The Haller Park Nature Trail is probably one of the world’s greatest rehabilitation success stories. Located south of the Bamburi Cement factory along the Mombasa Malindi highway, the project was an effort to rehabilitate the wasteland that the area had become after years of mining. With the backing of the Bamburi Portland Cement Company, Rene Haller (who the park is named after) got to work on the seemingly impossible task in 1971.
First order of business was to find some form… any form of plant that could grow on the barren land. After a long search on the vast quarry, he managed to find the Casuarina equisetifolia which could survive the limestone desert that lacked humus and the intense tropical heat. From months of trial and error, and the successful growth of the species, Haller then introduced tree saplings in a reforestation project.
He completed the Forest Ecosystem by introducing mushrooms as well as termites and ants. The termites fed on the deadwood while the ants made a feast of the mealy bug and the aphids that were attacking the vegetation.
Not one to stop there, Haller had ponds dug out using bulldozers and introduced Tilapia fish. Following its successful survival, other species of fish were incorporated into the ecosystem. The result was a lush spread of absolute beauty.
But like all other things, challenges arise from all projects. With time, it was discovered that the fish were not doing so good. After research and consultations, Haller learnt that a hippo would solve this problem. You see, a hippo will disperse their droppings and urine in the ponds which would restore the nutrients in the water for the plankton to flourish. This will in turn mean more food for the fish. With the hippo walking, playing and paddling, the pond sediments are in constant motion thus preventing the buildup of toxic gases.
That is how famous “Sally” the hippo came to live in the park. She was later joined by “Potty” a male hippo. There was also the ‘Baobab Farm’ that had sheep, goats, chicken and cattle. With the growing population of animals and plants, there grew a need for ‘garbage collectors’ so to speak. That’s how crocodiles were introduced in the park since they were fed on waste from the fish pond and carcasses from the ‘Baobab Farm’.
Over time, there was introduction of different species of plants and animals. A walk through the nature trail will show you the Tortoises with some as old as 100 years old, Giraffes, Buffaloes, Elands, Oryx, Monkeys, an array of about 160 species of birds among others.
Haller park is the home of the famous Owen and Mzee. It all begun when Owen a hippo was orphaned during the 2004 Tsunami. He was rescued and taken to Haller Park where he was adopted by Mzee, a 130 year old tortoise. They developed a bond so tight, it took the world by storm. It has spawned a series of children’s books, a website and a blog.
The nature trail also leads to the butterfly pavilion which was started in 1998. It is a part of the rehabilitation process to save the butterflies being displaced by the forest destruction. The pavilion boasts 16 different species of butterflies and a butterfly breeding house. Every animal in the park has a role to play in this thriving ecosystem.
Get a chance to enjoy delicacies from the Baobab Farm and the crocodile farm, which can range from steaks from crocodiles, antelopes or ostrich and Bamburi Tilapia. The Haller Park Nature Trail is perfect place for the whole family for bonding and educational reasons.
The green spread of vegetation and trees create and aura of peace and tranquility. A trip to Mombasa would not be complete without a visit to this spectacular sanctuary. This Nature trail will not only leave you awestruck and relaxed while enjoying the scenery and animals, it will also remind you that all is not lost for our planet. That we should not give up on saving mother earth and this park is proof of that.