Nairobi is the base from which many choose to embark from on to a safari tour in Kenya and East Africa. As a matter of fact, the capital city has its own National Park which is a large game reserve best known for breeding the endangered black rhinos.
Nairobi is a city where tribe, race, and origin becomes a facet of its unique character. As a result, it is considered one of the most interesting cities in Africa and while the modern world has caught up with it, the city has managed to maintain its uniqueness thanks to the museums, welcoming culture of the residents and convenience to some of the most exciting safari destinations in the world.
Regardless of how much time you have to spare or how big or small your budget is, you can enjoy an amazing safari in and around Nairobi hassle-free. There are also several amazing accommodation options to pick from.
Where to Stay on Your First Night
Choosing the right place to stay on your first night in Nairobi is very important. The good news is there are so many options to pick from. Below are some of the best accommodations.
Owned by The Safari Collection, the Giraffe Manor is an exclusive boutique hotel set on 12 acres of private land in the 140 acres of indigenous forest in Langata, a suburb of Nairobi. The Giraffe Manor is an iconic building with elegant interiors, stately façade, verdant green gardens, delightful courtyards and sunny terraces
The most fascinating thing about the Giraffe Manor is the Rothschild’s giraffes that visit in the morning and evening. The giraffes poke their heads through the windows in hope of getting a treat. You can book the Giraffe Manor for a night or as part of your planned safari.
This is a boutique lodge positioned uniquely on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. The beautiful scenery and abundance of plains game as you drive to the lodge give the perfect start to your East African safari.
With just 10 rooms, this is an exclusive lodge to spend your time in Nairobi while enjoying a personal environment. Five of the rooms are built into the cliff face higher up. The climb to the upper rooms offers amazing sweeping views of the National Park. A lift is also available. The rooms are designed for comfort and come with huge, luxurious beds and black-out curtains. Every room has a private veranda.
Nairobi Serena Hotel
The Nairobi Serena Hotel is a 5-star hotel in Nairobi. It offers a haven of elegance and calm as it is nestled within lush gardens at the edge of Nairobi Central Park. This is one of the best 5-star hotel in Nairobi that merges leisure and business, gastronomy and art and a 5-star service.
If what you are looking for is a 5-star hotel to celebrate the sophistication and rich fusion of design influences from Ethiopia, the Nairobi Serena Hotel is the place to be. The hotel has a coveted location within the city center.
This is a 5-star boutique hotel located in the peaceful suburb of Karen; far from the bustles of the city center. The all-suite property offers butler service, a sunset bar, a brasserie, a spa, and is perfectly placed for trips to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park, and the city
The Hemingways Nairobi has 45-suites (80 square meters in size) located on the ground floor of each wing. Each suite has a sitting area, large en-suite bathroom with walk-in closets, a private terrace, and a personalized minibar. The private terrace offers amazing views of the iconic Ngong Hills.
Safari Parks Near Nairobi
Whether all you have is a single day to spare or several days, Nairobi has so many amazing places that will make your safari a success. Here are the best parks within a few minutes’ drive from the city center.
Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi National Park is about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from the city center. The park was established in 1946 and is fenced on three sides and open on the fourth side to allow wildlife to move freely between the park and adjacent Kitengela plains. While the park is being impacted negatively by human and livestock populations, it boasts a huge and varied wildlife population. It is also one of the most successful rhinoceros’ sanctuaries in Kenya.
The park is the main tourist attraction in Nairobi. Attractions include diverse bird species, leopards, lions, hyenas Cape buffalos, eastern black rhino, zebras, wildebeests, baboons, gazelles, impala, Masai giraffe, ostrich, hippos, Grant’s zebra, cheetahs and several other mammals. The Nairobi Safari Walk and animal orphanage and the Ivory Burning Site Monument are also popular attractions within the park.
The Nairobi National Park ranks as one of the most accessible wildlife experiences in Africa. You get to spot iconic species in as little as a half-day trip.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is located within the Nairobi National Park. It was established in 1977 after the death of David Sheldrick who was an anti-poaching warden in the Tsavo National Park. The center provides safe haven to orphaned baby elephants. It is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. It also cares for other species such as orphaned rhinos. The center is also active in the war against poaching and advocates against ivory trade and offers medical care to injured animals.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is the best place to interact with innocent young elephants up-close and take a journey into the heart of lifesaving conservation work. There are three visiting time slots available; 11am, 3pm and 5pm.
Located on the grounds of the National Museum, the Snake Park has impressive snake species which include black mambas, puff adders, African rocky pythons, Gaboon vipers, and Egyptian cobras. You will also get a close-up of the local fish species, turtles, lizards, and crocodiles. On your way from the museum keep an eye out for elephant fossils.
Do you need a great hour of fun feeding giraffes and taking photos while hugging them? The giraffes here are interactive. It is amazing to see these majestic animals up-close.
Safari Destinations to Visit from Nairobi
Samburu National Reserve
The Samburu National Reserve is a lesser-known national park that teems with life. The park is 350 kilometers from Nairobi and covers an area of 165 square kilometers. It is located in Samburu county on the banks of Ewaso Ng’iro river. Across the river lies the Buffalo Springs National Reserve.
Thanks to the Ewaso Ng’iro river, the mixture of acacia riverine forest, grassland vegetation and thorn trees, Samburu National reserve attracts so many animals. All the three big cats (lion, cheetah and African leopard) can be found here. You will also see an abundance of hippopotamus, Cape Buffalo and elephants. Other mammals that are frequently seen here are the Nile crocodiles, warthogs, olive baboon, Kirk’s dik-dik, waterbuck, impala and Grant’s gazelle. The black rhinoceros was also reintroduced in the park recently. The park has more than 350 bird species.
The remote location of Samburu National Reserves makes the park less crowded and one of the most pleasant places to visit. The Samburu is part of three parks that are treated as one: Samburu, the Buffalo Springs and the Shaba.
The Loisaba Conservancy is located in Northern Laikipia, a five hours drive from Nairobi. The conservancy covers an area of 56,000 acres. It is served by two permanent rivers and abundant springs which make the conservancy attractive to wildlife throughout the year. The mission of the conservancy is to enhance and protect critical wildlife diversity, habitat and abundance within the Loisaba landscape while at the same time supporting sustainable livestock production and improving the lives of the neighboring communities.
The Loisaba Conservancy has over 260 bird and 50 mammal species. The common wildlife here includes 800 elephants, herds of buffalo, dozens of endangered Grevy’s zebra, wild dogs, giraffes and great kudu. The conservancy also has a good population of lions, leopards and cheetahs.
Recommended Camp: Loisaba Tented Camp
The Loisaba Tented Camp is the best place to spend your night while visiting the Loisaba Conservancy. The camp is located at the edge of an escarpment to offer unimpeded views of the beautiful Laikipia landscape all the way to the majestic Mt. Kenya. The tents are spacious with a large open dining area, open lounge and bar, wooden decking area for outdoor dining and picturesque infinity pools. There are so many activities to engage in here including horse-riding, guided bush walks, mountain biking and camel trekking.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is located in Laikipia county, about 3 hours’ drive from Nairobi. The conservancy covers an area of 140 square miles (360 square kilometers) and is located on the equator west of Nanyuki between the foothills of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares. The mission of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is to conserve wildlife and offer sanctuary for great apes. It is the largest sanctuary for black rhinos in East Africa and home to the two remaining northern white rhinos.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy has all the ‘Big Five Game’ (lions, Cape buffalos, leopards, African elephants, and rhinoceros). Other animals include the endangered African wild dog, Grevy’s zebra, Jackson’s hartebeest, serval, bat-eared fox, and cheetahs. The most common wildlife here are giraffes, baboons, vervet monkeys, impala, hippos, eland, plains zebra, hyena, silver-backed jackal, Grant’s gazelle, and dik-dik. The conservancy has more than 300 bird species.
Recommended Camp: Sweetwaters Serena camp
This is a camp within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy with 17 luxurious tents that offers amazing views of the conservancy and Mount Kenya. The tents include enhanced amenities such as bathrooms with two-hand washbasins and shower with a glass door. Other facilities include Wi-Fi, swimming pool, extensive grounds, private waterhole and night viewing bar, gift shop and business center.
Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy
Located about 290 kilometers from Nairobi, Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy is an authentic East African wildlife, cultural and scenic tourist destination. The conservancy is a result of a collaboration between the Northern Rangeland Trust and the Samburu community. The conservancy is 850,000 acres in size and is located within the Matthews Mountain Range; an untouched wilderness.
The conservancy is home to African wild dogs, gerenuks, Grevy’s zebras, reticulated giraffes, de brazza colobus monkeys and a range of other endangered species. It also has a good population of elephants, kudus, buffalos and a range of other herbivores. The main predators are lions and leopards.
Recommended Camp: Sarara Treehouses
This is one of the most memorable places you will ever spend your time in. Opened in 2018, the Sarara Treehouses are located in the tropical forest within the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy. There are 8 deluxe tents. The many activities you can take part in include bush walks, game drives, hikes to Mathews Mountains and camel treks. This is the place to experience the wilderness in a unique way.
Amboseli National Park
Located about 3 hours from Nairobi, the Amboseli National Park is the second most popular national park after the Masai Mara National Reserve. It covers an area of 151 square miles (392 square kilometers). It is at the core of an ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border. Thanks to the low rainfall (average 14 in), the Amboseli National Park is the best wildlife viewing park in the world.
The area is home to African bush elephants, impalas, lions, spotted hyenas, cheetahs, Cape buffalo, Masai giraffe, Grant’s zebra, blue wildebeests and more than 400 species of birds. The park is accessible all year round. Entry is not allowed on foot.
Recommended Camp: Elewana Tortilis Camp
This camp is a prime location for witnessing wildlife and majestic views of Mount Kilimanjaro. It has spacious tents with king or twin beds as well as elegant en suite bathrooms. There is also the main lounge, dining, and bar area. Activities here include game drives, walks, bush meals, and sundowners. This is without any doubt an amazing place to unwind while visiting the Amboseli National Park.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Lewa received media attention with stories of Royal romance and fairytale engagement that followed. The conservancy is located in northern Kenya. It was formed back in 1995 as a wildlife sanctuary. It covers an area of 250 square kilometers and is home to a variety of wildlife including sitatungas, Grevy’s zebras, and black rhinos. All the big five are included. The park holds more than 12% of Kenya’s population of eastern black rhinoceros. The conservancy has the largest population of Grevy’s zebras in the world (about 350 individuals). The best time to visit is from June to September. Off-road driving is allowed.
Recommended Camp: Elewana Lewa Safari Camp
This is an amazing camp offering large tented bedrooms with verandahs and en suite bathrooms. The Elewana Lewa Safari Camp is the perfect spot for authentic comfort while exploring the spectacular wildlife viewing that Kenya offers. This is the only tourist facility within the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
Situated in south-west Kenya, the Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the greatest wildlife reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 580 square miles (1,510 square kilometers) and hosts more than 95 species of mammals and 570 recorded species of birds. In addition to the wide wildlife diversity, this is the best park if you want to witness the wildebeest migration which starts in July all the way to October.
Masai Mara Recommended Camps
Governor’s II Moran Camp
This is a small and intimate camp located in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. It has 10 luxurious camps hidden under ancient trees, deep in the forest and on the banks of the Mara River. It is the best camp for game viewing from your room and on game drives and game walks.
This is one of the most luxurious places you will ever stay. From your private deck, you will watch wildlife gather around adjacent salt lick; a view that is unforgettable. You also get a butler to draw your tub after a great game drive. A spa is also available. The Mara Bushtops create a 5-star luxury while blending peace with adventure.
As you can see, Nairobi is the perfect starting point for most safaris in Kenya. Within a few hours, you can cross the border into Tanzania to visit spectacular places like the Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Zanzibar. It all depends on how much time you have and how big your budget is.