Haller Park: From a barren land to an eden

Haller Park

To passers-by the Haller Park on Malindi Road, Mombasa is nothing but a man-made forest. Surrounded by a seven foot stone wall, the park sits in the quite backdrop of Bamburi Portland Cement Company, eight kilometers from the city centre. 

However, beyond the stone wall, beneath the ever green canopy lies the beauty and wonders of a combination of wildlife and vegetation. Where visitors get a rare opportunity to feed giraffes, and witness hippopotamus emerging from the pond to feed in the open during day time. 

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The park, known globally, showcases efforts of reclamation and conservation, boasting an enormous variety of animals, reptiles, birds, insects and botanical gardens giving visitors ample time to savour a wider range of attractions. 

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Known for its famous attraction of Owen and Mzee – the friendship of a hippopotamus and a tortoise – Haller Park was once a barren piece of land that had been stripped of its resources through limestone mining, and was redeveloped through reforestation and conservation efforts; transforming the quarry wastelands into an ecological paradise, making it a recreation hot spot to tourist and locals. 

 Haller Park or Bamburi Nature Trail as it is popularly known is the largest animal sanctuary in Mombasa. It has two main gates both on the foot of the once barren quarry. One gate is situated along Malindi Road, just after Nakumat Nyali branch. The second entrance is along the road leading to Bamburi Portland Cement which is off the Malindi road. Both entrances have ample and secure parking. 

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Immediately upon entering the park through the gate near the factory, you are greeted by giraffes as monkeys hung around to seize the opportunity for scraps. 

As one descends from the winding steps on the foot of the quarry overlooking the park, the forest gives way leading to pathways-trails-taking one under the thick green canopy of Casuarinas, Conocarpus, Algaroba, Neem, Fig and Mvule trees. 

The first stop is at the main reception, a circular makuti thatched hall standing in the middle of the forest where Mzee, the tortoise welcomes you. Educational video and other reading materials are on display. Here you get a tour guide to take you round. 

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The tour of the park covers the Reptile Park, crocodile farm, fisheries, and general wildlife enclosure, where the hippo resides alongside other mammals such as the buffalo, eland, Oryx and bushbuck. 

Birds singing, whistling of the needle like casuarinas leaves and the sounds of insects meets your ears as you walk along the trails; very educational, entertaining and refreshing delivering many from the bondage of boredom. 

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Feeding time is the moment many a visitor cherishes; 1 pm is the giraffe’s time. They trot eagerly to the feeding bay, where visitors are allowed to scope the feeds provided by the caretaker and feed them and at least touch them. 

Crocodiles are fed at 4 pm. Then all eyes turn to the pond where at exactly 5 pm hippopotamus emerge from the pond with white birds surrounding them as if in salutation. Feed by then will have been placed at strategic place near the fence to enable visitors have a clear view of the huge mammals. Whether it is by adaptation or habit, it’s hard to tell, but camera flashes and click do not scare or bother the hippos.

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