The Happiest Place on Earth- Kenya
I lived in Kenya for the better part of three years and was lucky enough to have an inside look at this beautiful country. It was a wonderful, colourful and often times hectic experience. Nairobi is teeming with humanity. There are markets, vendors and cars everywhere. Sometimes you just need a break from it all. Sure, you could head to one of the better known parks like Uhuru Park in the middle of town, but why go there when you can head to what I call ‘the happiest place on earth’: City Park.
City Park, better known as the Monkey Park is just outside of the city centre. It’s a short matatu ride away in Nairobi’s Parklands suburb (how appropriate!). It is a green oasis filled with wild flowers, grass and shady trees; much quieter than the park space in the middle of town. With all the green space available to its population no wonder Nairobi is called The Green City in the Sun.
Beautiful flora aside; the biggest attraction of this park is the dense monkey population. You can feed them the way a Torontonian might feed the resident squirrels in our own High Park. A whole afternoon could be spent doling out peanuts, bananas and other treats to our curious simian cousins.
These are by no means tame animals, rather wild animals that allow you to spend an afternoon in their world. This is not the place to bring a picnic! Any animal lover would be able to appreciate watching a mama groom her baby, or an old mzee (old man) show the young bucks how it’s done. It is amazing and often hilarious to watch their family dynamics. Their manners are closer to my own family’s than I would like to admit.
Arriving at the park is rather unremarkable. You turn on to the long driveway past a market on the left and some grass on the right. If you’re driving, there is a small parking lot just after the first bend where they sell peanuts for the monkeys and a cold soda for you. The high hedges that line the driveway hide the wonders that are in store.
Once you start down the pedestrian walk way, you start to see evidence of the little scoundrels: a banana peel here, peanut shells there. You start to feel like you are being watched. That is because you are. It takes a minute but you start to notice curious eyes up in the trees training down on you. It is at this point you make sure to hide your peanuts well; otherwise they will be snatched up before you know what’s happened. The walkway ends and the park opens up in front of you. This is where the fun begins.
You can either set up camp on one of the many benches that are available or find a quite spot to claim as your own. We always brought a shuka (a Maasai blanket) with us to sit on. The monkeys will approach you before you can even get comfortable. I always found the best method was to give out a few peanuts at a time that way the greedy ones will be distracted long enough for the smaller, more timid guys to get a handful. As the monkeys get a little more comfortable with you, they will sit on your shoulder and even start to groom you. It is hard to be in a bad mood while a monkey is picking imaginary ticks out of your hair!
If you want proof, click here for a video of my mom being groomed last summer. If that is not the epitome of happiness, I don’t know what is!
September 27, 2013