Haller Park – a beautiful ecological sanctuary in Mombasa

When I was growing up in Mombasa, Haller Park, a gorgeous sanctuary in Bamburi,  was known as Bamburi Quarry Nature Trail. It is now named after the founder, Dr. René Haller, who has done the unthinkable and managed to transform barren limestone quarries into what is now a thriving ecosystem of forest, grasslands and ponds.

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There are beautiful walking trails where you can wander and see various animals such as giraffes, hippos, reptiles and bird species. It is actually hard to believe that Haller Park was once a rough, uninspiring quarry and what Dr Rene Haller has achieved is quite remarkable.

Mombasa is also not usually associated with wildlife and so it is to me a hidden gem where you can escape for a few hours and absorb the serenity and marvel at the various animals you can see. It is also so good for education to teach children all about ecosystems and how animals, birds and plants are all interlinked and each play such an important role in nature. In fact, there was even a school trip there during our visit and it was so lovely to see the children all excited and interacting with the guide.

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The first step in the transformation of the quarry to the ecological paradise it is today was to introduce the Casuarina tree, which is able to grow under severe conditions. Dr Haller then introduced Millipedes to the site, as these feed on the pine needles of the Casuarina tree. Their droppings enabled a rich layer of humus to form allowing other plant species to grow. In turn, animals were introduced and slowly it all started rolling into place like clockwork.

Today it is a tourist attraction as well as an important site for education.  I had visited so many times as a child but it had been at least 15 years since my last visit so I thought it was about time I re-visited this stunning place.

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What we saw as we drove in was Giraffes just casually wandering about on the rough road and feeding off the tall trees in the vicinity. Now I am rather obsessed with Giraffes so this already had me all excited.

This is how close they were!

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We were told that the Giraffe feeding time was at 11am so we decided to go around the park and return for that as there was no way that I was missing that. If you have been following my blog you will know that I absolutely love feeding Giraffes.

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We started off with the Reptile park, to see the famous crocodiles. Boy were these fiesty! I wouldn’t want to come face to face with one in real life that is for sure.

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These range from Kindergarten Crocodiles to fully grown ones, and there is a feeding time, where you can see them rise up from the water to grab their food, but we unfortunately missed this.

We also visited the snakes, of which there are over 40 and about 12 different species. I am a little freaked out by snakes and somehow didn’t end up taking any photos either! Close to the snakes are some baby leopard tortoises which are adorable. We actually have 7 as pets at my home in Nairobi.

Haller Park is famous for its giant tortoises though, and here is one. As a child the park used to allow people to sit on these but I am so glad that they no longer allow this as it is quite traumatising for the tortoises.

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There are also Hippos at the park, Sally and Potty, including the world famous Owen, who was best friends with one of the giant tortoises Mzee. They had been pictured in press always together but as they got bigger, unfortunately they had to be separated. It was a really cute story though of how different species thrived together.

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If you are a monkey lover you will be pleased to find these cheeky clowns everywhere across the park hanging from trees or thieving the food of the other animals!

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Ours was a quick visit so we did miss the fish farms as I really wanted to make it on time for the Giraffe feeding. However, I had seen these as a child so I would encourage you, if this is your first time visiting to see everything.

It was now time for the Giraffe feeding session so I patiently waited for them to arrive.

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They get me every single time. Just beautiful majestic animals and with eye lashes to cause major envy! (Blogger caught in action).

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Feeding them was just so much fun and literally the highlight of our visit. If you haven’t had a chance to do this yet I highly recommend it. Buying the bags of pellets only costs 50 shillings but the experience is one of which will have a lasting memory.

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How can you say no to that face? I certainly can’t and eventually Amit had to drag me away. I could easily have spent my day chilling with the Giraffes.

I did sneak in a selfie too and I think the Giraffe was more than happy to oblige.

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I still find it as exciting years on as I did as a child so if you are visiting Mombasa, or even  live in Mombasa and haven’t visited in a while go! If you think about what the site started off as and what it is now you will be awe-stricken at the transformation that Dr René Haller has achieved!

Have you visited Haller Park? What is your favourite memory? I would love to know in the comments section below.

Binny xx

Lunch at The Talisman Restaurant, Nairobi, Kenya

In the fabulous suburb of Karen, named after Karen Blixen, is an amazing restaurant with beautiful indoor and outdoor seating and the kind of place where you would want to spend your day and simply not move. The decor is gorgeous and personally, the best spot is outdoors for Al Fresco dining. It is one of Nairobi’s top rated restaurants and it really is excellent.

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We chose to have lunch at the Talisman as we were already in the suburb of Karen visiting the Giraffe Centre that day, which, by the way, is a fabulous Giraffe sanctuary where you can feed and kiss Giraffes. Intrigued? Read more here.

It was a hot Nairobi day and so we decided to cool off with a Mojito and a Dawa whilst we decided on what we wanted to eat. Now everyone knows Mojitos are my weakness and my preferred drink. However, when in Kenya I am often torn between Mojitos and Dawas. I found the solution to this is to get Amit to order the Dawa so I can have a few cheeky sips so I can have the best of both!

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Choosing the food was hard because everything sounded good! There is a really good selection and we settled with the Feta and Coriander Samosas, which are served with chilli ginger jam for one of our starters.

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They were such crispy, perfectly cooked triangles of delight!

We also picked the Talisman nyati wings, which I had heard so much about, and which are served with blue cheese sauce and peri-peri butter. You can pick the level of heat of these ranging from mild to taliban so I decided to go for hot.

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I have to say they totally lived up to the hype and were utterly delicious! The marinade was addictive and I could have eaten a whole other plate of these! The blue cheese that was served with it was amazing.

For our mains I went for the Ginger Teriyaki Tofu with capsicum, carrots, zucchini and Jasmine Rice. This was a generous portion and I did get defeated half way through although it was really scrumptious.

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I loved the way it was presented on a wooden board and it was so full of flavour. The ingredients used were all so fascinating and fresh and I would definitely order this again or recommend this dish for mains.

Amit chose the Fish n’ Chips, which were a beer battered tilapia served with delicious fat chips, tartare sauce and talisman slaw. It was really good as well and he really enjoyed it! Fish and chips is a classic and Talisman do a fantastic version.

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The food was excellent as was the service and we found it really relaxing – almost like having lunch in someone’s garden with birds chirping in the background.  The ambience was wonderful and the cocktails were superb so even if you want a good venue for drinks Talisman is perfect for that too!

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We were so full we couldn’t manage dessert but definitely on the cards for next time we are in Nairobi! There is a good variety for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

If you are in Nairobi or planning to visit I highly recommend the Talisman. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest restaurants Nairobi has to offer. I would personally recommend going for lunch as it is so lovely in the day time but it is equally good for dinner too! I would combine it with sight seeing in Karen, as there is lots to see and do in the area.

The Talisman can be found at 320 Ngong Road, Karen, Nairobi, Kenya