Kenya believe it? I was fortunate enough to know someone that was going to be in Kenya and it gave me a chance to go to there whilst a friend was there at the same time.
To get around the city there is a common mode of transportation called a Matatu. It is basically a minivan or small bus that goes through the city making stops at every street corner. You pretty much have to know which ones to catch to get to your destination. They are fairly inexpensive and safe for foreign travelers.
I needed to fill my insatiable appetite for going off the beaten path and indulge in the local culture so riding on one of them was a must. If you don’t feel safe taking the local transportation there are always taxis. If you can, make a deal for the fare before entering the taxi. You will find that they are always eager to make a deal.
(Riding on a Matatu through Eastleigh, Nairobi)
Be sure to visit an orphanage while there. I was able to visit Mama Fatuma’s orphanage in Nairobi as I had a friend who knew someone who was volunteering there.
If you can, please try to donate tooth brushes, tooth paste, over the counter medicines, educational items, pens, paper, crayons, etc. These are the essential items needed but there are a lot more items necessary so try to coordinate with the volunteers and aid coordinators to see what they need and what you can afford to donate.
Please also try to interact with the staff and orphans. Everyone there was a pleasure to interact with. They were always ready to share a meal with me and were very eager to share their stories. Take the time to sit, listen, play and read to them.
These might seem like simple things to you and me but they vastly improve the lives of the orphans.
The orphanage I was at is in a suburb of Nairobi called Eastleigh. I encountered no problems during the day walking through the streets. You should take care if traveling through there at night. If you travel by taxi you should be ok.
(Mama Fatuma’s orphanage, Nairobi)
My first day at the orphanage they were having lamb and rice. It was very tasty. The second day I tried something more staple called ugali. It’s a starchy food that kind of looks like mashed potatoes. It was served with a side of spinach. I was told to add salt to make the flavor of the ugali pop.
Another local staple I tried was something called a samosa. It is made of fried dough and stuffed with minced meat and onions. Very delicious. For a snack the locals usually have what is called a mandazi. It is pretty much a donut. Also very delicious. Samosas and mandazis can be bought from street vendors and are fairly inexpensive.
Other than orphanages, in Nairobi itself, make sure you visit the New Central Bank Tower, the tallest structure in Nairobi. You can see most of the city from atop the tower. In the city there are many stores and restaurants and you should be able to find something to everyone’s taste. My friend and I managed to find a Thai restaurant within walking distance from the New Central Bank Tower.
(View from atop the New Central Bank Tower, Nairobi)
Just outside the city there are plenty of sights to see. One such site on the outskirts of the city is the Nairobi National Park. There you can see rhinos, zebras, lions and more. I was fortunate enough to see a mother rhino and her calf.
(Nairobi National Park)
There is also the Nairobi animal orphanage which has rescue animals that were either mistreated or orphaned. You can see Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards and more. If you are lucky enough you can get to play with a Cheetah. I was not as lucky as the park was about to close for the day.
(Nairobi animal orphanage)
Another place to see is the Elephant orphanage where they care for baby elephants. You can see the handlers feed them and you can also pet them.
(Elephant orphanage, Nairobi)
(Wild Boars at the Elephant orphanage, Nairobi)
One place not to miss is the Giraffe Center where you can hand feed giraffes. The Giraffe Center was started to educate the local population about the Rothschild Giraffe which is indigenous to the area. The Giraffe Center is a hands on experience. You are able to hand feed and pet them. One trick that the handlers want you to experience is when you place the giraffe food between your lips, the giraffe will gently take the food from you.
Giraffe Center, Nairobi)
(Giraffe Center, Nairobi)
About an hour from Nairobi is the beautiful Lake Naivasha. It is well worth the ride to see the wildlife. While riding along the trails you will see giraffes feeding on the acacia trees and zebras resting. If you take a boat ride on the lake you will see the hippos.
(Giraffes at Lake Naivasha)
(Zebra at Lake Naivasha)
(Hippos at Lake Naivasha)
While in Kenya I tried to see as much as possible. Once I visited the usual areas in and around Nairobi I decided to expand my sightseeing beyond the capital.
I met a few locals who had a small safari tour business. Their prices were ridiculously low compared to the bigger companies. One thing with the smaller tour companies though, you have to make sure they are safe. The crime rate in Kenya is high so tourists should make sure anyone they are paying money to are reputable.
The first place the tour guide took me to was Nanyuki. On the way there you really get to experience the local culture and the sights. I was able to go off the beaten path and experience things beyond the usual tourist areas.
We had stopped at a local street fruit market to stretch our legs from the long ride. The fruits were all fresh and delicious. One thing to note, if you stop at a fruit market, expect to be swarmed by dozens of children trying to sell you theirs. I was completely swarmed with I think the whole local kid population of the area with bananas and mangos shoved in my face. You can really make great deals for fresh fruit either at the market or with the kids. Free enterprise is alive and well there.
(Fresh fruit stand, Nanyuki)
(Great Rift Valley)
Further down the road from the fruit markets we entered the outskirts of Nanyuki. On the side of the road was a big sign claiming it was the area of the equator. Being the tourist that I am I had to stop to get a picture. There are a lot of locals hanging around the sign waiting for the unsuspecting tourists such as myself wanting to get paid to have your picture taken at the sign. Don’t fall for it. It doesn’t cost anything to have your picture taken but I did feel compelled to donate something as I was blessed with the life I lead and felt that giving what I can would help someone feed their family.
Also in Nanyuki is Mount Kenya. I spent the better half of the day hiking up a very small part of the mountain. The temperature was high and also my heart rate. The nature hike is well worth it though. If you are lucky you will see elephants and Colobus monkeys. I was fortunate enough to see the Colobus monkeys but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to capture them. They are very loud and very fast.
If you decide to do a hike on Mt. Kenya, bring lots of water and dress appropriately. While the climate is hot and muggy, I suggest wearing a hat, jeans and a light jacket or at least a long sleeve shirt. The brush is unforgiving and will thrash your skin. The long pants and sleeves also help keep the bugs (mosquitoes) off you. Also bring something to snack on as the hike took me eight hours total and you will get hungry.
(Mt. Kenya footbridge)
(Waterfall on Mt. Kenya)
Another spot outside of Nairobi is Lake Nakuru. It took about three hours from Nanyuki to Lake Nakuru and again, well worth it. This spot is famous for it’s thousands of pink flamingos. You will also see rhinos, baboons, zebras, Cape buffalo and yellow acacia trees.
(Flamingos at Lake Nakuru)
(Baboons at Lake Nakuru)
(Baboon enjoying the sights overlooking Lake Nakuru)
Not everyone is as adventurous as I am. Be very careful hand feeding the wildlife as they are very unpredictable.
Kenya is a wondrous place. The wild life and views are stunning. The whole trip was surreal. If you ever get a chance to go to Africa please do, Kenya is a must on everyone’s list. My stay was pretty short and I managed to see quite a few places even without a set schedule. I just wish my stay was longer and was able to see more. Maybe one day I will make it back.