Nairobi, Kenya, is a sub saharan city often referred to as the green city in the sun. Boasting a population of just over 42 million, this multicultural melting pot hosts people from all over the world – different cultures, races and even religions. But one thing that cuts across all these demographics is the fact that while here, whether to live or just passing through for a visit, we all like to have a good time. Below are five of the best ways to enjoy this city as curated by someone who has loved and lived in it all her life made for anyone considering travelling to Nairobi. Some things are unique to Nairobi as you will see with the national park a stone’s throw away from the bustling centre, whereas some things can be found elsewhere but at a steeper cost and to a lesser degree. So read on to find out why Nairobi should be at the top of your list for your next vacation.
1. See Nairobi's Nature
The Nairobi National Park is one of Nairobi’s biggest selling points. The only city in the entire world to have a game park within its borders, Nairobi offers this one attraction among a host of others for all you nature lovers out there. You can take a game drive through the park where the promise of seeing at least one lion as well as a host of giraffes, buffalos, zebras among others is an exciting adventure in itself. For those of you who prefer guaranteed animal sightings, the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi offers an incredible opportunity to feed the giraffes right out of your hand, while the various parks such as the Snake Park and the elephant conservancy guarantee access to these beautiful creatures. The Nairobi Safari Walk also offers the opportunity to learn about the animals in Nairobi, as well as view them in their natural habitats whereas the orphanage gives visitors the chance to connect with rescued and often animals recovering from various injuries. The Butterfly Centre offers up the opportunity to see thousands of butterflies for the more gentle souls, whereas the Mamba Village brings you up close and personal with crocodiles in a crocodile farm.
2. Visit the Bomas of Kenya
Ever wanted to know about the 42 tribes in Kenya? Here is where you learn. This is a whole village exhibition where traditional values are taught and demonstrated in order to enhance the knowledge of the many millennials living in Nairobi, as well as the various visitors passing through. Traditional dances as well as acrobatic performances are also on display on a daily basis, so it is a one stop shop for anyone wanting to learn more about the cultural heritage of Kenya.
3. Enjoy Kenyan Cuisine
The Kenyan cuisine is as varied as it is delicious. Ranging from our take on grilled meat popularly known as “nyama choma” with the accompanying salad that goes with it known as “kachumbari”, Kenyan food is now crossing borders with restaurants that cater exclusively to this meal popping up as far as in Europe. But don’t worry, if you are not inclined to adventure with your palette, Nairobi is fast becoming a hub for international food chains. Unlike a few ago, when Nandos was the only available option for foreigners seeking to find something that reminds them of home, we now have big franchises such as Burger King and KFC setting up shop locally. Hotels offer incredible fine dining as well, with the likes of Kempinski also setting up shop in Kenya and offering both local and international cuisines to wet the appetite of both locals and visitors alike. The great thing about Nairobi being in a third world country is that while in, say, America, you would spend $100-200 to get a fine dining experience, it comes far cheaper here but at the same level of quality. $45 not only gets you a reservation at the hotel restaurant, but access to their all inclusive buffet that allows you to sample a variety of dishes with both vegetarian and non vegetarian meals available.
4. Visit the Maasai Market
Nairobi’s Maasai Market has been a thing of much discussion among the many tourists in Nairobi. Found in different places on different days, this constantly shifting attraction is one that draws thousands of visitors to itself every year. It is here that local, handmade crafts can be purchased directly from the women who make them. These items range from colourful beads to beautifully crafted pots that signify anything from wealth and fertility to good fortune for your house. Even if you don’t buy into the hype, the craftsmanship and colours of the items show the creativity and resilience of the Maasai people, after whom the marketplace was named. They are the most internationally recognized tribe in Kenya, with the Maasai shuka even being adapted by top designers across the world as they pay homage to this standout tribe. So rather that spending hundreds of dollars on Loius Vitton’s 2012 spring/summer collection, why not buy one directly from a woman in the tribe itself and have an truly authentic African piece for your own collection.
5. Explore the Malls
Regardless of the bad publicity Nairobi saw with the attack on the Westgate mall a few years ago, the Kenyan mall scene is a fast growing hub for international and local brands alike. Being named last year as one of the top five shopping centre developments outside of South Africa in Knight Frank’s “The Shop Africa 2016 report”, Nairobi has established herself as a magnet for international brands. It is highly likely, then, that whatever taste of home your heart desires can be found in a mall. From Victoria Secret stores to Pizza Huts, from Woolworths to Levi’s stores and even Bath and Body Works outlets, you are guaranteed to find something close to – if not exactly- what you want. This is why the mall scene in Nairobi is not one to be trifled with. New constructions are coming up every day, giving the international community a place where they can wander around without feeling as though they stand out too much in a crown of locals while still giving them a chance to interact with the local “scene” so to speak. It’s a happy medium, and one that I think any tourist would fit right into. Travel to Nairobi and experience it all for yourself.