While I have always considered Kenya an intriguing holiday destination, I used to think of the idea of actually going there as somewhat of a pipe dream. Unrealistic, impossible to plan, inaccessible. But after spending a week there in July, I am happy to inform you that it turned out I was wrong. Let me tell you why I think you should make it your next holiday destination.
It’s easily accessible
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Any belief that I had that getting to Kenya would be difficult was nowhere near accurate, as getting to Kenya from Egypt is actually very straightforward. Not only is it geographically close, but there is more than one flight route to get there. Depending on your budget you can take a four-hour direct flight from Cairo to Nairobi, or have a stopover in Dubai.
You can even get your visa on arrival, but it is easier and more convenient to get it online for USD 50 prior to your trip. This will significantly shorten your time spent on the way out of the airport. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenya has not closed off its borders to Egypt, so with a recent negative PCR test, you should have no problem entering the country.
There’s always something to do in Nairobi
Despite the 10 p.m. curfew that is enforced as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19, Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, remains an incredibly exciting place to be. One of the most popular tourist attractions is Giraffe Center, a place where you can spend time with and feed giraffes. We spent a good twenty minutes with Stacy, Daisy, and a few of their giraffe friends who were more than happy to eat out of our hands.
Animals aside, dining at restaurants such as the popular Fogo Gaucho, or Carnivore – a chain with only two branches, one in Nairobi and another in Johannesburg, South Africa serving an all-you-can-eat experience with that included unusual meats like ostrich meatballs, crocodile meat, and bull testicles – made the trip all the more special. It is also worthwhile to grab a fresh lunch, cooked right in front of customers, from the Food Market at the Village Market mall.
One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Kazuri Bead Factory, a small factory located in Karen, a Nairobi suburb, where single mothers create accessories and figurines out of clay. The small and beautiful — which is what kazuri means in Swahili — creations of these women are delightful, and the baking, drying, and painting process is fascinating to watch. The tour itself was free of charge, but we did not hesitate to stop by the gift shop, where we bought some of these handmade keepsakes for ourselves as well as our loved ones at home.
And though Nairobi is one of Africa’s major cities, you can flee the hustle and bustle and go on a game drive in Nairobi National Park, a miniature safari experience within the city. Though it does not have all the big animals you might see on a real game drive outside of the city, with the particularly noticeable absence of elephants, you can still see giraffes, zebras, antelopes, rhinos, and even lions on a drive costing USD 35 and lasting no more than two hours.
Though we were warned by some about safety issues in Nairobi, taking certain precautions helped us guarantee a problem-free trip, and we recommend that anyone going to Kenya consider taking them, too. When booking a hotel, avoid the downtown area and book accommodation in a safer suburb. With the help of an Egyptian holiday agency we were also able to establish contact with Victor, a local resident who helped us with transportation through the city.
It’s one of the best places on Earth to experience a safari adventure
While the game drive in Nairobi National Park is the perfect preview for the safari experience, nothing beats the real thing. Kenya is considered one of the most unique and enjoyable safari destinations on Earth; home to ‘the big five’ African land mammals – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and African buffalos, it boasts some of the most breathtaking wildlife reserves for you to explore. I had the chance to spend a full day at Masai Mara National Reserve, a vast expanse of land that stretches into Tanzania, where it is known as the Serengeti, as well as a full day Lake Nakuru and its surrounding grasslands after spending the night at the Enchoro Wildlife Camp on the edge of the reserve. The two days and night at the camp cost us USD 350 per person.
Safari guide George took us into the depths of the savannah aboard his sturdy safari van and took us so close to the animals that we could reach out and touch them — though of course we knew better than to do that. Whether it was the four cheetah brothers we saw lazing around in the shade of a tree, the baby elephant that kept missing its mouth with the food wrapped in its trunk, or the young lioness jumping out of a bush to give her young lion friend a fright, I saw things on those drives that I know I will never forget.
If you are lucky, you will also get a guide as great as George, who was warm, funny, extremely well-informed, and had enough fascinating stories about Kenya to keep us excellent company on the 6-hour drive from Nairobi to Masai Mara and back.
It’s a great place for nature walks and hikes
If you are one for walking in nature, you will also find plenty of attractions in Kenya. Around Nairobi, there are many hiking trails through forests and over hills, such as the challenging Ngong Hills hiking tour, and the quiet and relaxing Karura forest walking trails. Our afternoon in Karura forest was a memorable one as we strolled through the woods and on the banks of a lake and had a picnic only a few feet away from a family of monkeys and a few passing small antelopes.
The people are extremely friendly
Whether it was our genial safari guide George, Victor, who met us outside the airport as we were departing just to give us tea grown in his village, the keepers of the Kazuri gift shop who told us how much they loved Mohamed Salah when they heard that we are Egyptian, or the hotel receptionist who walked us to the nearest pharmacy right before the curfew to make sure we found our way there, we were constantly met with kindness throughout our trip. How welcome you feel as a tourist can really make or break a holiday, and it really was the cherry on top of our trip to Kenya.