Things to do in Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi is a fascinating and vibrant metropolis with a population of around 6.5mil in its metro area. It is the capital and the largest city in Kenya.Nairobi is at the altitude of 1,795m above sea level which means the evenings definitely get cooler. As Nairobi is situated close to the equator, the differences between the seasons are minimal. The seasons are referred to as the wet season and dry season. The timing of sunrise and sunset varies little throughout the year for the same reason.
- December, January and February are part of the hot dry season
- March is when the intermittent rains start
- April and May are the months of heavy long rains when a lot of camps close
- June, July, August and September are the cooler, usually more overcast months
- October and November are part of the short rainy season
What to see in Nairobi
Nairobi is home to Nairobi National Park, a truly incredible park located just a short drive from the Nairobi CBD. It is a unique opportunity to get that famous photo of the wildlife with Nairobi’s towers as the backdrop. I highly recommend it even if you have a safari booked. We saw an abundance of wildlife there and at one point had rhinos right next to our car which is the closest we ever ended up seeing them. We learned a lot about the dynamics of wildlife and city life cohabitating in such proximity during our day at the park.
“I had a house in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills”… If you’ve ever watched or read Out of Africa, the Karen Blixen museum is a must visit. A very detailed and colorful guided tour provides an insight into the life of Baroness Blixen.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was established more than 40 years ago and is best known for its Orphans Project, the first and most successful elephant orphan rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. The Orphanage / Nursery is open to the public for one hour every day, excluding 25th December, from 11am to Noon. You’ll get to see the orphans run down for their feeding time after which they usually indulge in a completely adorable mud bath. Entrance to the Orphanage for the visiting hour is US$7 dollars / 500 Kenya Shillings per person, cash only.
Kazuri beads factory
Kazuri beads factory tells a beautiful story of entrepreneurship. Kazuri means “small and beautiful” in Swahili. It was first started in 1975 as a tiny workshop experimenting in hand crafted ceramic beads. The founder, Susan Wood, started the project with two single mothers and soon discovered that there were many others in the villages around Nairobi, most of who were disadvantaged and were in great need of regular employment. Today Kazuri employs over 340 women skilled in the crafting of ceramic beads, strung into beautiful pieces of jewelry, each piece, like the beads, is handmade and hand painted in rich colors. Kazuri is worth a visit, both the tour of the factory as well as the gift shop. You will leave Kazuri with a lot of souvenirs and presents that have a beautiful story. We came home with 2 beautiful hand made coffee cups and a small milk pot/jug that we use regularly. We also couldn’t resist some of the jewelry and ceramic figurines that had so much character.
Should your budget allow treat yourself to a stay at Giraffe Manor. It is costly but unforgettable. Not to be missed is the Giraffe Centre which allows you up close and personal time with the giraffe with an entrance fee of around USD15 per person.
Carnivore is a famous restaurant in Nairobi, in the Langata suburb. Carnivore’s specialty is meat, and features an all-you-can-eat meat buffet. They serve a wide variety of meat and were famous for their game meat until Kenya imposed a ban on the sale of game meat in 2004. We tried the basics like chicken and beef but also experimented by trying ostrich and crocodile. There’s a mini white flag on your table and until you drop the flag the servers will keep offering more meat.
Kibera – the slum
Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa. Some sources suggest the total population may be 500,000 to well over 1,000,000 depending on which slums are included in defining Kibera. Most of Kibera slum residents live in extreme poverty, earning less than $1.00 per day. Unemployment rates are high. There are few schools, and most people cannot afford an education for their children. Clean water is scarce. Diseases caused by poor hygiene are prevalent. A great majority living in the slum lack access to basic services, including electricity, running water, and medical care. When driving around Nairobi Kibera cannot be missed, if you are in the area, driving on the road almost above it you will be shocked by its size. We were only able to take in how big it actually is when we took off from Wilson Airport to the Masai Mara. Visiting KIbera on your own is not advised, should you be interested in seeing the day to day life in the slum you should have a local guide you trust.
Nairobi has had some incredibly sad and scary terrorist attacks in the past and most recently in January 2019, just days prior to our arrival. I have to say we felt very safe in Nairobi. We were there for 3 days and stayed in Karen. We mostly kept to the area but we did find ourselves in and around the CBD of Nairobi a few times. What takes some getting used to is the heavily armed security post prior to the entrance of pretty much every place you visit: malls, restaurants as well as every hotel. From the Canadian government website : “There is a high crime rate in most regions of Kenya, particularly in major cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, and at coastal beach resorts. Carjacking, home invasions and kidnappings occur, including during daylight hours and in neighbourhoods normally considered safe. Petty crimes, such as purse-snatchings, pickpocketing and robberies, also occur.On the road, be especially vigilant when stopped at traffic lights, as bags can be snatched from passenger seats by thieves travelling on scooters or on foot. Keep your windows closed, doors locked and valuables out of reach and sight.Tourists have been the target of carjacking, robberies and kidnappings while travelling to or from the international airports in Nairobi and Mombasa. When arriving at these airports, you should only use transportation organized by reputable tour companies or well-marked taxis. Be particularly vigilant if you are commuting alone. “
You can find more details here. (https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/kenya). The Government website is updated regularly.
There is chaos on the streets of Nairobi when it comes to traffic. With the amount of people living and working in the metro area there is a great need for adequate public transportation. Currently there are 2 options when it comes to getting around Nairobi: matatu and boda boda. Matatu are privately owned minibuses. Often decorated, many matatu feature portraits of famous people or slogans and sayings. They are colorful and often play very loud music and can also be fairly unreliable when it comes to timing and direction of where they are going as well as be overcrowded. We haven’t used Matatu during our stay but I’ve found somewhere that the fares start at around KSh40 and may reach KSh100 for longer routes in Nairobi.Boda boda are bicycle and motorcycle taxis commonly found in East Africa. In the countries where they are present, boda boda can provide transportation options to riders and job opportunities to drivers while at the same time resulting in an increase in road hazards and collisions. Seeing a small motorbike with 3 people on it is a regular occurrence.
Ban on single use plastic bags
In Kenya, the use, manufacture or importation of plastic bags, including garbage bags and shopping bags, is illegal. Convicted offenders, including tourists, can face very heavy fines (up to USD 40,000), imprisonment for up to two years, or both. Here is a pamphlet that might be helpful. https://www.nema.go.ke/images/featured/FAQS_on_plastics_ban.pdf )