1. Get beaned! Visit a coffee farm, estate or factory
Some 70% of Kenya coffee is made by small-batch holders, grown with love. Hospitable soil, optimum sunshine and right rainfall are ideal for nurturing coffee plants, so no surprise that Kenyan coffee is one of the world’s most sought after. Think aroma, intense flavor, full-bodied. Then go coffee cupping at Dorman’s, a fair-trade, single origin coffee roaster based in Nairobi.
2. Show some big love for an elephant!
Your heartstrings will be pulled at the Elephant Nursery within Nairobi National Park, where precious pre-tuskers are rescued and rehabilitated by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, set up by Daphne Sheldrick to honor her conservationist husband. Daphne strove for three decades before lighting on a substitute milk formula for these mama-less infants. Today Sheldrick is the most successful elephant rescue program on the planet.
3. Visit the Karen Blixen Museum
Tour the farmhouse and grounds of the Karen Blixen Museum, and fantasize doing loop de loops over the African plains with Denys Finch-Hatton. In her beloved book Blixen says, “To Denys Finch-Hatton I owe what was, I think, the greatest, the most transporting pleasure of my life on the farm: I flew with him over Africa.” Some of the furnishings here are original, others – the dining room table, cuckoo clock, phonograph – are from the film set. See Karen’s kitchen, her lovely bed linens, foyer and fireplace, beside which her listeners sat spellbound.
4. Go local. Try a family-owned boutique hotel
Most chains have hotels here: Fairmont (the Norfolk); Tribe; Serena and Hilton, to name a few. For a change of pace, stay at a wonderful, local family-owned boutique hotel called House of Waine — Waine standing for the first letter of family member names. Enjoy the 2 1/2 acres of artful gardens, heated pool and outdoor bar. Each bedroom is themed. For those who want to channel Karen Blixen, the Victoria Room has a working fireplace and a stand-alone claw foot tub.
5. Top off your day at the Giraffe Centre
The centre is a program of Kenya’s African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW). A short stretch from the House of Waine, the center lets giraffes be fed from an elevated platform, so they don’t have to strain their impossibly long necks. The Rothschild giraffe is earth’s tallest creature, dapper in white knee socks (no spotting on the lower leg), and notable for its grace, winsomeness and beautiful patterning.
6. Take a hike!
Hike. Up Mt. Kenya, the second highest peak in Africa (after Mt. Kilimanjaro which can also be seen on a clear day). It rises 17,057 feet, an extinct volcano believed to have once topped 21,000 feet before erupting several million years ago. Receding glaciers necklace the summit. Below are lovely forests and alpine flora; and lower still are scenic foothills and habitats of high biodiversity.
7. Bone up at the National Museum
Paleontology, ethnography and biodiversity are the beat of the National Museum of Kenya, founded in 1910. Its greatest treasure: the full remains of a homo erectus – the Turkana Boy – believed to be the most complete early human skeleton ever found (unearthed near Kenya’s Lake Turkana), dating back between 1.5 and 1.6 million years.
8. Safari in a City
Where else could you go on safari and see skyscrapers in the background? Nairobi’s National Park, known as Kirfaru Ark (Kirfaru is Kiswahili for rhinoceros), contains the world’s densest population of black rhino (more than 50), plus zebra, hyena, giraffe, buffalo, warthog, lion, leopard and some 400 species of birds. No other national park in the world borders a capital city.
9. Go wild!
From Nairobi safari-goers can travel to Amboseli, the Maasai Mara, Aberdare Game Reserve or to the less-visited, indigenous forest of the Mathews Mountain Range. Many of Kenya’s safari camps involve wildlife conservancies – joint land-use and lease agreements with local tribes.