nairobi

KENYA: THE FOOD

Overall, the food during our trip to Kenya was mediocre.  We are from New Orleans, so we have a high standard when it comes to good food, but this didn't even come close to reaching that bar.  First off, everyone in Kenya kept telling us that none of the local Kenyan food was worth trying.  Many of the places we went to served American food anyway.

OSTERIA

Osteria was an Italian restaurant that was in the mall we were staying right next door to.  The food was just ok.  We tried fish, pizza, and bruschetta, but nothing had much flavor.  It was weird looking at the prices on the menu and the receipt, but 1,450 shillings was just $14.50 in American money.

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ARTCAFFE

I'm ashamed to admit that we ending up going back to that mall next to our hotel to eat several times.  Artcaffe had a beautiful balcony and offered a variety of food options.

KENYA TEA

The food was nothing to rave about, but Kenya tea is amazing. I was drinking 3 or 4 cups a day by the end of the trip- black with honey.  I am a tea lover and this is now officially one of my favorites.

CHICKEN BIRYANI

One of the best meals I had in Kenya was in Mombasa. It's a dish called biryani with meat and rice with seasonings that make it different colors. I loved it.

HABESHA

My mentee was in love with Ethiopian food by the time I arrived in Kenya, so we went out one night for some at a place called Habesha.  It wasn't bad, but I also did not love it as much as she did.  I just love experimenting with new foods.  I did order some chicken though, just to make sure I'd have something to eat.

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CARNIVORE RESTAURANT

Meat!!

Meat!!

This place came up on several travel websites I looked at before we got to Kenya.  When I booked our Safari, there was an option to book it as a package deal with lunch included at Carnivore and since I had been reading good things about it we went.  True to it's name, there is a pit of meat when you walk in the door.  There is a card on your table and they keep bringing you meat until you flip.  There's normal stuff like beef and lamb and then the wildcards- ostrich meatballs and bull testicles! I tried both. Ostrich meatballs- nothing to rave about. The testicles tasted like I would have expected testicles to taste. I couldn't even get it down.  The creme brulee for dessert made up for the testicle.

TRIBE HOTEL SUSHI

Here's a surprise- I had some of the best sushi of my life in Kenya! Our hotel, Tribe, had an impressive sushi menu. It was delicious!

KENYA: THINGS TO KNOW

SURPRISINGLY COOL WEATHER

We visited Kenya (Nairobi & Mombasa) at the end of March. I glanced at the forecast and saw 80s and figured it would be hot for most of our trip.  In the mornings and at night, it was in the 60s and we didn't bring much clothing with sleeves or jackets...big mistake.

TRAFFIC IS INSANE

We arrived in Nairobi at 6am on a Monday morning.  We did not reach the hotel until 8:30am even though it was only 20 minutes away.  Turns out, traffic was like that at all times of the day and night. 

DOWNTOWN NAIROBI 

Traffic was really bad in downtown Nairobi. I had read that this was the case ahead of time, which is why I booked us a hotel about 20 minutes north of downtown.  And when we got there, I was glad we had not stayed downtown. It was super busy and packed.


TRANSPORTATION REQUIRES PLANNING

There was Uber in Kenya, BUT the WI-Fi was not reliable at all.  One night we used it to get to a restaurant but had trouble connecting to Wi-Fi to get a ride back.  I tried to arrange transportation ahead of time to make things easier. Our hotel did have a few drivers, but they were expensive and not always available.   Luckily, we ended up meeting a man through a tour we took who offered to drive us around for the rest of our trip at very reasonable prices.

FOR ANIMAL LOVERS

There are animals everywhere in Kenya. We passed cows and goats along the road.  There's also a lot of animal conservation efforts in Nairobi. We visited a giraffe center and an elephant orphanage.  We also took a safari.  And in Mombasa, we rode a camel.  A great portion of our activities in Kenya were focused on animals.

TONS OF SECURITY CHECKS

To get in our hotel, the car we were in would be searched. And then we had to go through a metal detector and open our bags each time we entered.  The same thing happened when we went to the mall.  There was even a point as we drove up to the airport where all the passengers had to get out of the car, go through a security check, and then get back in.

ENGLISH IS EVERYWHERE

Kenya has two official languages- English & Swahili.  English is very prevalent.  The newspapers, restaurant menus...really everything was in English.  The currency is shillings, but many times people would give us the price in US dollars (they could probably tell we were Americans).

FLIGHT FROM NEW ORLEANS

There were no direct flights from New Orleans to Nairobi.  We flew to Atlanta, then Amsterdam (about 8 hours), and then to Nairobi (about another 8 hours).

KENYA: THE MAGIC OF A SAFARI

WHERE: NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK

My boyfriend and I knew we wanted to take a safari when we visited Nairobi in March.  We went with Nairobi National Park for our safari because of location and price. It's not far from downtown Nairobi, as opposed to many other safari locations, which were two or more hours away from where we were staying in Nairobi.  We could see the city scape from inside the park.  Safaris are expensive but this one was considerably less expensive than many other places.  I booked it through a tour company as part of a package that also included a safari walk (which is basically a zoo) and lunch.

WHEN: 6AM-9AM

There were morning and evening options for the Safari. Some other parks offer multiple day long safaris.  We drove around looking for animals for about three hours which was the perfect amount of time for me. I chose morning because my friend had done the evening version and said many of the animals were not out during her trip.

HOW: SAFARI VAN

SOMETHING WE WISH WE HAD: A JACKET!

At the end of March, we expected it to be really hot in Nairobi. Instead it was cold, like in the 60s, in the morning and at night.  With the wind blowing in our faces in the safari van, we were so cold that I was begging for a heater in the car. 

MOST USEFUL THING WE BROUGHT: CAMERA

Yes, we have great cameras on our iPhones and honestly that was all I planned on using for the trip. Luckily, a friend was asking about our trip before we left and found out we didn't plan on taking a camera, so he let us borrow his.  I thought I would never take the time to pull it out, but then we got on the safari, parked in the sight of a lion- a real life lion- we pulled out our iPhones and tried to zoom the pictures were terrible. So for the first time that trip, I whipped out that camera and got a great picture of the lions...WHEW! He saved us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND OF COURSE: THE ANIMALS!

We got lucky and saw every type of animal that lives in Nairobi National Park on our trip- lions, giraffes, buffaloes, rhinos, zebra, lots of impalas, and hippos. We even pulled up right after lion had killed a zebra and just dragged the body to her den.

KENYA: THE 7 DAY ITINERARY

Tribe Hotel- Nairobi, Kenya

Tribe Hotel- Nairobi, Kenya

I took my first international trip to Kenya at the end of March. I was there to visit the young girl I mentor while she was studying abroad.

DAY 1: 

We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya at about 6am it took us two hours to get to the hotel.  We stayed at Tribe

DAY 2: 

Me & my mentee, Tassion at Osteria

Me & my mentee, Tassion at Osteria

We relaxed at the hotel most of the day and then ventured over to the mall next door to our hotel, The Village Market, for dinner.  It was a typical mall with shops and restaurants.  We ate at an Italian place called Osteria.

 

 

DAY 3:

We really got into adventure mode on the third day.  I booked a package through a tour company that took us to three locations:

The Elephant Orphanage at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The elephant orphanage allows visitors for an hour a day to watch handlers feed baby elephants.  They play in the mud and you are warned that they may splash it on you if you stand close enough. Of course I stood close enough because I wanted to touch them, which is allowed if they come near you. You are separated from them by a rope. They give a presentation explaining how the elephants ended up at the orphanage.  Many of their parents were killed by poachers. The elephants spent around 10 years in the orphanage before they are released back into the wild.

 The Giraffe Center

Then, it was onto the giraffes.  The giraffe center is a really cool place to interact with giraffes because they are so close.  I was able to feed them and of course pose for photos.

Kazuri Bead Factory

The Kazuri bead factory employs single mothers.  They hand make beads and pottery.  We were taken on a quick (maybe 10 minute tour) to see the ladies at work and find out more about their creative process. It was so impressive.  Every bead and piece of pottery they make looks the same even though they are hand making them without any molds.  I took home a beautiful necklace and some animals made from clay.

Necklace from the Kazuri Bead Factory in Nairobi

Necklace from the Kazuri Bead Factory in Nairobi

Day 4:

We took a Kenya Airways flight to Mombasa, which lies right on the Indian ocean.  It was only an hour away and we stayed at an epic beach resort with three pools. We played in the ocean for a bit and took a  camel ride on the beach. It lasted about 15 minutes and was $30 USD. I’m sure it’s cheesy and touristy like riding a horse and carriage in the French Quarter but I didn’t care. The sweet camel was named Suzuki and she was adorable. 

Day 5:

Fort Jesus- Mombasa, Kenya

Fort Jesus- Mombasa, Kenya

We checked out of our Mombasa resort at around 11am.  Our flight back to Nairobi was for 6pm so we had time to explore.  We took a quick tour of Mombasa. We checked out Fort Jesus and got a little history lesson. The Fort was built by the Portuguese in the 1500s to protect the port of Mombasa. We also took a walk through Old Town, soaking up some culture as a tour guide told us about the original Mombasa city.  Then, we headed back to Nairobi. For more on our tour of Mombasa, click here.

Day 6:

We woke up at 5am for a safari at Nairobi National park.  Then, we headed over to the safari walk which is basically a zoo.  Ignorant American alert: I didn't know there were caged animals in Africa. Most of them were orphans and being protected. Check out all of our Safari pics here. We wrapped up the day with lunch at Carnivore restaurant.

Day 7: 

We wanted some cool stuff to take home, so we spent a good two hours bargaining at the Maasai Market.  It's an open air market where vendors sell their handmade goods.  The sellers are very aggressive and followed us around shoving things at us to buy.  The bargaining process was intense.  We ended up in the mall later in the day and found some of the same items they were trying to sell us for $60 USD for only $10.  We ended up with some good deals, but if we would have fallen for their initial prices, it would have been a huge rip off.  That afternoon, my mentee took us to visit the United States International University campus (USIU) where she was studying abroad.

Maasai Market- Nairobi, Kenya

Maasai Market- Nairobi, Kenya