Before I start the article, I wanted to share some exciting news. I have been nominated for the Adicomdays awards and cannot thank enough all of you who have taken the time to vote for me, raise awareness around you, and send me messages to cheer me up. Despite a few sad news around me, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those who have not voted yet, here is a chance to redeem yourself - Vote now!
If you rely on mainstream media, you would think Africa is inhabited by malnourished kids, adults run around naked with just a leaf to cover their private parts, lions run around as pets and people live in huts or trees... That is true but your conception of it is most likely so far away from the truth. There are 54 different countries on the continent and even, I, the one born and raised in Africa, cannot claim to know the continent well enough.
The horn of Africa is known for Safaris, beautiful landscapes as well as leading the world in terms of economic growth. I am still taken aback by the dynamism of the major cities and the way tradition and modernity coexist in harmony. If you have read most of my articles you would know that I tend to refer to a country as one of my favourites but Kenya makes it to my worldwide top 10. Hopefully, you will get to see the reason behind my decision to include the land of the Masai to the list but before, let's talk about Kenya!
Getting to Kenya
Getting to Nairobi is almost a 9-hour journey from London if you fly with Kenya Airways (quite a nice airline to fly with by the way). The service was great and with an interesting book and/or a few movies to watch, time flew faster than the plane.
As usual, for a Senegalese passport holder, a visa was required but thankfully, it was electronic. It is done via the Government website and the turnaround is around 5 working days. The cost is rather decent, £52 and around 148 countries can apply for the e-visa.
Disclaimer: I am not intending to share photos of skyscrapers or city lights just to prove that Kenya does not live up to the African stereotype, I will let those doubters find out for themselves. I went to Kenya for the wildlife and those things I could not experience near me.
Where to stay?
Just like with most trips, there is a plethora of options and all available at your fingertips. I am also amongst those who do not rely 100% on reviews as I think experiences are just unique even if one travels in a group, each individual can have a completely different appreciation of the trip. In fact, one of my favourite travellers has told me he did not have a great experience in Kenya when everybody else I spoke to had the trip of their lives. Digressing a little bit but...Accomodation, let's talk about accomodation.
The hotel is based right at the heart of Nairobi and offers all the right amenities (restaurants, spa/health club, and conference facilities) but you did not travel all the way to Kenya for this, at least not until you return from your safari. Also, all profits fund the Kenya Red Cross - How about that for leisure and spending on a good cause?
So 40 years of hospitality in the wilderness (yet in the capital) is almost unheard of, even around the world. The hotel sits on the bank of the Mbagathi River, overlooking the Nairobi National Park and the Ngong Hills - In other words, hard to beat.
The journey through Kenya has led me around Nairobi and inside the Mara Triangle. The particularity of Kenya I have noticed was just the diversity of environment within small areas and how pseudo ecosystems were created to allow man and nature to be peaceful and beneficial neighbours to each other. I think I will keep stressing this throughout the article but will just let you be the judge of it...
Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya and the former colonial granary before becoming home to at least 100 international companies. Without a doubt one of the busiest cities in the world. I remember being stuck in traffic at 5:45 AM - That is not even the time I usually wake up! The city counts north of 4 million inhabitants and spreads only across 696 km2 (269 mi2 for the non-metric folks) so you can only imagine how crowded it can get.
The unique thing I remember from this trip is that so far, Nairobi is the only city in the world where both real wildlife (I mean, real wildlife) and modernity cohabit in such a seamless manner I have not seen in visiting 65 countries. To me, there is not another city out there close to achieving this (until I see the other countries on my list).
Kenyatta International Conference Centre
Otherwise known as KICC by the locals, the center is an internationally renowned venue for conferences, meetings, and exhibitions and has been ranked as one of the best places to hold conferences on the continent (not just the country). It has been standing tall since 1973, following the commissioning of Kenya's first President, Jomo Kenyatta.
On top of the world! (KICC is no longer the tallest building in the country "thanks" to other projects such as the Teleposta or Britam towers, but still offers an impressive view.
Also, a great spot to catch sunsets, probably the best after the Masai Lodge.
Visitors are allowed access to the rooftop from 9 AM to 8 PM on weekdays and until 6 PM at week-ends.
Entrance fee: Ksh 400/£3/$4/€3.5
Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Mandir
I often come across a few gems while traveling, purely by accident, and this was one of them. After wandering around town for a while, I decided to take a different route to head back to the hotel and happened to see the temple all lit, with beautiful colours all over it, and decided to make a U-turn and visit the place. Sadly, by the time I got to it, it was closed by I still wanted to see the place and decided to pay a visit the next morning. Luckily, there was an event and the dressing up was still there!
I have noticed a few temples around the world bearing the same and figured it must be important. Quite frankly, it is such as beauty, it is worth the time to visit...
Clearly, there is an intruder...
And the last one for the road...
Entrance fee: Nil
This place is not really a landmark but a restaurant worth visiting. This restaurant serves a buffet made of a unique variety of meats with rather interesting sides and marinades.
Okay, this was an entrance to remember. The funny thing is that I was on my phone and when I raised my eyes, I was facing a red-eyed hyena. Almost lost it...
But beauty was not compromised one bit...
Rate: £23/$30/€25 but £30/$40/€34 for dinner
The silver-dome mosque is one of Kenya's most prominent religious structures and biggest mosque in the country.
The interior would remind one of the old Arab Madinah's architecture...
Quite big, with loads of daylight around and inside the building.
Entrance fee: Nil
Giraffe Manor & Center
Probably the best part of Nairobi, the giraffe center and the manor have gained world-fame recently thanks to social media and large flocks of people, including myself, are heading towards the place to see it first hand. Essentially, the complex is made up of two main attractions, the very pricey Giraffe Manor and the Giraffe Center. Now a lot of people have asked what was the difference between the two and here's the explanation:
The Giraffe Manor is essentially a hotel right inside the giraffe center where guests can enjoy the visits of giraffes in the morning, to come and have breakfast with them in their rooms -Literally!
All about the giraffes...
Credit: Hayes & Jarvis
It is definitely one of those opportunities one will only experience once in their lifetime but looking at the prices, I thought I would let this one go.