Saturday, August 15, 2015

Family Fun in Nairobi

We had two weeks to entertain ourselves in Nairobi, while my husband had meetings, so I was looking for some fun things to do with a kid.  There weren't a lot of resources dedicated to this topic, though you can browse trip advisor or check out the places of interest on the city website.  We tried lots of things and this is what my son thought was the best of the best.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has a baby elephant rescue site attached to Nairobi National Park, and it's open for only one hour per day (11-12), so you need to be prompt and arrive early if you need parking because it will fill up, especially on a Friday-Sunday.  Since this week celebrated world elephant day, elephants have been in the news a lot.  National Geographic's September issue has a great article linking elephants tusks to terrorists.  Most of the elephants at the sanctuary either fell into a water well or were victims of poaching.  Many were orphaned when their parents were killed.  You can help by sponsoring an elephant at a minimum of $50, which allows you a special evening visit to the sanctuary to help put your elephant to bed. J. Crew even put out a special line of t-shirts which benefit the trust.  It's great to see so much interest in helping these animals.   Unfortunately the website doesn't give you enough information about how to visit.  You need to be there at 11 for the hour long presentation.  They parade the elephants out into a pen, and those in the front row get the best view, but are also likely to be showered with mud, so dress accordingly.  How cool is it to say you've been that close to baby elephants?! They ask the public to be totally silent, which is a bit tough for hundreds of kids when the babies are playing in mud and drinking from bottles.  One of the keepers will get on a microphone and talk about the trust, how the animals came here, introduce you to each one and tell their stories.  It was actually too much talking for my preference, but seeing the babies was amazing.  Don't miss this.  The address can be a bit tricky to find.  The entrance is not well marked.  It's very near the entrance to the Multimedia University on the opposite side of the road.
All of the elephants have been abandoned or injured

You can watch the elephants eat and play, but watch out for mudslinging!

We found Nairobi National Park to be expensive and a long boring drive for kids.  The roads were dusty and bumpy. We saw few animals.  We did however enjoy the Nairobi Safari Walk just beside the park entrance. It's kind of like a zoo.  The key to a great experience here is to hire a guide.  Ours was very patient and helped us get a better look at everything.  He picked grass so my son could feed monkeys, giraffes, and ostriches.  We got some great photo ops with animals and a Maasai man who was on hand to show kids how to jump and could dress you up for a photo if you wanted. If you request a guide, be sure to tip.


Photo op with a Maasai

The Kenya Railway Museum is wonderful for kids who love trains.  The museum itself is overstuffed with displays you need to spend too much time reading, so only adults and older kids might enjoy this.  Do take time to read about the Tsavo lions that killed men working on the railway and learn more about how the railway was built if you have the time.  The main attraction for us was being able to climb into and on top of everything in the yard.  It's a rare opportunity when there are no "Keep off" and "Don't Touch" signs.  You can play on everything. Though the cars are old, they will still be fun for pretend play.
All aboard!

Bomas of Kenya has a playground and villages of huts set up so kids can run free and see how life might be like in other rural parts of the country, but the highlight here is the dance and acrobatic show they put on every afternoon.  The audience is usually comprised of hundreds of school kids and just a few tourists, from what I saw.  The 90 minute show is at 2:30 on weekdays and 3:30 on weekends.  Show up about an hour in advance so you can walk the grounds before the show begins.  We have never seen such amazing jump roping or balance acts.  It was truly entertaining.  Sit front row with your smartphone and make a video so you'll enjoy it later.
They were in constant movement

You can go inside and check out the homes

The Nairobi National Museum and the Snake Park are collocated and you can purchase a ticket which includes both.  We asked for a guide at the museum and found the pace too slow for a child, though my husband enjoyed it thoroughly.  The collection of birds is larger than I have seen anywhere in the world.  They have several instruments kids can play.  My son enjoyed the snake park much more though.  We did not take a guide here and it was fine.  We were more interested in watching vs. hearing.  Guides are usually college students who work for tips so if you want to learn more, ask for one.  The gift shop had some real finds- not the usual tourist stuff.  Take a look if you want something to take home.
Oooohhh.....slimy snakes everywhere!

Look at the length of those tusks on the skeleton

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