Article written for a travel magazine in Kenya
Holidays, in the absence of the working world and the everyday hustle and bustle, provide ample opportunity for you to lay back and unwind, as the banality of daily life fades away. But what if gallivanting through the French Islands or voyaging on the Mediterranean seems virtually impossible? After all, not all of us have the time or the money to run off to a foreign country. Don’t let it get you down. All you need is a day or two off to rejuvenate and change your pace.
Nairobi is a city in which nature has been exceedingly generous. One can witness the abundant bird life, walk through flourishing greenery, feed a few giraffes, drive alongside the fierce wildlife, sip cocktails by a palm-shaded pool or cycle through a forest, just to mention a few! And if you aren’t in the mood to be one with nature, this city offers endless opportunities to pamper yourself in a spa, watch a good play or indulge in delectable food and drink.
The first thing to do is to ask yourself what it is that you want. Are you ready for an adventure or something more low key? Do you need to unwind and de-stress or add a little excitement to your life? The possibilities are endless.
5 Places in Nairobi That Give you that Getaway Feeling
1) When is the last time you booked yourself into a hotel not far from your home? You haven’t? Why not? Sure you have a house in the city, but most of us need a break from the everyday clutter and countless number of chores that seem to never end. Leave the house behind for a night or two. It will be a lot less costly than booking a flight out of town for a few days.
Hotels are a dime a dozen in this city, from stylish boutiques to grand oases, it’s easy to find one that suits your every need. Hotels vary not only in their prices and location, but the amenities they offer differ from one to the next. So do some research and find the right fit.
House of Waine is a unique hotel, situated away from the busyness of the city. Amid a spectacular Eden, the property blends the elegance of gracious living with the spirit of modern Africa. Constructed in the 1970s as a private home in Karen, it was later transformed into an 11 bedroom boutique property. The rooms, all individually styled and named, reflect their different themes ensuring that no two are exactly alike. If you choose the Tembo room, be prepared to relax in an elegantly furnished combination of creams, ivories and browns. Enjoy a luxurious bath in the extra wide tub found in each room.
Step outside and take in the fresh air. Hit the poolside, remembering to take a good read with you. Quench your thirst with a cocktail at the pool bar.
When evening rolls around, tantalize your taste buds with exquisite cuisine while listening to Afro Jazz beats in the comfort of the dining room.
Head to the Lounge for an after dinner drink and drift away to the sounds of the crackling fire. If you are in the mood for company, chat it up with other guests. People from one end of the continent to the other side of the world are known to stay here. You may make a new friend or two.
When it’s time to retire, head back to your room and dream, knowing that in the morning you will wake up to the exotic sounds of African birdlife.
Things to Pack
A Good Book, some sunscreen, a swimsuit
Think Outside the Box
Play an instrument? Take it along with you. Find a secluded corner and burst into song. You may even develop an audience. Everyone loves a good tune.
2) Now if you’re in the mood to drive alongside a few of the world’s fiercest animals, the Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s oldest animal sanctuary is the place for you. Harboring 400 species of birds, 80 species of animals, 40 species of reptiles and 500 plant species, this park is only minutes away from the city centre. Depending on the time of year, you may be lucky enough to see all the Big 5.
But if patience is not your forte, then take a stroll instead! Yes, in the Nairobi National Park, you will find a self-guided nature trail. But don’t think for a second that you are alone. Not too far from the trail you may run into a few hippos splashing in the water or run into some ravenous crocodiles.
If it’s you that is hungry, the park has a couple of picnic sites overlooking the vast plains. The spot is perfect for a barbecue and if it’s that time, enjoy a few sundowners with a friend or two.
If you want to get up close and personal, an orphanage for abandoned animals lies at the entrance of the park. Cheetahs, leopards and lions are just a few of the creatures that are taken care of in this sanctuary.
Before you head back to the craziness of the city, stop off at the Ranger’s Restaurant near the main gate, stretch out your legs and enjoy a fine cup of Kenya tea on the Twiga Terrace.
To fill your tank, check your tire pressure, buy a few bottles of water, put together some good music for the drive, take a pair of binoculars
Think Outside the Box
Practice your breathing exercises. If you are familiar with yoga, head to the sheltered picnic area and inhale…exhale. The magnificent views of the savannah will provide you with an instant calming feeling.
3) If sitting in a 4×4, patiently waiting to see some game is not your cup of tea, but you do want to experience some of nature’s fine creatures, head to the Giraffe Manorfor a night or two. Not only will you get to witness the long-necked creatures strolling through the hotel grounds and warthogs skipping about, but the opportunities to feed the graceful creatures are bountiful.
The Giraffe Manor, just outside of Nairobi, is an exclusive hotel famous for its resident Rothschild giraffes. This honey-coloured haven takes you back to a time where hunting was in fashion. But don’t be fooled. Immaculately furnished rooms with large four-poster beds, antique furnishings and art deco bathrooms provide you with a modern but classic feel.
The finely cooked meals are not the only highlight during breakfast, but the company of the giraffes, standing only a few metres away with take your breathe away.
In the evening, choose to fill your belly with luscious foods in the private dining room or on the outside veranda.
The Giraffe Manor is a popular getaway for many stars, so you never know who you may run into!
Things to Do
Hang with the giraffes, take a stroll through the lush green gardens, enjoy a cup of coffee while you relax on a wicker chair, get lost in a good book
Think Outside the Box
Ever wonder how to create a memory book using your favourite pictures?
Why not try making a scrapbook. All you need is a good book, preferably with acid-free pages, some picture corners, a few coloured pens and a splash of creativity. It’s your memory book so do whatever you want with it!
4) You are an African Queen, so pamper yourself with an aromatic steam, followed by a coffee or chocolate body scrub and mask. End your journey with an invigorating facial and then get spoiled with a hand and foot massage.
For a more masculine experience, try the ginger body scrub followed by a detoxifying sauna and purifying steam. Lie down as Asian blend massage oils are dripped onto your body for a relaxing massage. Walk out of the spa with fabulous pedicured feet and manicured hands.
Modern spas have their roots in ancient towns famed for healing powers through the use of their mineral waters and hot springs. People would travel, sometimes great distances, to restore their health. This practice dates back to the Babylonians and the Greeks. In the 19th century, Europe’s great spas were destinations for the wealthy.
Moving along a few centuries ahead, spas have become popular destinations in just about every country around the world. People are realizing that the everyday stresses of life do take a toll on the overall well-being of an individual. Spas rejuvenate and give back a feeling of youth.
Wild Earth Day Spa is an ultimate sanctuary on Peponi Road. Go through their spa menu and you will definitely find a treatment that will awaken your senses. There is something for everyone.
Get there 15 minutes early, do not talk loudly, give feedback to your therapist, do leave a tip
Think Outside the Box
Depending on the type of treatment you are getting, pack a few pieces of cucumber and take them along with you to the spa. Did you know that cucumbers can reduce the appearance of swelling around your eyes? And hey, if you are feeling a bit snackish after your treatment, no need to look around!
The website, www.wildearthdayspa.com, provides you with all the information that you need. But be sure to make an appointment, as you may be disappointed if you drop in. This popular place can be fully booked throughout the week.
5) If you are on a shoestring budget why not take a long drive away from city, where there is no pushy traffic, no beeping of horns and no pot holes to avoid. Get onto Ngong Road and keep adventuring along until you pass through Ngong town up until the Ngong Hills. When you get to the top, breathe in the unpolluted air and marvel at the view of the Great Rift Valley.
Further along the road, beam back into history at the Olorgesailie, a geological formation containing a group of Lower Paleolithic archaeological sites. Discovered by British geologist John Walter Gregory, this is the area where many human tools were found, along with what used to be a vast lake. Fossils of various animals, including those of extinct species of hippo, elephant, zebra, giraffe, and baboon were excavated. Imagine yourself, an anthropologist, working side by side with Leakey in this discovery.
Time to picnic? Find a place to chill on the top of the magnificent Ngong Hills before heading back to the city. Karen Blixen chose her perfect spot, inspiring her to write her famous novel, Out of Africa. If you are an aspiring writer, find your own thought provoking piece of land and jot down the stories in your head. If writing is not your thing, pull out a pad of paper and create a sketch of the beauty that envelopes you. Or just gaze beyond the horizon and clear your head of any thoughts or contemplation.
Things to Take Along
A notebook or pad of paper, writing and drawing materials, water to rehydrate, a pair of sunglasses
Think Outside the Box
Slide down the Ngong Hills in cardboard boxes.
There is so much to see and do in the city. So what are you waiting for? Start thinking about your next rendezvous and get ready to plan the perfect getaway. Whether you are planning a trip alone, spending time with family or friends, you will find what you are looking for in Nairobi.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU CAN’T GETAWAY
If a mini getaway is not an option, you can still get that feeling by turning your home into your own oasis. If your home is the place where you feel happy and inspired, then there’s your final destination!
Create new spaces for your holiday home. Eliminate clutter and complete housework. Change the décor in rooms around your house. Your bathroom can be turned into a spa with salts and aromatherapy oils. Arrange scented candles around the tub and place trays of white ones around the bathroom. Turn your bedroom into a lavish hotel room by adding a few oversized pillows and hanging white sheers from the windows. Leave yourself a few treats on your pillow to remind you that you truly are on a holiday. Keep the windows open and let the breeze flow in. Get lost in a few books and cut out pictures from magazines that make your heart flutter. Come back to reality when you are ready.
Feel like being in a beach house instead? Decorate your holiday home in bright colours and kikoy fabrics and open it up to the great outdoors by bringing in a few tropical plants, creating your own garden. You may have kept memorabilia from past holidays, such as sea shells and sand in a jar. Bring those out of the closet and add to your décor. What a great opportunity to take out those flip flops and tank tops! And only for this one time, break the rules of no sunglasses indoors and put them on!
Plan your menu at least a week prior to. Organize and prepare the foods that you would like to eat. If you don’t have to do this yourself, better. Make sure your house is stocked with all the ingredients that you will need to make those perfect beach drinks!
Music will set the mood, so download some good songs that will keep your feet moving. Head to the magazine stand and pick up the latest Cosmopolitan and enter your own head space and dream. Feel like taking a dip? Fill the tub up with lukewarm water and splash away! If you have a garden or deck, throw down a towel and take a snooze. Siesta time!
Remember that this is ‘me’ time. So turn off that phone and put the computer away. Let everyone know you will be away for a day or two. You will have plenty of time to catch up on work and gossip after your holiday!
My main writing was done for The Star for about a year and a half. Every Tuesday some topic around the field of Education was shared. Click on the articles for a full image.