Kenya The Heart of Africa
Some of the fondest memories that lie in my heart are of the vast Savannah grasslands, trumpeting elephants, majestic lions and mighty drumbeats of the indigenous tribes. A land rich in culture, colour, food, people and wildlife, where do I begin to sing of the glories of my home country KENYA!
I was fortunate and blessed to be born and raised in the sunny, green, crisp and gorgeous capital city of Kenya, Nairobi. Before I embark on the mission to transport you to my wonderland that brims with some of the world’s finest teas, coffee, indigenous Masai tribe-maize and more, I would like to tell you a few interesting things about the capital city of Kenya. Nairobi derives her wonderful name from the Maasai phrase “Enkare Nyrobi”, which literally translates to “land of cold water”. A multicultural city that not only spells golden sunlight, Nairobi also draws a lot of attention being home to some of the largest global corporations. My city also prides herself as home to one of the four United Nations global headquarters.
We Kenyans love and glorify the quality of our produce – a visit to” Mama Boga” or vegetable mamas who are mostly seated in the fresh markets is a visual feast for any food lover. We have it all!
“The Kaarafu Mara” a secret recipe that includes a yummy combo of clove infused vodkaa, fresh lemon, honey and some “hush-hush” ingredients. If you are like me, you can try your best to investigate to figure out the recipe – but the barman’s lips stay sealed.
Our local popular Kale like vegetable “Sukuma Wiki “which is rich in vitamins, minerals and iron is so good it allows you to literally “Sukuma” (push through) the “wiki” (week)! Root vegetables like “gwachis” or sweet potatoes, “Mohogo” aka cassava and “duma” colocasia are a part of our daily diet. Passion fruits, pineapples, avocados, bananas, baobab and the famous African mango, are native to the country and are a must-have when you visit.
If you are a meat lover, then head down to the openair “Carnivore Restaurant” on Langata road and feast on an all you can eat non-vegetarian “Nyama Choma” or barbecue spread. Besides the regular chicken and lamb dishes, you may want to dive deeper and try out some ostrich, rabbit and crocodile, and to raise your spirits even higher don’t forget to try out the “daawa” or medicine (a naughty combination of vodka, sugar, lime and honey). The ‘Zen Garden’, which is located in the scenic Spring Valley area of Nairobi, is popular for its Pan Asian Cuisine, cocktails, and is surrounded by nature, greenery and flora.
A lifetime experience for anyone would be a stay at the Colonial-style boutique Giraffe Manor located in the suburb of Langata Nairobi. Set across approximately 12 acres of land, which is housed within 140-150 acres of indigenous forest, this manor is said to date back to the 1930s. Surrounded with lush greenery and patio terraces the estate is home to many friendly Rothschild giraffes who love to pop their heads in through the windows to share your breakfast or high tea. Needless to say, it is an incredible experience that only happens in our amazing Kenya. Not too far from the manor is the David Sheldrick’s elephant orphanage, which is somewhat, situated in the Nairobi National Park.
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is best known to protect elephants and has one of the finest elephant rescue and rehabilitation programs in the world. The trust has also been widely celebrated worldwide for so much more – conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife, anti-poaching measures, safeguarding the natural environment, enhancing community awareness and providing veterinary assistance to animals in need. If you’re lucky, you may get to pet and feed a baby elephant. And if you get attached to them like I did, adopt one! It is a beautiful and much-needed gesture that helps the trust do all the excellent work that they do.
Speaking of wildlife and animals, one cannot visit Kenya without heading over to one of Africa’s most treasured game reserves – The Masai Mara which is globally recognised for its exceptional wildlife.
Seated on the base of the Oloololo hills is The Mara River Camp that lies just beside the Mara River. The camp is home to approximately 22 African themed guest tents. These tents are carefully designed and hidden amongst the lush greenery to give a sense of privacy. Guests can watch monkeys scamper around the lodge, see tiny dik-diks feast, and stripy Zebras graze on the green grass.
You can head over to the high deck and sip on fresh Kenyan coffee or cocktails, watch the hippos grunt and snort while the crocodiles sunbathe. Try their signature cocktail “The Kaarafu Mara” a secret recipe that includes a yummy combo of clove infused vodka, fresh lemon, honey and some “hush-hush” ingredients. If you are like me, you can try your best to investigate to figure out the recipe – but the barman’s lips stay sealed. The food is a delicious spread laden with local Kenyan specialties such as ‘Ugali’ and ‘Sukuma’ and a barbeque spread with spicy sauces like none you have tasted before.
Kenya’s famous migration starts from July to October where millions of wild animals such as zebras, gazelles and more travel around the reserve in search of fresh food and water. It is a long journey where they must cross the Mara River risking their lives and often lending themselves as a feast for the hungry crocodiles and lions that secretly camouflage themselves looking to fill their hungry bellies. If you head out on the early morning and afternoon game drives, you can watch the lions hunt. They are quite a sight to see, with their majestic moves and especially the way they pounce on their prey. The lions are truly magnificent and watching them is a once in a lifetime experience. You may also get lucky enough to see Africa’s famed big five – Elephants, Lions, Buffalos, Leopards and Rhinos.
Once you’re done experiencing the raw wilderness, you can head over to the Maji Beach Boutique hotel located on the sandy Diana beach. It lies 28 miles south of Kenya’s coastal city Mombasa and boasts of an eclectic mix of antique and modern influences with colonial, Swahili and tribal notes. A vast delicious a la carte menu awaits you including several diet options such as vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free. Besides basking in the sun and dipping in the azure waters, you can enjoy some dolphin watching, snorkeling, turtle watching or golf at the hotel.
I could sing the praises of my homeland Kenya forever. We pride ourselves in saying we have it all! Our vast Savannah’s are filled with herds of beautiful wildlife, and we have the great Rift Valley and the stunning snow-capped Mt Kenya. We have soft sandy beaches and remarkable marine life in our waters. Kenyan indigenous tribes paint our canvas with fabulous colours and culture, and the beat of their drums livens up the soul.
Kenya is indeed the heartbeat of Africa!
By Seema Puri Bhatia