Nairobi, Kenya

Photo: The Emakoko
Photo: The Emakoko

Go on a safari or check out a cool city? Usually in order to get up close to hippos, rhinos, and zebras, you need to travel far. Very far. Multiple flights and long drives deposit you in the middle of nowhere. And while it’s absolutely amazing to see the animals in their removed natural habitat, you’re definitely isolated for the days or the weeks that you’re out there.

Unless you go to Nairobi. The capital of Kenya used to be a quick stopover point. People would spend a night–one night–when first arriving or just before departing the country. Usually holed up in a dated hotel room. But lately that’s been changing. No one is rushing away quickly anymore. Go shopping for locally made clothing at the open-air Village Market. You’re guaranteed no one will be wearing the same dress as you at your next cocktail party. Or browse ornate jewelry and brightly colored kikois at the City Market, located in an old aircraft hangar. Check out up-and-coming artists at the Banana Hill Art Gallery. Spend the first Sunday afternoon of each month listening to music in the park at Blankets & Wine. Eat samosas in Talisman’s comfortable garden or a tuna and wasabi burger at Seven. While drinking Dawa. Or try local beer at Brew Bistro.

And there are animals, of course. The Giraffe Center protects endangered giraffes, which will lick peanuts off your hand with their huge tongues. While the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescues baby elephants and rhinos, eventually returning them to the wild. Or head out to Nairobi National Park. You may be able to see the city’s tall buildings and Mount Kilimanjaro on a clear day in the distance from the park, but you’ll forget how close it all is once you spot your first herd of buffalo or pride of lions. From the Nairobi Safari Walk–right along the edge of the park–you may spot white rhinos and albino zebras.

Photo: The Emakoko
Photo: The Emakoko

And when the sun begins to set, you can either return to a rooftop terrace in the center of the city for a sundowner or grab a cocktail along the Mbagathi River at The Emakoko. Surrounded by Migumo trees, the lodge sits on a cliff overlooking the valley. Watch two eagle owls search for prey and listen to the cry of hyenas from your deck. Cozy up to the fireplace in your room after hearing stories of the day’s game drives during dinner. Black rhinos, jackals, impalas, and lions were the highlights of the day. And look down on the river as you drink coffee by the pool before you head out on your own guided search in the morning.

You may not have to choose between two different types of vacations now. But it probably just made your trip longer.


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