JOIN ME IN AN INTERVIEW WITH NADINE MURPHY FROM NAIROBI, KENYA!
Nadine Murphy is a british blogger living in Nairobi, Kenya. She writes a travel blog at The Expat Mummy which explores Kenya and East Africa but also looks at the realities of expat life and raising three children in wild and wonderful Kenya.
What is the best month to visit Nairobi and why?
In Nairobi, December is the best month to visit. The weather is hot and dry but because the short rains fall in October and November the flowers are still in bloom and the grass is green. By January the summer seems endless and turns everything to straw. April to June are the long rains. The water pours from the sky, the road turns to mud and traffic is at a standstill. July and August are winter.
What is the most convenient and favored transport of Nairobi?
The disparity between rich and poor is vast in Nairobi. The rich people drive cars, ideally a 4×4 as when the rains come the city can be impassable. The rest of the population has to travel by public transport. There are no trams, or trains within the city so buses called Matatus are the main form of transport. People will often walk miles to work, or cycle. As a tourist, I recommend you hire a car and a driver, driving yourself in the city can be unsettling.
What are the top three must visit places in Nairobi?
Nairobi National Park is the only safari park in the center of a city a wilderness with lion, giraffe, rhino, leopard, cheetah, hippos, Cape buffalo plus more. In fact all the big 5 except elephants. You can be in the city center one minute and half an hour later watching a truly wild animal bathing at a watering hole.
At the Giraffe Centre in Langata you can meet wild giraffe and even hand feed them. The conservation project is hugely important in understanding and caring for the giraffes and you will be surprised how tame them seem.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a local charity that rescues orphaned elephants from Kenya and neighboring Tanzania and hand raises them until they can be released into captivity. You can visit the orphanage and meet the teeny tiny baby elephants. The visits are interactive, you will get to learn all about the elephants, their individuals circumstances and even feed and touch them. There is a chance to adopt an elephant, which allows you private access across the whole facility. You can spend an hour every day in the company of these majestic animals.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Nairobi? Do you recommend any local tour operators who can help the visitors arrange so?
Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley is hauntingly beautiful and full of Hippos. A day trip out there is a must do. The drive down to Naivasha takes an hour and a half through the incredible scenery of the Rift Valley. Head to Camp Carnellys for an amazing lunch and a boat ride in the lake.
Kenya is the land of the safari. People travel from all over the world for the chance to see animals in their natural environment. The incredible and world famous Maasai Mara is a 5-hour drive from Nairobi. Not only will you stay in incredibly and luxurious lodges, and see more animals than you can dream of, you will get to meet the alluring Maasai tribes people.
The ‘Mara’ is the most famous but by no means the only safari destination in Kenya. Ol Pejeta next to Mount Kenya (the second highest mountain in Africa) is a 3-hour drive; Tsavo conservancy towards the idyllic Kenya coast is 4.
You will find hundreds of tour operators willing to take you there, Kenyan safaris are big business but I recommend doing it yourself. You can find wonderful accommodation online and most destinations are easy to drive to and you are able to self-drive. You’ll save a ton of money and get to experience a taste of real Africa.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Nairobi? What makes it so special?
Christmas – the majority of people are Christian and its one of the few days where most people don’t have to work. There are also a large number of Indians so big festivals such as Diwali are celebrated with dances and events in the city.
Many of the local celebrations are associated with colonialism,
Madaraka day on the 1st June commemorates the day Kenya attained internal self rule from British colonial rule that ended in the year 1963 following a long freedom struggle, whilst Mashujaa in October celebrates all the statesmen and women who participated in Kenya’s struggle for freedom.
Which is the most happening area in Nairobi and why? Would you suggest any bar or restaurant in particular?
Nairobi is a sprawling city and it’s hard to identify a center like American towns. Westland’s is probably the closest Nairobi has to a hub and is home to upbeat bars and restaurants.
Some of the expat areas have a concentration of interesting places to hang out. My personal favorite is the Talisman, located out of town a bit in Karen. This vibey restaurant has been voted the best restaurant in Nairobi for years but it really comes into its own after dark when the music starts playing and the locals start dancing.
Which is the local food of Nairobi? Can you suggest some popular places to try it out?
The food staple in Kenya is Ugali and Sukuma wiki, which is maize based meal with leafy greens. Many Kenyans earn little money and grow their own food; as a consequence meat is seen as a luxury to have perhaps once a week. Kenyans though love Nyama Choma, which translates as burned meat or BBQ. Fish is also a large part of the diet in areas near the coast or great lakes and rivers.
Carnivore is the destination on every tourists list. This Nyama Choma restaurants offers bbq meat of all varieties, you can try traditional steak or goat or be more adventurous in eating crocodile and lamb testicles. It’s also the creator of the Dawa the moreish Kenyan cocktails made from vodka, lime and honey. Carnivore is open all-day and late into the evening.
Trout Tree Restaurant in Nanyuki specializes in fried trout and Tilapia and is a great stop en route to safari at Ol Pejeta.
Where can one find amazing street food in the city?
You will find food stalls selling Nyama Choma on every street in the city. The meat will often be goat or cuts of beef. Chicken is expensive and highly priced.
Where to head for affordable shopping? Where for luxury shopping? Which is the local craft, product or souvenir in your city?
There are a few high-end malls popping up throughout the city. Westgate, Two Rivers and The Hub are home to a few well-known western brands but shopping is still very behind Europe and America.
Crafts are very popular with visitors. You can visit the Maasai market, which moves around the depending on the day of the week or one of many craft centers. Spinners Web near the Village Market and Utamaduni in Langata are recommended for woven baskets, Maasai weapons, Kikoys, Kangas and beaded jewellery.
Do you recommend any walking tours or travel photography tours in your city to the visitors?
Nairobi itself is a typical African city, grubby, frenetic and not particularly photogenetic. The city has grown so quickly that it seems to be and endless parade of half built buildings and informal settlements. For photography opportunities head out of the city and in to the parks. Nairobi National Park is the obvious choice with the chance to take incredible pictures of animals silhouetted against the city skyline.
Nairobi doesn’t have walking tours around town but you can go online and find slum tours where a guide will take you through the poorer areas and show you another (more real) side to Nairobi.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in your city?
Nairobi is behind in terms of technology and the only app we regularly use is Uber but its very hit and miss with drivers often not arriving at all.