Introducing guest blogger Nadine from The Expat Mummy
Kenya is one of the most scenic and diverse countries in the world. Home to the Maasai Mara with its famed migration of wildebeest and huge numbers of cats (lions, leopards, and cheetah) to the Great Rift Valley, that huge rent through the earth so large it can be seen from space. A rift that is filled with soda lakes, volcanoes, and bubbling hot springs.
Kenya hosts the second largest mountain in Africa (Mount Kenya), Africa’s largest lake (Victoria,) all of Africa’s big five, and its capital city, Nairobi, Africa’s third-largest economy.
Nairobi is neither ancient, beautiful, or scenic but immersed in nature, making it a must-visit for any animal lover and a gateway to Kenyan safari experiences.
Here are 7 places to take your visitors in Nairobi.
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of local parents
Places to Visit in Nairobi
Nairobi National Park
Let’s start with Nairobi National Park, it is the singularly most wonderful and spectacular thing you can do with visitors in Nairobi.
Nairobi National Park is over 110 sq. km of savannah, forest and rivers populated by 4 of the big 5 and many other of safari’s favourite animals.
It is located within the city bounds; you can be at the airport or dropping your kids off at school and 15 minutes later witness a lion kill a zebra. Numerous tour companies will take you on a safari in the park, but we prefer to self-drive.
The park is vast but easy to navigate, and you will see an abundance of animals. Lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, cheetah, gazelle, giraffe, zebra, hyena and many more are here, the only notable absence is the elephant. Elephants were relocated some years ago due to human-wildlife conflict.
Nairobi National Park is Nairobi’s diamond in the water. A gem unlike any other to be found in a capital city, but emblematic of Kenya as a whole. If you do one thing when you are here, visit Nairobi National Park.
Kitengela Glass is slightly outside of Nairobi, a 40-minute drive from Karen but it’s worth it. A collision of all that is weird and wonderful, Kitengela glass makes world-famous glass sculptures, bowls, plates and glasses and has an onsite shop where you can purchase them at a far cheaper price than in the shops.
However, it’s not the shop’s attraction but rather the place itself. Kitengela Glass is a Dali-esque world of bizarre art and sculptures collected around a huge dome that houses the forge.
Kids will love to watch the glass blowing process and adore hunting for ‘gems’ (glass offcuts) that are scattered around the site. Head next door to Nani’s place for an even more bizarre experience and some gorgeous stained glass windows and ornaments.
The Village Market
The Village Market in Gigiri has something for everyone. Arguably be best, and definitely my favourite, mall in Kenya it has a hodgepodge of shops from brands you’ll recognise to tiny stalls selling antiques and Moroccan-style lights and rugs.
It has over 20 restaurants and cafés and is designed with indoor and outdoor spaces, and a ton of plants, making it a genuinely great place to spend time. The Village Market is also one of the best places to take the kids, especially if it is a rainy day, as there is a huge soft play, a trampoline park and a bowling alley.
Nairobi Safari Walk
Located next to Nairobi National Park the Nairobi Safari Walk is the closest you get to a zoo in Nairobi. It may seem a little strange to take visitors to see animals in captivity when they are just a few hundred metres away in all their wild and free glory, but if you have kids, this is a great option as you can guarantee a sighting.
Safari can be very hit and miss and there is a good chance you won’t see a lion or rhino at all.
The Nairobi safari walk takes in 3 different habitats: forest, savannah and wetlands and is home to some of the rarer animals in Kenya, including a rhino, pygmy hippo, leopard, lion, cheetah, hyena as well as usual zebra, monkey and antelope.
A raised boardwalk circles the area, allowing you to get up close to the animals without any danger to them or yourselves. There is a children’s museum, and you can take a guided tour where the rangers will talk about the animals, their habitats and threats of extinction.
It’s a sure winner for the kids with a guarantee of seeing some of the animals you may miss in Nairobi National Park.
Karura Forest is one of the largest urban forests in the world, located slap bang in the middle of Nairobi city. You enter a paradise of tall trees, rushing rivers and waterfalls even as you catch glimpses of the Nairobi skyline above the trees.
Karura Forest has acres of cycling and walking trails, and an abundance of animals, including gazelle, bush pigs, genet cats, civets, porcupines, Syke’s monkeys, pythons, green snakes, and monitor lizards. It has a fabulous restaurant called the River Café with a playground for the kids and a cocktail menu for the parents.
There is an obstacle/rope climbing course within the grounds if your kids haven’t burned off enough energy charging through the forest chasing monkeys.
The Giraffe Centre forms part of the larger Giraffe Sanctuary and backs on to the infamous Giraffe Manor hotel. The centre was started by the Melvilles back in the 1970s, who saw an opportunity to save the nearly extinct Rothschild Giraffe, who were being forced off their natural territory by human settlements.
Betty and Jock took two Rothschild giraffes and started a breeding programme in their garden in Hardy. Today the descendants of the original Rothschild Giraffe are cared for in the sanctuary.
During the day, the giraffe leaves the forests and visits the Giraffe Centre, where a raised platform allows you to meet them at head height. The giraffe are wild but are tame enough for tourists to feed.
If you are brave enough, hold a grass pellet between your teeth, and you can experience a giraffe kiss. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet and learn about a wild giraffe. These aren’t zoo animals. The trust has now released 40 giraffes back into the wild and grown numbers of Rothschild giraffes from 130 to over 300.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust or the Elephant Orphanage is another Nairobi must-do. The DSWT rescues orphaned and injured elephants from all over Tanzania and Kenya and rehabilitates them before releasing them back into the wild.
The trust cares for the elephants as they would an orphaned child. Each baby or teenager elephant has a carer 24/7 that is essentially a surrogate parent. The carers feed, sleep and even apply sunscreen to the elephants. The bond between them is a sight to behold.
The trust aims to release all their elephants back into the wild, and you can learn how they manage the transition between being babied and becoming sufficient enough to manage in the bush on their own.
Visitors can meet the elephants daily at 11.00 am for a talk, or you can adopt an elephant in advance and get a personal visit to the elephants where you can touch and even feed them as well as meet their carers.
About the Blogger
Nadine Murphy is a freelance writer and creator of the Kenyan travel and expat blog The Expat Mummy. She lives in Kenya with her husband and 3 children and spends her days travelling the country, sleeping next to elephants and searching for the perfect sundowner spot.
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