I was born in Nairobi and have spent a LOT of time there over the years. Now that I am in the safari industry I get a lot of requests for recommendations for things to do in Nairobi. Of course there are the classic activities which I use for almost every traveler but I have also tried to find new ideas to share with travelers, especially those spending more than a night in the city. Here are the classics and a few others that I really recommend.
Classic Nairobi activities which I use for almost every traveler
• Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (general visit at 11am, more exclusive visit for those who "adopt" an orphan for $50 at 5pm)
• AFEW Giraffe Center
• The Maasai Market (find where it is on each day of the week here)
• Karen Blixen Museum
• Nairobi National History Museum
• Eat at Carnivore
• A trip to the top of the Kenyatta International Conference Center
Don't get me wrong, I love the classics but having so many clients traveling through Nairobi I have had to come up with an expanded list of activities and now I am sharing them with you!
Some less common Nairobi activities that are great:
Africa Yoga Project
Africa Yoga Project is an organization that empowers over 250,000 Kenyans a year through the power of yoga. Those who are interested can take a yoga class at the Africa Yoga Project's (AYP) Shine Center in Nairobi. You can take a regularly scheduled class on any day of the week or join their largest weekly, donation based community class with other AYP teachers and members of the Nairobi yoga community.
Kenya National Archives
An interesting alternative to the Museum is the National Archives. The Archives is a little-visited museum and art gallery that has a huge range of paintings, photographs and other unique objects from war masks to stamps that cover the Kenya and East Africa's history. The National Archives itself is a grand building (the old Bank of India building) on Tom Mboya Avenue in a busy part of Nairobi. The collection is fascinating and the 300 shilling entry fee ($3.50) is a bargain. The Archives are open 8am-5pm Monday through Friday.
Kazuri Beads Factory
Near the Karen Blixen coffee plantation is Kazuri. Kazuri means "small and beautiful" in Swahili and this describes each and every beautifully hand-made ceramic bead which is shaped by hand by the women who work at the Kazuri workshop. Kazuri was started in 1975 by Lady Susan Wood with the social mission of making work for a few women. What started with just 10 women making beads in her garden shed is now 350 people making Kazuri beads, necklaces and earrings. You can take a guided tour through the factory where each bead is made from local clay. After your tour of the factory, visit the showroom where you can purchase beautiful earrings, necklaces and bracelets made from these unique beads. The quality of these items is remarkable and the prices are very reasonable. There are also hand-made pottery, handbags and wall hangings for sale. There is also a small cafe for refreshments.
Day Long Excursions
Green Belt Safaris
Green Belt Safaris is an eco and community based tourism program started by the Green Belt Movement, one of the largest NGOs in Kenya, founded by Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai. Green Belt Safaris offers travelers a unique opportunity to learn about Kenyan culture and village life, conservation and development directly from the communities GBM has worked with for almost 40 years. The revenue from the program provides a sustainable source of income for GBM and the participating communities (a portion goes directly back to the communities for projects they select). Green Belt Safaris offers a 1 to 5 day cultural and conservation programs that can include be a day trip out of Nairobi or overnight stays in the homes of local community members.
Visit a Tea Planation in Tigoni
Tea is one of Kenya's most important crops and exports and tea plantations cover a large part of the country immediately outside Nairobi. Just about 30 mins from Village Market will take you to the beautiful landscape of tea plantations in Tigoni. Tigoni sits at an altitude of 7000 feet above sea level with views of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Ngong hills and the lush acres of tea plantations stretch to the horizon. In Tigoni there are several tea plantations that accept visitors. My two favorites are Kiambethu Tea Farm and Brackenhurst. Kiamethu requires a day's notice and reservation and includes a tour of the plantation and lunch, Brackenhurst is more flexible.
Visit Brown's Cheese Factory
East Africa is not known for its cheese (seriously) but Brown's cheese is a welcome exception. A visit to the Brown's farm is a fun and delicious daylong excursion from Nairobi. Founded in 1979 and based in Limuru (just 30 minutes outside Nairobi), Brown's produces seventeen different varieties of cheese using milk from over 3,000 small hold farmers in the area as well as milk from their own small herd. A visit to Brown's includes
• A tour of the factory and overview of how cheese is made
• An extensive tour of the biodynamic vegetable garden
• A 3 course lunch made with 100% homegrown ingredients
• A delicious tasting of specialty cheeses accompanied by a variety of homemade breads, jams, chutneys and salads that are all homegrown using biodynamic and organic farming methods.
• Cows and chickens all to enjoy. Milking of cows possible for kids (and adults) who are interested.
• Buying wide selection of cheeses to take home at factory prices
• Mozzarella making for groups that are interested
Reservations are necessary. They are open Thursday through Saturday by appointment and Saturday is booked two weeks in advance most of the year.
Java House Mango Juice
Not really an activity but it is delicious. If you happen to drive by a Java House, definitely pick one up.
Other people who spend lots of time in Nairobi, any ideas to share?