Nairobi is usually your gateway into Kenya. While most safari visitors spend one night in the city on their way to or from their wildlife experience, Nairobi has great lodges and unique boutique hotels. The city is bursting with life with informal Maasai Markets lining the streets selling handmade arts and crafts to local tailors who can finish a beautifully made, bargain-friendly safari suit in 24 hours. Nairobi National Park with its dense concentration of black rhino is no more than 7 km from Nairobi’s city center.
Nairobi is a city well worth seeing. A word of caution, its traffic is notoriously chaotic and comes to a grinding halt from 07.00 to 09.00 and 16.30 to 18.30. Some drivers are appalling, especially the local minibus, or matatus, and bus drivers. Plan your trips to avoid rush hour and hire a local guide so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of Kenya’s bustling capital city at leisure.
Nairobi is usually your arrival point into Kenya and it has excellent lodges and hotels to choose from, as well as a lively nightlife and interesting shopping, especially at the informal Maasai Markets. There are several worthwhile attractions – like the Nairobi National Park – right on its doorstep.
One of its more famous and popular restaurants is The Carnivore which serves a banquet of game meats (everything from warthog and wildebeest to zebra and crocodile), hot-off-the-grill onto your plate from oversized metal skewers.
There’s plenty to see and do in Nairobi – from wildlife to culture, sport, adventure, shopping and entertainment. Here are some of our favorites.
Nairobi National Park is situated just a few kilometers outside the city. It’s home to large herds of plains animals like zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo and rhino as well as predators like lion and cheetah. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded here. You can go on the ‘Nairobi Safari Walk’. The park also acts as an educational center to make the local people and school children aware of wildlife conservation and its challenges. The Nairobi Animal Orphanage is also within the park and well worth a visit.
Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is not far from Nairobi National Park. The orphanage takes in elephant and rhino babies from all over Kenya that have been orphaned by poaching. Showing is only in the mornings from 11.00 to 12.00 and gives you the chance to get up close and personal with baby elephants.
Giraffe Centre is situated in Langata on the outskirts of Nairobi. The center breeds the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and offers a conservation/education programmes for Kenyan children. You will be allowed to feed the giraffes by hand.
Mamba Village is a pleasant park which is home to ostriches and crocodiles. The guides are very knowledgeable and will allow you to interact directly with the crocodiles, even to handle the babies if you are there at the right time.
Kenyatta International Conference Center (K.I.C.C), in the city center. Go to the top of the flying-saucer-shaped tower and you’ll get a great view out of the sprawling, congested city. On a clear day, you should be able to see out over Nairobi National Park.
Nairobi National Museum celebrated its centenary in 2010. Visitors to the museum can learn all there is to know about Kenya, its rich culture and history. A live snake park is next door for more intrepid visitors.
National Railway Museum details more about the history of Kenya’s railroads and the Kenya/Uganda railway, featuring some of the engines and rolling stock from the country’s colonial period.
Karen Blixen Museum showcases much of Karen Blixen’s book “Out of Africa” and the building was her actual home. It’s on the outskirts of Nairobi, accessible by bus or taxi.
Bomas of Kenya gives insight into Kenya’s culture. Here, you’ll be able to see exhibits of traditional Kenyan homes, artefacts and dances, and listen to traditional music and songs.
Uhuru Gardens was built in remembrance of Kenya’s struggle for independence, which was granted in 1963. A triumphal column of 24 m (79 ft) supports a pair of clasped hands and the dove of peace, high over a statue of freedom fighters raising the flag, set in beautiful, landscaped gardens.
Westlands is the bustling nightlife district of Nairobi. Many restaurants and bars line busy Woodvale Grove and Mpaka Road. A popular option for first-time visitors is the Treehouse Club, patronized largely by ex-pats. Some of the local clubs can become overcrowded. There’s generally good security about.
Wildlife & Safaris
While not a safari destination per se, if you’re overnight in Nairobi before or after your safari, there are some excellent wildlife reserves and sanctuaries worth a visit.
On the outskirts of the city, you’ll find Nairobi National Park. There’s a variety of wildlife here to whet your appetite; plains animals like zebra, giraffe and wildebeest as well as predators like lion and cheetah and over 400 bird species. The park is a conservation education center and the animal orphanage within the park is a sanctuary for many injured and displaced animals.
Not far from there is the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, which focuses on baby elephant and rhino that have been orphaned as a result of poaching. Mornings are the best times to visit.
In the Lang’ata region, not far from the city center, is the Giraffe Center. They have implemented a breeding programme for the endangered Rothschild giraffe, also with a strong conservation and education focus. You’ll be able to feed these long-necked beauties by hand.
Speak to us about your Nairobi safari wishlist. We’d be more than happy to provide you with ideas and recommendations.
As you’d expect of a large African capital city, there is a wide variety of hotels, lodges, guesthouses and country houses in and around Nairobi. Nairobi has a wide range of accommodation options, from downtown to suburban options close to game parks and sanctuaries