Exploring: Three Days in Nairobi

I recently took the Overseas Adventure Travel Trip, Safari Serengeti with the Kenya pre-trip. I really enjoy seeing a country in depth, as well enjoying what additional new countries have to offer that I can see as part of my travels. I wavered between boking this trip or their alternate East Africa trip that goes to both countries, The Best of Kenya and Tanzania. But being an independent minded traveler, I decided to take ideas from the Nairobi part of the latter itinerary and create my own extra days there, since the Kenya pre-trip went directly to the Masai Mara game reserve. This really added to my having an outstanding trip and enabled me to see things in Nairobi that were not on the other trip’s itinerary. I topped it all off with the post trip to Zanzibar. But these three extra days in Nairobi were rally special. Nairobi is fascinating to observe all the way around. I was just enchanted to see a woman walking on the side of the road pushing a cart full of bananas. I would have loved to walk some of the streets and take photos, but I doubt that would have been wise alone.

Of course, Nairobi is no place to truly go it truly alone. The hotels offer drivers to show you around. However, the man who provided the OAT pickup service from the airport the night before, had once been an OAT trip leader, and he was available ot show me around for a better price then the hotel offered. The option to add extra days is also beneficial for those with late night arrivals. We didn’t get to the hotel until 11 PM, and those who were starting the Kenya pre-trip had to be up at about 4:30 am. So, this is also a more relaxed way to enjoy the post trip while still learning more about Kenya.

Sheldrick  Elephant Sanctuary  –  This is a “must see” stop in Kenya, but tickets must be purchased in advance, at least three months before. All the tour companies purchase them first, so I had to purchase mine from Viator the day before. The entire program is only an hour long. The remainder of the times seems to be getting there and waiting. I enjoyed it for the first half; the second half was more of the same with 13 elephants each half and their story of abandonment and becoming orphaned is explained. Some are quite ill, and it will be a while before they go back into the wild, but most will after 3 or 4 years. I appreciated the experience because the animals were not for show or baby elephant washing, which I saw in Malaysia at a conservancy set up by the Smithsonian. They even had a black rhino they were taking care of who had gone blind and would never survive going back into the wild. Other elephants were there because of animal abuse, poaching had killed their family, or any number of Illnesses including epilepsy. This seemed like the real deal, which I greatly appreciated.  Elephants can also be adopted.

Giraffe Center – It was so delightful to feed the Rothschild giraffes while looking over at Giraffe Manor on the first day of my independent discoveries. I went to Giraffe Center, where the animals were up close and personal. They not only posed for me up close, but I got close to them! These beautiful Rothschild giraffes came right up to me, with Giraffe Manor in the background – an extremely expensive hotel where they hang out to the delight of the guests. Although it felt a bit more like a petting zoo than an African experience, there was an opportunity to learn more about these elegant creatures and the other Kenyan species I would later meet on my safari drives.

Kobe Tough Bead Factory – I wanted to go to a bead place, and we stopped at a women’s cooperative called Kobe Tough, which empowers women in need through the sale of their hand crafted beads, made like fine ceramic pottery. I was told they give the money to those who they know can help women in the local community. I left having supported their effort, my fist raised in solidarity and a beautiful, beaded bracelet around my arm, smiling as I lovingly shouted, “Kobe Tough, Kobe Tough!” The Kenyans have a communal spirit which is enviable for those in need within their community. All visitors are given a tour first with an explanation of how the beads are created, as I watched women string the beads together into wonderful pieces of affordable jewelry. Kobe is the Swahili word for the African Sea Turtle, which has a strong outer shell. Their use of the word in the name is representative of both the strength of the people and the durability of the  African Savanah.

Karen Blixen House – The Danish author Karen Blixen is famous for her book Out of Africa, which became the movie so many of us are familiar with. The house and gardens are now one of the Nairobi national museums, and it’s located about 10 miles outside of Nairobi in the Ngong Hills in a town called Karen. This was very near the Giraffe Center as well as the Kobe Tough Bead Factory, so it was easy to include as part of the day. The movie was not filmed here, but rather at the first home she owned prior ot her marriage, but the many artifacts inside are from both her life as well as the movie. The knee-high boots Meryl Streep wore when she played the role are inside, as well as numerous pieces of art. The detached kitchen was modern for its time, and a beautiful garden separates it from the main house. A private guide is available to show each guest around and answer questions.

Nairobi National Museum – This is both a natural history museum and an art museum. It really brought to light so much of what Kenya has to offer and highlighted how the conservation movement got started to rehabilitate animals and send them back into the wild. Joy Adamson wrote the book we all know about now, “Born Free,”  was significantly featured when I was there. It literally changed how animals were treated, and she even started the World Wildlife Foundation. I’m always impressed when people do the obvious and it changes the world. There’s so much more to the museum, but that and her animal and botanical artwork were highlighted. Did you know that Kenya has over a thousand species of birds? There was so much to learn there. When I looked at the art, my heart filled with joy for the country. I saw all ranges of human emotion in all of exhibits, and that was just in the people. Understanding the people are one with their land and wildlife was a huge take away for me and made me appreciate Kenya and Africa all the more.

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