There’s a reason you came here, to this bustling city in the heart of what’s been dubbed the “cradle of civilization.” It could of course be the perpetual sunshine, reflected off the plentiful glass so indicative of a growing modern metropolis. Or perhaps its rich history grabbed your attention, or the succulent nyama choma roasting on ubiquitous spits throughout town. But as rightfully tempting as these things are, it’s something more visceral, isn’t it? You see, while Kenya as a whole may have earned the right to be called humanity’s birthplace, Nairobi in particular goes by a different moniker: a name that speaks directly to that National Geographic magazine that so enthralled you as a child. Say it with us now; this is the world’s safari capital, and it’s your ticket to some of the most incredible natural adventures on Earth.
But before we go tallying up all those untamed migratory parks and towering volcanic mountains for which Nairobi will be your inevitable hub, it pays to start off a little closer to home. For those who don’t have multiple days to invest, why not sate your safari cravings in Nairobi National Park, where everything from lions to ostriches roam freely just a few miles south of the city center. In the opposite direction you can hike or bike with some less lethal wildlife in the northern Karura Forest, or set your sights a little further west towards the cliffs of the Great Rift Valley and its rugged Hell’s Gate National Park. And as if that weren’t enough, there are lava tube caves and unexploited Maasai villages to experience not far to the northwest (Mount Suswa) should you choose not to follow the bulk of Nairobi’s trekkers towards the scenic rim of the more popular Mount Longonot.
If all this rough, sun-beaten beauty has got you craving something a bit more aquatic, you don’t need to rush off to Mombasa just yet. The scenic, muddy waters of the Tana River less than 100 km to the northeast offer rafters and kayakers some of Kenya’s choicest white water rapids, ranging from class II to class V, while to the north Lake Naivasha plays home to an unending supply of hippos that can make for a pretty memorable day out on the water. Then of course there’s the frozen water that resides at an elevation of 17,000 ft atop the second highest (but hardest to ascend) mountain in Africa. Overall there’s enough adventure here to stretch well beyond the scope of any transient visit, but don’t let the selection overwhelm you. As its history suggests, this home of spectacular natural wonders won’t be going anywhere for a while.