Layover In Nairobi: Safari, African Culture, Food!
Marco Perkmans is a flight attendant with a Dutch Carrier
Country Airport Place
Kenya NBO Nairobi

A layover in Nairobi means only one thing – Jungle Safari. Everything else is like the icing on the cake. Every time I am in the Safari Capital of the World, looking at those beautiful creatures is my top priority. It is a new experience every time because of Kenya’s wildlife diversity. Spending time with those loving Giraffes and Baby Elephants is thoroughly divine. After the safari, there is so much about the African culture and cuisine that makes the rest of the layover a fantastic adventure!

Animal Safaris in Nairobi

Nairobi has so many options when it comes to a safari that you will be spoilt for choice. However, as we mostly have short layovers, we plan only one safari each time. People might think, why go for a safari every time, but I have had a unique experience each time, so I am drawn to it even after having visited numerous times.

  • Safari & Camping at Nairobi National Park

    The topmost and the most flexible place to go for a safari, in my opinion, is Nairobi NP. It is just a few miles away from the city, but it offers an envious wildlife diversity. If you are there in the right season – mostly dry months of June to September, you can see the rarest of the rarest species, including spotted hyena, black rhino, cheetahs, and leopards. This park is worthy of credit for reintroducing black rhinos on the verge of extinction. This is why it received the title of “Kifaru Ark – A sanctuary for Rhinos.”

The first time the crew and I went here, we only took a 2-hour game drive in the park. It was very early morning, and the weather was quite pleasant. We were pretty skeptical whether we would spot animals, but as all the vehicle drivers were connected via wireless radios, we were taken to all the spots where animals were sighted. We were so lucky that we spotted the rarest black rhinos. It made our day!

Then our guide took us to the Ivory Burning Site and narrated how the park was committed against the poaching of animals. I was thrilled to see a cheetah coalition just a few meters away from our car. The crew and I were so inspired by the whole experience that we decided the next time we’d visit; we would camp overnight.

The camps here are very luxurious with all the necessary amenities; we even stayed in a beautiful log cabin once. Overall, Nairobi NP has always offered us a dream outdoor recreation experience.

  • Befriending Daisy at the Giraffe Center

    As I grew up in a city, I had only seen Giraffes in cartoons until I was lucky enough to visit the Giraffe Center, just a short drive from the National Park. These tall and formidable-looking creatures will become your best friends if you offer them food, which also means they won’t befriend you unless you offer them food! Also, if you dare approach them without food, be prepared for the famous Giraffe head butt! But why go to such lengths? Experience how they stick out their long tongues and roll up the food right from your hands. I was fascinated by how each female giraffes is named after a flower and the male giraffe after a tree. I simply loved Daisy IV, and she loved me back. It was such an honor because the center people told me she is very picky of whom she befriends. But with me, she was such a darling!

Next time I am going to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to meet those baby elephants everyone has told me about. People say you can even adopt an elephant there. I am so looking forward to it; maybe I will return with an elephant with me!

Top Cultural Attractions in Nairobi

A layover in Nairobi is an excellent way to get to know the traditional African culture. One of the top ways to explore the city is through its unique city tours. These tours include slum visits with street kids and traditional song and dance shows, showing the traditional lifestyle of the people. It is a unique way to get to know a city and its people. Some of my favorite experiences include:

  • Bomas of Kenya

    One of the must-do things on a layover in Nairobi is to visit this living museum. It is a recreation of traditional Kenyan Culture as people wear traditional attire and live an authentic village life. The place is filled with bamboo huts with thatched roofs and hosts several daily song and dance shows. You can experience any of the 50 dances of different Kenyan ethnic communities. I personally loved the Harambee dance performances; they even picked me out of the audience to dance with them. The place is filled with superb energy and is terrific fun. Overall it is a fun and enthusiastic peek into the local life that you wouldn’t find everywhere.

  • City Storytelling Tours

    Every city has its own flavor. Nairobi’s authentic flavor is in its slums and its streets. For me, it is essential to know about the real people of a country I visit. It is not just about living in swanky hotels and mingling with the urban population. So, I make it a point to roam the streets of countries I visit. However, Nairobi is not one of the cities where you can go into the slums alone. Nai Nami Guys tours are the perfect way to explore the slums and learn about the inspiring stories behind each of these settlements. These storytellers are children who have grown in these slums and survived the streets. Touring with them gives you a whole new perspective about street smartness. Some of these kids have managed to pull themselves out from a world of crime and are now living a straight life. It is an inspiring way to walk through the heart of the city.

Culinary & Nightlife Experiences in Nairobi

Although Nairobi is famous for offering cuisines from almost every part of the world, I always love eating the traditional meals. There is something about the traditional flavor that always makes me want more. Some of my favorite restaurants to eat during my layover in Nairobi are:

  • Mama Ashanti

    The top thing about this place is the food is home-cooked. They specialize in West African Cuisine, typically the recipes from Ghana and Nigeria. I love their preparation of Grilled Beef Mshikaki and the Ogbono Soup. The fruit salad in dessert is another favorite of mine. Along with food, they have an expansive menu of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I especially love the watermelon smoothie as it helps in drowning down the meat. They even have live jazz bands every Friday, so, what starts with a delicious dinner, ends in a moving and entertaining night of live music.

  • Nyama Mama

    The secret behind authentic food, apart from good ingredients, is the authentic childhood recipes passed on over generations. If you want to have that kind of an experience, Nyama Mama’s roadside diner is your best bet. The colorful wooden furniture and wall murals bring out the fun vibes of the place. On top of that, you get an ensemble of multiple cuisines, somewhat of Mama’s own street-inspired concoctions. From Coconut Cassava Balls to Sweet potato, feta & garden peas croquette, everything is delicious and leaves a blast of taste in your mouth that you wouldn’t want to eat any other cuisine. Also, if you want to combine nightlife with food, check out Blue Door right next to the diner offering live music, craft cocktails, and retro vibes.

These two places are always my first choices on a layover in Nairobi. Still, whenever I want to eat something more international, I go to any Japanese or Seafood restaurants sprinkled all around Nairobi.

Tuonane Kesho Nairobi: I am Enchanted by You

A layover in Nairobi is full of natural fun, authentic flavors, and cultural explorations. The more I learn about the fun-loving African culture, the more I want to be a part of it. For me, Nairobi is the perfect blend of outdoor and social adventure with a garnish of traditional cuisine – an experience I would never miss if given an opportunity.

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