Continuing our African city series of activities, we go to Nairobi, the capital of the East African safari industry. If you are on business or on safari in east Africa, more likely than not you will be transiting via Nairobi. Number 1 point to remember: in Nairobi, the traffic jams are extensive and prolific. Always leave yourself plenty of time to get anywhere, including the airport! Here, in no particular order, are our list of ten things to do:
- Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, near the edge of the Nairobi national park. This is an uplifting experience where you can interact with calves orphaned by poaching from all over Kenya. The level of care and husbandry is impressive and nearly all these calves will be reintroduced back into wild herds. Open every morning between 11 and 12 am.
- Not too far away in the suburb of Langata is the Giraffe Rehabilitation Centre. This conservation centre focuses on the breeding of the endangered Rothschild giraffe and environmental and educational programmes. You can feed and touch these impressive creatures from a platform. Apparently, the Rothschild giraffe has a great following in Canada and we would strongly recommend this visit to them. Right next door is the Giraffe Manor Hotel where the giraffe freely flow into. We have written about this hotel before in a previous blog and if you have the budget, it is the place to stay.
- Staying in the area, visit the Karen Blixen Museum. The whole of the suburb of Karen was once Baroness Blixen's farm. Her main residence has remained wrapped in aspic and this is the house you can now visit. Notice the books on the shelves belonging to her late lover Denys Finch Hatton. The house and grounds were used extensively during the filming of "Out of Africa."
- Karen Blixen wrote, "I had a farm in Africa." The modern version is "I had a shopping centre in Nairobi." With a booming economy and spreading middle class, shopping centres have exploded and there are many to chose from. If you are looking for traditional curios and souvenirs, you may wish to visit the Village Market in Muthaiga. A favourite and appreciated souvenir is the Kikoi; a cool, cotton cloth worn around the waist or chest by both men and women. If you have the time, you will find better-priced goods at small, local centres like Karen than the new large shopping malls.
- Muthaiga Club A members only club in the northern suburb of Muthaiga, made infamous by the book "White Mischief.". The traditional relaxation ground of white colonial settlers, the club has maintained much of its character and charm (and traditional rules) whilst building new modern facilities. Having a meal or a gin and tonic on its terrace is a pleasure and a throwback to distant times. This is a members club so you will have to meet one to be invited.
- Kibera. This is the largest urban slum in Africa with a population of approximately 2.5million people which represents 60% of the population but only 6% of the land mass of Nairobi. You do not wander into Kibera by accident and there are dedicated companies who organise escorted tours. Like Soweto in Johannesburg, you may be surprised by some uplifting experiences as well as opening your eyes to a different aspect of Africa.
- Nairobi National Museum. This is not the dull and worthy visit for a rainy day. With a variety of galleries, there is a specialised snake park, primate centre and the world renowned paleontological Leakey centre.
- Carnivore Restaurant. It is almost a cliche to visit the Carnivore when in Nairobi (Langata suburb) but this is a restaurant which receives high ratings from critics worldwide. The thing is, you really do have to be a carnivore with exotic bush meats from giraffe to crocodile being the preferred dishes. There are vegetarian options available but it slightly misses the point of visiting. On the same site is the large Simba Saloon nightclub which is well frequented.
- Shangilia mtoto wa Africa Orphanage (Swahili: Rejoice, child of Africa).Located in the Kangemi slum, this orphanage is home to 230 children. Founded by a local actress with the belief that you can lift up the lives and self-image of children by encouraging them to perform on stage. The conditions of the orphanage are basic but the place is vibrant and it is ultimately an uplifting experience to visit. Visitors are encouraged by appointment.
- This is not strictly a day visit but I add it here as it originates in Nairobi. The 1st class night train to Mombasa on the Jambo Kenya Deluxe. I did this trip thirty years ago and again last year. Nothing much has changed in between. The pace can only be described as leisurely. The dinner service is served on crisp white linen and battered East African Railways crockery and cutlery. It is a throwback but interesting to experience before some tourism operator jazzes it up and another piece of history is gone.
Things to do in Nairobi