Layover Day Trip in Nairobi

Layover Day Trip in Nairobi

On my way back to Cyprus from Tanzania, I decided to take a day tour in Nairobi – and I’m so glad I did. You can get in touch with nature right in the heart of the city, and not only the usual parks or string of trees scattered in the city center. I’m talking about real African wildlife in the middle of a vibrant and advancing metropolitan.

I arrived in Nairobi airport early morning. A friendly guy greeted me at the airport and brought me to a nearby gas station to meet Peter, owner of Africa FlashMc Tours, the tour company my wife set me up with. We took a luxury van to a mall not too far away from where we were to have a nice breakfast together. Then, we started our Nairobi tour from there. Note that this is a free tour because Peter is a friend of my wife but I’m sharing this experience for the benefit of other “long lay-over travelers” who may want to do the same to have a glimpse of Nairobi.

So here’s where I spent my day in Nairobi:

DAVID SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST
GIRAFFE CENTRE NAIROBI
KAREN BLIXEN HOUSE
LOCAL DELIGHT- A TASTE OF NAIROBI
RIDE A MATATU- EXPERIENCING NAIROBI LIKE A LOCAL
THE HUB KAREN- NAIROBI’S MODERN MALLS

DAVID SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST


To kickoff our Nairobi tour, we went to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to visit orphan elephants and rhinos. In this wildlife habitat, you get to enjoy a nice and cute elephant show, you get to observe young elephants being fed and walking around while you learn each elephant’s background story! Aside from being able to pet them, the main highlight for me was their “Adopting program”. People are welcome to donate money for a certain elephant and as a donor, you get free access to visit them a number of times per year. You can also receive updates and stories from them straight to your inbox.

GIRAFFE CENTRE NAIROBI

Our next stop was the Giraffe Center. The concept is much alike to the Wildlife Trust except this one is for the highly endangered Rothschild’s giraffes. You can walk around the beautifully maintained park, get in contact with the giraffes and even hand-feed or kiss them from a raised wooden structure. Of course, that offers a spectacular photo opportunity to remember for a lifetime. That two-story wooden house also features an interesting gallery of pictures, stories and facts about the giraffes in the centre as well as in Kenya in general. They also have a guy explaining it all more in detail. What makes this place a must-visit is how close you can encounter the giraffes, how freely they wander the gardens and, if you visit their exclusive colonial guesthouse, you can experience giraffes pushing their heads through the large French windows to convince you to share food with them!

KAREN BLIXEN HOUSE

My “almost” perfect shot at the former home of Karen Blixen

Next on our list was a visit to the house of the famous Danish woman Karen Blixen who lived in Nairobi back in the 1920s with her husband. While I know Karen Blixen from my history back in Denmark and she definitely was an important figure in our history, I never realized how famous she was in Nairobi, Kenya. The entire area of Nairobi where the Elephant and the Giraffe centres is located, is called Karen after Karen Blixen and is the area where the upper class of Nairobi lives. Today, the historic 17th century house of Karen Blixen is a museum, bird sanctuary and park all in one. You will be given a guide, usually a local volunteer, who will take you around the house and explain the history of Karen Blixen and her husband and how they lived and contributed to the local community. It might be because I am from Denmark, but this was definitely my favourite tourist place in Nairobi and very interesting to hear the history and difference she made to Kenya and Nairobi.

LOCAL DELIGHT- A TASTE OF NAIROBI

After visiting 3 places we were getting hungry and I was asking my local guide for a good local place he could recommend to eat local food. I prefer that over just any other Western restaurant since I can eat in those anytime. He took me to a local restaurant or more of a sports bar, which I assume was a local favourite since I was definitely the only foreigner present. They had freshly barbecued meat and fish, and various other interesting local dishes. We had beer, some chicken and some sheep plus a few local side dishes that my guide ordered. All in all it tasted very nice. I am honestly not a fan of sheep or goat or anything similar, which is why I ordered the chicken, too. But when I tried their local dishes, it was actually pretty good as well.

RIDE A MATATU- EXPERIENCING NAIROBI LIKE A LOCAL

Inside a matatu

Peter had to meet other tourists so the guide was left to take care of me. The guide was very friendly, easy to talk to and very pleasant to be with. He asked if I wanted to try riding Nairobi’s local public transportation called “Matatu”. It is basically a van with seats for 8-10 people but locals usually squeeze in until they’re about 15 or probably even more. Of course, it’s a yes and I was very excited for the experience. The guide, who turned out to be Peter’s brother-in-law, talked to a Matatu driver and asked me to leave my personal belongings like phone and wallet with him just to be on the safe side, so I did. I sat at the back of the Matatu just beside the window and I got the impression that that experience was definitely not normal for westerners – I love it!

I have lived in the Philippines before and have travelled to various third world countries trying their local transportation but the Matatu was definitely different. First of all, the guy went incredibly fast, and was overtaking and going in and out between other cars. While doing that, the music was playing so loud you could barely hear the other passengers or even your own thoughts. Of course, you will always have that worry of safety especially when it’s your first time in the city. Peter’s brother-in-law was tailing the van the whole time by the way. After about 15 minutes of that fun and awesome experience, the driver dropped me off and I went back in the van again.

THE HUB KAREN- NAIROBI’S MODERN MALLS

A mall located in the area of Karen, The Hub is the more upscale shopping place of Nairobi. This was the first place I saw so far that was super modern. To get in, we needed to pass through a security gate with guards and all the standard security measures you have in these places. When I entered, I was quite amazed by how nice the place was on the inside – its avant-garde facade, outside garden features and beautiful man-made lakes. The Hub was a hive of international and local shops, restaurants and activities. We met with Peter’s family there and since it’s almost dinnertime, we went to a restaurant with a nice view over the garden area for food and beer. The food was reall nice, but what made my experience even better was the great company. Peter’s wife, brother in law and kid eventually went home early while Peter and I stayed. We talked about how my Nairobi tour went over a couple of beers. Surely, that was very fun and Peter and his team had been nothing but awesome. After that, Peter drove me to the airport where I went on my flight back to Cyprus.

All in all a really wonderful experience! I got to see different parts of Nairobi and most importantly, meet some really nice local people from there. I will definitely go back,  stay longer, and do a safari which Kenya is known for.

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