This summer I took my 20th trip to Africa and my first trip to my namesake, Kenya. I decided this year I had to check it off the list because I was tired of the annoying question, ”Have you ever been to Kenya?” When I reply “No” people look at with me with such dismay and disappointment, “how could that be, you’ve been all over the world, why not?” In an effort to stop folk from asking the inevitable I tagged on a trip to Kenya after work trips to Sudan and South Sudan. Twenty years after my first attempt to visit Kenya I finally made it.
When I travel by myself I try to fit in all my joys of life: salsa dancing, hiking, yoga, beach time, shopping, and eating. I am NOT a museum person, sorry. I did the Louvre in Paris in two hours and that was too much. Tell the truth, weren’t you disappointed when you saw the postage stamp size Mona Lisa? Anyway, back to Kenya. Pre-departure I asked around on social media for travel tips, no one provided any helpful information that wasn’t already on Lonely Planet’s top 10 things to do list. As a matter of fact, the one taxi driver someone recommended ripped me off, so I had to drop him on day one! My friend Florence did send me a helpful article from Vogue called The Kenya Cool Girls Guide to Nairobi that I consulted. My yogi buddy Peyton, told me about the Africa Yoga Project which was a big highlight of my trip. In short, I had to come up with my own itinerary.
To say I enjoyed my time in Kenya is an understatement. It was as if the travel goddesses came and granted me a lifelong wish. It was a solo trip, just what I needed to get my independent travel mojo back! I loved Kenya; the people, the culture, the music….it did not disappoint. I only had four days and three nights to spend in Nairobi; here was my itinerary:
- 6:30 am Arrived
- 8am Nap time (I can’t hang like I used to)
- 1pm Maasai Market
- 6: 45-9:45 Salsa Class with Salsa Afrique
- 6am Nairobi National Park
- 11am Elephant Orphanage
- 1pm Giraffe Park
- 9pm Brew Bistro in Westlands 8pm-midnight (live salsa band)
- 7am headed to Hell’s Gate National Park
- Lake Naivasha
- 9pm Art Café at the Oval (live salsa band)
- 10pm Salsa Afrique
I highlighted above the memorable moments of the trip. I was able to incorporate most of the things I love into the itinerary such as: yoga, dancing, shopping, and national parks. Kenya has a pretty active salsa scene. Twelve hours after arriving I had on my salsa shoes and was taking a 2 hour salsa class with Salsa Afrique. Majority of the participants were African and were exceptional dancers. Let me tell you something, if you have not salsa danced in Africa you haven’t really salsa danced. Africans take dance to a whole different level. Oh and to watch them dance Kizomba, I was mesmerized. Someone teach me please! Thursday night I went to Brew Bistro for more salsa dancing and almost lost my mind I had so much fun!
I only spent 3 nights and four days in Nairobi, that meant I had a lot to fit in such a short amount of time. Thursday morning I was ready at 6am to head to Nairobi National Park. Don’t sleep on this park, it’s beautiful, especially if you get there at sunrise before the crowds. Since I was a solo traveler I had the safari van ALL to myself, even more fun! It’s unbelievable the National Park is in the middle of the city with buffalo, lions, giraffes, zebras, ect.) I was in awe with the beauty of the park. After the park we went to the Elephant Orphanage, you can skip this site. Too many tourist and I am not going to adopt an elephant when there are children in need, sorry! The Giraffe Centre I could have skipped as well. I didn’t need to pet or feed a giraffe, overrated. However, people kept telling me to do those visit these two sites, so some people like it. Maybe you would like it too; not my thing, I guess.
Hell’s Gate National Park was a pleasant surprise! We drove through the entrance of the park to the hiking site. However, you have the option of biking through the park to get up-close and personal with the giraffes and zebras and then head to the hiking site. If you are not in shape 1. Don’t bike through the park and 2. Skip the hike! I am glad we skipped biking because the hike was more like rock climbing. If I had biked in the heat to the entrance of the trail I probably would have had to take a nap on a rock. I didn’t bring my hiking shoes because I didn’t have an itinerary before I left Georgia and hiking wasn’t on the list. I almost died twice from my shoes slipping. Note to self, if you are going to Kenya take your hiking shoes, there are so many beautiful trails! After visiting Hell’s Gate we went to Lake Naivasha for a boat tour, I could have skipped this visit. On Trip Advisor there are beautiful pictures and spectacular views, I saw very little as a storm was approaching.
Shopping was a part of the experience. I stopped by the Maasai Market the first and last day of my trip. The market travels, therefore you may find different things. The biggest day is on Saturday. To be honest I felt like 80% of the merchandise was made in China. Everyone was selling the same items, with the exception of a few vendors. There were only a couple of Maasai people making beaded adornments, so try to buy from them, their prices are reasonable. The Maasai market was a bit of a disappointment, but worth visiting.
I stayed until Saturday just so I could attend the community yoga class at the Africa Yoga Project studio in Nairobi. My yogi friend Peyton told me about this organization; the founder came to Kentucky to teach some classes. The Africa Yoga Project provides yoga teacher training to Africans and offers yoga classes at a local studio. Every Saturday the Africa Yoga Project has a free 2 hour yoga class for the community and afterwards they provide lunch for all the attendees. The class kicked my butt, it was Baptiste style yoga and the instructor was phenomenal. There were about 100 people in the class. I have never attended a weekly class with so many people, it was beautiful and inspiring. It was the perfect way to end a perfect trip.
For over a decade people discouraged me from traveling to Kenya, because of the Department of State travel warning. The way I approached my travel in Kenya is the way I approach travel in any major city. As a women I am extra cautious, especially when I travel by myself. I avoided Uber and used one taxi drive throughout my stay. The good thing was that everyone used Whatsapp, making communication extremely easy.
My name is more to me than just a name. It is a part of my identity and has become my inspiration to explore the world. This will be one of many trips to Kenya. I am glad I spent time in Nairobi so that on my next visit I can venture outside the city!
Photography by: Kenya (all wildlife photos)