Nairobi is a bustling city with an ultra modern skyline which is the capital of Kenya and it is one of the largest cities in Africa with a population of around 2.5 million. Nairobi's name comes from the Maasai 'Enkarenairobi', meaning "cool waters". Kenya's capital is cosmopolitan, lively, interesting and pleasantly landscaped. Its central business district is handily compact and it's a great place to tune into modern urban African life. Unfortunately, it's also a great place to get mugged. Security, especially at night, is a definite concern. Nairobi has struggled with rising crime, earning a reputation for being a dangerous city and the nickname "nairobbery". Originally little more than a swampy watering hole for Maasai tribes, Nairobi was founded in 1899 as a supply depot for the Uganda Railway which was being constructed between Mombassa and Uganda. It was totally rebuilt in the early 1900s after an outbreak of plague and the burning of the original town. Thereafter the settlement continued to grow, becoming the capital of the British East African Protectorate in 1907 and the capital of the newly independent Kenya in 1963. Modern Nairobi is still the safari capital of the Africa, but the modern world has quickly caught up with the city. A frontier town no more, Nairobi has become one of Africa's largest, and most interesting cities. However, the city has not lost its sense of the past, with an excellent museum and the historical home of Karen Blixen, author of "Out of Africa", open to visitors. Nairobi is unique in having a protected game reserve, Nairobi National Park, within its borders. Just outside the city the Park is 113 sq kilometers of plains, cliffs and forest. The park is home to large herds of Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Giraffe and more. Rhino, cheetah, and a large number of lions are all found here, living wild within 20 minutes of the centre of town. Nairobi also has more species of birds than any other capital city in the world. Sun and water play major roles here, in this mile-high city a mere 90 miles from the equator. The rainiest months of April and May are enough to dampen even the hardiest of tourist's wanderlust, but most of the year its temperate warmth and proximity to parks make Nairobi a major destination for thousands of tour groups and organized safaris. From the wildlife to the nightlife, Nairobi is a city unlike any other. With a fantastic music scene, excellent international restaurants, and an endless and colorful array of shops and markets, there is plenty to offer any visitor.
Attractions and Activities
AFEW Giraffe Centre: The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Giraffe Centre is a sanctuary for the rare Rothschilds giraffe. It has a platform where you can feed the giraffes and get the close-up photographs that you could not get on safari. Across the road, but still part of the centre, is a small patch of forest through which you can take a 1km (0.6mi) self-guided nature walk.
The African Butterfly Research Institute: This is a vast magical greenhouse alive with native butterflies.
The Bomas of Kenya: This cultural centre is located in Langata, just down from Nairobi National Park. Here you can see a display of traditional homesteads, or bomas, watch traditional dances, and hear songs from the country's many ethnic groups. There are performances daily. The Langata Giraffe Centre is not far away.
The Ostrich Park : This Park is a good place for family excursions. You can feed ostriches, see people at work making crafts, and there's a first-class children's playground.
Safaris: The Masai Mara Game reserve is close to Nairobi and you may take safaris from 3 to 12 days. On the Safari you have a very good chance of seeing all the major Plains animals including lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino, hyena, cheetah, jackal, warthog, and many other species. Also you could visit a Masai village to learn the ancient ways of the Masai people who are allowed to graze animals and to hunt within the reserve boundaries. Or you could check out the Amboseli National Park which is also close to Nairobi. This is a 392 sq. km park with a spectacular background of Africa's highest peak; Mt. Kilimanjaro which broods on the southern end of the park. Game is easy to spot in this park and you stand the best chance of seeing the black rhino or elephants and such other game as lion, buffalo, gazelle, cheetah, wildebeest, hyena, jackal, monkey, Masai giraffe, zebra and baboon. Game is seen on much of the route to the park, which crosses archer plains where Masai tend their cattle in an age-old tradition.
Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage: Infant elephant and rhino (orphaned because of poaching activities) are cared for and eventually returned to the wild in Tsavo National Park. The centre is open every morning and visitors can watch the calves bathing in the mud hole and being bottle fed by their human surrogate mothers.
Restaurants & Cuisine:
Carnivore: The main food is African with barbecued meat. This usually includes pork, beef, chicken, etc and many types of exotic game meat (giraffe, zebra, wildebeest among others), all of which you can see being spit roasted as you enter the restaurant. There are also other foreign foods and there's a good vegetarian buffet.
La Salumeria: Great Italian food is served here.
Salt Lick Lodge Dining Room: This restaurant has a continental menu and serves buffet style or a la carte depending on how many guests they have.
Simba Masai Mara Lodge: This restaurant has early morning tea, breakfast, lunch & dinner serving both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals.
March: Maboomboom - The biggest multi-discipline arts festival ever seen in East Africa, incorporating acrobatics, visual arts applied arts, comedy, cuisine, dance, fashion, film, literature, music and theatre over an action-packed 10 days.
May: The Kenya Schools Music Festival
June: Madaraka Day - This celebrates self government.
July: Safari Rally - The eyes of motor sports enthusiasts around the world focus on Nairobi, Kenya for two days each year when the world's greatest rally drivers roar out of the city to take on the dusty, hot Rift Valley in a trial that has become known as the 'car breaker' of the rally season.
October: The Nairobi Agricultural Show
November: Crafts of Africa - African artistic treasures are exhibited in the Crafts of Africa show in Nairobi each Christmas season, attracting about 20,000 visitors during the week. A huge range of arts and crafts are on display and for sale, from wood carvings and leather work to blown glass, gourds and tie-dyed clothing.
Nairobi National Park: The first national park created in Kenya is so close to the city centre that it's possible to take a photo of a black rhino with Nairobi's skyline in the background. The park, which is unfenced to allow animals to access a narrow wildlife corridor, teems with a great variety of animal life. At the entrance to the park is the Nairobi Safari Walk which offers visitors an educational boardwalk. In the southeast of the park is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Animal Orphanage, where orphaned black rhinos and elephants are raised on-site. The national park also provides a great place for bird watchers, with plenty of colorful birds to admire.
The Nairobi Snake Park: This is not actually a snake park. it is a reptile park since it displays representatives from all the members of the reptile group. Built 30 or so years ago, the park has been and still is a constant visitor attraction center.
Museums and Exhibits:
Karen Blixen's House and Museum: This charming farmhouse is where Karen Blixen, author of the popular novel "Out of Africa", lived from 1914 to 1931. It was used for many scenes in the rather lengthy film adaptation of the book, which starred Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen. The house has a gift shop selling a good variety of books, and is surrounded by beautiful gardens, perfect for picnics.
National Archives: The archives hold an impressive exhibition of Kenyan handicrafts, a collection of odd paintings, and many photographs of Mzee Kenyatta and former president Moi visiting different countries and shaking people's hands.
National Museum: This museum is home to most of the great prehistoric finds made by the Leakey family in East Africa, from Ethiopia to the Olduvai Gorge. It also has sections on wildlife, art, geology, local history and a snake park.
The National Museum of Kenya: This museum is known for a display on early humans in Africa.
The Nairobi Railway Museum: The museum was established in 1971 by the then East African Railways and Harbors Corporation to preserve and display relics and records of the railways of East Africa from their beginning to the present day. In addition to the collection of steam locomotives and rolling stock, there is a large display of smaller exhibits and models. This museum is surprisingly interesting, even for those without a passion for trains.
Sorsbie Art Gallery: This is a very well known art gallery in Nairobi.
Required Travel Documents: A passport and visa are required. Visas should be obtained in advance, although airport visas are available. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival. There is a fee for the visa, whether obtained in advance or at the airport. Evidence of yellow fever immunization may be requested. Safety: Nairobi is notorious for robberies and muggings and visitors should be alert at all times. Local Language: English is the official language in Nairobi but Swahili is the national language, with 42 ethnic languages spoken. Electricity: The electricity supply in Kenya is 220/240 v 50 Hz. Plugs are 3 point square. If you are planning to bring a video camera charger or any other electrical advice, please bring voltage and plug adaptors where appropriate. Calling Codes: The international calling code for Nairobi is 254 and the area code is 2. Time Zones: Nairobi is in the Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +3 hours. There is no daylight savings time at the moment. Climate: There is not much difference in temperature in the different seasons in Nairobi. The average temperatures in January are 54 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (12 to 25 degrees Celsius) and in July they are 52 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (11 to 21 degrees Celsius). Potable Water: Water is of variable quality and visitors are advised to drink bottled water wherever possible. Currency/Money: The official currency is the Kenya Shilling.