Experiencing Nairobi (part 2)

The Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) tour  was the perfect way to begin my visit to Nairobi. Following this I then planned a few other activities which I did on separate days thus ensuring that I was able to discover Nairobi at a leisurely pace.

Giraffes and Elephants in Nairobi

Amongst the intense traffic and big global businesses of Nairobi, you can also feed giraffes and elephants within the city limits! I booked visits to Nairobi’s Endangered Wildlife’s Giraffe Centre and the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage with Urban Adventures – the same company I used for the CBD tour.

On the morning of these two visits, the tour guide (i.e. driver) collected me from my hotel and we headed to towards the leafy suburb of Karen. We spent a bit of time in some infamous Nairobi traffic but I was able to take in the interesting sites of local life on the route.

Getting up close to feed a giraffe

The first stop was the Africa Fund for Endangered Wildlife’s famous Giraffe Centre. The centre has pioneered an innovative breeding programme that is helping to increase the population of the endangered Rothschild giraffe in the wild.  The centre has a raised walkway from which I was able to get up close and feed a giraffe food pellets from my palm – this was rather enjoyable. There were some visitors who attempted a wet, sticky kiss by sticking a pellet between their lips (I opted out of this :-)).

If you decide to do this tour by yourself, the entrance fee for non-residents is Kshs 1 000 (€10) . Aim to arrive by 9 am when the Centre opens as feeding of the giraffes commences shortly thereafter. This also allows for sufficient time to travel to the David Sheldrick’s Elephant Orphanage which is open to the public from 11 am to noon at an entrance fee of Kshs 500 (€5).

From the Giraffe Centre, the orphanage is about a 20 minute car ride and is located on the edge of Nairobi National Park. Since its inception, the project has hand-reared more than 150 baby elephants that have been orphaned in the wild, often due to poaching. The orphanage helps to reintegrate the elephants into the Tsavo National Park in the east of the country.

Orphaned baby elephants being fed by the caretakers

At the orphanage I watched the baby elephants have their midday mud bath and feeding while learning about the David Sheldrick venture. For those visitors who are keen, you are able to foster an elephant for a minimum annual donation of about €55 which allows you to also visit off-hours and watch the elephants be put to bed.

Filled with some knowledge as to how these local programs in Nairobi are helping to reintegrate animals back into the wild, the driver took me back to central Nairobi where the tour ended around lunchtime.

Tour of Kiambethu Tea Farm

Although most people associate Kenya with coffee, Kenya is one of the world’s top producers and exporters of tea with some of the best quality black tea in the world.

Wanting to visit a Tea Farm while in Niarobi, I did some research to find a farm that was not to far from the city centre and decided to visit Kiambethu.

Kiambethu is about a 45 minutes drive outside Nairobi in Limuru. It is located at an altitude of 7 000 feet above sea level with views of the spectacular Ngong hills. The lush acres of tea plantations seem to vanish into the horizon.

The farm was started in 1910 by AB McDonnell, the first person to grow, make and sell tea commercially in Kenya. The farm is now run by his granddaughter, Fiona Vernon, a friendly and very knowledgeable lady who grew up on the farm.

Fiona explaining how tea is harvested

The tour began with a short walk through the tea plantation where Fiona explained how tea is grown and harvested. This was followed by a cup of tea (or coffee) and delicious homemade biscuits over which Fiona gave more insight into the tea production process and shed some insight into Kenya’s tea industry.

Thereafter, the tour continued with a short walk through the farm and into the indigenous forest. The forest contains numerous trees and plants with medicinal properties – such as the bark of a tree which when burnt acts as a natural mosquito repellent.

Having worked up an appetite, the tour ended with an absolutely delicious three course buffet lunch in the estates perfectly manicured gardens. There was even ice-cream made using milk from the cows that are on the farm.

Having spent some time working at YSWARA (“African company that produces exceptional artisan-made gourmet teas and tea time accessories”), it was rather insightful for me to  finally visit a tea farm and understand tea farming in more detail.

I had a rather enjoyable and also relaxing time at Kiambethu and would rate this as my second best tour (after my Matatu experience) during my visit to Nairobi.

Advance booking is essential. The cost of the tour is Kshs 3 300 (€33) per person and you  can either book online or via telephone.

A visit to Fairview Coffee Estate

I am a coffee lover, so I had to visit a coffee farm too. Once again, I tried to find a coffee farm close to Nairobi as majority of Kenya’s coffee is grown in the higher plateaus around Mt Kenya, the Aberdare range, Kisii and Nyanza. I chose to visit Fairview Coffee Estate which is located in Kiambu, 17km from Nairobi city centre.

The scenery on the drive to the estate was rather spectacular driving to through the green coffee plantation and picturesque Kiambu hills. The tours which are 2 hours long are held daily in the morning and afternoon and it is recommended to book online to ensure that the staff is prepared for your arrival. The cost of the tour is Kshs 2 800 (€28) per person.

The tour commenced with a walk in the green coffee fields during which I was told about the farming of coffee and a bit about the history of coffee in Kenya. The estate has 80,000 coffee trees which produces the SL 28 washed Arabica, a variety that has made Kenyan coffee famous amongst connoisseurs worldwide.

Hand sorting of coffee beans

After touring the beautiful green coffee fields, we proceeded to the factory which is housed within the estate. Here the guide explained the rest of the processes necessary to produce the coffee beans from the berries which is ready for milling and sale.

The tour concluded with some coffee cupping (i.e. coffee tasting) using freshly roasted beans. The key to cupping is first to smell the coffee and then as you taste, slurp it across your entire palate letting subtle flavors and aromas reach your nose.

Some advice/tips

  • For both the Giraffes Centre and Elephant Orphanage it is not necessary to do this with a tour operator – all you need is a driver to provide transportation and wait for you to do the visit.
  • My suggestion is to befriend an Uber driver when you arrive in Nairobi and negotiate with him to provide you with transport for all tours you would like to do. I did this for  the tea and coffee farm tours which was more efficient and cost effective.
  • I have quoted prices in both Euros (my base currency) and Kenyan shillings. Do check with the places you wish to visit as to the currency they accept.
  • Check out the website https://migrationology.com/things-to-do-in-nairobi-kenya-101/ for more recommendatons of things to do in Nairobi.