February 16th would mark my dad’s 60th birthday and he planned to do a family holiday since we’re rarely all in the same place at once. “We” includes my mum, dad, brother and I. My mum and dad had been to Kenya together 3 years earlier and loved it but hadn’t seen some animals on their safari they really wanted to and since my brother and I hadn’t ever been we were to undertake our first family holiday in 6.5 years. We booked through Thomson but our tour operator when we were in Kenya was Pollman’s. I didn’t let myself get excited for the trip until after new year, because 6 weeks was enough excitement for everyone around me to take. So here’s six days in Kenya in six blog posts…
Day 1: February 13th
We arrived at 6 am Kenyan time into Nairobi and shed three layers of clothing after coming from the UK snow. It took 2 hours to get to the hotel; traffic on the Mombasa road into the city is just as bad as the M25 with people travelling to work early. Immediately after exiting the airport you drive alongside the Nairobi national park – the first national park to be established in Kenya in 1946. Giraffes were silhouetted against the morning horizon, quite the appropriate welcome to Kenya.
We were on the same plane as the Kenyan rugby team who had been in Las Vegas according to our driver, Michael. That’s one hell of a flight. They got a fancier welcome than we did…
Nairobi’s population is estimated to be about 4 million and lies just below the equator. In 1899 Nairobi was an open plain when the railway from Mombasa to Kishmu was built. A small town grew around the railway and expanded through becoming the British Provincial capital in 1905, the the British East Africa Protectorate, finally gaining its independence in 1963. From all this, English is the second official language.
After arriving we made our way over some shaky roads to the Seldrick Elephant Orphanage. They feed the 20 orphans between 11-12 noon each day and anybody can watch for a fee which goes directly back into the running of the orphanage. All but one of the orphans arrived here through human activity (poaching, traps etc). It was reassuring to see how much the elephants enjoyed being rehabilitated and all of them end up back in the wild with new families eventually. However they’re not just abandoned – they know where to come back to if they need help. We were told stories of previous orphans who have grown up but returned with sickly young or poison arrow heads in them to ask for help before returning back to their herd. They sleep in stables with one staff member sleeping on a bunk within the stable each night. Staff members are rotated so an elephant doesn’t get too attached to one member of staff (and so the humans can spend time with their own families!).
And I was bitten by something! The bite mark is still present at the time of typing this up (almost one week later) but I don’t have malaria or any other illness so all is fine. At least so long as I keep taking my anti-malaria tablets. We returned to the hotel 1pm-ish exhausted and starving having been served breakfast on the plane at 4am Kenyan time so 1am UK time. We were staying at the Nairobi Safari Club Hotel opposite Nairobi University and just off the Mombasa road. The food at the hotel was good with small,medium and large portion options for everything on their menu. I barely slept on the plane and their additional jet lag meant I slept for 2 hours having missed alarm I’d set for myself. That was a first.
We’d been told to be careful of muggers in Nairobi but we ventured a couple of streets for water supplies. The cost of water in hotels is about 300KSH (Kenyan Shilling) per litre bottle. It’s worth getting some in local supermarkets – we paid 60KSH for a litre instead. The heat was a wonderful change from the snow in the UK so we ended up in a bar for a drink and some dinner. Everybody was really friendly and always asking if it was my first time in Kenya. They’re certainly a people who want to make you feel welcome!
My initials impressions of Nairobi were that I’ve been shocked at how much English is used. I expected a lot more Swahili… although everyone speaks to each other in Swahili, but adverts, tv, road signs etc are in English. A bizarre mash up. The price of things in Nairobi is pretty much the same as the UK but converted into shillings so don’t be fooled when £40ish changes to 5200KSH. It doesn’t go far! There is the option in most places to pay in American Dollars which actually seems to be the preferred way of doing things. I’d take a mixture of shilling and dollar if I were to go again.