Say Kenya and you instantly think wildlife. But before you take off on that safari, stop awhile in Nairobi. With extraordinary thrills on offer, the city will make your trip more than worthwhile.
1. Safari walk
If you haven’t time to go on a Masai Mara Safari then try the Nairobi National Park — the only park in the world so close to a city centre. Go on a Game drive and stay in tented camps or take a walking safari tour to meet the lions, cheetahs, leopards, buffalos, hippos or even a black rhino.
Open from 8.30 am everyday.
Entrance fee: $40 for non-Kenyans or considerably more if you go with a tour operator.
2. Bond with the Giraffes
A brain wave of Betty and Jock Leslie-Melville, The Giraffe Centre breeds Rothschild Giraffes found only in East Africa. Have them eat out of your hands or slobber all over you at the Centre. You can also stay at the Melville home at Giraffe Manor and have them join you for breakfast.
Open: 9 am to 5.30 pm daily
Entrance fee: Giraffe Centre — 1000 KES
Giraffe Manor — $500 (adult) and $325 (child) per night (includes airport transfers and all meals). Closed in May.
3. Join the calves at play
Drop in on cute little elephant orphans (whose mothers have been killed by ivory poachers) at Dame Sheldrick’s Elephant and Rhino Orphanage. If you are lucky you’ll also be able to see baby rhinos in their nursery enjoying their mud baths. Want to adopt a baby elephant? You can at $50 a year. Situated inside the National Park, it is run by the David Sheldrick Trust.
Open: 11 am - 12 noon only, unless you’re fostering one. Then you can go in at 5 pm too every day.
Entrance fee: 500 KES
4. Ultimate eating experience
Carnivore is a fun dining experience. Carved charcoaled meat served on Masai swords in an exotic atmosphere. Not just lamb, beef or pork but camel, ostrich and crocodile are on offer. Sizzling and unlimited, they keep coming till you — with a little white flag kept on the table — wave stop.
Cost: A full-course fixed menu (with bread, salad and soup) meal will set you back by about 3500 KES or $35.There is a vegetable platter too.
Open: Only for lunch and dinner
5. Live the “out of Africa” thrill
At the foot of the Ngonga hills is Karen Blixen Museum, the old colonial farmhouse of Danish author Karen Blixen and her husband Baron Blixen-Finecke. It is also where the movie Out of Africa based on her autobiography was shot. Wander around her bedroom, check out her furniture, her linen and her crockery plus the large antique coffee machine in a corner of the garden.
Open: 9.30 am to 6 pm daily.
Entrance fee: 800 KES (adult), 400 KES (child)
6. Bead making
Kazuri Beads and Pottery Centre was set up to help disadvantaged African women. Check out how beads and pots are fired and glazed. Then shop for lovely necklaces, bracelets and earrings of every conceivable hue.
Open: Monday to Saturday — 8.30 am to 6 pm.
7. Soak in the local culture
The Bomas of Kenya is a cultural centre with a large amphitheatre where traditional dance and song shows are held most afternoons. Also walk through a prototype of a typical African village nearby.
Performances: Monday to Friday 14.30 hrs/ Saturday to Sunday 15.30 hrs
Entrance: 600 KES (adult), 300 KES (child)
8. Take in some old-world charm
The Muthaiga Country Club is a beautiful relic of the colonial era. Amazingly well preserved and set among some lovely fauna, its rules and traditions hark back to the days of the British Empire. Get hold of a member to take you in. It’s worth it.
9. Shop for African takeaways
Head for the many Masai Markets that spring up in street corners, in front of malls and all over the city on various days of the week. Your hotel or cab driver or guide will tell you where to find them.
10. Get ready for the Mara
Now, on to the single most compelling reason why you would make that trip to Nairobi: Kenya-Masai Mara Safari. It is actually a once-in-a-lifetime experience — watching the Big Five (Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino), bonding with the Zebras and roaming the savannah in an open jeep. Best time to visit — July to October.
Rather than going it alone, it is best to get in touch with any of the numerous Safari tour operators whose itinerary would ideally run like this.
Cost: Per adult — twin sharing $850-1000 approximately, depending on choice/ place of stay.
Visa: Visa is on arrival. Single entry — payable only in dollars — is $25.
Flights: Jet Airways and Kenya Airways fly daily non-stop from Mumbai to Nairobi (flying time is six hours)
Fares: Rs.30,000-35,000 round trip
Exchange rate: 1USD ($) = 82.45 Kenyan Shillings (KES) approximately. 1 INR (Rs) = 1.52 (KES) approximately.
Note: Yellow Fever Vaccination — 10 days before departure is a must.