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An overhead view of Nairobi, Kenya, a former colonial capital of British East Africa, skyscrapers, downtown view larger image

A rough outpost amidst a highland swamp as the colonial capital of British East Africa in 1907, Nairobi today is the urban heartbeat of independent Kenya and one of Africa’s most important cities. Nairobi has long been a meeting point for adventurers and travelers from all over the world, and most Kenya safaris still originate here. Nairobi’s national museum and the historic home of Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa, are popular attractions.

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A young baby elephant is bottle fed by her attendent in Nairobi, Kenya, red dirt view image gallery

The Safari Experience

While Nairobi is a bustling hub of more than 3 million residents, much of interest lies in the peaceful suburbs of Langata and Karen, the original coffee farm of Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Her home is now a museum and a piece of Kenya’s colonial history. The suburb features small boutique hotels and guesthouses, as well as some of Nairobi’s best attractions here. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant and rhino orphanage is situated just inside Nairobi National Park and offers scheduled and private visits. The nearby Giraffe Center is home to the Rothschild giraffe breeding program, and visitors can hand-feed these delightful animals . Enjoy shopping at the Kazuri workshop, where some 350 Kenyan women handcraft beads and ceramic jewelry. Started in 1975 by missionary Lady Susan Wood to create jobs for women, Kazuri is a member of the World Fair Trade Federation.

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A giraffe is fed above a fence by a sanctuary attendant in Nairobi, Kenya view image gallery


Nairobi National Park is unique indeed, in that you might see a towering giraffe with the city’s skyline as the backdrop. Despite its odd setting on the edge of a major metropolis, the park has a full and diverse population of wildlife, including all the “Big Five” except elephant—and it’s one of the best places to see black rhino in the wild. Inside the park is the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant and rhino orphanage. Since taking in its first orphaned elephant in 1954, Dame Daphne Sheldrick has rehabilitated and successfully released more than 40 hand-reared orphaned elephants back into Tsavo National Park. A private afternoon visit to the orphanage and elephant “adoption” is highly recommended, while a scheduled morning visit is also possible. The nearby Giraffe Center is home to the Rothschild giraffe-breeding program, where giraffes breed naturally within a private 120-acre reserve, and the young ones are released into the wild to encourage population growth of this endangered species.

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View of a building completely surrounded by nature and encroaching plantlife and vines in Nariobi, Kenya view image gallery

How to Include Nairobi in Your Safari Itinerary

Recommended Number of Nights

Nature Travelers: 1 night upon arrival
Photographers: 1-2 nights upon arrival if interested in wildlife interactions
Families: 2 nights in the suburb of Karen to visit all the sights
Active Travelers: 1 night upon arrival

Other Regions to Include

Many flights arrive into Nairobi late at night, thus requiring an overnight in one of the many fine hotels or lodges in the Karen suburb or city center. Nairobi is the entry-point for most Kenya and East Africa safaris, and options out of Nairobi are many: there are the vast herds and prides of wildlife in the Maasai Mara; unique and rare species in the Lewa & Laikipia regions, and magnificent elephants in the marshes of Amboseli. Kenya offers various combinations for a well-rounded safari. Traditional culture thrives, with opportunities to meet both Maasai and Samburu people. From Nairobi one can easily access Tanzania’s northern circuit—the elephants and baobabs of Tarangire, the beauty of Lake Manyara, the wildlife-rich Ngoronogoro Crater, and of course the Serengeti, with its great migration of wildebeest and zebra. Beach extensions to Zanzibar or gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda are all available directly from Nairobi.

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