definitely not walk into these green arms alone but should do so in the company of your loved ones. Because great food makes a birthday memorably, you should match straight to one of the five designated picnic sites in the forest. These scenic sites are the first reason why you should spend your next birthday at Karura Forest. The five site are located at the Karura Forest Environmental Education Trust (KFEET) Centre; adjacent to Amani Garden; at the Ruaka Swamp; in Sigiria near the Obstacle Course; and in Karura Gardens on Kiambu Road. Picnic at any of these sites costs 150 for adults and 100 for children 12 years and below. The amount is well worth it since you will be able to savor and devour your birthday food as you behold the swaying trees and feast on the merry chirp of birds. In addition, the atmosphere will be super fresh thanks to the forest ambience.
Once you are done with your meal, it will be time to move on to the second reason why Karura Forest should host your next birthday – the Karura Forest trek. If you are like my sister Charity, then you may not be a big fan of walking. But this trek through the serene forest paths will not feel like a walk. Rather, it will feel like you are skating through the very seat of nature. The beauty of a walk in Karura forest is that it is so effortless and energizing. It’s like eating ice cream on a hot day or driving on a lonely, scenic highway. When you trek in Karura Forest, every step ushers you deeper into nature’s bounty. It feels like walking along nature’s buffet and devouring sights and sounds that the city often denies you: crackling leaves; waving tree branches; a symphony of chirping birds as opposed to a cacophony of matatu honks; whistling rivers; a humming forest breeze; rugged tree barks and many more. All these will be yours for the taking as you trek through the forest. There can be no better birthday trek than this one.
In his epic poem about Karura Forest, the poet Bwak wrote about a ‘rugged tree with jagged thrills.’ These trees are the third reason why you should spend your birthday at Karura because without them, the forest and all the things it represents would not be there. Four out of ten trees in the forest are indigenous which is great for the forest’s long-term sustainability. The indigenous trees are also good for you because a tree like the silver oak glade which is found in the forest is quite pleasant to behold. If you are a tree enthusiast, you will enjoy discovering these trees. Even if you are not a lover of trees, you will simply enjoy being amongst them and feeling their silent melody. What better way to spend your birthday than roaming among these hush trees and just absorbing their aura.
While we are still on this subject of trees, let me introduce to you the fourth reason to spend your birthday at Karura – Forest Bathing.
Forest bathing has its roots in a Japanese concept known as ‘shinrin-yoku,’ which literally means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere.’ This concept was developed in Japan in the 1980s. It entails an immersion into the serene forest atmosphere. Scientific studies show that such deliberate immersion has a positive therapeutic effect on people. Such forest therapy might be just what you need for your birthday. Even if you feel that ‘this forest bathing thing is not my thing,’ I bet you love a good feeling. The kind of feeling that makes your chest feel nicely warm even as your head goes dreamy. That’s exactly what forest bathing will do to you. But more importantly, it will replenish and rejuvenate you.
The concrete actions that forest bathing entails include: Feeling the presence of the trees around you; following their trunks high into the sky; observing their spreading branches; listening to the voices of the birds and swaying branches; feeling the wind blowing through the forest; smelling and breathing in the healing forest fragrances. If this sounds like some oriental stuff that you are not interested in, just try taking a leisurely stroll through Karura and you will find yourself wanting to do more of it. Forest bathing is simply about immersing yourself in this forest atmosphere. Wouldn’t it be awesome to do this on your birthday?!
Even if you will remain adamant that forest bathing is really not your thing, then grab your bike and go cycling in Karura Forest. This is the fifth reason why you should spend your birthday at Karura Forest. There will be no crazy matatu’s breathing down your neck or no reckless boda boda riders hurtling towards you like missiles on two wheels. Instead, you will be able to cycle in serenity as the trees silently cheer you on. As a bonus, you will be working out without realizing that you are doing so. What better way to spend your birthday than getting into shape as you enjoy the awesome scenery and atmosphere of Karura Forest! Even if you don’t own a bike, can always hire one at Karura Forest at only 500 bob for two hours.
A key feature of this awesome scenery are the forest’s five rivers, the sixth reason why you should spend your birthday at Karura. These forest rivers all flow into Nairobi River. They are Ruaka River, Karura River, Gitathuru River, Thigiri River and Mathare River. At some point, Karura River descends into a beautiful waterfall before proceeding to the Mau Mau caves. The trickling sounds of these rivers will be like a balm to your spirit. Even more riveting will be the wondrous sight of the waterfall. There is something divine about watching water trickling and tumbling down constantly. Watching this waterfall in the heart and silence of Karura will make you thrilled that you were born on this day, for a day like this. It will bring out the essence of your birthday in ways that the nyama choma, pizzas and chocolate cannot.
The seventh and final reason why you should spend your next birthday in Karura Forest is romance, a creature that loves the company of solitude and serenity. Love grows in Karura Forest’s green, silent embrace. Nothing beats the caress of a forest breeze on our cheeks as you hold hands and gaze into each other’s adoring eyes. Doing this on your birthday makes it extra special.
With these seven reasons, you have every reason to visit Karura next weekend. Even if it’s not your birthday.Add to Favorites