In October of 2017 I went to Kenya on a medical mission trip. Prior to starting the mission trip part of this adventure, I spent a few days in Nairobi with some friends/fellow travelers. Below you will find some of my favorite sights/things to do along with my type A tips for exploring Nairobi.
Nairobi is the the capital of Kenya and is often the launch point for most safari goers. However this impressive city with worth and day or two of exploration on its own. Nairobi has so much to offer, from giraffe kisses to haggling in local markets and drinking the local beer. Nairobi also has some wonderful museums, but sadly I didn’t have the time to explore these. If you are planning a safari in Kenya, or a trip to any other attraction definitely plan to spend a day or two exploring this great city.
Type A Trekkers Top Sights:
- David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
This amazing wildlife rescue takes in abandoned or orphaned elephants and rhinos. They rehabilitate these animals and then eventually release them back to the wild. The wildlife rescue’s other mission is to provide education about the impact we humans have on the environment and these endangered animals lives.
On top of all of this incredible work they do, they also open up their morning feedings to the public, allowing visitors to see these incredible and adorable elephants eat and play. While doing they they also tell the story of every elephant and how they ended up at the rescue.
They are only open from 11am till noon every day of the week. It cost 500 shillings or about $7 USD to enter. I recommend getting there early since they are extremely busy during that hour.
Alternatively you can foster an elephant for $50 USD/year. This gets you specially access to “your” elephant, and allows you to visit in the evening. This must be booked in advance.
- Giraffe Center
The Giraffe Center was set up originally as a sanctuary to protect the endangered Rothschild giraffe. These giraffes are only found in the grasslands of East Africa. This organization started a breeding program and has released hundreds of giraffes into Kenya’s national parks. Right by the Giraffe Center is the Giraffe Manor- the icon stone Victorian building where you can eat breakfast while giraffes stick their head in.
While here you can feed the giraffes by hand or if you are daring from your mouth! There are also volunteers who provide education about this giant, gorgeous animals. There is also the zoovenir shop to get a gift to remind you of your experience.
It cost 1,000 shillings or about $10 USD to enter.
While in Nairobi I went on a tour of Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. There is an estimated 1.2 million people living in 2.5 square kilometers. Many of the homes lack clean running water and electricity. If they do have electricity, most have illegally (and dangerously) taken from main power lines. This tour was incredibly humbling and was an eye opening experience. What I found interesting was the hope and strong sense of community that the locals had.
I was lucky enough that one of my friends knew Kibera tour guides so I didn’t book through an official guide. However there are a few options to book your own tour: Kibera Tours and Explore Kibera Tours. Both of these offer similar tours. The tours last about 3-4 hours and cost about $25 USD, or 2,500 shillings.
- Nairobi National Park
Located about 7 miles from downtown Nairobi this National Park is still brimming with wildlife despite its proximity to the city. The park is almost 29,000 acres in size, and has the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust located on it.
This is a great place to have a mini safari. I say mini not because you won’t see all the classic safari animals, but because this park is small in comparison to the other parks in Kenya (and Africa). You can book half or whole day tours from some of the many companies. Prices vary from $45 USD to $180 USD. Some of the tours also include a trip to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
- Shop at a Maasai Market
The Maasai Markets are a great place to see and buy some of the hand-made crafts by locals, including the Maasai.You will find wooden carvings, artwork, maasai blankets and more at these markets. In Nairobi the location of the market changes day by day.
Fri: Village Market
Sat: High Court Parking Lot
Sun: Yaya Centre
Remember: don’t buy anything at the original price! Bargain/haggle the price down. This is expected.
Type A Tips on Where to Stay:
- Kahama Hotel
I stayed at this great hotel for the two days I spent exploring Nairobi. They are located near downtown Nairobi. They have incredibly helpful, friendly staff. I think most people who stay at this hotel, only stay for one night while on their way to safari. This means the staff were really excited and happy to have me there for more than a day. They offer airport pickup which I was grateful for since I arrived at 11pm and suffering from some serious jetlag.
They also have drivers who will take you around for the day (which was very helpful). The drivers were so nice and friendly. I kept using the same driver: George so was so kind and patient while I explored this large busy city. George only charged 4,000 shillings for a whole day of driving me from sight to sight.
- Airbnb in the Karen District
Personally I haven’t stayed in an Airbnb in Nairobi, but I have friends who have and really loved it. They all have recommended staying in the Karen District, which is the “wealthier” part of Nairobi, but also the safest. This is also where the Giraffe Center/Giraffe Manor are located.
Type A Tips:
- Money: One US dollar is about 100 Kenyan Shillings.
- Get the E-Visa prior to arriving. This is not a requirement, but will save you a lot of time and hassle. I had issues getting mine, so I had to get one once I arrived. This meant that I had to wait in line for about 2 hours to get the visa. Fellow passengers who had the E-Visa pretty much walked right through.
- The national language is Swahili, however most Kenyans involved in the tourist business speak English.
- “Jambo” is hello in Swahili and “mzungu” is white person (don’t be surprised in you get called this, especially by children)
- Safety: I found Nairobi reasonably safe. The people are friendly and nice and most don’t mean to harm you. Just be safe: don’t flash tons of cash around, don’t get drunk by yourself and always be aware of your surroundings.
- Drink: Stoney- this is an incredibly good ginger soda (way better than any ginger ale you can find in the US). It can be found pretty much everywhere sodas are sold. I had one almost every day and never got sick of them!
- Drink: Tusker- Kenya’s most popular beer. Personally I am not a fan of beer, but my friends who loved them! (Literally my friend who proof reads all my blogs left me a comment about how much she loved them when she was traveling around Africa)
I hope this has helped you in planning your trip. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I would love to hear from you!
-Teresa, the Type A Trekker