A Luxury Safari from Nairobi

Nairobi might just be my favourite East African city. It’s a wonderful melting pot, where modern African life in all its colour and vibrancy continues at pace, alongside fascinating reminders of Kenya’s rich colonial history. I always come to Kenya for the wildlife, but I’ve discovered there’s lots to do in the capital too, at the beginning or end of a safari.

A wonderful Nairobi experience – and a great way to ease into safari mode – is to have breakfast with giraffe. You can continue the wildlife theme with a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. You’re certain to fall in love with Kenya, but the first Kenyans to steal your heart will probably be the baby elephant that you can meet and feed at the orphanage. You can even adopt one of the irrepressible, irresistible elephant calves! Need more wildlife and have time to spare? Go to the Nairobi National Park, which has a great diversity.

You might be surprised to learn that the Out of Africa house is in Nairobi too. Of course, when this ‘farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills’ was built, the city was a fraction of its current size. The original farmhouse is now the fascinating Karen Blixen Museum, in the suburb named after the author.

Kenyans take great pride in their culture and heritage, but they also delight in reinventing it; if you’re looking for gifts, Nairobi is the right place to be. Explore craft studios like Kazuri (for beads), Kitengela (for glass) and Marula (for pottery, leatherware and more) to buy authentic souvenirs from local artists.

When to Go

This is the best time for a luxury Kenyan safari. Firstly, the weather is dry and cool, perfect for game drives – especially in arid northern Kenya. Secondly, it’s just after the long rains, so while the bush is initially lush it gets progressively sparser, making wildlife easier to spot. And most importantly, the Great Wildebeest Migration returns to Kenya from July to September, so visitors to the Masai Mara get to see this natural wonder. Note, some of the more popular parks will get relatively crowded at times.

In this period, following the short rains, the dry season takes hold. The vegetation thins out completely and the animals congregate near rivers and waterholes, making for excellent game viewing. While you won’t see the Great Wildebeest Migration in Kenya during this time, you’ll also miss the crowds … and anyway Kenya’s ample resident game ensures a superlative safari experience year round, rivaling anywhere else in Africa. For the best of both, visit Tanzania now too, and catch the herds’ southern Serengeti leg, which coincides with the wildebeest’s dramatic birthing season.

Kenya’s long rains, which fall steadily throughout April and May, are followed by short rains in November – generally short afternoon bursts. While muddy roads can make getting around a bit tricky, as it’s a quiet time for tourism wildlife experiences are exclusive … plus the vegetation is in a growth period, so game sightings are plentiful. All in all visitors get good-value holidays during this time, provided they pack their sense of humour (and their gum boots!).

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