Last Updated on 07/01/23 by Rose Palmer
Nairobi is the usual landing spot and starting point for safaris in Kenya. If you have the time, you can start off your trip with a day in Nairobi, experiencing Africa’s unique wildlife at the various local animal sanctuaries. Here are my recommendations for Nairobi day trips.
With a population of over 4 million, Nairobi is a thriving and busy modern city clogged with the traffic that comes with such a large population. International flights come in through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Contact your hotel ahead of time to set up a driver to pick you up at the airport. Your hotel should also be able to set up a private driver to take you on the Nairobi day trips listed below.
Nairobi Day Trips – The Giraffe Centre
You may have seen photos on social media of guests sharing their breakfast at Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor with some of the local Rothschild giraffes. But at over $600 per person per night, this experience is outside of most people’s pocket books.
The Giraffe Manor is actually adjacent to the Giraffe Centre’s conservation land and the giraffes are part of this center’s conversation efforts. For about a $10 entry fee, you can see these same giraffes and have them eating out of your hand, literally. Or, if you are brave, let them give you a kiss.
The Giraffe Centre’s primary mission is conservation and education. The center was established in 1979 to help save the endangered Rothschild giraffe which exists only in east Africa. At that time, there were only 130 animals left in the wild. Since then, the center has successfully bred and released over 40 Rothschild giraffes in numerous parks and conservancies around Kenya, so that now there are over 300 of these lovely giraffes thriving and breeding in the wild.
The center also provides free environmental education for over 50,000 Kenyan students each year. For the tourists though, the highlight is being able to closely interact with this tower of giraffes and to hand feed them. It was amazing to see them gently pick a food pellet from my hand with their extremely long (and slimy) tongues.
Travel tip – If you can, visit the Giraffe Center first thing when they open in the morning before it gets busy. My driver told me that most guides take their guests to the elephant sanctuary first for the 11 AM feedings (see below) and then from there go to the Giraffe Center which makes the afternoons there very busy.
For the most up to date information please visit https://www.giraffecentre.org/ .
Nairobi Day Trips -The David Sheldrick Elephant and Rhino Orphanage
Who doesn’t love seeing baby elephants? At the David Sheldrick Orphanage, they rescue and hand raise baby elephant and rhino orphans. The orphanage opens its doors to the public for one hour each day only (except Dec. 25) from 11-12 in the morning. During that time the elephants are brought out in small groups and while they are fed bottles of milk, one of the keepers talks about each elephant. You learn their name, how they were orphaned, how old they are and tidbits about their personality.
The presentation also describes the labor intensive process of rearing a baby elephant – they need to be milk fed every four hours for the first four years and a caregiver is with them 24/7, much like a human baby. You’ll also learn about the process for introducing the orphans back into the wild. As interesting as the discussion was the baby and juvenile elephants stole the show. It was fun to watch them interacting with each other and the hour went by much too quickly.
And you’ll get to watch the (not so) little guys interacting with each other and playing.
Travel tip: try to arrive at least 20-30 minutes early so that you have time to get from the parking area to the entrance, wait in line to buy your ticket (cash only) and then get a good spot to view the elephants. Since this facility is open to the public for only one hour each day, it will be busy.
For up to date information and also information on how to adopt an elephant please visit https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/
Nairobi Day Trips – Crocodile Farm at Mamba Village
I had about an hour to kill and asked my driver what else I could see. He took me to Mamba Village, also in Nairobi’s Karen area, to visit the crocodile farm. It was mid day and no one else was there, so I got a private tour with the extremely knowledgeable guide. I learned all about the Nile crocodiles, and from this close perspective, it was easy to see their prehistoric origins.
I also had the chance to hold a 5 year old Nile crocodile – most likely the only time in my life I will ever experience this. (or want to).
The tour also took me to the areas where they raise and care for African tortoises and Maasai ostriches.
Where to Stay in Nairobi
On my most recent trip to Kenya, I stayed at the Margarita House at the beginning and end of the trip. This lovely B&B is located in the quiet (and upscale) suburb of Karen (named after Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa). Besides having very comfortable and spacious rooms, the service was extremely warm and friendly. The property has a very intimate feel to it but my room was quite spacious and very bright and comfortable.
This is the type of place where they remember your name, even when you come back two weeks later. At one point, the owner, Elizabeth Bwayovowned stopped by as I was relaxing in the lounge, introduced herself and asked if there was anything I needed – never had that happen before.
The Margarita House has a comfortable lounge and a restaurant where they will prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner for you so you do not have to go out and find a place to eat at the end of the day if you are tired. There is also a pool and a gym.
Most important, it is in the same general area of Nairobi as the Giraffe Centre and the Elephant Sanctuary so you wont have to drive far or deal with much of the Nairobi traffic. The Margarita House staff driver took me to the spots I wanted to visit (for a fee) as well as to the airport.
I loved my stay at the Margarita House and will definitely be staying there again the next time I am in Nairobi.
Where to Eat in Nairobi
I enjoyed a very nice meal at the Tamambo Restaurant in the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and Cottages which sits on the site of the original farmhouse on the Blixen property. The restaurant is located in one of the oldest formal gardens in Kenya which makes eating al fresco very pleasant.
It is within easy access to the Karen Blixen Museum as well as the Giraffe Centre and the Elephant Orphanage. The menu is quite diverse, including vegetarian options (though I just had a very tasty cheeseburger).
There are numerous tours that can take you to all of these sights in Nairobi. However, it was easy enough to visit them on my own. The Margarita House set me up with a driver who drove me to each location and waited for me till I was done. The advantage to this was that I could visit the sights on my schedule and stay as long as I wanted to.
For another unique wildlife experience that is within the city, you can also visit the Nairobi National Park which is a 117 sq km protected space where you can see lions, leopards, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and baboons.
If Nairobi is your first stop on a safari tour, these Nairobi day trips will be a nice introduction to all the wildlife you will see once you leave the city and head out to the various national parks or conservancies.
Other Kenya stories you may enjoy:
How to enjoy a Kenya beach holiday: A Sunny Italian Kenya Beach Resorts Experience – My Favorite Alternative to the Seychelles
Conservation efforts at the Enonkishu conservancy: On the Frontline of Conservation – Changing the “OR” to “AND” at the Enonkishu Conservancy
Discover the unique Gedi Ruins: Get Thee to the Gedi Ruins
A perfect day on a Masai Mara safari: Into Africa – A Perfectly Wild Day On a Masai Mara Safari
25 wildlife photos from the Enonkishu Conservancy: 25 Photos to Inspire You to Visit the Enonkishu Conservancy in Kenya
Thanks for visiting.