Kenya's capital is the biggest city between Johannesburg and Cairo and a place of stark contrasts. Crowded, noisy and eternally busy, it is the economic, political and administrative centre of Kenya. Nevertheless, decades of regular international flights have made Nairobi the unrivalled gateway to East Africa, and since the vast majority of Kenya safaris start or end here, a safari pitstop in Nairobi is almost inevitable.
Don't worry if you can't connect with a regional flight to the game reserves straight away - as a safari stopover, Nairobi has a variety of accommodations and attractions to keep you happy in the meantime.The city's suburbs, where many of Nairobi's best hotels and lodges are located, offer a tranquil contrast to the chaotic city centre and provide visitors with excellent safe accommodation and fine cuisine. They also make for a convenient base from which to access several local attractions which include the Karen Blixen Museum, the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and - a family favourite - The Giraffe Manor.
If you have the time and you're in the mood for a steak dinner, then be sure to visit the world-renowned Carnivore Restaurant where a bewildering array of meat dishes are prepared on hot coals, and if you have a day or two to spare then a Nairobi safari is just one of the many surprises this city has to offer. The extraordinary Nairobi National Park lies just out of town and gives visitors a taste of the wildlife to come in Kenya's more famous parks. There is plenty of big game to be spotted on a Nairobi safari (including lion, buffalo, rhino and giraffe),set against a slightly incongruous background of skyscrapers, plus a staggering bird count of 550 species.
Note that international flights land at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and if you are catching a flight to another major airport such as Mombasa or Dar es Salaam then you'll do so there. If you're on your way to Kenya's reserves or smaller destinations on the coast, then you'll need to transfer to Wilson Airport, a 30 to 40 minute drive away, for your charter flight.
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At a Glance
Kenya's capital city is the undisputed gateway to East Africa but if you need to overnight here, head for its leafy suburbs for great accommodation and a few wildlife surprises.