48 Hours in Nairobi

Elephants, Giraffes and Shopping

48 Hours in Nairobi

Nairobi - it's seriously under-rated.

OK, so we understand this may not be at the top of your holiday planning wish list. Mention Nairobi and most people will view it as a transit point en-route to the sexier adventures of a safari, or when heading across to the relaxing beaches to chill. But flight times mean a night in Kenya’s energetic capital is often a necessity. At Knighton Reeve we love to explore, and feel sheltering ourselves away in an airport hotel to be a wasted opportunity. And in our view, Nairobi is seriously under-rated.

Let’s get one issue out of the way though. Nobody is joking about the traffic. It’s a busy, bustling, crazy and vibrant African city. The journeys in Nairobi are part of the adventure and an excellent opportunity to observe local life. We have seen 3 people (4 at a push) on a motorbike, ladies with suitcases on their heads, people carrying livestock, African warriors with smartphones queuing for a KFC and nuns trying to hitch hike! Embrace it and soak up the atmosphere as we chauffeur you in style around the unique indigenous lifestyle.


We highly recommend both Hemingways Nairobi and Giraffe Manor, both of which are located in the suburb of Karen. It negates having to travel into central Nairobi, and there are plenty of attractions nearby. It is also close to Wilson Airport, which is the usual departure or arrival point to and from the safari regions.

Hemingways Nairobi is a great mix of style and service. It has all the facilities of a large hotel but with the personality of with something much smaller. We love the sound of the fountains as you walk in, past the sweeping colonial staircases, before being wowed by the huge rooms (each with butler service). With gorgeous views across to the Ngong Hills, it is a great base with fantastic food and a tranquil sense of calm. Ian described it on his recent visit as “effortlessly classy”.

The images of the giraffes joining you for breakfast or afternoon tea at Giraffe Manor is iconic. The hotel is fully booked most of the year and if this is on your ‘must do’ list (and we're pretty sure it is!), you must plan at least 12 months in advance. It is just one of those hotels. We love the romance of a private dinner in the Orchid House for that extra special occasion. 


If you just can’t get to stay at Giraffe Manor though, and desperately want to see these graceful creatures up close, we can happily take you to the Giraffe Centre next door. Katherine still has her Giraffe-Kiss selfie to prove just how close you can get! 

Sheldricks Elephant Centre is a superb example of how animal interactions should be done. Don’t expect an all singing and dancing experience, the focus here is firmly on the welfare of these magnificent creatures. Ian and Katherine have both chosen to “adopt an elephant” on recent visits. We highly recommend this - not only for contributing to an internationally well-respected conservation cause, but you also get to escape the crowds visiting during the daytime. Adopters can spend a calmer hour at the end of the day in the orphanage, watching the keepers give their charges their bottles and put them to bed. A wonderful, uncontrived experience - we love the fact this doesn’t feel like a tourist show, and it is all the better for it.


“I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills” – that farm has now become a beautiful landmark and Karen Blixen’s legacy lives on throughout the continent. For fans of Out of Africa, a visit to Karen Blixen’s house allows a chance to enjoy this treasured national museum and to see original furnishings and belongings, plus numerous props from the film.

The ladies of Knighton Reeve love a chance to shop, and the suburb of Karen has many fantastic boutiques. Suzanne highly recommends a visit to The Souk – a relaxed mix of cafes and creative Kenyan shops. She loves the craftwork of the beaded Maasai belts by Linda Camm, and is often spotted sporting a purchase around the office. As the Duchess of Cambridge is also a fan, we know Suzanne can always be trusted to seek out the style in a city.

Kazuri Beads was started in 1975 as a social project for single mothers, and now employs over 340 women. A proud Fair Trade project, we think a visit to see the skill involved in creating the ceramic bead jewellery and pottery is time well spent. You will soon see a bead theme in Kenya, and Anna Trzebinski is renowned for her beautifully beaded pashminas and handbags. She has created a range with delicate Guinea Fowl feathers on the hems. 

If you are looking for traditional African Crafts then head to Utamaduni Craft Centre. On Katherine’s travels she has lost count of how many road side craft stalls she has stopped at, but maintains she has not only found better deals at Utamaduni, but also not felt in the least bit pressured. Further afield, The Village Market is a large shopping and entertainment centre, but with a sophisticated feel to rival the Waterfront area in Cape Town. 


There are few better ways to end a day than with good food in beautiful surroundings. The Knighton Reeve team are always happy to try out a restaurant or two in the name of research, and Suzanne’s current favourite is The Talisman – an elegant dining experience but with a strong focus on organic food and environmental impact. We will be happy to help arrange your reservation, even if it will make us hungry and just a little bit envious to do so.

We recommend spending the whole day with a private guide and vehicle in order to visit everything of interest. We feel sure you will leave Nairobi pleasantly surprised, and glad you grabbed the opportunity to do more than just pass through her airports. Asante Sana Nairobi – until next time!

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Call us on 01904 866 033 or email: to plan your luxury safari holiday to Kenya.

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