by Melanie Du Toit on September 1, 2016
5 min read

The gateway to Kenya is undoubtedly its capital city, Nairobi. As the transportation hub of the country, the city’s airports, roads, trains, and bus stations are responsible for ferrying guests to the aquamarine waters of the coastline, the expansive Rift Valley Lake region, the wide open savannahs of the Maasai Mara and verdant landscapes of the central highlands.

However, visitors would be mistaken to leave the capital unexplored, as it has proven time and time again to be one of the African continent’s most dynamic cities. Read on to discover but a taster of what this magical East African gateway has to offer:

Tall giraffes in Nairobi National Park

1. Nairobi National Park

Whilst tourists flock to Kenya’s Maasai Mara in the hopes of spotting the Big 5 and the thundering Great Migration, its capital city is a safari destination in its own right. It is also the only place where you will find a national park abutting a capital city. Enjoy the novelty of reaching the reserve by taxi and photographing a giraffe against the city’s distinctive skyline.

Karen Blixen Museum is a good spot in Nairobi

2. Karen Blixen Museum

The famed memoir and film adaptation, Out of Africa, has generated many a romantic notion about Kenya and the continent at large. The house in which author Karen Blixen lived between 1917 and 1931 has been lovingly preserved as a museum in Nairobi, affording visitors the opportunity for an intimate look into a piece of personal history.

Ivory orphaned elephants being bottle fed

Image credit: Richard Probst

3. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Situated just outside Nairobi National Park, this wildlife trust has a carefully developed program for introducing baby elephants and rhinos back into the wild. Once a day visitors to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust can see these ivory orphans being bottle fed and taken for a daily mudbath. This makes for heart-warming viewing but be warned: things can get messy when these titan tykes come to feed and frolic.

Enjoy a cup Kenyan coffee at Been There coffee shop

4. A Kenyan cuppa joe

Now a critical part of modern life, coffee was first discovered in Africa. Although many attribute Ethiopia as being the true birthplace of coffee, Nairobi Java House is lauded as one of the best coffee chains on the African continent. This Kenyan stalwart is definitely worth a visit, and with an outlet conveniently situated at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport,  you can expect to start your visit off on a high note!

Traditional Maasai Jewelry at Triangle Curio Market, Nairobi

Image credit: Laura Komanga

5. Maasai Market

A stroll through Nairobi’s Maasai Market is the ultimate stop for keepsakes from your Kenyan adventure. It also gives you a chance to marvel at the creativity and ingenuity of local artisans and their distinct brand of artefacts. With its venue changing every day of the week, this colourful open-air market is certainly something to track down while in Nairobi, and is a fascinating (and somewhat chaotic) way to spend a day. Remember to bring your bargaining A-game!

Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

Image credit: Kenya Wildlife Service

6. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

The arid and sparse open landscapes that make up Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park are known for excellent hiking opportunities, and the magnificent views of Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro. Located less than two hours from Nairobi, this park is the perfect one-day excursion and escape from the hustle and bustle of Kenya’s capital city. Visitors are likely to be treated to sights of colobus monkeys, baboons, impala, and a variety of birds.

Try the Kenyan meal, nyama choma

Image credit: Otuebo Harrison

7. Try Local Cuisine

What is a visit to East Africa and Kenya’s hub without sampling the local fare? Nairobi is packed with local culture and cuisine aplenty. Nyama Choma is one of the most popular dishes in the country and consists of meat slow-cooked over hot coals until tender and juicy, accompanied by rice and a tomato relish. Other favourites include Mandazi (a sweet doughnut) and roasted makai (made from maize and available from vendors on many street corners).

Water bucks on Lake Naivasha

Image credit: McKay Savage

8. Lake Naivasha

Less than two hours from the thrumming streets of the capital, Lake Naivasha stands sentinel over the Kenyan Rift Valley. As its highest point and forming part of the Great Rift Valley, this expansive lake is an easy day venture for visitors from Nairobi. The lake’s glassy waters are adorned with abundant flora, waterbuck, and lazy hippo pods while its shorelines attract giraffe, zebra, and some of the 400 different species of bird found here. The entrance to Hell’s Gate National Park and the home of Joy Adamson are also nearby, offering plenty of other activities in the area.

Feeding a giraffe at the Giraffe Centre

Image credit: H. Dahlmo

9. Giraffe Centre

With their distinctively mottled coats and adorably long limbs, giraffes are undoubtedly some of the most easily recognisable animals in Africa. Nairobi’s Giraffe Centre is dedicated to the protection of the endangered Rothschild giraffe – a species endemic to the open grasslands of East Africa. Visitors to this non-profit can feed and interact with the centre’s giraffes and keep an eye out for the several warthogs that live here, too.

Ngong Hills is surely a treat to see

Image credit: Siegmund Kamau

10. Ngong Hills

“I have a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills”. 

Do you fancy yourself a modern-day Meryl Streep or Robert Redford? Journey to the horizon that inspired Karen Blixen’s bestselling novel and movie, Out of Africa: the Ngong Hills. Visitors can enjoy an escape from the city and an opportunity to relive history on this 13km hike found only an hour from Nairobi. Bonus: on a clear day, expect to be treated to magnificent views of the Rift Valley floor.

Outside the Karen Blixen Museum

Are you ready to visit this tantalising capital city and East African hub?

Let us take you there.

Image Credit: Cover Photo of Nairobi at night taken by Mark M. Chiira