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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day Tripping In Nairobi - an East African Adventure

Day Tripping In Nairobi
By Paul Godwin

Visiting Nairobi as a tourist on a short stay has some exceptional places of interest that one can cover in a day or two. Using Nairobi as a connection point, as opposed to Dubai, might be a preferred option for South African Travellers who love African culture and amazing wildlife right on the City’s doorstep.

There are numerous hotels of all categories in Nairobi some within the airport precinct and others in the City Centre. Our group stayed in the Sarova Stanley Hotel in the heart of the City. This historical and beautiful hotel captures the previous colonial influence of the country perfectly. Opened in 1902 it is the hotel which housed the first Nairobi Stock Exchange, the first Tusker Beer was enjoyed in what became known as the Exchange Bar and numerous celebrities and historical figures have stayed at the hotel over the decades. Distinguished guests such as Clark Gable, Ernest Hemingway, Michael Caine, Sidney Poitier, Sean Connery and Frank Sinatra to name a few….

The Sarova Stanley Hotel is a stone’s throw away from the International Conference Centre, Parliament Buildings and Law Courts as well as a short walk to the University of Nairobi.

Working with an approved tour guide is recommended especially for the wealth of general knowledge about the country and tips on how to make your visit as comfortable as possible. There are many safari tour companies based in Kenya and in Nairobi. Our guides spoke perfect English and were impressive in their knowledge of the local flora and fauna as well as the history of Kenya which they embrace. The Kenyan people are warm friendly, educated and proud of their country and love showing it off.

The Nairobi National Park borders the city and once again there are many hotels bordering the park. We visited the Ole-Sereni Hotel – which incidentally is the old US Embassy and then was converted into this hotel. All the security measures used by the US Embassy were left in place. This is a fabulous hotel with conference facilities, fantastic spacious rooms, pool deck and bars overlooking the reserve and yes all one can see is wildlife and nature……

One will be impressed by the many road side nurseries peppered along the roads in the suburbs and the city centers… is very much a part of the Kenyan Culture and it forms part of informal business with locals selling plants to passersby.

It is interesting to learn that the youth in Kenya are taught at a very early age to respect nature and to cultivate plants including food plants. They are taught the importance of the eco system and nature in general and these youth become the future caretakers of the wildlife and vegetation in Kenya. This was very evident in the school outings we witnessed at the sanctuaries, where we observed the future generations intently listening and engaging with the educators.

Emily Wilson from Travel Again Tours Johannesburg was part of the familiarization team and was also mesmerized by the reception we all received and commented :

 ‘’Kenya, a country which exudes a warmth and deep respect from their people, for their wild life and toward travelers visiting from around the globe. Their excellent hospitality is second to none and diligent conservation allows travelers to enjoy a unique and rewarding trip as a whole. There is an obvious pride in Kenyans. They have embraced old world colonialism as part of their history and have kept parts of that time alive resulting in a refined and well educated African nation. I can only agree with Kenyan Airlines slogan, ‘ Kenya the Pride of Africa’. I would recommend fellow Africans to have a good look at Kenya as a holiday destination. It may surprise you that there is a magical place just waiting to be explored right on your doorstep!

A must see is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which is in the Nairobi National Park. Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. Founded in 1977 by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, in honour of the memory of her late husband, famous naturalist and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the DSWT claims a rich and deeply rooted history in wildlife and conservation.
This visit was totally inspiring and was the preamble to what would become six days of wonderment for our intrepid crew,

Next was the Giraffe Centre…if you have ever felt the need to feed a giraffe, well your dream can come true here. A totally amazing experience of interacting with the giraffe can be enjoyed. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Giraffe Centre are a must do for any visitor to Kenya

Lunch at the Tamambo Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and supper at Carnivore Restaurant will totally complete your dining experience for a day trip to Nairobi.

Karen Blixen has become a revered figure in daily Kenyan life with a whole district named in her honour. Her legacy is huge which makes a visit to the Karen Blixen Museum an absolute must. The Blixen home is in its original state and is a true mirror of colonial Africa and the lifestyle of European settlers of the period. The museum staff is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and the museum even has the costumes worn by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford on display from the screen adaptation of Karen’s famous book “ Out of Africa “.

There are many markets where one can pick up some lovely gifts and negotiation is the name of the game. Kenya’s currency is Shillings but the locals are well versed and prefer the US Dollar !

Kenya has a warm climate so be prepared and you will need a yellow fever vaccination and a course of malaria tablets.  Supermarkets and shopping malls are abundant and the local chain stores utilize shillings, Vat is included in the price shown on products.
Kenya manufactures many of its own products and for our “tribe” - coffee and tea was top of the list. For the beer drinker there are some really good beers such as Tusker, White Cap, Allsops and Pilsners - a truly quality and thirst quenching beverage.

One will find the Kenyan people truly friendly and are extremely proud of their country. An observation is the poor road and pavement infrastructure however this has not stopped the authorities from keeping the City of Nairobi devoid of any litter – the streets are always clean.

One of the friendly waitresses at the Stanley Hotel she had this to say. “ I could sit at home all day and wait for a job, but I chose to go out and look for employment and work hard. I believe if God sees me working hard He will reward me in the future” …..with locals exuding this attitude,  Kenya can only prosper in the future and enforces the mantra of Kenya espousing to be the “Pride of Africa”

Kenya is open for business, so if you are looking to open a business in any field, they are listening and would love to hear from you.

Would I recommend Kenya as a destination ? Absolutely and unequivocally  - Yes!

A few useful tips :

Carry a square pronged adaptor for charging your phone or laptops

Carry US Dollars

Take Malaria tablets

Yellow fever vaccination certificate mandatory

No Visa required for South Africans for up to 30 days (these rules are subject to change – so please check Kenyan Government websites for updates)

Do not take photographs of Official Government Buildings and other key point locations including universities and security personnel

Vehicles drive on Left hand side of Road

Do not drink tap water, hotels provide bottled water

All signage is in English (Road signs and advertising)

Swahili is the main local language but many people speak English

Smoking in public places including sidewalks is prohibited

WiFi is very good and free at most hotels and lodges

Leave only your footprints

Footnote :

This is the first of four stories written by Paul Godwin on his recent trip to Kenya as part of a familiarization team from South Africa and guests of the Kenyan Tourism Board to promote tourism, professional conferencing and tourism business opportunities,

Stories to follow:

Fantasy and fun – The Mara
South Coast Magic – Diani
Shimoni Slave Caves – Village of hope

Words and photographs - Paul Godwin/Nerve Communications

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