KENYA Part I: Destination for 2017: Nairobi

This post is about what to see and do in Nairobi. In the next posts, I´ll tell you about what and where to eat, where to dance in Nairobi and about places to visit in the surroundings outside of Nairobi and on the east coast of the country.

First, let me tell you some of the facts that you should know about Kenya:

In general:

  • The official name is Republic of Kenya (Jamhuri ya Kenya in Swahili)
  • Capital: Nairobi
  • Location: Central East Africa in the African Great Lakes region. Lies on the equator
  • Official languages: English and Swahili
  • Currency: Kenyan shilling – exchange rate (January 2016): 1€ = 109,43 Ksh
  • Estimated population: 45 million
  • Bantu and Nilotic populations together represent about 97% of the country’s residents.
  • Kenya obtained its independence from the British government in December 1963.
  • The Republic of Kenya is named after Mount Kenya. The origin of the name Kenya is not clear, but the meaning is like “God’s resting place”.
  • Lake Victoria is the largest tropical fresh-water lake in the world.

Kenya in the news 2016:

  • ASTA, the American Society of Travel Agents (dedicated to facilitating the business of selling travel) has decided to bring their annual global Destination Expo to Nairobi next year 23-26 February 2017. .. Kenya is the destination for 2017 😉
  • Kenya had the best performance at the Olympic Games in Rio of any African nation, coming in the 15th place (South Africa was next, coming in at number 30)
  • The world fell in love with the Kenyan national anthem when they played it at the Olympic Games in Rio August 2016 as the Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge was presented with the gold medal for the men’s marathon. Twitter followers described the anthem as beautiful and magestic.

I have been to Kenya 2 times, first in January and then in August. Both visits were in 2016 and hopefully I’ll go back in 2017.

I would like to share with you what I did during my stays in Kenya.

If you fly to Kenya, you will probably fly into Nairobi or into Mombasa. I would definitely start with Nairobi to get a good introduction of the country and finish with Mombasa or any other city on the east side to relax on a nice beach at the end of the trip (don´t miss my post about this topic…coming soon).

What to do in Nairobi:

Day 1:

Elephant orphanage + Giraffe Center + Karen Blixen museum + Kazuri factory

Morning: you can visit the Elephant orphanage David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphan Trust. You should start your day with this place because they are only open from 10am to 12 midday. Within these 2 hours you can receive a detailed explanation about elephants and you can touch and feed the baby elephants. You will learn about the baby elephants and how they have been rescued by this foundation. Entrance 500Ksh (ca. 5$) for foreigners.

At the elephant orphanage

From there you can go to the Giraffe center, which is a short drive distance. Are you ready for a real giraffe kiss? Check this pictures. She almost ate me with her tongue. Haha! Kiss one if you dare!

Would you dare to kiss one?

Afternoon: you can visit the Karen Blixen museum. Tis is the African home of the Danish author Karen Blixen, famous for her book Out of Africa (have you seen the movie with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford?…if not, you should).

Karen Blixen museum

Near this place you can find the Kazuri factory and learn how they process the clay coming from Mt. Kenya. Kazuri means „small and beautiful“. There are many women working here for a sad salary of only $20 per month :-(. At certain times they sing and pray all together thanking God for their lives, jobs and families. I was there at 3 pm in time to see one of the prayers.

Women working at the Kazuri factory
Products at the Kazuri factory shop

Day 2:

Paradise Lost + KICC + Masai market

Morning: you can drive to Paradise Lost. It’s a place for relaxing. It is a 40 minute drive from the city center. There you can see the waterfalls and visit the Old Stone Age Caves followed by a short boat ride at the lake. Entrance to Paradise Lost costs 300 Ksh and includes the waterfall, the caves and the picnic area. Extra optional activities are horse and camel rides for 100 Ksh and the boat ride for 200 Khs. A lot of primary school classes take their students there too. They all will be happy to see foreigners and will say hello to you by calling you “Mzungu” (white people) if you look like a Non African 😛

If you decide to go to Paradise Lost, I would recommend that you have a picnic there at lunch time. This place is perfect for picnics. They have the tables and chairs for it. If you go with friends, even better and more enjoyable.

Paradise Lost
The Waterfalls at the Paradise Lost
The place for picnic at Paradise Lost
Picnic with friends at Paradise Lost
Children waiting for the boat ride

Afternoon: go to the city center and visit the KICC (Kenyatta International Convention Center). You can go to the top of the building and have an overview of the city for 400 Ksh. That will take you less than 1 hour. Opening hours are from 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday. Sometimes they do activities there on the roof of the building. For example, when I was there, I saw the making of a video clip from an Ugandan singer on the top of the tower. I wanted to dance and participate too. Haha!

View from the top of the KICC
Making of a video from an Ugandan singer

In front of the KICC you can find the statue of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the first Kenyan president (1964-78).

The KICC and the statue of President Kenyatta

When you finish, you can walk a bit to get a feeling of the capital with its crazy traffic. You will see people selling all kinds of things on the streets. For example, check the Kenyatta Avenue, which is the main street with some statues to see.

Take public transport at least once. For example, try a Matatu (Kenyan local bus with music and TV inside).

The crazy dancers from Salsafari Festival taking a Matatu
Watching some RnB videos at the Matatu

You can take public transport to go to the Masai market, where I always have lot of fun trying my luck bargaining for the best prices. The famous Masai Market is the perfect place to purchase handcrafted souvenirs to remember your visit to Kenya. Buy presents for the family and support the Kenyan community. 😉

At the Masai market

African markets are so unique and colorful. You have to visit it. It´s a little bit tricky to find this Masai market because they are in a different places depending on the weekday. Here is a list for you:

Tuesdays: Nakumatt Westgate – Off Kijabe street, near Globe Roundabout.

Wednesdays: Capital Center, Mombasa Rd.

Fridays: Village market, Gigiri

Saturdays: Nairobi Law Court Parking Lot, City Center

Sundays: Safari Park Hotel – Yaya Center, Hurlingham

Daily: Westlands Market – City Market

Opening times for the market: 9am – 6pm

If you go to the Masai Market at the Village Market on Fridays, there is a food court right beside the market in case you get hungry. They have all different kinds of food from African to Thai cuisine. Not bad 😉

Day 3:

Anselm Kitengele hot glass factory + Nairobi Safari Walk

Morning: you can go to the Anselm Kitengele hot glass factory and gallery to see how they make lots of beautiful things from recycled glass. It’s like a 1 hour drive from Nairobi and the only way to reach the factory is by crossing a long suspension bridge once you are there. That was actually my favorite part from this day because I love suspension bridges. 🙂

Transforming recycled glass into nice souvenirs
At the suspention bridge with my Kenyan friend and amazing dancer

Afternoon: you can go to the Nairobi Safari Walk. Entrance fees are about $8 for tourists. There you can see many animals like the spotted hyena, the Pygmy hippo, the albino zebra (yes, some zebras are albinos), and some lions. Do you remember Simba from the lion king?… Well… Simba means lion in the Swahili language. You may also see a leopard (difficult to see during normal game drives at national parks). My favorite was the black and white colobus (monkey). By the way you can also kiss a giraffe here too 😉

What/where to eat?, where can you dance in Nairobi?: Check my next post about these topics here

I’m definitely planning to go back to Kenya. Hopefully next year. Here is a short list of some of the things I would like to do if I go back there. I’m sure there are many others, of course:

Bucket list for my next trip to Kenya:

  • Visit a Rhino sanctuary – Black rhinos are in danger of extinction and they are protected
  • Climb Mt. Kenya – It’s a stratovolcano created approximately 3 million years after the opening of the East African rift. It is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro (which I already climbed August 2016. Blog coming soon. Don’t miss it). The highest  in these peak of Mt. Kenya is Batian (5,199 metres (17,057 ft). You need between 3-5 days to climb it.
  • Go to Mombasa – a city on the coast of Kenya and the country’s second-largest city, after the capital Nairobi.
  • Swim at Diani Beach – It is located 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Mombasa. It is popular for its coral reefs, black-and-white colobus monkeys, a national wildlife reserve with an overlook of the Indian Ocean and for kitesurfing.
  • Visit Uhuru gardens – you can see the artificial lake, the several national monuments and also do skateboarding on the weekens
  • Get lost at the Karura Forest – located north of central Nairobi
  • Fourteen Falls in Thika, ca. 45 km north east of Nairobi. If you see the pictures of this waterfalls, you would want to run there right now 😉

Hope these recommendations can help you with your traveling plans in Nairobi

More about Kenya:

KENYA Part II: Eat and Dance in Nairobi

Enjoy it and stay tuned!!! 🙂

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