Nairobi – Gretchen’s East Africa trip report #1

December 27, 2010  By: Gretchen

It’s not often that a person designs a trip to include a layover on purpose, but I’ve always believed that it’s worth making the most of any stop. On my most recent visit to East Africa, I had an overnight layover in Nairobi and arranged it so that I could visit a few of the highlights.

Upon a very late arrival, I was greeted at the airport and transferred to my hotel, the Ole-Sereni. It’s only a few minutes ride from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which was a welcome after a long journey.

The hotel sits on Nairobi National Park, the only national park in the world with a suburban location. The standard rooms are cozy but well appointed with a view of the city. Ole-Sereni also offers deluxe and club rooms as well as suites, with options that face the national park. After a good sleep, I enjoyed watching giraffes feeding in the park from my breakfast table on the hotel terrace. This hotel is a good choice for a late arrival into the city for a brief stay.

I only had a half day to explore, so chose two things I knew I would enjoy; the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Giraffe Center. This was followed by lunch near a famous landmark before heading back to the airport for my flight to Kigali.

My first stop was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which I timed so that I could witness the baby elephants having their breakfast with a bit of playtime afterward. We were escorted to an area with a muddy watering hole and the elephants arrived with their caretakers. The staff gave an excellent talk about the history of the center, its mission and the plight of orphaned animals. We learned about the individual elephants and enjoyed watching them be bottle fed; it’s really something to see! They then proceeded to romp around in the mud, cooling themselves and playing games (including soccer!) with one another.

The good news story here is that all of the animals at the Trust (there are more than elephants) are being rehabilitated and will one day be released back into the wild.

Next stop was the Giraffe Center. This center is an important breeding center for the endangered Rothschild giraffe and is run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. Its purpose is to create awareness and to provide education aimed at encouraging its guests to appreciate and conserve Kenya’s precious biodiversity. While visiting, there are several activities on offer including hand-feeding or even having a kiss from the Rothschild giraffes, which is really quite an experience!

If the giraffe is your favorite animal, you might consider staying at the excellent Giraffe Manor next door. You might just find a giraffe outside your window in the morning!

I ended my all too brief visit to Nairobi with lunch on the lawns of the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden. It’s near the attractions I visited in the Nairobi suburb of Karen, and just down the way from the Karen Blixen Museum. The food is excellent; I thoroughly enjoyed my hand-thrown pizza with a cold Tusker.

I look forward to a longer visit next time; there is a lot to do and see in Nairobi. It was good to whet my appetite for the future.

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