Between January and June of 2021, Kenya recorded 49,000 tourists from the United States. Nairobi is a city well known for its National Parks, bustling way of life and developing infrastructure. For families traveling with young children, there are a lot of options for entertainment and learning. After our recent trip to Kenya’s capital city we have a list of top 5 activities we recommend for children ages 5 and up.
#1. The Giraffe Center
Located 40minutes from the city center, the Giraffe Center (African Fund For Endangered Wildlife) is without a doubt a fun visit for children. Established 41years ago, the center focuses on protection of the endangered Rothschild giraffe subspecies, conservation of youth education programs and partnering with other organizations toward the conservation of flora and fauna in Kenya and East Africa. The center is currently under construction in phases but remains open to the public for a reasonable fee. The giraffes can be seeing strolling about freely about the park and occasionally stopping by the fence to be fed while they slobber all over their visitors. Right next to the giraffe center is the popular Giraffe Manor where guests who stay overnight can have breakfast on their balcony with giraffes walking up to the balcony to get fed – truly a sight to watch. There is a gift shop on site and educational building which can be toured for more information on the endangered species. Estimated timeframe to visit is 45minutes-1hour so get ready to get slobbered!
#2. Nairobi National Museum
In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city is this well kept secret. The Nairobi National Museum could easily be three separate museums. You can do a self guided tour or have a tour guide with you. There are several sections within the museum. The first section we walked through was dedicated to Kenyan cultures and traditions. There is a section of natural history with taxidermy native to the country. The next exhibit gave an extensive history lesson on the history of currency in East Africa. The last section in this building was the art gallery where local artists showcase their work which is typically also for sale. The art and craft is changed every month so there’s always something new for visitors.
Outside still on the grounds is the “snake park”. It is an outdoor area with reptiles adjacent to the aquarium. This is a self guided section with great information on the reptiles and fish tailored to an elementary school audience. After 3hours we had seen about 70% of the museum but our kids were ready for a meal so we conveniently completed our visit at the restaurant on site which is slightly overpriced though the food has the reputation of being tasty with a menu which changes frequently.
#3. Kazuri Bead Factory
Tucked away in the Karen Blixen Estate (where the movie “Out of Africa” was filmed) is this impressive local handmade bead factory. Group tours are free on a first come first serve basis during which we walked through the process of making ceramics and hand crafted/painted beads from its raw material, clay. Kazuri means “small and beautiful” in Swahili and this factory and the story behind its mission is exactly that. What started out as a humble means of employment for two Kenyan women has grown into a reliable means of developing the craft and employment for several women some of whom as single mothers or sole providers for their families. The tour ends in the craft shop and it is impossible to walk out without a purchasing at least one of the unique, small and beautiful designs. The entire visit takes no more than an hour.
#4. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage
Located in the Nairobi National Park, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is open for one hour daily from 11am to noon. During this time, the orphaned elephants come to this part of the park for mud baths and feeding. The Trust is committed to protecting the orphaned elephants, white and black rhinos as well as giraffes. Guests receive educational information about the origins and mission of the Orphanage and learn the unique stories of some of the elephants. There are photo opportunities for close ups and you may be lucky enough to feel an elephants tusks!
#5 Nairobi Animal Orphanage
Also located in the National Park is the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. A conservancy managed by the Kenyan Wildlife Service, the orphanage is committed to the protection and rehabilitation of several wild animals. Self guided tour is the name of the game at this facility which is set up similarly to a zoo where visitors walk through and observe cheetahs, warthogs, lions, monkeys, baboons, serval cats, leopards, jackals and hyenas among others. If you happen to visit toward sunset like we did, the tree monkeys get to swinging from branch to branch in loud unsynchronized chants among the roars, grunts, and relentless movement of warthogs and other smaller uncaged animals. Plan to spend 45minutes to an hour at this location.
Worthy Mention – National Archives
For older kids (age12&up) who are also history enthusiasts, the National Archives offers a great compilation of art and craft, and cultural detail spanning the history of the country. Self guided tours don’t need to be scheduled but if one is not familiar with Kenyan history and culture, having a guided tour is best. There are 3 floors in the building accessible by stairs and elevator with the catalogued library on the 3rd floor. For more pics and videos on some of these locations, check out the video below.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY – NAIROBI
As usual whenever we travel internationally, I research the medical community and resources at our destination. Nairobi has a dependable and fairly well developed health system. If urgent medical attention or hospital services are required while visiting, the Agha Khan hospital in both Nairobi and Mombasa are highly recommended. Other options are the MP Shah hospital (Nairobi) and the Pandya hospital (Mombasa).
Travelling during the COVID pandemic meant we needed COVID tests which we got done at AMREF. It was a well organized process and the results were available electronically even though we printed out all results prior to flying out. A negative covid test within 96hours is required for travel into the country and one can expect to wear a mask at most public venues with the exception of restaurants.