City Guide

Nairobi 2006

31 Aug 2006 by business traveller

Claire Foottit heads for the south side of Nairobi to see some of the area's diverse wildlife and cultural hotspots, from game viewing and tribal dancing to scenes from the filming of Out of Africa

1. Nairobi National Park

You won't fit all of these sights into four hours since the national park alone could potentially occupy a whole afternoon, but it should be a priority for first-time visitors. You need to be mobile as the best sights are driving distance away, so arrange a taxi through your hotel. Take the Langata Road from central Nairobi to Nairobi National Park, which is unique for being a wilderness area located close to the city centre. Wildlife is varied and for best game viewing it's best to go in the early morning or late afternoon. You have a good chance of seeing lion, cheetah and black rhino, as well as plains game like giraffe, hartebeest and gazelle. You can also see the site where former President Moi torched an ivory pyre in 1989, drawing the world's attention to the elephant poaching crisis which threatened their survival. Open daily 6am-6pm, Entrance US$40 (you will need a smartcard, available at the gate), vehicles cost Ksh300 (£2.10).

2. Nairobi Safari Walk

If you do not have time to visit the park, the safari walk at the main park gate gives an excellent introduction to the animals you might see on safari and the issues facing their conservation. The raised boardwalk takes you through examples of wetland, savannah and forest habitats and their associated wildlife. Each has an information plaque with a description of the flora and fauna and their conservation status. Among the animals to be seen is the beautiful and rare bongo antelope. Afterwards, you can have refreshments at the Ranger's Bar and Restaurant next door, overlooking the park. Open daily 8.30am-5.30pm, Entrance US$10.

3. Bomas of Kenya

Turn left onto Langata Road for a short distance, and the Bomas of Kenya is on Forest Road on the right. A cultural centre representing Kenya's diverse tribal lifestyles and traditional dance, there's a themed village demonstrating around 11 types of tribal home. The auditorium, one of the largest in Africa, seats 3,500 people. The Harambee dancers give lively displays of different tribal dances, and play an assortment of traditional musical instruments. The Nyama Choma (roast meat) restaurant serves traditional African dishes. Open daily; check times locally for dance troupe performances, but usually Mon to Fri 2.30pm-4pm, Sat/Sun 3.30pm-5pm. Entrance Ksh600 (£4.30).

4. Matbronze Gallery

Continue south along Langata Road and take Langata South Road. Turn left onto Kifaru Lane to Matbronze. This gallery displays delightful bronze sculptures by the well-known sculptors Terry and Denis Mathews (father and son). There's a foundry where you can see the bronze casting process, from wax model to finished bronze sculpture. There are some exquisite pieces, from life-size crocodiles to elephants and dainty sunbirds. Open Mon to Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 8am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-5.30pm. Tel +254 20 24524.

5. Giraffe Centre

Continue left along Langata South Road and turn left into Koitobus Road.At the end of the road is the Giraffe Centre. Initiated by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, it is an educational resource to conserve the rare Rothschild's giraffe, one of three subspecies found in Kenya. A circular wooden building raised on stilts, it is perfect for eye-to-eye giraffe encounters - they are even tame enough to hand-feed pony nuts. A small exhibition explains their conservation status. Giraffes bred on-site are translocated into the wild. There's a small cafe and gift shop. Open daily 9am-5.30pm. Tel +254 2890 952, Entrance Ksh500 (£3.59).

6. Karen Blixen Museum

From Langata South Road, take Bogani Road and then turn onto Karen Road. This is the original farmhouse of Baroness Karen Blixen who wrote Out of Africa under her pen name, Isak Dinesen. She lived in the house between 1917 and 1931, running a coffee farm. In 1986 it was turned into a museum. Much of the filming for Out of Africa was done here, and the house is a period piece. Displaying many original items of furniture, it gives an insight into the privileged lives of early aristocratic settlers. There's a museum shop and the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden Restaurant is close by. It serves international cuisine and you can eat in the garden. The dining room often has exhibitions by local artists. Open daily 9.30am-6pm. Tel +254 20 882 779, Entrance Ksh800 (£5.75).

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