3 Reasons Every Vegan Should Visit Nairobi

The Kenyan capital of Nairobi offers travelers wildlife, arts and culture, and a vibrant vegan scene all within city limits.


If you’re in Kenya and have only a day to spare, make it a day in Nairobi, where visitors can enjoy the world’s only wildlife reserve within a city while having lunch with orphaned elephants and endangered giraffes. Some mistakenly project images of poverty and antiquity on the African continent as a whole, but this perception is wrong, as Nairobi is a tech-savvy, bustling metropolis with an entirely different aesthetic. Now known as “Silicon Savannah,” Nairobi was a former campsite for workers building the Uganda Railway who were drawn to the region’s cooler temperatures and reliable water supply. Once the rail line was completed, the British relocated its headquarters from Mombasa to Nairobi, and the city has been a significant hub for agriculture, economy, and exchange ever since. And, similar to so many other bustling worldwide cities, veganism is expanding across the energetic community.

Animal encounters
There is no better place to start a Nairobi day than Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s safari in the city. Home to buffaloes, lions, giraffes, antelopes, warthogs, and more, the reserve takes at least two hours to explore, and the Nairobi skyline is always in view. A licensed tour guide is required for entry, so be sure to arrange one in advance. As the sun begins to bear down, all roads lead to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where orphaned elephants are fed at 11am for the limited hour of public viewing. Baby elephants wrap their trunks around liter-bottles of milk for nourishment in the absence of their mothers. The team of caretakers are compassionate surrogates who know the elephants by name and become their companions. Once the orphans reach adulthood, the Trust re-releases them into the wild. Make one last stop at The Giraffe Centre to see the endangered Rothschild giraffes up close. Yes, the site might have the feel of an exotic petting zoo, but the conservation work performed by the non-profit is noteworthy and respectable. The center’s sister property, Giraffe Manor, is an exclusive boutique hotel where guests can share their breakfast meals with roaming giraffes on the grounds.

Arts and culture
Nairobi’s National Museum is an expansive property filled with stuffed specimens and representations of Kenya’s diverse heritage, but for a taxidermy-free encounter, consider a visit to Bomas of Kenya, a cultural center where resident artists perform traditional song and dance hailing from various bomas, or villages, around Kenya. If handcrafts are your interest, see the Kazuri beads and pottery center, where single mothers fashion their path to self-sufficiency by hand. Tours showcase the humble beginnings of this women’s empowerment organization, as well as the entire process of creating ceramic beads and pottery from molding to glazing. Visual art enthusiasts are spoiled for choices in Nairobi, but would do well to spend time at Kenya’s first multi-disciplinary hub, The GoDown Arts Centre. What started as a converted warehouse is now home to both resident and visiting artists and is poised to become Kenya’s largest public art complex since the nation’s independence.

Eating vegan
Swahili cuisine is replete with vegan options such as maharage (red beans), mhogo (cassava), and sukuma wiki (stewed greens in coconut milk), and vegan options are clearly marked at the philanthropy-focused Artcaffé. At Artcaffé’s Junction Mall branch, guests can enjoy the signature Vegan Breakfast comprised of roasted eggplant and zucchini in tomato sauce with turmeric tahini and fresh focaccia. Be sure to purchase some fair-trade coffee while you’re there. Tin Roof Café is another health-conscious outdoor eatery perfect for an eco-friendly lunch. A strong eco-ethos is made evident by the business’ focus on local produce, avoidance of plastics, the usage of upcycled furniture, and fully recycled takeaway boxes. Vegan options includes spiced chickpea burgers, lentil pie, and a sugar-free banana-chia -seed loaf. Last but not least, Boho Eatery is a vibrant newcomer to the Nairobi dining scene. The unabashedly bohemian vibes are created thanks in part to acoustic musical performances, permaculture workshops, and a mostly plant-based menu. Located on a lush private property, Boho Eatery offers diners the chance to feast on gourmet dishes such as spirulina smoothie bowls, spicy black bean tacos, and raw mango cheesecake.

Chantal Blake is a freelance writer and unschooling mom of two from New York City. She has been traveling and living abroad with her vegan family for nearly a decade.

Photo courtesy of the_mentalyst