While for many Nairobi is a transit point on the way to a safari holiday, the city has many attractions in its own right. These include the Nairobi National Park, where lions, cheetahs, black rhinos, giraffes, zebra and wildebeest can be seen against the backdrop of the city skyline. Tourists may also want to visit the Giraffe Centre, a breeding and educational center for the Rothschild Giraffe, and Dame Sheldrick’s Elephant and Rhino Orphanage. Further out, the Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park is centered around a mountain forest where you can see many primates and birds.
Nairobi National Museum contains many interesting exhibits, including discoveries by the Leakey family. The Karen Blixen Museum commemorates the author of the same name, whose books included ‘Out of Africa’.
Nairobi is a commercial city, and a visit to see life taking place in the business district is a must. The city’s buildings seem very Westernised, with skyscrapers and a range of corporate names emblazoned on restaurants and cafés. But the life that takes place in these surroundings is anything but. Spend some time shopping for souvenirs and you’ll soon encounter a typical African culture.
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Almost at 6,000 feet (1.8km), Nairobi has sunny, warm summers and cool winters with chilly evenings. December to March is the sunniest part of the year, and daytime temperatures are usually in the mid-70s. June, July, and August temperatures usually range about the low-70s. August and September, though, are marked with overcast, drizzly days.
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Nairobi’s main season is January and February when it is hot and dry. June to September is also a popular time.
The two wet seasons are March to May and October to December, with the most rain from March to May. The city is much quieter and cheaper during these periods, yet there is not enough rain to stop you from getting out and around.
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Car hire is an option in Nairobi, but rush hours are extremely busy and other road users can drive riskily. The lack of road signs can make navigating difficult. Prices should be agreed beforehand with taxis. Matatus are public minibuses operating between the city center and suburbs; they can be overcrowded, poorly driven and theft is a concern.
Visitors should always keep valuables out of sight, especially if traveling on matatus, and stay alert for thieves and scams. Large amounts of money should not be carried and walking around at night is not recommended – use taxis where possible. Slums and areas such as Eastleigh should be avoided.
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- Just outside the concrete jungle of downtown Nairobi lies the wild wonders of Nairobi National Park. Zebras, wildebeests, cheetahs, giraffes, and lions all reside within the astounding 28,963 acre expanse of the park. The park should be one of the first places you visit after your flight to Nairobi lands: The Nairobi skyline in the background plays a sharp contrast to the sanctuary of the park, and the plethora of creatures crawling the grounds during the dry season will leave visitors of every age in awe.
- Itching to get out of the city for a couple of days? Outdoor sports enthusiasts splurge with the money they saved on their Nairobi cheap flights on hiking, biking and white water rafting expeditions within an hour of the city limits. The Tana River, the largest in Kenya and situated only an hour’s drive from Nairobi, offers some of the best white water rafting conditions in East Africa. The Ngong Hills make for an excellent day trip and are also conveniently located near Nairobi. It’s recommended that you tour the Ngong Hills with one of the rangers available: They charge for their services, but with the herds of buffalo roaming the hills and heightened instances of vandalism that have occurred in recent years, the ranger fee is a small price to pay for the unforgettable views of the Rift Valley atop the hills.
- Shopaholics should leave room in their carry-ons for their Nairobi flight home: An array of bazaars and markets can be found throughout the city offering curios, or African souvenirs. The Blue Market on Muindi Mbingu Street was originally built as an aircraft hangar but today houses the brilliant hues of blankets, clothing, art work and instruments of local artisans for sale. Remember that haggling with the vendor is an acceptable form of finding the best deal, and keep your eye on your belongings as this crowded marketplace is ideal pick-pocketing territory.
- The Giraffe Manor, 30 minutes from the center of Nairobi, claims to be the only place in the world where you can feed and photograph the giraffe over your breakfast table, at the front door, and from a bedroom window. The adjoining Jock Leslie-Melville Nature Education Center, is better known as the Giraffe Center. Visitors can take a guided walk through its forest.
- Movie and literature lovers are booking flights to Nairobi to pay homage to Mbogani, Karen Blixen’s home and the setting of Out of Africa. Out of Africa is a memoir chronicling Karen von Blixen-Finecke’s experience living on a coffee plantation in Kenya in the early 20th century. The home of Blixen, who penned Out of Africa under the name Isak Dinesen, was established in Nairobi as a museum in her honor in 1986. The museum was opened after the film adaptation of the memoir, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, received international accolades upon its 1985 release.
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