A chaotic day in Nairobi, Kenya

Final day of our Nomad trip, we arrive in Nairobi!

Before getting into detail about our time in Nairobi, I will give a quick overview of the organised trip we did:

Company: Nomad Tours (South African)

Trip: 21-day East African Adventure, starting in Vic Falls, Zimbabwe and ending in Nairobi, Kenya

Price: R19,250 ($1350) + R9,400 ($660) activity package – this includes the sunset Game Drive in South Luangwa National Park, Mikumi National Park Game Drive and the 3-day Zanzibar excursion

an extra R12,700 ($800) would have to be paid if you wish to go on a 3-day Serengeti excursion

Visas: with my EU passport I needed visas for every country, the one for Kenya being the only one I had to apply for in advance

I ended up paying $255 for visas alone ($30 for Zimbabwe, $50 for Zambia, $75 for Malawi, $50 for Tanzania and again $50 for Kenya)

Visas need to be paid in cash and USD are the most widely accepted currency, so make sure you always carry enough cash with you before crossing a border

Stays in Vic Falls as well as in Nairobi have to be arranged by yourself and are not officially a part of the tour.

Overall, I was pretty happy with what I got to see on the tour and I would recommend Nomad to other people. However, I was not always satisfied with our guide, as he often didn’t prepare us for what was to come and didn’t make an effort to take us to supermarkets when we really needed it. By the time we were in Zanzibar, most of us had ran out of sunscreen or mosquito repellent and although we asked multiple times if we could please go to a mall, we got the response that ‘there were no malls around’. The same thing happened later on when we stayed behind in Arusha and had to make our own food and struggled to even find salt or pasta sauces. A good friend of mine later on did the same tour with another guide and she said she was taken to a big mall around Dar Es Salaam, where they were all able to buy whatever they still needed. In general, this wouldn’t have been such a big problem if we had been made aware that the last time we would get to see a supermarket was early on in the trip, but we had just never been told.

I was also pretty disappointed in how Arusha turned into such a big waste of time. We were made to believe it was going to be easy and affordable to do at least one day trip from there but it turned out to be the opposite. I would recommend to anyone who cannot afford to go to Serengeti to leave the tour after Zanzibar and either stay there for a couple of days by yourself or just travel to Nairobi by yourself instead (or just go home instead).

Of course, organised tours will never be perfect for everyone. At that point, travelling in a group was the only reasonable thing for me to do and I never regretted taking that decision. I got to see so many places I would have never got to see otherwise and it was nice not having to take care of it myself as I knew nothing about these countries and what is acceptable and not acceptable. I would recommend a trip with Nomad to anyone who is in the same situation I was in at that point, and overall the group of people as well as the trip in general, were very enjoyable.

All that having been said, we are now in Nairobi! We stayed at Khweza B&B, a different accommodation than most of the rest of the group stayed in as it was a lot cheaper. Backpackers are not really a thing in Nairobi and staying at Khweza was a very enjoyable experience. They had a wonderful rooftop bar and restaurant where we spent quite a bit of time enjoying our meals. This is the view from the top.

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The day we arrived in Nairobi, we checked into our accommodation, got ourselves a Kenyan sim card right next to the B&B and then got ready to have one final dinner with the rest of the group and say goodbye to the people we had been travelling with for such a long time now.

The next morning, our one-day Nairobi experience was then to begin. We wanted to start the day by visiting the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage, where a daily feeding is taking place at 11am. I was so excited for this so we were out of the house early as we experienced the night before that traffic in Nairobi is pretty hectic. We called an Uber fairly early and it was said to arrive any minute – but then never did. We saw where it was on the map and tried walking towards it but never ended up finding it. Unfortunately we had to cancel and call another Uber and wait ages for that one to get there. By the time we found that one, it was already too late to get to the elephant orphanage… Never ever take Ubers in Nairobi.

We then headed straight to the Karen Blixen House instead. I was pretty excited about that too so at least that made me forget about the baby elephants for a while. I had read Blixen’s Out of Africa during my second year at uni, so it was super cool to see the place she lived in and wrote about. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside and you’re only allowed to visit with a guide. This is what the house looked like from outside.

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After this interesting literary experience, we made our way to the Giraffe Centre. I was afraid this place was going to be pretty weird and I guess in that sense, it didn’t disappoint. The Giraffe Centre takes injured giraffes from the wild and keeps them until they are fit and healthy and ready to face wildlife again. This all sounds nice of course, but the whole thing turned into a major tourist attraction. People were allowed to feed the giraffes and take selfies with them, which means that these giraffes were handfed by humans all day long and headbutted tourists that got too close to them. I just don’t understand how they could ever be able to live in the wild again.

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This place was definitely an experience and I guess it was kind of funny watching tourists being silly tourists, feeding the giraffes and taking selfies with them (us included).

The picture below sums up my experience in Nairobi quite well.

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After this experience, we decided to head back into town and visit the Masaai Market. We took Ubers all day as they were a lot cheaper than normal taxis but in the end, I can’t say it was worth it. Almost every single one of them didn’t have a GPS (?!) and drove the wrong way. I sat in the back of the car using google maps, giving them directions. Every time we got out of the car, I had to notify Uber that the driver took a much longer way so that we could get some of our money back (they never just took one wrong way… but repeatedly went the wrong way, even after we had driven past the same place a few times). I slowly started losing my patience but kept reminding myself that I am on holiday and that it’s okay and that that’s just how things go, especially if you want cheaper transportation.

Once we got to the Masaai Market, the worst part of the entire trip started. I read about the market before and remembered the advice everyone who had been there seemed to be giving: do not accept a guide to show you around the market, be clear in that you want to be left alone, and do not show interest in something you do not want to buy. Only ten seconds after we had got out of the car, we were already surrounded by probably five guys that were going to be our “guides”. I said clearly that I didn’t want them to show me around, but since I am a woman, they frankly did not care at all and just kind of laughed about it. So what we ended up doing was being taken around the market by them, constantly telling us what to do and what not to do and picking up random things asking if we wanted to put this in our baskets to consider buying later. There was one guy in front of us and one guy behind us, making sure we’d go the way they wanted us to. It was “their market” and we had to listen to them (literally what they told me when I said I wanted to look around by myself). I was so mad about how this turned out. I refused to look at anything because I didn’t want them to put it in our “basket” and at one point just stopped following them around and ran towards the exit. They got all scared and didn’t expect this to happen so immediately ran after me as well. After I told them explicitly I wasn’t even going to look at anything, even less buy anything, if this is how they acted, we left the market. I was so upset because I just didn’t understand what the hell had just happened. After having been to a lot of places where people wouldn’t leave you alone and wanted you to buy things, I didn’t think this was something I couldn’t handle. But the “guides” at the Masaai Market were whole new level. I was hoping to find some souvenirs for my family and I’m sure I would have easily bought a few things, but their attitude ruined the entire thing. In the end, it was really just a lose-lose situation…

Leaving the Masaai Market, I knew my patience for the day had been used up and I really didn’t feel like doing anything anymore. We went to a nearby Java, had some iced coffee to regain some energy and then headed back to our B&B.

Nairobi seemed like such a wonderful city, but unfortunately, my experience of it wasn’t very good. Nevertheless, I already knew then that I do really want to go back one day and make it a better stay next time. I think just spending money on actual taxis will help making the experience better and if I ever go back to the markets, I will hopefully be able to handle the situation differently. There is also so much I still want to do while I’m there, so I’m sure I’ll be back one day.

The next morning, we arranged with the receptionists of our accommodation for an actual taxi driver to come pick us up and drive us to the airport. What needs to be said is that most of the people we met in Nairobi were extremely friendly. The staff at the B&B, as well as the taxi drivers and the people working at the airport were all so friendly, and definitely a reason to go back to Nairobi eventually.

After spending some time at the airport and enjoying our last Kenyan coffee, we headed back to Jo’burg. Our last wonderful surprise was that we got to see Kilimanjaro again from the window of the plane. Not everyday you get to see this. What a wonderful way to end an overall amazing trip.

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check out all posts from my three-week trip right here

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