Nairobi gets a bit of a bad rap. In a country as preternaturally endowed with natural ‘wow’ moments as Kenya, manmade stuff can look a little drab in comparison, and then there’s the unfortunately catchy ‘Nairobbery’ tag that some travellers like to label the city with. But we’re fans of the place – and we reckon with a little time, some help from the locals and a curious disposition, you will be to.
Here are our five tips for getting the most out of the Kenyan capital:
- The national museum is one of the best in East Africa, a huge source of national pride and well worth a look. It holds some of the oldest remains of early humans, discovered in north east Kenya, as well as other geological exhibits. And its collection of East African contemporary art is first-rate – definitely worth a look.
- There’s a lot to explore if you find yourself with a day or two to spare. Get a driver to take you wherever you want to go. $20 will get you the services of a driver for at least half a day to explore the national museum, the botanic gardens or the elephant sanctuary. Great for taking the hassle out of the day, and making the most of your time. We use the Panafric Hotel – its staff can help sort you out with a driver.
- If you have to stock up on a few supplies, ask the hotel staff for specific directions and even a car and driver – it’s not a city you want to be wandering around looking for a 7-Eleven. And if you do end up heading off anywhere on foot, at least know where you’re going in advance so you never look lost.
- Food is good – and can be great – in Nairobi. Whether you’re downtown or in the ‘burbs, the choice and quality befits the city’s status as the region’s hub, with everything from high-end Chinese to spit-and-sawdust chop shops to choose from. Anyone who is heading out to the sights of the city’s outskirts – the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust or Langata Giraffe Centre, for example – could do worse than book a table at Carnivore Restaurant. It’s a bit out of the way, but for anyone who like to worship at the high altar of meat, it’s a must, with cuts of all sorts of exotic fare waiting.
- Kenyatta Conference Centre doesn’t sound scintillating – not many travellers on the plane to Africa envisage a conference centre visit at the top of their to-do lists – but it’s worth it for a trip up to the viewing platform. There stretched out in front of you is the seemingly endless expanse of modern Africa – spanking new high rises and grimy lean-tos, an overhanging smog and the ceaseless daily hubbub beneath. Drink it all in, then get out into the savannah.