Nairobi's Hidden Treasures
BY: Violet Ikahu FROM [ Bendor Tours And Travel ]
November 21, 2011
As a follow-up on our earlier article on whether Nairobi does intrigue you, this is a further analysis on the magical city of the sun-where the sun never sets on adventure series.
For many, Nairobi is either somewhere to arrive and quickly transfer to another destination; or for a place for a brief - often reluctant -overnight stop before going home or heading for the game parks. In fact, most visitors arriving at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport then transfer immediately to the nearby Wilson Airport for their short flight to the bush, or pick up their Safari van for the overland trip to the lodge or camp. And they do the same in reverse on their way home.
This is a real pity; because Nairobi has much more to offer-even though it's fair to say that many of its attractions are not always immediately apparent to the fleeting visitor. Not only does Nairobi possess some real hidden gems, but there is a host of attractions within easy striking distance of the city to delight even the most hard-bitten and world weary traveler!
For a start, there is Nairobi National park, headquarters of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the only game park of its kind to be located near a capital city. Covering 117sq km, it is also East Africa's oldest game park. So you don't need to go far to see wildlife. And there cannot be many airports in Africa or the world at large where it is common to see giraffe or herds of antelope on your drive into the city.
Right alongside the entrance to the Nairobi Game Reserve is the Nairobi Education Centre- Animal Orphanage, which is not only a refuge for young animals but also provides an opportunity for visitors, especially school going children, to interact with some of Kenya's best known wildlife.
Not far from the Nairobi Game Reserve and on the same road heading out of town in the direction of the delightfully elegant suburb of Karen-named after the Danish author Karen Blixen -are the David Sheldrick wildlife Trust's elephant sanctuary and the Giraffe Manor, which is also a rather splendid small hotel, surrounded by 140 acres of indigenous forest.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a Sanctuary for orphaned elephants and visitors can actually watch them being fed by their keepers.
These two attractions make an ideal combined visit and can be linked to lunch or dinner at the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden or the Karen Country Club. It's also possible to visit the Karen Blixen Museum, located in the original farm house where the author lived from 1914 to 1931. The house was presented to the Kenyan Government at the time of independence by the Danish government.
On the far side of the city from Karen is another upmarket suburb, Muthaiga, which is also the home to Nairobi's diplomatic corps. The Muthaiga country club, an integral part of Kenya's colonial history, is the setting for the book ‘White Mischief', which tells the true story of the murder of Lord Errol.
Muthaiga Golf club, dating back from the early 1900s, is the home of the Kenya Open. Nairobi has several other excellent golf clubs as well as enjoying the perfect climate in which to play the game.
For those interested in Kenya's colonial past, there is probably no finer example than Kentmere Club- the quintessential settlers' club- located in the Tigoni Highlands about 20 km from the city centre. It is also possible to stay overnight at the club.
As for Nairobi itself, this is a city of wonderful restaurants serving fine, locally grown food in convivial surrounding at affordable prices. It's also a city with a varied and exciting nightlife that does not just come awake on a Friday or Saturday. Visitors are sure to receive a warm welcome from whatever establishment they frequent- even those that don't, on first inspection, look especially promising.
For shopaholics, there can be no finer experience than the village Market. This not only contains an excellent assortment of small shops and some larger stores but is also THE place to be seen at weekends. Visitors can enjoy a large cup of Kenyan coffee and a light meal in the plaza. Village Market is probably the best place to buy locally made handicraft and curios and is the location for the weekly Maasai market; on Tuesdays it moves to the Globe cinema, Saturdays at the city's High Court Parking and on Sunday at Yaya Centre. The Market is also held elsewhere in Nairobi on other days of the week.
In short, Nairobi is a lively, exciting and, above all, fascinating place to visit. Once you have experienced its hidden treasures, you will want to come back!