48 Hours in Nairobi

nairobi school childrenNairobi is a city teaming with extremes, the poorest of the poor in areas like Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, contrasts with a thriving metropolitan city center and high end shopping malls. You can move from a bustling marketplace to a remote tea farm to a national wildlife reserve in the span of hours. In two short days, in this city known as the “Green City in the Sun”, one can make memories that will last a lifetime.

After arriving in this east African city, you’ll likely need a few hours to rest and recoup from jetlag before you begin your 48-hour adventure. Most hotels and guest houses offer breakfast, so plan to eat before heading out for your day.

Day 1

Morning

Welcome to Kenyan, a land filled with smiling faces. As you go about your day, say Habari to those you meet, which is Swahili for “How are you?” or Jambo, which means “Hello!” You are now on Kenya time, which means you should not be in a hurry to go about your day, but savor these moments and enjoy the leisurely pace of this country and these people.

First stop in Nairobi is the Maasai Market, or Village Market. This is a rotating market that is set up at the different shopping malls on different days of the week. If you are in Nairobi on a Friday, there is one held on the upper car park level at the Village Market shopping center. This is the Kenyan version of a flea market and is where vendors display their handcrafted items and novelties. The Maasai Market hosts between 50 and 75 different booths. You’ll find wooden hand-carved giraffes, wall tapestries painted by hand and tiny wooden boxes with secret locks. Everything has an Africa theme of some sort.

Go into the market ready to bargain. Most vendors write down the price they want on a piece of paper. The initial price tends to be extremely high, such as 1500 Kenyan shillings. Decide what you’d like to pay for the item before you ask the price and then make your initial offer lower than what you want the final cost to be.

tea farm plantationsAfternoon

After shopping, head 40 minutes outside of town toward the Limuru area to the Kiambethu Farm, which is a working tea farm. As you make the trip toward the tea farm, you’ll experience the rural life of Kenyans. You’ll pass through small towns and tea plantations. When you arrive, the owners will take you on a tour through a small forest and the farm and explain how they harvest the tea. After the tour, enjoy a leisurely lunch on the sprawling lawn of the plantation home buffet style. The food is prepared mainly with fresh grown vegetables and fruits right from the farm. As you dine, you’ll have a view of Ngong hills. If it is a sunny day, you may even spot Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.

Finish off the evening at one of the many ethnic restaurants in Kenya, such as Mesob or Motherland, where Ethiopian food is served.

Day 2

Morning

safariKenya is known as the safari capital of the world. It is within driving distance of several day trip safari options. Maasai Mara National Reserve is 1510 square kilometers and sits north of the Serengeti Park, but it is a very bumpy 280 kilometer ride to the west of Nairobi, depending upon road conditions. Two and a half hours to the south is Amboseli National Park. Another option is Nairobi National Park, which can be visited by bus or taxi, and is a mere 7 kilometers south of the city center.

With only two days to see as many of Kenya’s attractions as possible, Nairobi National Park is your best bet for a quick visit and opportunity to see some of Africa’s amazing animals. However, you won’t get the true, riding on a bumpy road to the middle of the African plains, experience as you’ll get with a trip to Maasai Mara.

Nairobi Animal Orphanage is also located inside Nairobi National Park and is the oldest animal orphanage in Kenya, home to hurt and orphaned animals both indigenous and exotic.

Afternoon

giraffe centreEnjoy lunch at one of the many American cuisine restaurants in Kenya, such as Java House. Java House is a chain with 17 different locations around Nairobi. Their menu includes favorites, such as hamburgers, French fries, fresh salads, wraps and even Mexican cuisine.

After lunch, head to the Giraffe Centre, which is located in Karen, about five kilometers outside of Nairobi. This conservation center is home to Rothschild giraffes, which are endangered. They have had some success in breeding these statuesque creatures. The best feature of the Giraffe Centre is a raised platform where visitors can feed the giraffes. The center is open until 5 p.m. each day.

Finish off day two by heading to the Westlands District, where you can enjoy dinner and a drink at local nightclubs such as Gipsy Bar or Simba Saloon and try a local favorite, Tusker beer.

The end of two days comes quickly and it is time to say kwaheri (goodbye). 48 hours in Nairobi isn’t nearly enough to see everything this unique part of the world has to offer, but you can certainly see a lot in that period of time. Once you get a taste of Nairobi, you’ll definitely want to return for a more lengthy adventure, perhaps to a safari camp in Maasai Mara.