Planning a Layover in Nairobi

Planning a Layover in Nairobi

My recent article highlighted how to jump start your Kenya Safari planning. As I mentioned, a Safari requires advance planning (six months to a year is not unusual), therefore it is wise to start the research while you have some down time. As a Travel Agent, I am here to ensure that your dream trip is seamless from initial inquiry to safe return home and I can help you craft the perfect trip to suit your interests and budget.

International flights to Kenya are routed through centrally located Jomo Kenyatta Airport (JBO). Since most flights arrive in the late afternoon or evening, you will most likely need to stay overnight in Nairobi prior to boarding a bush plane at local airport Wilson. If your schedule allows, I highly recommend staying at least a night or two. Traffic can be daunting in downtown Nairobi, so an overnight stay will allow ample time between experiences and airport transfers. Plus, this will give you a chance to adjust to the new time zone and give you an opportunity to learn a bit about the country, the people, the culture and wildlife prior to embarking on safari. Here are just a few suggestions not to be missed:

Karen Blixen Museum:
“I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills…” is the famous first line of the novel, Out of Africa, penned by renowned Danish author Karen Blixen. The farm, owned by Karen (pen name Isak Dinesen) and husband Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke, gained international fame after the release of the 1985 epic award-winning drama based on this autobiography. Starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, it’s a must-see prior to your visit to Kenya.

Single handedly, Karen (and Streep) inspired a generation of safari goers (and safari chic!). Visit the farmhouse and Museum and step back in time to 1914 when Karen moved to Africa to marry her half cousin and carry out dairy farming in the then British Colony of Kenya. Her husband, however, changed his mind and wanted to farm coffee, which did not go well. After her divorce, Karen was left to run the financially troubled farm on her own, a daunting task for a woman of that generation. She fell in love with an Englishman, Denis Finch Hatton (Redford) and the rest I will not comment on, lest I spoil the movie.

Giraffe Center Wildlife Conservation Park:
On safari, you will of course see hundreds of giraffes in the wild, but at this Nairobi center, created by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, you will get up close and personal with the beautiful Rothschild giraffe and even have the opportunity to hand-feed this stately subspecies of the giraffe found only in the grasslands of East Africa. At the time the center was established in 1979, the animals had lost their habitat with only 130 of them remaining. This 60-acre sanctuary started with just two giraffes and now there are over 300 safe and breeding well in various Kenyan National Parks.

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:
Founded in 1977, this non-profit focuses on anti-poaching and safeguarding the natural environment, enhancing community awareness, addressing animal welfare issues, providing veterinary assistance to animals in need, and rescuing and hand rearing elephant and rhino orphans. The Trust’s main base, the elephant orphanage, often referred to as the Nairobi Nursery, is in Nairobi National Park. As of now, the visitation to the center is closed, but hopefully will resume in the near future so you can witness the care and feeding of these lovely animals up close. In the meantime, you can support the organization by personally “adopting” an orphaned elephant.

Photo credit: Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Travel with a Purpose:
Including “Purposeful Travel” in any vacation is something easy to do. It’s about engaging in educational and mind-opening experiences that benefit both the traveler and the location, often shining a light on local communities, their needs and their accomplishments. My recent article Travel with a Purpose highlighted my visit to the Harambee Community Center, the non-profit partnership between Micato Safaris and AmericaShare, located in Mukuru, East Nairobi’s densely populated slum. During the pandemic, their school was hit hard, and students risked several months without guided learning which would significantly set back their future performance.  As an update to my article, I am pleased to report that through their Student Sponsorship Program, students were successfully connected to the online world: smartphones were distributed with access to educational apps, resources, and streaming lessons hosted by local teachers in the community. To find out more or donate, please visit AmericaShare.

Photo credit: Micato Safaris & AmericaShare

Travel with a Purpose, Part Two:
Another stop I made during my recent trip to Kenya was to learn about Huru International, which manufactures environmentally friendly, reusable sanitary pads that have been distributed to more than 175,000 girls in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Founded in 2008, this organization addresses an important issue: East African girls cannot afford sanitary pads and very often avoid school during their period resulting in missing as much as an entire month of school yearly. Girls who miss school fall behind, drop out, or even quit which leads to the endless cycle of poverty and gender inequality. Huru Kits are a simple, sustainable, and practical way to tackle this problem. The kits include a colorful drawstring backpack, eight reusable pads, three pairs of undergarments, detergent soap, and educational materials on HIV prevention and reproductive health. The items are replaced on a timely basis.

All Huru supplies are produced in their sprawling factory by women and men from underserved communities who have learned the art of industrial sewing and tailoring, along with lessons on business, finance, and entrepreneurship.  Now, in the age of Covid-19, the production facility in Nairobi is running full steam, producing much needed multilayered cloth face masks that are donated to the residents of Mukuru.

Huru also designs and manufactures lovely reusable, colorful fabric tote bags and lunch bags which we had the opportunity to purchase and bring home — a heartfelt memory of this amazing organization. For more information or to donate, please visit Huru International.

Ready to plan your next adventure? It’s never TOO early to plan. Would you like to maximize the redemption of your American Express Points? Email me:, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership

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Kenya Safari Planning Basics

Kenya Safari Planning Basics

Now that we have turned the calendar page and put 2020 behind us, it’s time to think positive, look forward and plan for future travel. It’s the perfect time to put some serious thought into a bucket list trip: an African Safari. A safari is a magical and unique experience that envelopes you in nature, culture, and history. Safaris enrich the mind, stretch the imagination, calm the soul, and encourage self-reflection. Out of the many countries our two sons have visited with us, our safari experiences definitely stand out as most memorable. This is an itinerary that requires advance planning to ensure availability in the more intimate and authentic tented camps and lodges, arrange for visas, as well as inquire about any necessary inoculations. As a travel agent, I can help ensure the entire process runs smoothly from initial inquiry, to your safe return home.

A relatively small country in East Africa, Kenya’s capital and central transportation hub is Nairobi. Travelers fly into the international airport Jomo Kenyatta, while connecting flights within Kenya or to neighboring countries are booked from Wilson, the domestic airport just next door. After a short stay in Nairobi (most international flights arrive in the evening), you will reach the other areas of the country primarily by bush plane. There’s plenty to explore within Kenya, but if you have more time, a Kenya safari can be booked in conjunction with a visit to Tanzania (to the south), Uganda (to the west) or Rwanda (to the south west). These countries, plus 15 others, comprise what is known as East Africa.

When compared with popular safari destination South Africa (located in the southernmost point on the African continent,) Kenya has a more temperate climate. To learn more, check out my previous articles on South Africa Safaris: here. The further north in Kenya you travel, the drier and hillier the landscape becomes as the area doesn’t benefit as much from the rains received in the south-west of Kenya. Because it shares its longest border with Tanzania, Southern Kenya is the best place to see glacier-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.

Fantastic year-round game viewing makes Kenya a TOP safari location. Although it is a “Big 5” destination in the sense that lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino are found here, it’s difficult to see them all in the same place. Rhinos are the rarest and most difficult to find and unfortunately, due to poachers, have become a critically endangered species. Safari itineraries will often include overnight stays in Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Samburu, Mt. Kenya, or the Laikipia Reserve in order to increase the variety of game viewing.

Kenya is the perfect place for first-time safari goers – because the land is so flat and open, it’s easy to enjoy 360-degree views and spot game throughout the year. Roads are well-maintained and English is widely spoken throughout the country. Long-standing conservation projects in Kenya also means that animals are generally plentiful and in good condition. Special relationships between tribal landowners, the government, conservationists, and safari operators mean that the needs of humans, nature, and agriculture are carefully balanced.

Kenya’s most well known wildlife gem is the Great Migration: the 1,900-mile journey of over two million wildebeest (and zebra and gazelle) as they follow the rains over the Mara River into the Maasai Mara National Reserve where they feast on thousands of hectares of fresh grazing land. They stay for about four to five months, slowly mowing the Mara between approximately July and November when they cross back into Tanzania’s Serengeti region. (Only humans require a passport to cross this border!) The massive herds also attract large predators including lion, leopard, hyena and the occasional cheetah, therefore witnessing a “kill” on safari is most likely to occur during this time period.

Our guide took us on a bush walk to visit a rhino, heavily guarded against poachers

The main reason the Maasai Mara attracts the Migration is because its open, flat savannah dotted with flat-topped acacia trees, provides superb grazing. The wide landscape gives you that classic “safari look” with green grass turning golden as the seasons change. It’s impossible to know exactly when wildebeest will cross the Mara River – they don’t all cross in one place at the same time. Large groups can be viewed at different points and on different days. This unpredictability and sense of exploration is what makes safaris so exciting.

Subscribe to my blog to read my upcoming articles on Kenya including Safari Packing Tips, Weekend in Nairobi, and specifics on Maasai Mara, Mt. Kenya, and the Laikipia Reserve.

Need help planning your Bucket-list Trip?

It’s never TOO early to plan. Would you like to maximize the redemption of your American Express Points? Email me:, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, please click HERE

Travel with a Purpose: Kenya

Travel with a Purpose: Kenya

Safaris are magical, otherworldly experiences, wholly unlike other journeys. Not just transported to a foreign land, you are completely immersed in nature, culture, food, history. Safaris enrich the mind, stretch the imagination, calm the soul, and encourage self-reflection. A typical day? Rise with the sun and enjoy a peaceful breakfast in the wilderness; hold your breath while a mamma lion brushes up against your safari vehicle; dance with Masai warriors upon exiting a bush plane; tour a proud village elder’s mud hut; quietly tip toe through the brush to gaze at the majesty of a carefully guarded rhino; contemplate a flawless night sky and the Milky Way stretching over the evening bonfire.

But, my recent trip to Kenya included an even MORE unique experience, thanks to Micato Safaris and its nonprofit arm, AmericaShare. A recent article in AFAR magazine reminded me of what made this safari so memorable. Our two-week travel industry familiarization trip to Kenya and Tanzania hosted by Micato included a visit to one of the organizations supported by this award-winning travel company: the Harambee Community Center. Located in Mukuru, East Nairobi’s densely populated slum, this center left an indelible impression, and reminded me that travel for enjoyment can also include travel with a purpose: to open your heart and mind and shine a necessary light on causes and people around the world.

Packed into Mukuru are 500,000 people whose daily income barely exceeds four dollars. The township lacks basic formal infrastructure, running water, electricity, and sanitation. Its residents live in tiny one-roomed corrugated iron shacks with up to twenty families sharing a communal water tap and toilet.

AmericaShare, founded over 30 years ago, is dedicated to improving the lives of the children living in Mukuru. Through education and community outreach programs, they provide disadvantaged children with access to basic education resources to facilitate sustainable change. Many children in Mukuru cannot afford to consistently attend school. While public primary school tuition fees are covered by the government, hidden costs, such as uniforms, books, and lunch fees keep children from attending.

Harambee CenterOur travel agent group was brought to the Harambee Center – it means “Let’s Pull Together” in Swahili.  The center is a multi-purpose facility – a bright and beautiful oasis of hope and green space in the middle of the Mukuru slum. A vital community center, it allows residents to gather for lectures, educational sessions, and meetings. Our visit (pre-pandemic) included a tour of the classrooms, lending library, and computer resource building. Students of all ages were seated shoulder to shoulder at tables, quietly doing homework, studying for exams, and forming study groups. The library is stocked with over twenty thousand books, including novels, textbooks, and study guides. Books are a rare gift in Mukuru; many schools do not have adequate textbooks, and novels are a luxury most cannot afford.

AmericaShare has programs aimed at helping children living in poverty remain in school, giving them the opportunity to learn as every child deserves. For every trip booked with Micato Safaris, the company sends one child to school. Now in the age of COVID-19, AmericaShare’s mission has become even MORE dire: providing protective masks and organizing food donations to help ameliorate the increasing problem of hunger, something that is running rampant worldwide. Now, keeping kids from falling behind due to the recent closure of schools is even more paramount. New rules on social distancing and the lack of smart phones, tablets, or even the internet, severely limits digital learning.

Harambee Center

Harambee CenterI was grateful for the opportunity to see this organization’s efforts in action and help shine a light on their mission. Although the residents are faced with the daily challenge of survival, our visit to Harambee included an opportunity to see the children’s commitment to education, positivity, and kinship.

Our tour ended with a jubilant musical performance by the children (see video linked below). As the singing concluded, the children enveloped us and welcomed each of us into their circle, forever leaving their mark on our hearts and our souls. To learn more about AmericaShare and make a donation click here.

Click on photo to view video:

Need help putting together your Bucket-list Trip or Dream Vacation? It’s never TOO early to plan. Would you like to maximize the redemption of your American Express Points? Email me:, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership.

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Mukuru and Harambee Center exterior photos courtesy of AmericaShare.