During my recent trip to Africa I spent a few days in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. We were on our way to Zanzibar from Rwanda and the flights we were looking at stopped there anyway…. So why not!
Landing into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport I was surprised at how close the runway was to the national park, such a big open space right next to the city skyline.
Exploring Nairobi was definitely an experience, it’s one of the craziest cities I’ve ever been to, winding, dusty streets, that were constantly busy! I always felt very disoriented and never knew where I was going. It probably didn’t help that half the time I was walking with my head down. I don’t think people were aiming for this but I often found them to be very intimidating, mainly because we were getting a lot of stares and men regularly yelling out “Mzunga” (white person).
My friend Bianca and I spent three nights in Nairobi staying at the Decasa Hotel in Nairobi’s city centre. This hotel was nothing to rave about, very basic but for only 135USD for 3 nights, I can’t complain too much. The price also included breakfast and airport pick up.
The local currency is Kenyan Shilling and 1,000 Shillings are worth around 10UDS.
Part of the reason we decided to spend time in Nairobi was so Bianca could see her friend Kennedy. Kennedy is a Nairobi local and someone I’m so thankful I got to meet. He spent a lot of his childhood living on the city streets, before being fortunate enough to move into a home that cared for him and other kids in similar situations. It was admiring to meet someone that has been brought up in such a tough environment and has grown-up with such a kind heart and inquisitive nature. Over the few days we were in Nairobi, Kennedy showed us around and always looked after us and our belongings. I think hanging out with Kennedy made my time in Nairobi much more relaxing and enjoyable.
What we got up to in Nairobi!
Nairobi National Park:
A day pass for 2 foreigners and 1 local cost $368.00USD. We had a private van (the roof came off for better game viewing) and our driver was in radio contact with other vehicles. The price included all the park entrance fees but no food or drink.
We headed into the park at 11am. We were at bit worried it would be too hot at this time of day for the animals to be up and about but we saw a lot more than expected;
Lions // Zebras // Giraffes // Buffalo // Hippopotamus //Impala // Ostrich // Pigs.
We saw 2 southern white rhinos (mum and baby) from the distance, which was super exciting. You can’t drive off road in Nairobi National Park so unfortunately we weren’t able to get close. But it was exciting to know they were there.
I’ve been to other national parks in Africa and I didn’t find this one nearly as good but it was still a great day and it was cool seeing the city skyline in the distance.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:
This is a home to many orphaned elephants and operates an elephant rescue and rehabilitation program. It’s a very successful conservation organisation that is protecting these beautiful animals as well as their habitats. The centre is open to the public for strictly 1 hour per day, from 11:00-12:00noon. They ask for a minimum contribution of 500 shillings per person to enter.
From 11am the public is welcomed to stand around the boundaries of a roped off area and a group of elephants will come down at a time, starting from the youngest. They were so cute, they’d come running down the hill knowing there was milk ready for them. The keepers would give them two bottles each and the formula is actually human baby formula. Then they just wander around, interact with humans (if they choose to), ate leaves & played in the mud, all while the host is speaking and informing us about each elephant’s situation and how they ended up there. Most of the elephants are there because they became orphaned after their parents died, generally killed by poachers.
He also explained that they do try to release the elephants back into the wild. When the elephants are ready, they’re taken into the national park daily to mix with wild elephants, then go back to the centre in the evening. They know they are fully rehabilitated and ready to live in the wild when the elephant chooses not to go back with them. I thought that was so cute.
It’s a beautiful place that is doing incredible work for Kenya’s wildlife. There are also a few stalls as you exit where you can purchase souvenirs and make a further donation.
Have you ever wanted to kiss a giraffe? Because this is the place to do it! To enter the giraffe centre will cost you 1,000KES and this includes food you can give to them. This is the same property that the giraffe Manor is on (you know that hotel where the Giraffes stick their heads in your window) and you can see the hotel in the distance. All of the Giraffes are free to roam the property and only come to humans when they want to (or when they are hungry). The centre breeds the Giraffes and will then release the young into the wild. They have a few adults who live there permanently.
It’s a fun visit with plenty of opportunities to get a selfie; if you did want to kiss a Giraffe, place a small palette of food between your lips and the giraffe will come right over.
Mamba Village Nairobi, Crocodile Farm:
This park wasn’t a far drive from the Giraffes and cost 10USD to enter, this price included a guide but they’ll expect a tip at the end.
Our guide was very helpful and informative. He showed us all over the park visiting the crocodiles, Tortoise and Ostriches. I didn’t overly like this place; I found it a bit dirty and there were way too many crocodiles in each enclosure.
Gathiga Children’s Hope Home:
This is an orphanage we were lucky enough to spend that day at. Gathiga is about a 1 hour drive from the city centre and we travelled there by local bus. This is where Kennedy spends a lot of his time and he happily took us along on our last day. Children’s Hope Home cares for many children, most of whom have come from the streets.
I’ve visited many Orphanages in Nepal, so in comparison to some of them I found these facilities to be really good.
I love visiting places like this, the love and support inside those walls was inspiring. If you’d like to check out their website click here.
Depending on what days you’re in the city, Nairobi has markets where you can get local souvenirs and there are also big upscale shopping malls. We visited The Hub Karen Mall Nairobi. It was massive and had a number of international stores and restaurants. Since the 2013 terrorist attack at Westgate shopping mall, there is a large security presence at the cities malls, so expect to get your bags checked when you arrive.
I still don’t know how I feel about Nairobi, it’s just a big and busy city and I feel it’s a very harsh place. I’m not an overly cautious traveller but I was told by many locals to always keep my belongings very close and to never use my phone on a bus or car next to an open window, because there’s a high chance someone will reach in and grab it. I was fortunate enough to never experience anything like that though. Everyone I met in Nairobi was lovely and very helpful, so they made the trip well worth it.
When we were leaving it was easy enough to get a taxi off the street, the driver was lovely and drove via our hotel so we could collect our luggage. The trip to the airport from the city centre cost 2,000 Shillings.
After a few days in Nairobi I was ready to swap the dusty streets for salty seas, click here if you’d like to read my Zanzibar blog!
The post Experiencing Nairobi ~ The City, The Animals & The People. appeared first on A World To Live.