Kenya’s capital and largest city, Nairobi is the base for many tourists visiting Kenya for their African safari experience on the Masai Mara or other protected area. As the city’s main tourist attractions, there is even the Nairobi National Park within the city boundary, which we will mention next in a bit more detail.
Nairobi was initially established as a rail depot by the British and grew to become the country’s capital. This is now a vibrant and culture-filled city with fantastic restaurants and attractions, including the national museum, orphanages for various animals, the nearby national park, and some fascinating buildings.
For safety concerns, you should have your wits about you in the city as like any city in impoverished areas, crime can be an issue and we recommend that you avoid walking around at night. But if you pay attention to your surroundings and stay sensible, you can have a fantastic few days here before or after your safari.
The Nairobi National Museum is an interesting place to visit to learn about Kenya’s natural and cultural history and there are many different anthropological items on display. You can also visit the museum’s botanical garden and restaurants to enjoy a few hours in the city center.
There are some great shopping areas, such as the Masai market to haggle over different crafts and souvenirs. There are also a few art galleries to visit, cultural centers, tea and coffee houses, and a butterfly house.
Nairobi National Park
The main tourist attraction in Nairobi, the Nairobi National Park is unique as the only national park within a city boundary. From the edge of the city, you can even see giraffes in the distance. The wide open grasslands of the national park are backed by the city’s buildings and you can find a wide variety of iconic wildlife living here, such as lions, giraffes, cheetah, hyenas, buffalo, and a diversity of birdlife.
A historically important protected area, this was Kenya’s first national park and is just 7 km south of the city. You can see the Ivory Burning Monument where the Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi made a statement for conservation by burning 12 tons of ivory at the site back in 1989. This was during a time when hunting of large animals in East Africa was at an all time high.
Although a small national park at 117 square kilometers (28,963 acres), many animals call the park home and it’s the destination of choice for a great many migrating herbivores. The park is also home to one of Kenya’s healthiest rhino populations.
The park joins to a conservation corridor for the Athi-Kapiti plains towards the south of the park making is such a draw for wildlife. In addition to the iconic larger animals, there are a number of others to be found here including ostriches, baboons, gazelles, eland, impala, and a very high diversity of birds. Including migrants, there are around 500 different bird species found within the park boundaries making it a great place for birders.
The park includes a rhinoceros sanctuary, which was originally set up in 1963 and become one of the most successful in Kenya. The Nairobi National Park is, therefore, one of the only places where visitors have an almost certain chance of seeing black rhinoceros in their natural habitat.