The Nairobi Arboretum owes its existence to the construction of the Kenya Uganda Railway back at the beginning of the 20th century. What could the Nairobi Arboretum and trains have in common?… you silently wonder. Well, trains back then used wood-fired steam engines. This called for a constant supply of huge amounts of firewood to keep them in operation.
Initially, indigenous trees within 3km either side of the railway line were cut to supply the required fuel wood. With time, foresters noted that indigenous trees were getting depleted faster than they could regenerate, due to their slow growth rate. Clearly they were not going to sustain the railway operations for long. In trying to solve this problem, they decided to try planting quick growing exotic softwoods and see if they could adapt to local conditions, and meet the trains’ fuel needs. The site of the present day Nairobi Arboretum was set aside in 1907 for this purpose.
Today, the Nairobi Arboretum is a protected 30 hectare forest reserve holding over 350 species of indigenous and exotic plants, most of them labeled for educational purposes. It’s also home to over 100 species of birds, and a significant population of Sykes and Vervet monkeys.
Through the efforts of Friends of Nairobi Arboretum (FONA), the Arboretum has been spruced up with paved walkways, park benches, trash bins, and public toilets. It has become a popular recreational park for city residents, who come looking for tranquility, to take long walks, hold picnics, or simply to commune with their God. Large groups often come on weekends for team-building activities and games in the central lawn at the park, while lovebirds enjoy spending romantic moments in its secluded spots. Runners also love to jog around the Arboretum’s forest trails.
The Arboretum is situated 3km from the city centre. Its close proximity to the city centre makes it easily accessible on foot. To get to its main entrance, get onto State House Road near St Andrew’s Church, go past St Paul’s Cathedral, YMCA Nairobi Central, University of Nairobi Halls of residence, and past the Arboretum Drive junction. At the point where State House road makes a sharp left turn, take the little road that goes straight ahead. The Nairobi Arboretum main entrance is about 300m ahead. There’s also a car park at the main entrance for vehicles.
Another entrance to the park is on Arboretum Drive in Kileleshwa.
Entry fees introduced in September 2016