After our time at Shaba National Reserve, and Mt. Kenya Safari, we made the drive back to Nairobi and dropped off our rental vehicle. We had a couple of days before our flight home and wanted to see what sights Kenya’s capital had to offer. I had read about the various Maasai markets held around Nairobi, and Richard had researched some places we could go to see animals! Together, we had a jam-packed two-day tour around Nairobi.
Our home base in the city was the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel. Not as fancy or luxurious as the Fairmont in Mt. Kenya, but it was in a good location, right beside one of the markets that we were planning to visit. As we had dropped off our vehicle when we arrived in Nairobi, we hired a driver for the time that we were in Nairobi. It was a great call, as he knew all the best ways around town, as well as some places to eat along the way.
Our first stop was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, to see the orphaned elephants. I had been picturing some sort of romantic scenario, where I get to hand-feed baby elephants, but the result was a biiiit different. The crowd at this place was massive, which meant that we ended up at the back of a group of school children, unable to get very close to the elephants. It was a bit of a letdown, as those people in front were taking photo after photo and not letting anyone else have a turn up close. If you decide to go yourself, get there early in order to beat the tour groups.
However, the elephants were exceptionally cute, and it did feel good to spend money to help a group of orphaned elephants, rather than pay some zoo. Although why they are orphaned in the first place (ivory) is so sad. By the time I have kids, elephants might be something you only see in zoos.
It’s a fancy old house-turned-hotel where the giraffes come right up to your window and stick their heads in (you often see photos on Pinterest in “best hotel” lists). Well, these Giraffe don’t live on the Manor grounds but are part of the Giraffe Centre which is right next door. If you don’t have the money to stay in the Manor ($$$) or it’s booked solid (like it was when we checked) then you’ll want to visit the nearby Centre.
Here, you can get real up close and personal with the giraffes! Just watch that you don’t turn your back on them, as they like to head-butt you for more food. And as you can see in the photos, their heads are big!! The Centre started out as a breeding program for a variety of Giraffe that were going extinct, and now also serves to educate young Kenyan school groups on conservation and animal protection.
But the best part is how much you get to interact with the giraffe!!
At the end of our first day, we had a bit of time before dinner and opted to visit the Nairobi Animal Orphanage program at the National Park. It was a bit of a letdown, in that you find out so few of the animals get rehabilitated into the wild (they had lots of large cats). Kind of sad seeing large lions knowing they will spend their lives in captivity.
But you can bet I got to pet more cheetahs! Never tell me that I am allowed to touch cool animals because it will become my new mission in life… oh and I got a monkey to climb all over my shoulders. And can only find a crappy iPhone photo of it. 🙁
On our second day in Nairobi, we opted to spend it perusing the markets. I had read online that there were two Maasai markets on certain days, and that one was more geared towards locals, and the other towards tourists. Our driver opted to take us to the touristy one first, and it was a bit of a letdown.
Sure, there were tons of the styles of bowls and spoons that I liked, but so many sandals and purses and other “non-traditional” items. I had really been wanting to find things like masks, baskets, and carved gourds. This market had none. Although you can bet I still bought more bone inlay bowls…
So it was with some uncertainty that we approached the second market. And boy, it did not disappoint. It was huge! Just a big field-type space where the people all set up their little stands, and it can be a bit overwhelming walking through. Everyone wants you to stop and look at their stuff, and the odd trader can be a bit aggressive in following you.
But they had gourds! And baskets! And masks! And you can bet we came home with all three. We even went back to the market later, as we had been rushing through the first time, and it was only a short walk from our hotel.
I can definitely suggest picking the markets not located in malls if you are visiting on a day with two locations. The market might be a bit chaotic, and the sellers more pushy, but you’re more likely to find something unique. I even went home with a bunch of porcupine quills! This woman just had a box of them beside her necklaces and I spent like £1 on a handful. It was almost my favorite purchase because it was unexpected.
And so, after two days in Nairobi, we packed our bags for the final time and headed to the airport. 10 days went by so quickly, but it was an experience I doubt we will ever forget.