When setting off for a safari in Kenya, you’ll likely arrive in Nairobi. The country’s largest city is one of Africa’s major business hubs with a booming tech scene, earning it the nickname ‘Silicon Savannah.’
Nairobi isn’t all concrete jungle — it’s the gateway to your Kenyan safari. The city is full of jacaranda trees that blossom purple every October and Nairobi National Park is just a few kilometres from the city centre (in fact, you can see the skyscrapers from the park!). If you can’t wait to get your fill of Kenyan wildlife, visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Centre.
Nairobi also has a vibrant nightlife and plenty of great restaurants for international or Kenyan cuisine. It’s worth adding a day or two in Nairobi to your itinerary to spend getting acquainted with this multicultural capital.
Good to know
- The main languages are Kiswahili and English.
- There are two airports: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) serves international flights and Wilson Airport (WIL), where you’ll usually catch light-aircraft flights to Kenyan safari destinations like the Masai Mara. They are 20 km apart, which takes anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour to drive, depending on traffic.
- Nairobi traffic is notorious. Always leave enough time to get to your destination (for example, when transferring between airports).
- You can use Uber, taxis or a transfer service to get around. It is not recommended to walk after dark.
- There are plenty of ATMs where you can get Kenyan shillings, including at the airport.
History of the city
Nairobi was established in 1899 by British colonists as a depot for the Uganda Railway. It replaced Mombasa as capital of the British East Africa Protectorate in 1905 and retained its status after Kenyan independence in 1963. Nairobi National Park was the country’s first national park when it was founded in 1946.
Nairobi is derived from the Maa words for ‘cool water.’ Today, it’s often called the ‘City in the Sun’ and is one of the largest cities in Africa, with a population of nearly 4 million in the city itself and around 6.5 million in the greater metropolitan area.