“Chaotic and at times dirty, the African capital that offers some magical surprises”

While Nairobi is known for its gridlocked traffic and pollution there is also another side to this African metropolis.  If a stayover is unavoidable, we can make it less painful with some surprisingly delightful experiences available.

Nairobi is the capital of Kenya.  The city spreads over a large area and with a population of some 3.5 million people traffic is notoriously bad, especially at rush hour. If you take the wrong route or choose the wrong departure time you can be stuck in traffic for hours! At certain times of the year, pollution is also bad. So overall Nairobi is not a great experience for travellers. However, a stay over here is often a necessary evil, dictated by international flight arrival/departure times.

Nairobi has two airports, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and Wilson Airport, the latter serving Kenya’s safari circuit with regularly scheduled flights to all destinations. The two airports are an hour’s drive from one another on a good day, creating a dilemma for travellers going from a safari area to an international flight or vice versa.

There are four options for travellers whose itineraries require a stayover:

  1. stay at an airport hotel at JKIA.
  2. stay at a hotel close to Wilson Airport.
  3. stay in the leafy suburb of Karen.
  4. stay at the close-by Nairobi National Park.

The first two will make it easy to fly-in fly-out and the third option enables you to experience some of the safari history and culture of Kenya. If you are keen to experience a safari on arrival the close-by Nairobi National Park will suit.

Transfers between airports and hotels should be arranged through reliable operators and travellers should note that when on a road transfer into JKIA they will be required to get out of the vehicle for a security check. Bags should be left in the vehicle.

The suburb of Karen is steeped in the safari history of Kenya. The suburb is named after colonial-era Danish writer Karen Blixen, whose story was so well told in the classic movie ‘Out of Africa’. Today, Karen is a leafy suburb with large properties and estates and the area home to most of the safari companies and families. Karen is in the southern part of Nairobi and is far quieter than the majority of the city. Thanks to a new bypass road, transfers to and from the airports encounter less traffic than in years gone by.

There are some nice small hotels and guesthouses, in Karen as well as great restaurants. The famous Giraffe Manor is here and you may be lucky enough to stay here if you booked some two years in advance! Alternatively, next door to the Manor is the Giraffe Centre where visitors can get up-close and personal with endangered Rothschild’s giraffes from a viewing platform. The Karen Blixen Museum and adjacent Karen Blixen Coffee Garden are worth a visit for travellers that want to learn more about the safari history of Kenya.  For shopping and culture, there is also a weekly Maasai market held at different locations around the city. The market is a great experience and the best place to buy curios.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has done excellent work in conservation for many years most notably with elephants in the Tsavo region. The elephant nursery in Nairobi National Park, where they rehabilitate young orphaned elephants and rhinos, is worth a visit. Public viewings are at 11am each day.

The 117 square kilometre Nairobi National Park is only 10 km from Nairobi’s centre, making it unique. The park allows for spectacular perspective shots with wildlife framed with the city’s skyline as a backdrop from certain angles. On a very clear day, it’s possible to see Mount Kenya, Kilimanjaro and the Aberdare Mountains from a vantage point in the park! Nairobi National Park is a globally important rhino sanctuary, and it is possible to view the BIG 4 while here, there are no elephants unless you count the Sheldrick Trust’s orphans, at the Park. There are some great accommodation options available, making a stay here feel like a real safari experience in the city!

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