Category Archives: Things to do

Nairobi in a day

Courtesy of The Tribe Hotel Nairobi, below is a take of things to do and places one should visit if they only had a day in the City.

 

Karura Forest;
Fancy a family picnic by the lake, bird walks, bike trails and generally a spectacular nature trail, Karura forest should then definitely be on your list of things to do. Things to enjoy here include the Mau Mau caves, scenic waterfalls, picnic sites, bamboo forest and nature trails. Karura does not fall short of wildlife as well one can spot  different monkey species, bush baby, bush-buck, bush pig, porcupine, duiker, genet, dik dik, African civet and epauletted bat.
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Cafe Brasserie;
Located in Nairobi’s Village Market, The Cafe Brasserie by Art Caffe is a bright, light-filled café famous for its roasted coffees, hearty dishes and mouth-watering deserts. With wood-panelled walls and high ceilings, the café has a unique character, and is the ideal spot for post-shopping coffee and cake breaks with friends, pre-shopping breakfasts and leisurely lunches. The contemporary interior with clean lines, combined with a convivial ambiance, have made this restaurant a staple on the local dining scene.
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The Giraffe Centre;
Run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, this is a sanctuary for the rare Rothschild’s giraffe. Spend some time observing, hand-feeding (and if lucky, get a big wet kiss) as well as capturing close-up photos of the giraffes in case you did not catch sight of them while on safari. One can also enjoy a quiet nature trail through thick bushes and forest. Other animals you are bound to encounter include warthogs, hyenas and sometimes leopard.There is a variety of flora and fauna.
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House of Treasures;
The House of Treasures is filled with unusual and exotic goods from around the globe. Antique and modern furniture, architectural pieces, innovative fashion & jewellery, Africana artefacts, children’s toys and eclectic home-ware – all gathered in a striking double-storey gallery set in mature gardens in Karen, just outside Nairobi, Kenya.
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Maasai Markets;
Meet craftsmen of authentic Kenyan artifacts and enjoy the sight of ladies beading and making jewellery at the markets. Held around the city at different venues on different days, bag yourself a set of souvenirs for your friends and families back home including wooden carvings and bead-work; beaded necklaces, batik wall hangings, shoes, soap stone carvings, sisal bags, kikois, textiles and much more.  All Maasai Markets items are Kenyan and the range of goods on offer is impressive .You can’t go wrong at the Nairobi Masai Market.
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Baskets
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Adèle Dejak;
The Adèle Dejak brand creates handmade fashion accessories for the modern, sophisticated and multidimensional woman. Inspired by African shapes, textures and traditional techniques, the cutting-edge pieces sit perfectly between artifact and high fashion statement designs. The Adèle Dejak collections express acute appreciation for African-made fabrics, including Kuba cloth and kitenge (wax print); a dedication to using recycled materials including rice and cement sacks, brass, aluminium and glass and; a commitment to exceptional quality.
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Anselm – Kitengela Hot Glass;
Sleek vases the colour of sea glass, a coffee table that looks as if it is made of crushed ice.  Extravagant murals. A goblet that feels solid and perfect in your hand, majestic and bejeweled chandeliers. A splash of window that is a mosaic of the sun, a globe-shaped lamp glowing like a planet. A Maasai necklace design that is an explosion of colour and lighting. A passionate and practical ensemble of scrap window and bottle glass renewed, refashioned into stylish pieces, functional art and inspired design. All this and more at Anselm- Kitengela Hot Glass, each piece is unique, handmade to catch the eye and satisfy the soul.
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New Kitengela Works-Westend House, Westlands, 1_4 tonnes, 750 pieces
African Heritage House;
The African Heritage House overlooking the Nairobi National Park is described by the prestigious Architectural Digest as “an architecture rising from the serene Kenyan plain like an outcropping of earth, a vision of usefulness informed by the African genius for decoration.”
Designed by American Alan Donovan, co-founder of the African Heritage Pan-African Galleries, the house is a combination of the mud architectures from across Africa.The house is available for tours, meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinners on the rooftop or by the refreshing pool), conferences/functions, as well as overnight stays in its luxurious rooms, filled with African art and furnishings with modern appointments.
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Kalabash;
Once at Kalabash you will be awed by the creativity and pronounced ethnic artistry that awaits you. Kalabash Selections specializes in extraordinary art, crafts and accessories from across Africa.  The curated collection represents the finest examples of Africana in wood, stone, metal and beads. It  glows with unique earthly African shades of brown, which most of its racy crafts represent. Kalabash also stocks beadwork and artifacts made from driftwood, soapstone and clay.
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Kaya Spa;
Kaya, Tribe’s exclusive spa combines traditional and new-world treatments from around the globe. The five treatment rooms and hair studio infuse a sense of tranquility through inspiring design – taming the body, mind and soul.
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NEST;
Also at the Tribe,  NEST is the perfect location for sun-downer drinks, private parties, or just an intimate space to get away and hang out. NEST serves the best martinis in Nairobi which are a perfect compliment to aromatic shisha pipes or hookahs.
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Jiko;
Jiko holds true to the glamorous yet sophisticated feel of the Tribe hotel whilst maintaining the warmth and personality of Kenya. Its contemporary international cuisine focuses on carefully grown fresh ingredients and specially sourced international imports. The extensive menu features grilled meats and vegetables as well as house made pastas, breads, pastries and gelatos. Jiko’s exclusive wine list highlights some of the finest selections of wines to perfectly compliment the flavors of Jiko.
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Finish your day in style sleeping at the Tribe’s Presidential suite. A one-bedroom suite overlooking the protected natural wetland, the Presidential Suite features a living room with dining table and over-sized couches, a 60-inch plasma TV with a BOSE Lifestyle sound system, guest bathroom, a private balcony, enhanced storage facilities and the suite’s iconic master bathroom. The Presidential suite is furnished with a rain shower, bath tub, 300 thread-count sheets, and a king bed. Tribe offers a complimentary mini-bar and free high-speed wireless internet with all rooms.

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Unravelling the Marvel that is Taita Hills

Travel enthusiasts en-route to various safari destinations along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway more often than not by-pass this Majestic wonder over Voi town. What many fail to realize is that this unexploited backdrop not only provides for a beautiful view while on your safari, but is also a rare attraction gem yet to be exploited and can only be attested to by a few; locals, researchers, and rally drivers. The early mornings are a sight to behold with dense fog shrouding the hills so much so one cannot be able to see another’s compound. Moreover, approaching the scenic hills from the vast and expansive plains spread in the lowland areas, provides for an exciting anticipation knowing that the higher one goes the more amazing the view of the landscapes, more like a far off deep sea.
Birds eye view of Rukanga village
DSC_1735View of Mt. kilimanjaro a far from Taita hills
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The lowlands, teamed up with Taita hills  form the greater Taita/Taveta County formerly district, and are more accustomed to tourist visits being home to Kenya’s largest National Park; Tsavo National Park, Lakes Jipe and Chala, various water springs as well as a number of lodges namely Voi Wildlife Lodge, Voi Safari Lodge, Voi Town Lodge, Lions Bluff Lodge, Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge and Sarova Salt lick Game lodge.
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The Taita Hills are mainly Precambrian mountain ranges consisting of three massifs; Dawida, Saghalla and Kasighau with Dawida outcropping the rest at 2,228 metres above sea level at its highest peak – Vuria; it also has three other main peaks – Iyale, Wesu and Susu. Inhabitants of these hills are classified into three subgroups/sub-tribes in relation to the three topographical zones  i.e the Wadawida/Taita from Dawida, Wasaghalla from Saghalla and Wakasighau from Kasighau. The Taita have a variation of dialects that include the Mbololo, Bura, Wusi, Kidaya, Mghange, Chawia, Mwanda, Kishamba, Werugha, Wumingu, and Wundanyi whereas the Kisaghalla and Kasighau stand on their own as self-sustaining dialects.
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One’s journey atop, begins at Mwatate town, the central junction point linking wundanyi, voi and Taveta. Between Mwatate and Wundanyi several view points will prompt you to stop and gaze at the awesomeness below. One such spot is Mbengonyi; here you will be fascinated by the plains spreading across from Kishamba to Mwachora as well as the expansive Teita sisal estate. Mwachora is historically renown among the Taita as a medium of death as this is where sorcerers were executed by throwing them over the hill (sorcery was only punishable by death).
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mwachora peakMwachora peak and its views
Another hill with a similar history to Mwachora is Shomoto with a story of how thieves would be thrown over the cliff or have their fingers beaten to a pulp after which they would be tied by a rope to the tree that sits right on the edge of the cliff hanging over a deep cleft in the rock; left for dead. It was the responsibility of a member of the suspects’ relatives to push them over the edge.
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Crevice-400x560 Shomoto rock and crevice
If you thought the views of the plains impressive, sight of the Lwada falls should leave you dumbfounded at the nature of its beauty. Found in the Dembwa area, the falls cascade from tall, moss-lined rocks and boulders against a scenic backdrop of thick evergreen vegetation and indigenous cover mostly of wild date palms.
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Water sources
The cruise up hill leads you to Wundanyi town; formely Taita’s District Capital from where one can access other destinations via hiking or use of motorbikes as very few places can be accessed by vehicles due to rough terrain especially during the rainy season. However, to better enjoy the splendor of the treasured sites, hiking is more preferred; Inhabitants swiftly traverse these precipitous hills without the break of a sweat whereas for those of us who come back here once in a while this seems to be quite a chore (never mind the fact that I hail from here). Walking about closely linked villages brings you to encounter very friendly people who will more often than not, not shy off to salute you with a ‘Kwawuka mana’ (good morning) or ‘Kwasinda mana’ (good afternoon) obliging you to reply with a simple ‘Mana-to’. Guests with preference of the uphill climate over the lowlands can enjoy their stay at Irido springs, Lavender Garden and Rocks hotels.
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Having withstood the years, Taita Hills have significant political stories to tell with sites like Mile 27,  the Mashoti encampment, Mbuyuni,  Salaita, Latema, Reata and the fortifications near Maktau portraying events dating back 100 years ago during world war 1; the only memorabilia of the battleground being the war cemetery segregated into white and Asian races (wonder where the Africans were buried). There is a story told of a German lady sniper  supposedly hidden in a hollow Baobab tree, out to avenge her husband, leading it to become a target for the British. The baobab tree survived as the most-shot-at tree during World War One and still has the bullet holes to show till date.
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Mwakitau ( as pronounced by locals) war memorial
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observation post and its view on top of mwakitau
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The legendary bullet-holed baobab tree
The hills also played a crucial role for Kenya’s independence serving as a hideout for our founding heroes including the first Kenyan president; Jomo Kenyatta. It is said that the Kapenguria seven stayed at Kino caves where they would keenly plot their victory plan over their colonizers. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, First president of Tanzania would also frequent the location in order to exchange ideas with his counterparts.
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kino Cave
Taita Hills not only harbors these cherished political antiquities but is also rich in cultural mementos. Before conversion into christianity, the Taita were known to store skulls of the dead in caves; Ngomenyi, Yale, Shomoto amongst others. The skulls would be disconnected from the corpse after a year’s exhumation; this was deemed a sacred act of restoring the dead to the ancestors resting place. The skulls would be lined denoting lineage and stacked near the entrance facing the setting sun. The subgroups differed as to who would be accorded this honor with the wadawida placing skulls of only elderly men whereas the wasaghalla included skulls of women and children. In times of calamities, elders would visit the caves and appeal to their ancestors for help; their Higher Being was called Mulungu whereas the ancestors’ spirits were referred to as milungu.
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Entrance to sacred skull cave
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With continued exposure by the media, these breathtaking hills have proven that its allure is not one to be left to oblivion having attracted a myriad of naturalists, researchers and birding enthusiasts alike. With a unique biodiversity of 9 and 13 taxa of animals and plants respectively, found nowhere else in the world but here, areas like Ngangao forest have been deemed a true treasure; being part of a unique Eastern arc range of forests found mostly in Eastern Tanzania and the only one of its kind in Kenya. In total there are 48 indigenous and exotic forests (surviving on hill tops and ranging in size from 500 square metres to 2 square kilometres) 28 of which are gazetted and are under the able protection and management of the Kenyan Government.
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Ngangao forest (under the care of Forestry Commission) will provide you the splendor of moist, thick dripping vegetation with sights of rare birds, butterflies, amphibians and plant species that only exist here. Some of the endemic species that call Taita hills home include  Bird species like the Taita Thrush, the Taita White-eye and the Taita Apalis, a unique rear-fanged snake – Amblyodipsas teitana, an endemic toad – Bufo Teitensis, and butterflies; the Taita Glider, Taita Charaxes, Cymothoe teita, Papilio desmond teita and Taita Swallowtail. There are at least nine plant species found nowhere else in the world but on the these moist slopes including the African violet – Saintpaulia teitensis, Memecyclon teitensis, Milletia obrata, Psychotria petitae. Trailing the forest within the first morning sun rays, one is also bound to chance a upon an endemic species of chameleon – Bradpodium Kinyongia. For birding enthusiasts, species like Orange Ground Thrush, Stripe- cheeked Greenbul, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler amongst others, should adequately quench your thirst.
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Taita white-eye
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African Violet
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As a climax to your exploration endeavor,  something that ought to give you a rush would be the climb of Wesu rock either as a pro with harnesses, ropes and all or simply by hiking your way up. What awaits you at the top is a reward of panoramic views for miles over kasighau, Ngulia, Mount Kilimanjaro’s Mawenzi and Kibo peaks as well as chyulu hills.
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Vuria ( Taita’s Highest point) will also be able to offer you the same thrill of the superb views. Early risers should be able to enjoy the glory of snow fall on the peaks of Kilimanjaro teamed up with the beautiful sunrise, truly a sight for sore eyes.

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