A Day in Nairobi – The Perfect One Day Itinerary for the Animal Lover

Giraffe

When you think about Africa, what images come to mind? Is it the vast plains dotted with acacia trees? Perhaps it is the migration of the wildebeest? Lions, hippos, elephants? I bet it isn’t a major cosmopolitan city! Let me paint you a picture of Nairobi. Kenya’s biggest city is one of stark contrasts. It is a concrete jungle that is filled with the hustle and bustle of a populous city. However amidst the chaos, Nairobi is also home to an abundance of wildlife. The city itself is very unique in that it neighbors a National Park. I don’t think you will find a game reserve and a city hand in hand anywhere else in the world. This is why if you ever fly into Nairobi, I highly recommend setting aside at least one day to take in a few of this city’s spectacular attractions.

Below is a one day itinerary that highlights a perfect day in Nairobi:

 

Nairobi National Park

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Start the day off early with a game drive just a mere 7 km south of Nairobi’s central business district. The park was established in 1946 and is home to the world’s densest concentration of black rhinos. The park is only fenced on two sides, which allows free movement of the wildlife from the nearby Athi Plains.  It truly is a jaw dropping sight to see the wildlife standing there in front of you with the back drop of the sky scrapers in the distance.

The park entry fee is $43USD for adults and $22USD for children.

There are a few ways in which you can get around the park. Because I didn’t have my own vehicle (and frankly I would never suggest going into a national park without someone who is knowledgeable) I hired a driver through my hotel. It seemed like it was a common thing and I only needed to booked the day before. The other way is to take the shuttle bus provided by the park. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) bus leaves the main gate at 2pm every Sunday for a 2 and a half hour tour. It is suggested to book in person at the main gate at least a half hour in advance, but this may change so I would definitely contact the Park if this is the way you want to go.

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We spent 4 hours on our game drive and I have to admit that the time just flew by. On our way out of the park our driver took us to the Ivory Burning Site Monument. Although this is not a happy place I feel like it is worth making a short stop. It is enraging and eye opening to see how much ivory is confiscated from the poachers in Kenya. Here at the site, large piles of debris are what remain from the ivory and rhino horns.

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The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

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Occupying a plot within the National Park, this next stop on my itinerary is an absolute must! The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a nonprofit that helps raise orphaned elephants and rhinos (as well as a few other random animals) and reintroduces them back into the wild. From 11am-12pm every day the orphanage is open for public viewing. During this time the baby orphans arrive for their midday mud bath and feeding.  Visitors are able to stand around a roped off area where the elephants play while one of the Keepers explains each elephants plight and what situation brought them to the orphanage. Elephants are free to roam where they’d like so it is not uncommon to be able to touch the rough skin of the baby elephants. Entrance into the orphanage for the visiting hour requires a minimum contribution of $7USD/500KS per person.

There is also the opportunity to ‘adopt’ an elephant, which I was more than willing to do in a heartbeat. Adoption is $50USD and with that you will get monthly updates about your elephant for a year. Obviously the fee is to help the DSWT do the amazing work that they do. For those who do adopt a baby you will also have the opportunity to come back to the stockades around 5 pm which requires a pre-booking to secure your spot.

To date the DSWT has successfully hand raised over 150 infant elephants and has accomplished its long-term conservation priority by effectively reintegrating the orphans back in the wild herds of Tsavo East National Park. It is absolutely inspiring to see the work of the many men and women at DSWT and I highly recommend following their Instagram account as they give you daily updates on so many of their current babies and those who have successfully moved on.

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The Giraffe Centre

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The last activity on my must-do Nairobi itinerary is visit the Giraffe Centre. The Giraffe Centre is located next to the famous hotel, Giraffe Manor Hotel and is both an educational centre as well as a 60 acre sanctuary. It is open to the public from 9am-5:30pm every day and fees are $10USD/1000KSH per person.

There is the browsing area with a feeding platform where you can get up close and personal with the tall beauties. Educators are on hand to give you pellets to feed the giraffes and there are plenty of opportunities to have photos with these gentle giants. There is also an Information Centre where you can learn about the different species of giraffe and how the efforts are yielding success in breeding the depleting Rothschild giraffe species. The Giraffe Centre also is home to a nature trail where you can take a stroll at no extra fee. The trail snakes around the Gogo River and is about a 1.5km walk.

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If you are like myself and love animals this one day itinerary will be right up your alley. It is almost overwhelming because each activity is so amazing that by the time you return back to your bed at night you will shake your head and wonder if it was all a dream. There is nowhere else in the world that you can do all this in just one day! Enjoy and take lots of photos!



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Mini Guide for Morocco ~ top 8 things to do

Sahara Desert Man

When you think of Morocco, what images come to mind? Is it shopping at a bustling colourful souk? Riding a camel in the middle of the desert? Or is it discovering the amazing and intricate architecture that sits around almost every corner? No matter what images come to mind, this North African country is one of those exotic destinations that will pull you in and leave you utterly speechless.

Riding camels in the Sahara Desert MoroccoCasablanca Morocco Mosque

What I found most surprising about Morocco was how incredibly diverse the geography was. From sea to mountains, and from desert to lush green vegetation; I felt like I was dropped in a land of varied extremes. With so much to experience in this relatively small country (I am from Canada so everything is small to me!) here is my list of my top 8 places to see or things to do while traveling in Morocco:

1  Take a tour of the Magnificent Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

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I started my Moroccan adventure in Casablanca – Morocco’s largest city. The highlight for me was most definitely the impressive Hassan II Mosque. This mosque was completed in 1993 and was estimated to have cost as much as $800 million. It is said that there were over 6000 Moroccan master craftsman and artisans who worked on the project and nearly all the materials are from Morocco with the exception of the white granite columns and chandeliers from Venice. The sheer size of this structure is so massive that it can literally fit France’s Notre Dame inside. Its minaret is a whopping 60 stories high and what also makes this Mosque so interesting is that it has a glass floor that is open to the ocean below. The Mosque is open to all Muslims at daily prayer times and can easily hold 105,000 worshippers at once. Non-Muslim visitors may enter the mosque on guided tours Saturday to Thursday (closed Fridays) at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 and 1400.  * These times may change particularly around Ramadan.

Casablanca Morocco Mosque

Casablanca Morocco Mosque

Casablanca Morocco Mosque

 

2.  Navigate your way through the complex labyrinth of Fes’ medina

Royal Palace of Fez Morocco

The Royal Palace of Fez ( Dar el Makhzen)

If you are up for a navigational challenge (or nightmare), wandering Fes’ medina is just the place for you! The souks and markets are a melee of action where locals and tourists jostle for space within the narrow alleyways. The medina is very much like a treasure hunt because at every twist and turn I found myself stumbling upon amazing sights. One of these sights is the University of al-Qarawiyyin. According to UNESCO and Guinness World Records it is the oldest existing, continually operating university in the world. The building itself is awe inspiring with so many intricate carvings and mosaics.

Fez University Morocco

Fez University Morocco

Fez University Morocco

Although visiting Fes’ leather tanneries can be a tad on the smelly side, it really is another must-see stop. Skins are brought in, cleaned, treated and dyed all in one location. Ask a local where to go so that you can climb to a roof top and get a birds-eye view of the tannery, as it really is an interesting photo opportunity.  Spending an afternoon shopping and exploring this medina is definitely an experience that I highly recommend, however my biggest suggestion is perhaps having a local guide show you the ropes as the maze of streets can be quite confusing.

 

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3.  Ride a camel through the Sahara Desert

camel Sahara Desert Morocco

A trip to Morocco is definitely not complete without a trek through the Sahara on the back of a camel. The place where I started my excursion is the desert town of Merzouga. This little town has so much character and made me feel like I was transported to another time in history!  The buildings look like clay figures, the roads are merely sand and the temperature is scorching hot!

Merzouga Morocco Sahara

Joining an overnight excursion into the Sahara is a must. Camels may not be the most comfortable mode of transportation, but they definitely provide you with the full Moroccan experience. Trekking over massive dunes with the orange sand whistling past transports you into a fairy tale. On my excursion the Berber People took me to a Bedouin camp where they sang traditional songs and cooked us amazing food.

Camel Ride Sahara Morocco

 

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Read about my adventure  where I fell off the camel and nearly saw my life flash before my eyes!

Camel Riding in the Sahara Morocco

 

4.  Stay overnight at the foot of the gigantic Todra Gorge

Todre Gorge Morocco

Located in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains is the Todra Gorge. To get there you will drive through lush green Berber villages until you feel like the earth is slowly swallowing you. A 300m deep fault splits the orange limestone into a ravine and at certain points it is just wide enough for a river and single file trekkers to squeeze through. Guest houses are dwarfed in between the gorge’s walls and looking up to see the crack of light creep through the top truly made me realize how small I really am in this massive world of ours.

 

5.  Visit a an authentic Moroccan Kasbah

Morocco Kasbah

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Ait Ben Haddou is probably the most amazing Kasr in all of Morocco (a Kasr is a fortified village or a group of Kasbahs). It sits in a valley near the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, just 30km from Ouarzazate. It is believed that this town was established in 757 and its founder, Ben Haddou still lies buried in a tomb behind this spectacular city. This gigantic fortress is so distinct that even Hollywood has taken to Ait Ben Haddou and uses this wonderful place as a film location for many of its blockbuster hits. Recently Game of Thrones has been filming here calling it Yunkai the Yellow City. Other hits include The Gladiator, Black Hawke Down and of course Lawrence of Arabia just to name a few.

Moroccan Kasbah

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6.  Relax and unwind at the seaside town of Essaouira

Essaouira Morocco

Situated on the Atlantic coast, Essaouira has been a trading post since 5th century BC. The fortress walls, built by Sultan Mohammed III in the 18th century are still lined with Dutch cannons and the medina is full of rich Berber character. This is yet another Game of Thrones filming location because it has such an attractive look and yet it is not overrun by tourists.  I found shopping in Essaouira far more enjoyable than its bigger neighbor of Marrakech. There is just as much variety with much less pressure from the shop owners. The medina is full of cute cafes, bakeries and even museums to pass your time. Essaouira was one of my favorite places in Morocco and I definitely could have easily spent a few more days wandering around and discovering more.

 

Essaouira Morocco

Essaoiura Morocco

Essaouira Morocco

 

7.  Don’t miss the phenomenon of goats balancing in tree branches

Goats in Trees Morocco

Don’t forget to keep your eyes locked on the trees as you leave Essaouira and especially on route to Agadir. This is where I was able to see goats perched high in the Argania tree. Grown exclusively in Morocco, the Argania is a rare species of tree that produces a fruit that attracts goats to its branches. Goats will climb precariously onto the thorny branches to eat the fruit and while this alone may attract a photo or two, traditionally the byproduct is what locals are really after. Once the goat digests the fruit and nut, locals would gather the feces to extract clumps of seeds; these were then pressed to create the now popular and sought-after Argan oil. Although this key ingredient is found in many beauty products sold world-wide, I am told that goats are kept away from the trees until the end of harvest. In order to keep up with the high demand farmers now pluck the argan seed straight from the tree.

 

Berber woman crushing Argan seeds, Morocco

A Berber woman crushing argan seeds so that they can be used in beauty products

8.   Experience the hubub of Marrakech

Marrakech Morocco

Probably the most popular and talked about destination in Morocco is the bustling city of Marrakech. There is so much to see and do that some people come to Morocco and never leave the city. Visiting the iconic Jemaa el Fna Square is a great starting point. There is so much going on in the square that the best view is sitting on a rooftop café and watching from above. If you are like me you will definitely be entertained by watching the tourists get caught up in the charade of locals trying to earn that extra buck.

selling olives in Morocco

Morocco Shoes Leather Goods

A few safety tips to keep in mind while in the square and other busy parts of the city:

  • Keep your valuables near your body as pickpocketing is pretty common
  • Don’t be afraid to barter as most prices are set much higher than their value – shop keepers are expecting this
  • If you take a photo of a ‘performer’ in the square expect to tip them approximately 10 Dh

 

Looking for a tour that best suits you?

 

My experience around Morocco was with G Adventures. They are a great company if you are looking for small group tours. Check out all the tours that they have to offer at G Adventures

 

If you are looking for something that is not part of an organized group and has a little more flexibility, I highly recommend using Moroccan Guides Travel. Moroccan Guides Travel was started by Noureddine (‘Nour’) Ingrioui over 4 years ago.

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Nour and I in 2011

He is originates from the Atlas Mountains and has been an active part of the tourism industry since 2005. Because of his in depth knowledge of his country and countless hours spent as a tour guide he is definitely an expert in his field. He believes that travel is the best way to learn about a country, its culture and its people, and that by exploring the world; we are able to break down walls and preconceived ideas. In less than 4 years since he has started Moroccan Guides Travel he has built a strong reputation for his company and has been acknowledged by such reputable companies as Trip Advisor. If you are looking for a custom made tour that you can enjoy at your own pace check out all that Moroccan Guides has to offer at Moroccan Guides Travel

Here are a few Moroccan Guides Travel day trips that start in Marrakech:

City Tour of Marrakech

A Day Tour to Ai Ben Haddou

A Day Tour to Essaouira

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