Things to do in Nairobi

Nairobi is the largest city between Johannesburg and Cairo, and a trip gives visitors insight into the many facets that make up urban Africa. The main reasons people travel to Nairobi are to either launch into one of Kenya's famous wildlife safaris or else travel to the coast. But the city itself offers buzzing markets, some interesting sightseeing and a lively nightlife.

Many visitors to Kenya don't spend too long in Nairobi, partially because of the city's reputation for danger and congestion. This is a shame because Nairobi is ultimately a welcoming and fascinating place with a range of worthwhile things to see and do. A day or two is all you will need to get the highlights package of Nairobi before setting off on your Kenyan adventures.

It's a good idea to hire a taxi driver, based on a recommendation at your hotel. Some of the top attractions are the National Museum, the delightful Giraffe Centre, the Karen Blixen Museum, and the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, not to mention the national park on the city's doorstep. A holiday in Nairobi can be taken virtually any time of year, although the summer months (November to February) are most popular with sunny, warm days.

Nairobi National Park and Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage photo

Nairobi National Park and Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Nairobi National Park is a compact and beautiful area of plains and wild bush, containing a large number of Africa's best-known animals. Large herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo a…

Nairobi National Park and Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Nairobi National Park is a compact and beautiful area of plains and wild bush, containing a large number of Africa's best-known animals. Large herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and giraffe roam the plains, alongside black rhino, ostrich, baboons, cheetah, leopard and lions. In the park is the Animal Orphanage where sick, wounded and abandoned animals are cared for and rehabilitated into the park, as well as an Educational Centre featuring a Safari Walk. Close by is the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where infant elephants and rhino orphaned because of poaching activities are looked after and eventually returned to the wild in Tsavo National Park. The centre is open every morning and visitors can watch the calves bathing in the mud hole and being bottle fed by human surrogate mothers.

Address Nairobi, Kenya

Website www.kws.go.ke/parks/nairobi-national-park

Amboseli National Park photo

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli is a park of giants, renowned for its herds of mighty tusked elephants presided over by the magnificent backdrop of Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. One of Africa's…

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli is a park of giants, renowned for its herds of mighty tusked elephants presided over by the magnificent backdrop of Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. One of Africa's most unforgettable images is the picture of these large creatures standing in silent reverence before the gigantic snow-covered mountain just over the border in neighbouring Tanzania. It's a relatively small park with wide plains merging with the distant skyline, affording good visibility in all directions.

Observation Hill rises from the centre for breathtaking views over the park and towards Mt Kilimanjaro, especially in the pink light of dawn. Meaning 'Place of Water' in the Maasai language, it has a continuous supply from Kilimanjaro's snowmelt, forming underground springs that feed the marshy patches and swamps home to hippos and a great variety of bird life. Predators are relatively scarce, apart from jackal and hyena, but there are large numbers of grazers such as wildebeest, zebra and gazelles on the grassy plains and giraffe among the thorn trees.

A popular way to take in the scenery is by way of a noiseless microlight flight, either from Nairobi or the Amboseli airstrip. There is a wide range of accommodation in and around the outskirts of the park for those wanting to extend the experience.

Address Loitoktok District, Rift Valley, Kenya

Website www.amboseli.com/

Mount Kenya National Park photo

Mount Kenya National Park

This national park encompasses Africa's second highest mountain, Mount Kenya, an extinct volcano with a series of jagged snow-covered peaks. The local Kikuyu people revere the moun…

Mount Kenya National Park

This national park encompasses Africa's second highest mountain, Mount Kenya, an extinct volcano with a series of jagged snow-covered peaks. The local Kikuyu people revere the mountain they call Kirinvaga as the home of their Supreme Being, Ngai, and traditionally Kikuyu homes are built to face the sacred summit. Part of the attraction is the incredible variation in flora and fauna due to the changes in altitude and its position on the equator. A favourite with hikers, the slopes are covered in thick forest, home to a variety of animals such as the black leopard. Bamboo, moorland and alpine vegetation give way to rock, ice and one of the world's rarest sights - equatorial snow. For those not wishing to climb, the park offers a pristine wilderness, lakes and glaciers, and is good for game viewing and hiking.

Address Mount Kenya National Park, Kenya

Website www.kws.go.ke/content/mount-kenya-national-park-reserve

Masai Mara National Reserve photo

Masai Mara National Reserve

Kenya's most visited park, commonly known as the Mara, is a wildly beautiful place with rolling savannah grasslands. It's an extension of the Serengeti Plains in neighbouring Tanza…

Masai Mara National Reserve

Kenya's most visited park, commonly known as the Mara, is a wildly beautiful place with rolling savannah grasslands. It's an extension of the Serengeti Plains in neighbouring Tanzania. It offers wonderful views and an extraordinary concentration of wildlife, including the Big Five, its large grazing herds attracting many other predators such as cheetah, leopard and hyena. The annual highlight is the Great Wildebeest Migration, when an estimated two million animals leave the dry plains of Tanzania to seek greener pastures in the north, arriving in the Mara from late June. Their entrance into the Mara makes a breathtaking spectacle, as they cross the crocodile infested waters of the Mara River. Also within the reserve is a Masai village holding demonstrations of traditional dance and music. The proud warriors have become a symbol of tribal Kenya with their beadwork, spears and red blankets.

Address Narok County, Kenya

Website www.maasaimara.com/

The Giraffe Centre photo

The Giraffe Centre

At the Giraffe Centre, visitors can experience the rare pleasure of hand-feeding these graceful and gentle creatures from a platform at eye-level. You can also enjoy its nature wal…

The Giraffe Centre

At the Giraffe Centre, visitors can experience the rare pleasure of hand-feeding these graceful and gentle creatures from a platform at eye-level. You can also enjoy its nature walks, with 160 species of bird among incredible trees while warthogs and giant tortoises live down below. This is the single best attraction for children in Nairobi and there are often groups of school kids that come for tours. Guides at the centre give educational talks and answer any questions you may have.

Address Giraffe Centre, Duma Road, Nairobi

Website www.giraffecenter.org/

Nairobi National Museum photo

Nairobi National Museum

The Nairobi National Museum is home to the great prehistoric finds from the Leakey family, including relics from mankind's earliest ancestors. The most famous fossil is the 1,5 mil…

Nairobi National Museum

The Nairobi National Museum is home to the great prehistoric finds from the Leakey family, including relics from mankind's earliest ancestors. The most famous fossil is the 1,5 million-years-old Turkana Boy, the most complete early human skeleton ever found. There are also fascinating sections on art, wildlife and local history. In many ways, it's a bit old-fashioned but a great place to learn about Kenya's culture and history. Local guides are available at the museum, with their knowledge enriching the exhibits. Apart from the wealth of artefacts and information in the museum, there are some wonderful sculptures and a herb garden, and also an attached snake park containing large venomous snakes, tortoises and crocodiles.

Address Kipande Rd, Nairobi, Kenya

Website www.museums.or.ke


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Karen Blixen Museum photo

Karen Blixen Museum

Karen Blixen was a notable Kenyan personality who lived and farmed on the outskirts of Nairobi from 1917 to 1931 when she returned to Denmark bankrupt and heartbroken at being forc…

Karen Blixen Museum

Karen Blixen was a notable Kenyan personality who lived and farmed on the outskirts of Nairobi from 1917 to 1931 when she returned to Denmark bankrupt and heartbroken at being forced to leave Africa. She authored acclaimed books including Out of Africa, which inspired an Oscar winning film of the same name. The main building of the original farmhouse, M'Bogani House, now houses the Karen Blixen Museum and retains much of its original furniture and items of interest. The museum is situated in the suburb of Karen, a short drive from the city centre. The stunning landscapes of the area, however, will be instantly recognisable. Those who have seen the much-loved movie may also be curious about the Muthaiga Country Club: tourists can visit the original clubhouse, which is still active, but women won't be allowed in the members' bar.

Address Karen Road, Langata, Nairobi

Website www.museums.or.ke

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