Things to do in Nairobi

Things to do in Nairobi

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Baby elephants, friendly giraffes and other wildlife are the focus of attention in Kenya’s capital. Here are 10 things to do in Nairobi.

1-Foster an elephant

things to do in nairobi
Photos: Christina Pfeiffer

Visit the orphaned baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

At 11am each day (for one hour only) members of the public are allowed into the elephant enclosure to watch the cute baby elephants guzzling milk from a bottle.

Keepers provide informative and entertaining talks about elephant behaviour while the curious baby elephants entertain the crowd with their antics.

The trust is a not-for-profit organisation established in 1977 after the death David Sheldrick, a naturalist and warden at Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park.

Over the last 30 years, David’s wife, Daphne, has built a reputation as a wildlife authority. Her persistence led to the discovery of an elephant milk formula that has saved hundreds of orphaned elephants.

Entry is free but donations of Ksh300 are encouraged.

The trust also runs an animal fostering programme where for $US50 you’ll receive a fostering certificate, a watercolour print of you fostered elephant and monthly updates on how your fostered elephant is faring for one year.

2-Kiss a giraffe

At the Giraffe Centre, there’s a raised platform that provides visitors the chance to stand at eye level with the centre’s resident Rothschild giraffes.

The giraffes are used to human contact and will eat peanut pellets out of your hand or lick them from between your lips.

Inside the centre, there’s an educational display about the various subspecies of African giraffes and the areas each group are most commonly found.

The Rothschild Giraffe is an endangered species that is threatened by hybridisation (or interbreeding) with other giraffe subspecies.

Next to the giraffe centre, Giraffe Manor has cosy English country manor accommodation with giraffes peering through the bedroom windows.

things to do in nairobi

3-Carnivorous pursuits

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Kenya’s most famous nyama choma (barbequed meat) restaurant – Carnivore – is constantly voted as one Africa’s top restaurants.

At the entrance, there’s a huge barbeque pit stacked with swords of beef, pork, lamb and chicken.

Waiters in animal-print uniforms keep bringing swords of meat around to the tables, carving off chunks onto your plate.

The restaurant also serves more exotic meats like camel, ostrich (don’t miss the ostrich balls) and crocodile but new laws have taken zebra, hartebeest, kudu and other wildlife off the menu.

Wash the meal down with a glass or two of dawa, a classic Kenyan cocktail made at the table by the dawa man who carries a wooden tray with the ingredients – vodka, sugar, lime and honey – required.

4-Culture and history

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For a dose of history and culture, wander through the National Museum. There are galleries with displays of Kenyan culture and stuffed wildlife.

The gardens are dotted with a variety of sculptures, including a life-size model of Ahmed, the elephant that became an icon at the height of the 1980’s poaching crisis. Volunteer guides offer tours in English.

5-City views

things to do in nairobi

Gaze at the view of the city and suburbs from the viewing platform at the Kenyatta Conference Centre.

The centre, with its dome-shaped tower, stands out along the Nairobi skyline and is a fusion of contemporary and traditional African styles.

6-City safari

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Pull on your khakis and head off on safari.

Nairobi is the only city in the world with a wildlife park that has a backdrop of skyscrapers.

Situated at southern outskirts of the city, the animals in Nairobi National Park are unperturbed by speeding matatus (public minibuses) and landing jets.

There’s a good chance of spotting gazelles, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, lions, cheetahs and leopards.

The landscape is a mixture of savannah and swamp land and the park also boasts a high concentration of black rhinos.

7-Out of Africa

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The Karen Blixen Museum conjures images of the movie Out of Africa, which starred Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

The museum is located in the farmhouse where the real Karen Blixen, the Danish baroness and coffee planter who wrote Out of Africa, lived between 1914 and 1931.

It’s surrounded by lovely gardens and is located in the suburb of Karen. Blixen, who wrote under the alias of Isak Dinesen, was one of Europe’s most famous writers on Africa.

A short drive down the road from the museum is the Karen Blixen Cottages and Coffee Gardens with cottage-style accommodation and five different indoor and outdoor dining areas.

8-Go native

Shake your hips and move your lips to the rhythmic music of the tribes.

The Bomas of Kenya is a cultural centre that displays bomas (or villages) of several Kenyan tribes and is the place to go to meet tribes from across Kenya.

Music, cultural and colourful dance performances are held every day.

9-City markets

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Load up with souvenirs at the City Market on Muindi Mbingu Street (open daily from 9am until 5pm, Sundays from 9am until 1pm).

The market is packed with carvings, scarves, masks and bags. You’ll find yourself pestered by vendors and are likely to come out draped in beads.

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10-Flock to the flamingos

Great Rift Valley Kenya - Flamingos at Lake Natron

A day trip from Nairobi brings you to Lake Magadi, a mineral-rich soda lake that pink flamingos flock to by the thousands.

The flamingos are able to nest in safety as the lake is surrounded by extensive salt flats where other animals cannot survive.

This lake was also where the movie The Constant Gardener was filmed.

Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Abercrombie & Kent and South Africa Airways

Discover Kenya

Staying in Nairobi

Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel

Where else to go in Kenya

Kenya is known for its big game safaris where you can spot the Big Five. The Maasai Mara is the most popular safari destination in Kenya. Here are places to stay and experiences in the Maasai Mara.

Hot air ballooning in the Maasai Mara
Exploring the Maasai Mara

Check out these three luxury safari camps:

Kempinski Olare Mara
Mahali Mzuri Maasai Mara
Olonana Maasai Marathings to do in nairobi