Kenya is most well known for its dazzling safaris in the Mara and picturesque beaches on the south coast – but it is Nairobi, Kenya’s booming city, that is Africa’s culture capital. Move over Cape Town: here are 10 reasons why Nairobi is the hottest city to visit now.
Adopt an Elephant at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
This wildlife trust is one of the most pioneering animal rehabilitation centers in the world. Young orphan elephants and rhinos, the victims of poaching and human-wildlife conflicts, are nurtured back to health. To date, it is the proud mother over 150 infant elephants. Between 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. daily, visitors can watch the slurps and gurgles of young orphans being fed as their keepers skillfully administer their supersize feeding bottles. If you’re moved by this humble feat, adopt a young orphan elephant for $50 and follow its inspiring journey first-hand.
Which city can boast a fully fledged safari park that houses the Big 5 of African wildlife? Nairobi of course. Located only 7km from the city center, visitors are allowed to take their own car into a mass of highland greenery at a reasonable price. Nicknamed the ‘Kifaru Arc’, the park boasts the world’s biggest black rhino population. On weekends, the locals take full advantage of the unique range of picnic spots found within. Be sure to visit the Ivory Burning Monument, a national conservation site where former President Arap-Moi destroyed poached ivory in 1989.
Located 10 minutes from the city center, Nairobi National Museum boasts a collection of rich, cultural artifacts that date back to the earliest prehistoric remains. Displayed are the incredible skeletal discoveries of homo habilis found by renowned archaeologists, Richard and Mary Leakey at Lake Turkana. There is also an extensive collection of native bird species that will amuse any bird-lover. Join the Kenyan Museum Society every Wednesday morning for a guided bird walk. The museum recently re-opened its doors in 2008 after extensive renovation and expansion efforts.
Get the chance to pet an endangered Rothschild giraffes at this world-class nature education centre. Located in Langata, only whispers from Nairobi National Park, this center is run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. Standing atop a tall wooden platform, visitors can stroke, kiss and feed giraffes a tasty grub of pellet-shaped biscuits. Be prepared for a welcome dose of giraffe breath and the gentle lick of long, sand-papery tongues.
The hustle of Nairobi’s city life can be overwhelming, which is why the lush scenery of Karura Forest is the perfect escape. Early mornings are the best time of day to beat the hot African sun and the rowdy crowd. The forest sits upon a bed of one million-year-old volcanic rock and houses a variety of indigenous animals such as the big-eyed Bush Baby and handsome Bushbuck. Walk or jog through the ancient Mau Mau caves, remains of the Kenyan struggle for independence, or stop and take a selfie at the local waterfalls.
Made famous by the Oscar-winning ‘Out of Africa‘, the Karen Blixen Museum belongs to an eye-opening story of the colonial era in Kenya. The museum is in fact the house in which Karen Blixen, acclaimed Danish author, lived and wrote her famed memoirs in Kenya between 1917 – 1931. Frequent visitors included the Prince of Wales, whom she entertained and dined and lover Denys Finch Hatton whom she courted. Enjoy the splendid view of the surrounding hills and fauna as you explore the preserved belongings of this legendary author.
For those of you that might be curious, a ‘karoga’ is a kind of Kenyan cookout that takes places in outdoor dining venues, the most popular being Gymkhana. In between a traditional BBQ and restaurant dining, karogas are informal dining occasions that tend to welcome large groups. Food can be ordered and cooked in a number of ways: diners can bring their own ingredients and equipment and cook at the venue, diners can order raw ingredients and equipment and cook at the venue or those not wanting the stress of cooking can order a la carte and have their food freshly prepared in front of them by the in-house chefs. The bottom line to these cookouts is to cook the food to the exacting tastes of the diners. Don’t miss out on this truly unique dining experience.
Nairobi’s all-year round great weather means that there’s always time to enjoy famous local beer, Tusker. Its unique selling point is derived from its local heritage that incorporates barley sourced from the Maasai Mara, local yeast and spring water from the Aberdare mountains. The best place to enjoy Tusker is no doubt by sitting in the vibrant gardens of the Fairview Hotel.
It’s hard to find consistently good cheese in Nairobi’s supermarkets. That is, until Brown’s award-winning cheese came along in 1979. Everything from halloumi to Valencay is produced from the finest local, organic milk. Located just a half-hour from Nairobi, the factory is set neighboring the picturesque Rift Valley. Indulge in a tour of the factory coupled with a sumptuous offering of specialty cheeses and a variety of home-made breads and salads for lunch. This is any cheese lovers delight.
From beaded masks to brass earrings to Maasai spears, shoppers are offered unique, hand-made Kenyan crafts at this ever-popular Maasai curio market. Be prepared to haggle down prices with your best poker face, or else you’ll be paying an arm and leg for everything. Don’t forget to take a water bottle and empty rucksack to safeguard all your hard-bargained goodies.