A little more than a century old, Nairobi has always been one of the world's best hubs for a truly authentic African safari, as it is surrounded by world-renowned national parks in all directions. If you are just passing through on your way to the Masai Mara or Amboseli National Parks, the capital city can offer you up close and very personal interactions with giraffes at the Giraffe Centre (mind their tongues!), a welcome assault on the senses at the bustling and colourful Masai market, and a trip down history lane with a guided walk through the dark-wooden rooms of Out of Africa author Karen Blixen's house.
Though Nairobi is often overlooked, for those who are interested in getting to know the real Kenya, it can provide a fantastic eye-opening experience, with its enormous city buzz and pounding nightlife interspersed with traditional highlights and fantastic wildlife. Take a look around the colonial-era gem that is the Muthaiga Country Club, visit the Kazuri Bead Factory to watch how the hand-made kaleidoscopic jewellery is formed from raw clay, and even get stuck in a traffic jam on your ride from the airport- all part of the cultural journey!
If you have a few days in Nairobi, or even just one evening, take a tasting tour of the city. Start with the nutty and rich Kenyan coffee at the Nairobi Java House, fill up on the fragrant and divine Indian cuisine at Open House restaurant or the no-stop refills of perfectly-cooked, wild game meat at Carnivore, and settle down for the evening with an ice cold and locally brewed Tusker beer.
Though Nairobi carves Kenya’s cultural and technological future, it’s the Great Rift Valley and subsequent lakes that define the country’s physical past. Formed around 20 million years ago, the Great Rift Valley is only part of a colossal continental fault that runs from Jordan to Mozambique. Acting as a great divide between people and nature, the rift is Kenya’s most important topographical feature, with its green basins and vast lakes providing a verdant playground for hippos and flamingos.
Running alongside the valley are a group of lakes that include some of the oldest, largest and deepest in the world. High up on a plateau between the eastern and western rifts is the beautiful Lake Victoria, with some of the most stunning sunsets we’ve ever seen. Further east, Lake Naivasha is surrounded by lush farmland, charming lodges like lovely Loldia House, and pods of hippo wallowing in the water, while Lake Nakuru’s shores are tinted pink with flocks of flamingos and its forests are one of the best places in Kenya to spot rhino.