Kenya day 1: Beginnings in Nairobi + whole new world

I made it to Kenya!!! Getting here was by far the longest and toughest travel stretch yet, but the moment I landed I felt so grateful to be here and anxious to get going on this long-anticipated trip.

Even though it’s only been one day, I wanted to shoot off this blog post since I’m off on a 4-day safari tomorrow! I usually group my travel posts in “chapters,” and my first chapter encompassed my one-and-only day in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, so let’s talk about that.

I think the one word to describe this first chapter is “adjusting”. Adjusting physically to major jet lag, and more importantly adjusting to the whole new world I landed in. This is my first time in Africa altogether – I’ve done a lot of travel in W. Europe, SE Asia, and Central America, and I thought that all my experiences combined would make me able to handle whatever came my way, but boy did my first day in Nairobi surprise me in every way. To say it was a culture shock is an understatement.

First off, I met a girl from Kenya on my flight, and we hit it off right away! She insisted that her family drop me off at my hostel since we landed late at night and she didn’t want me to cab alone. Despite not seeing her family in 4 years, they all gave me a very warm welcome and went out of their way to give me ride – I was super surprised by the hospitality here!

The next morning, I woke up early and eased into the morning with some breakfast outside at the hostel and a side of planning my day.

Side note: hostels are pretty hard to find in East Africa – this was one of the few options in Nairobi, and it turned out to be more of a guesthouse, with only a few rooms and a huge group of native pre-teen boys part of a religious group living here as well. They all got circumcised over the weekend and are living in the house together to heal – definitely change from my usual backpacking stays. 🙂

Then I got my Nairobi day started! I first hit up a nearby shopping center to run some errands: buy a SIM card, run to the ATM, purchase things I left at home…basically how I start every single trip. 😛

Apparently Uber is the easiest way to get around Nairobi, which made my day easier. They driver sits on the right side of the car and drives on the left side of the road – I couldn’t get use to it!

At 11am, I went to the elephant orphanage in Nairobi for the daily feeding. 1 hour every day people can come watch baby elephants be fed, learn about the orphanage, and hear why each baby elephant was abandoned and rescued. The elephants were adorable but there were a TON of tourists around!

Met Pumba from the Lion King 🙂

Afterwards, I went to the Giraffe Centre which was a short Uber ride away. While the elephant experience was alright, I LOVED my time at the Giraffe Centre! They gave everyone some food and we could interact with and feed the elephants. There also weren’t that many people so I got to play with one giraffe all to myself. ❤

I put one of the food pellets on my lips and got a giraffe kiss ❤

After playing with the giraffes, I was having so much fun that I decided to stay at the center for a bit – sitting outside with my coffee and watching others play with the animals. It was just nice to be in the oasis of nature in the mist of the big city.

Even though it was relaxing spending the morning in the more remote part of Nairobi, I figured if I only had one day, I should see the downtown area as well (even though I try to keep city stuff to a min when I solo travel!) And so, I headed into the craziness.

Nairobi is actually pretty developed; you can basically find everything you would back in the U.S. – The buildings and roads are in good condition, but between the neighborhoods is the jungle-y lush which makes the city unique. And yet, there is still a good amount of poverty in the city and people generally live very modestly.

I first spent some time at the Masai Market to do a little shopping. The market was filled with handmade jewelry, art, and trinkets which I usually love, but I have to say…it was the most stressful shopping experience I’ve had in any country. I can usually handle aggressive sales people and haggling from my travels in Asia, but this market was a whole different level. One incident in particular made me made me feel uncomfortable that I ended up just leaving. For some reason, the whole experience felt like a big culture shock to me.

After the crazy market experience, I wanted nothing more than to chill. I found a nearby park which had a nice big lake under the Nairobi skyline; I sat down and enjoyed the views with my orange soda.

After a full day of exploring on nothing but adrenaline and caffeine, I called it a day and relaxed at the hostel the rest of the evening. Up to this point, I had no idea where I was sleeping the next night, and so I talked to the nice owner of the hostel and she recommended a 4-day safari group that I could join tomorrow. It all fell into place since I was looking for a budget safari in Masai Mara, and this fit everything I was looking for.

Overall, I still feel like I’m in adjusting mode and just trying take it all in and not jump to conclusions on anything. I’ve quickly come to terms that this definitely is not like my typical solo backpacking trips – Nairobi is really not touristy at all and more times than not I was the only tourist in plain site. I feel much more out of my comfort zone like I was placed in this whole new world, and yet, I am keeping an heart open and willingness to absorb as much as possible in this very unique country.

Being short on energy and after a full day in Nairobi, I’m pretty excited to let someone else do the planning for me the next four days. I don’t have anything planned for after the safari, and if anything I’m grateful that this solo trip is helping me slow down and take it one chapter at a time. 🙂


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