what to do in Nairobi…
Wondering what you could do in Nairobi? Think it is just a horrible, big and unsafe city where all you can do is drink G&Ts on your balcony, day after day? Are you planning to visit us and want to know your options when we are ‘just’ at home in Nairobi?
There are so many things to do in Nairobi it is hard to write it all down in one blog post, but we will try to give you an idea by listing some of our favourite things. We love Nairobi and hope you will too after a visit! (ok, the traffic is diabolical but lets save that for another blog…)
We’ve divided the things you can do in sections:
- check out these animals…
- active stuff…
- workshops and art…
- drinking and eating…
- cultural stuff…
Check out these animals…
Yep, right in the middle of Nairobi is a national park with a lot of animals right on our doorstep. There are no elephants, but there are rhinos, hippos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and all the usual game animals. It’s quite big and you can easily spend a day here, bring a picnic and enjoy all the animals. There is also an animal orphanage and a safari walk that can be done here.
David Sheldrick elephant centre
We’ve been here many times and will happily go back many times again. There are usually around 30 elephant orphans here, ranging from a few months to just over 3 years old. At 11am sharp (365 days a year) you can watch them get their bottle of milk, play in the mud (if it is hot) and even touch them if they get close to you. If you are interested you can adopt one, just like we have done (you can meet our cute baby girl Kamok), and then you can even meet them again at 5pm when they come back from their walks in the forest, get their last milk bottle of the day and go to bed.
Another favourite with lots of people, and we happily go back here again and again too. They have built a platform so you are at head height with the giraffes and feed them the pellets they give you when you get there. It’s a breeding centre for the rare Rotschild’s giraffes, but they also have some warthogs and tortoises. We hope you enjoy the giraffe’s kiss…
On Wednesday mornings you can join a bird walk. People meet at the national museum and go to a different location every week. It is a fun activity, especially if you are learning about the East African birds, a must for every twitcher…
running, walking, mountain biking, animals, waterfall and caves
One of our favourite places in Nairobi. This forest is fenced off and perfectly safe to run, walk and mountain bike (bikes for hire too, but they aren’t great). You can see a whole range of different animals, including Sykes monkeys, Colobus monkeys, Dik Diks, porcupines, etc if you are lucky and there is even a little waterfall and some caves to check out.
Wednesday night in Karura – For those of you who are in Perth, Adelaide or Brisbane (or have visited us there) you will know what we’re talking about. Every week we meet for an hour run and in Nairobi we run in Karura. Instead of bringing a plate to share we go out for dinner and try to go to many different restaurants. You can join the run, go for a walk or ride or just join for dinner afterwards.
mountainbiking or walking
We go riding in the Ngong Hills regularly and love it. There are many trails, some single track, some 4WD tracks to ride and if you are lucky you can still see some giraffes and other wildlife around the tracks. There is also a hike you can do over the ridge line of the Ngong Hills, starting at the windfarm and finishing at Corner Buridi.
mountain biking and tours
We haven’t done much riding here as we usually ride in the Ngong Hills, but there are plenty of trails in these hills around the coffee and tea plantations. Most are 4WD tracks. It is also possible at some of these plantations to have a tour followed by lunch. We haven’t done this personally, but can set you up if you are interested.
A fantastic concept they should introduce in a lot more cities around the world as it is not only a fantastic way to meet like-minded people, but also to see different areas of a town and the areas around it. Every week a 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40km route is set (sometimes even longer distances are set) with chalk arrows and along the way you can decide which distance you want to do. At various points along the route it will show the turn off to head back for 10km, then 15km, etc. A great way to enjoy a longer run if you feel good at the decision point. Downside is they run on Saturday morning (7 AM start) so we tend to miss a lot of the runs because we are away most weekends exploring the rest of the country. But whenever we are in town we will always join them!
Yes, there are plenty of amazing golf courses to try in and around Nairobi and no, we haven’t tried any of them… but if you love golf you can certainly bring your clubs and go for a game. We can drop you off and pick you up later 🙂
Not far from Nairobi is Savage Wilderness Camp where you can go rafting (up to grade 4 on the Tana River), bungee jumping or ziplining. They can also organise longer rafting trips on different rivers which we would love to try. We have done the short trip on the Tana River which was a fun half day out.
Oh yes, plenty of those around and with an hour sports massage anywhere between $20 and $40 you can’t really go wrong. They also offer things like pedicures, manicures and all types of massage you can possibly think of. We have one at walking distance from our compound, so we can certainly get our fix of massages…. We also have a swimming pool, little gym and sauna on our compound to enjoy. And we regularly run circuits on the road around our house.
Workshops and art…
Started in the 70s with a handful of women, now a big workshop selling all over the world. They hand-make and hand-paint every single bead and turn it into beautiful necklaces, bracelets and other things. Also has other hand-made and hand-painted pottery. You can get a tour of the workshop before exiting via the shop. Beautiful products and a great example of a well-run project employing local women and men from the slum areas. Has a small café too, but that’s not worth it.
Still a small business, but growing. Turns the beautiful local fabric called shuka (the blankets the Masaai people wear) into anything and everything with the help of local seamstresses. Also does a few other random things like beautifully engraved glasses and a bit of leather and paper work. Sells a few things for other crafts people too. Recently a bakery has opened on the same site.
Recycling of thongs (flip-flops). Another great example of how to create local jobs, recycle rubbish (they pay anybody for each kg of rubber they bring in) and make something beautiful with the materials – again you can have a tour of the facilities before you are left in the shop where they sell a lot of things including of course their own colourful animals made of recycled thongs. They also have a café on site for a lunch stop.
Amani ya Juu
A lovely old home with quite a large garden, turned into a place where single mothers are given a chance. They make a lot of things that they display (and sell) in the house, mostly things made of cloth. The gardens are the location of the café and they do a good lunch and fantastic chai tea. It’s also very close to Jon’s office so we can meet Jon here for lunch.
Another artisan place where you can have lunch too. Great cafe and beautiful things made of bronze for sale. Bring a thick wallet as things aren’t cheap here!
A weird and wonderful place with a little café and many artists creating everything possible with glass. It’s located on the outskirts of Nairobi and is quite a drive, if you don’t have time to go there we can always go to their shop at the Village Market where they sell lots of vases and other glassware.
Drinking and eating…
Purdy Arms, Talisman, Amani ya Juu, Hemingways, Karen Blixen coffee garden, About Thyme, Spinners Web, Utamaduni, Urban Eatery, River Café, Tin Roof Café, Marula Mercantile, The Arbor, Matbronze. These are all restaurants or cafes not located in a mall – need I say more? (some also have local crafts for sale, see above). Some of these also do dinner of course…
We have named 2 restaurants separately (Carnivore and Brew Bistro), but there are plenty of other places to eat too of course. We have our favourites and often go to one of the many Ethiopian restaurants in town for delicious food. Other restaurants you can find us regularly: Chowpati (vegetarian Indian, a favourite of many of our friends too), Nyama Mama (a modern twist to the Kenyan cuisine), Open House (another Indian), Seven (fish), Talisman, or pizza 360 (guess what they serve). There are some good Italian and Japanese restaurants here too, there is an African restaurant (a bit expensive for what it is) and there is always the food court in Village Market where you can get a great variety. And we keep discovering new places as well!
A very interesting Kenyan thing is Karogas, meaning ‘cook yourself’ in Swahili. It’s a unique way of eating an Indian curry freshly cooked from scratch, so expect to be here for a few hours before you eat!
Water park and Carnivore
We haven’t been to the waterpark, but have been at the restaurant where it is apparently located, Carnivore. Carnivore is an all you can eat Nyama Choma (the local style of bbq) where they serve some pretty decent dawa too. Dawa is the local drink, meaning ‘medicine’ in Swahili… (you can try one here in case Jon hasn’t made you one at home). There is supposed to be an African Heritage House here too…
Yep, Nairobi has its own micro brewery (there are two branches of Brew Bistro). It makes some good ales, has pretty decent food and good music too (occasionally life performance), making this a great place for dinner as well.
There are plenty of places to go out for a drink and even listen to live music and we certainly haven’t tried all of them yet, but we are actively exploring once in a while. You can pick anything from a loungy type place with hot waitresses to the more down to earth bar with plenty of prostitutes or the nightclubs with great African dancing music, one of which is just located on the other side of our compound… (Caramel, Gipsy’s, Havanas, Bacchus, Black Diamond, Juniper, The Elephant, Cloud 9, The Alchemist, Galileo to name a few of the places we have checked out).
Brown’s Cheese factory
Tour plus lunch option with plenty of cheese to try.
The Masaai Market is on almost every day of the week, but every day at a different location. We’ve been quite a few times and enjoy walking around and haggling for prices with the many stallholders. It’s a very enjoyable experience and they have a lot of different crafts for sale, something for everybody.
This is where many of the sales people of the Masai Markets have a stall. It is a great place to wonder around, many people actually make their crafts here. We love walking around, talking to the people and watching them make things. And of course buying things as well after some good haggling for the price.
Random hotel with African and central Asian antiques
As we explore other places a bit more off the beaten track we can also take you to some really random place where you can find all sorts of amazing beads and authentic African pieces, some of them antiques. It is located in a hotel in the CBD where people from all over Africa rent a room where they sleep, live and display their wares. A fun experience for the more adventurous.
Biashara St, Gaborone Lane and Mombasa House on River Rd – all in the CBD
If you love the Kenyan fabrics as much as we do, we can show you where to get them for a better price than on the tourist markets and with way, way more choice. It is our standard go to place for any fabric and you’ll see some things we made from fabrics we bought there when you enter our home. We tend to favour the kikoy, but shukas, kangas and kitenges are also all beautiful Kenyan fabrics. They even sell fabrics from other African nations if you prefer, we can introduce them to you and might even be able to recommend a seamstress if you need one.
Spinners Web and Utamaduni
If you don’t like haggling for prices or don’t like to be hassled by people, but still want to see a great variety of crafts on sale and don’t mind paying more than at the markets then Spinners Web is the pick. There is another place in Karen as well, but the quality and variety aren’t as good as at Spinners Web (we think). Both have a café so if you need a break from all the shopping we can always go for a cuppa or lunch at one of them too.
Karen Blixen museum
The old homestead from Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) has been turned into a museum. If you are into Out of Africa or enjoy seeing how people lived at the turn of the century then this is a must.
The National Museum is ok, with the ancient homonids being the most interesting exhibit room. The bird section is also impressive, but lacks a modern setup. The reptile park that is in the same grounds is really sad with animals in small cages.
There is a very small theatre in the CBD which occasionally has plays on, usually comedies. Worth checking out if you are around to support the local budding actors and actresses.
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