Africa Safaris – Kenya – Nairobi
Despite the rich diversity of the African continent, the amazing wildlife was the primary motivator for our first trip to Africa. Kenya was the first choice for where to travel in Africa due to its long-standing reputation as an exceptional wildlife safari destination.
Regardless of your starting point, it is likely that your Kenya safari experience will begin and end in Nairobi. We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya after spending a few days in Johannesburg, South Africa (SA), which provided an interesting contrast. Johannesburg is enormous, at least in terms of its metro area, with 7 to 10 million inhabitants depending on where you draw the line. Nairobi, at slightly more than 3.3 million people, has a more distinct boundary between urban and rural.
Nairobi is a very attractive city, with good hotels, restaurants and a fine natural history museum. The immediate area includes a nature reserve and national park, and private refuges for giraffes and elephants. If you were to end up in Nairobi for purely business purposes it is the kind of place where you should add a couple of extra days to enjoy the area.
We were given the usual cautions offered in most major cities in any country to keep a tight grip on packs and purses, and avoid walking at night. We observed that last warning on our night out at a dance club, and took a cab home, but made several daytime walks around the heart of downtown without incident.
Street hawkers were few and easily deflected, and at some point I realized that most of the contact was being made on behalf of the same shop. It turned out to be a great craft store in a hard to find location, so the street level advertising made good sense. In almost every case, both in Nairobi and on the rest of our trip, one simple “No, thank you,” was sufficient to send a sidewalk merchant on to the next prospect. If you’ve done much world traveling you can appreciate what a pleasant surprise this is, especially as an apparent nationwide custom.
English is a common second or third language, so you aren’t confined to interacting with members of the tourist industry. A young Kenyan man we had met in Stellenbosch, SA encouraged us to contact his sister when we arrived in Nairobi, which we did. That led to a private tour of some of the city – and the discovery of a new friend.
Our relatively short flight from Johannesburg (rather than the USA) meant that we did not arrive with the usual need to recover from major jetlag, so the guide from our upcoming safari made good use of our extra energy with a bonus visit to the Nairobi Orphaned Elephant Nursery at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Once our whole group was assembled, and the formal part of our commercial tour began, we were taken around to the National Museum, the Karen von Blixen house (Author of Out of Africa), and a nearby tea plantation. Another especially nice destination was the Giraffe Centre, dedicated to the survival of the Rothschild Giraffe.
More than just a place to stay, the Norfolk Hotel is a destination in its own right. Both beautiful and historic, the hotel is worth a visit even if only to have a meal on the Terrace. It is removed just enough from the real hubbub of the heart of the city, but is still within comfortable walking distance.
The whole experience of our Nairobi introduction to Kenya was the perfect prelude for everything that followed. Anyone concerned that international travel to less developed parts of the world may be too ambitious for a family vacation should not hesitate to consider Kenya as a travel destination.
If travel photography is your special interest, one of the best opportunities world travel has to offer can be yours without sacrificing comfort or safety – a Kenyan wildlife safari is “adventure travel” only to the extent you choose to make it so. Professional travel advice is highly recommended for a first time visitor, but whether you prefer booking one of the high end tour companies or hiring an expert local guide, make that choice and go!
Page 3 – Aberdare National Park – The Ark
Page 6 – Nanyuki – Mount Kenya Safari Club
Page 8 – Kenya Safari – Masai Mara Wildlife
Page 9 – Masai Mara – People and Trees