I’ve stayed in some wonderful places on my travels around the world. They’ve been great for various reasons, maybe because of the helpful staff, or the people I’ve met there, or just because of the atmosphere or location. When I find a little gem, I love to recommend them to friends. So if you’re planning a trip and wondering where to stay in Kenya, let me help you by revealing a few of my favourite places!
I’ve also stayed in some bloody awful places, but I guess that’s a different story.
Nairobi, has a bad reputation, so much so, that it has the nickname is ‘Nairobbery’. Like a lot of African cities I’ve ever been to it’s hectic, the traffic is horrendous, and it can be quite intimidating. I didn’t like Nairobi so much the first time I visited, but it has really grown on me and I love it now (I’ll always hate the traffic though). There is so much to do there, and it’s a great base for visiting some of the other wonderful places in Kenya.
What made my latest visits to the city extra awesome was the lovely places I stayed, which I would describe as little havens in this vast metropolis.
Wildebeest Eco Camp
Wildebeest Eco Camp in the Langata part of town, is definitely one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve stayed at. It kind of feels like you’ve walked into Wonderland or Narnia. We stayed there twice, prior to and after our Masai Mara safari. The first time, we splashed out for a Deluxe Safari Tent. The second time we had an Ensuite Garden Tent. Both were lovely, with soft beds and hot showers. There are no mosquito nets but due to Nairobi being at altitude, catching malaria there is pretty rare. I didn’t get bitten here and mosquitoes usually love me. You could bring your own net if you are worried, it’s a personal choice.
This camp is out of the city centre which is perfect for visiting the Giraffe Centre, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Karen Blixen Museum, and it’s also on the right side of town to get to the Masai Mara, avoiding most of the traffic. But, it’s a bit of a trek to get to some of the popular restaurants and bars in town.
But they have a nice restaurant which overlooks the pretty garden and large pond. Each evening they do a buffet dinner and everyone sits together on a long table. I didn’t stay for dinner, but lunch was really nice and I loved their House Red! For dinner, we ventured out to the very famous Carnivore restaurant one of the nights we were there, and then on the other we met local friends for karaoke and nyama choma (barbequed goat) at a shopping mall. Restaurants in shopping malls seem quite popular in Nairobi.
This place was awesome for us as a couple, and I think it would be great for groups too. There were a few solo travellers when I was there, but I think Milimani Backpackers (below) might be a bit better for a solo traveller. Saying this, I didn’t stay for dinner, which I can imagine is a great time to meet some people.
- Wildebeest Eco Camp offers tents that sleep 4 people, 2 people and dorms, all with proper beds (some ensuite, some not). You can also hire one of their small tents or pitch your own.
- Prices range from 1000 KSH (camping) – 9000 KSH (deluxe safari tent) per night.
- At night, always take a taxi and lock your doors. The staff can call one for you and will tell you the set price. Take the taxi drivers number and have them pick you up also.
- Complimentary WIFI.
It’s probably quite unusual to say that you’ve stayed in the same hostel in 3 different locations.
I stayed at Milimani Backpackers in 2009, when it actually was in the Milimani area of Nairobi. I stayed again in October 2014, when it was in Upper Hill, then I went to Amboseli National Park for 3 days, and the day I came back, the entire hostel, all the contents and all the guests moved to a new location – I think the government reclaimed the land where the old hostel was. I thought the whole thing was a cool little adventure (a couple of girls weren’t quite as amused), and pretty impressive that they managed to do it. ‘This is Africa’!
The new hostel is a big, gorgeous house, in Karen, a pretty suburb of Nairobi – a real home away from home. The rooms are clean and the hostel is a great place to meet fellow travellers, especially if you are travelling solo. It felt like we were a family, rather than people I’d just met.
The staff are super friendly and helpful and will help you sort out excursions, safaris and onward travel. They even helped me out when my Amboseli safari company let me down at the last minute and fixed a pair of trousers for me. Beds are pretty comfy and as above, there was hot water. In the old hostel we had mosquito nets, but in the new one they weren’t up yet, but they might be now. I didn’t hear or see any mosquitoes whilst I was in the new hostel though and like I said, malaria is rare in Nairobi.
The only downside for me is that it’s out of town, so most things are a bus or taxi ride away. It wouldn’t be that bad, but the traffic into Nairobi is horrendous. But similar to Wildebeest, it’s on the right side of town for the daytime tourist activities and the Mara. Whilst it was in the old location, my friends and I visited a couple of great restaurants, Haandi (an Indian restaurant) and Habesha (an Ethiopian restaurant). I’d highly recommend both but from the new location, Haandi is a good half an hour drive, and Habesha is around 20 mins drive (both without traffic – but there’s always traffic). When we moved to the new location I ate dinner at Nairobi Java House at the Galleria Shopping Centre which is really close.
Oh, and like most suburbs of African cities, everyone has a guard dog (Milimani’s resident pooch is Scooby). And those dogs live outside and they bark at each other, all bloody night. If you’re sensitive to night noise, bring your ear plugs!
- Milimani Backpackers offer double and single rooms, camping and dorms.
- They arrange excursions and tours. I only went on a day trip to the Giraffe Centre, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Kazuri Beads that was a great day, but I didn’t try any of their safaris.
- Remember the location is now in Karen, not Milimani or Upper Hill.
- A dorm bed cost me 1500 KSH per night.
- In the day time, you can catch a matatu at the end of the road to take you into town etc – really cheap. But at night, always take a taxi and lock your doors. The hostel staff can call one for you and will tell you the set price. Take the taxi drivers number and have them pick you up also.
There’s only one place for me in the Masai Mara, and that’s Mara Explorers Camp. The camp is owned by Laura and Moses, and they’re ably assisted by David, Josephine and George. It’s a great place for backpackers, overlanders and budget travellers.
It’s located near to Sekenani, just outside the Masai Mara gate. You’re right in the action here and at night you go to sleep listening to hyenas cackling. They have a great common area with a pool table, couches, books, scrabble and a cool bar – spontaneous parties have been known to happen. The camp is really cute and you can see how much love and attention to detail has gone into every aspect.
What is really cool about this camp, is that as well as static tents (with and without ensuite) and space for you to pitch your own tent, they also have a dorm, so it’s great for a solo traveller. They have kitchen facilities for the overlanders, or like me, you can go full board with them – the meals were the best I’ve had on any safari I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on a lot.
I stayed in the dorm when I was alone and absolutely loved it. Then when my other half joined me, we stayed in an ensuite tent. The beds are super comfy and all have mosquito nets. The hot water is powered by a wood burner which the Maasai askaris (security guards) keep topped up. There was never a time when I wanted a shower and didn’t get hot water, and believe me, that is a real luxury at a safari camp.
If you want to do a safari (which, I assume you will), they even have their own jeeps which you can rent (with a driver) for the day (park entry fees extra).
I had an amazing week with them, and I can’t wait to tell you all about that properly soon. Oh, and if all this wasn’t enough to convince you, they also do loads of great stuff in the local community too, like feeding all the kids at the local school. Pretty great, hey?
- Mara Explorers Camp offers tents that sleep 2 – 3 people and dorms, all with proper beds (some ensuite, some not). You can also hire one of their small tents or pitch your own.
- They have safari packages available with pick up from Nairobi. Or you can make your own way there. The cheapest way to get there is to take a local bus. You take the bus from Nairobi to Narok (it takes at least a couple of hours and you need to arrive before noon). Then you can catch another bus to the Masai Mara which takes another couple of 2 – 3 hours. Laura and Moses can give you the most up to date info. Another option is to drive – the roads are pretty crappy once you get past Narok though. Or, you can get a taxi which Mara Explorers can arrange. It’s not cheap but it is quick and good value considering the distance. It will also allow you to stop on the way to appreciate the amazing views over the Great Rift Valley.
- We hired their jeep for a day, and had an AMAZING Masai Mara safari.
- If you are cooking for yourself, stock up on your food from the veg stalls along the road, or one of the supermarkets in Narok or Nairobi.
I hope you have an AMAZING time in Kenya! I’m sure you will if you stay at one of these fabulous places!
Have you been to Kenya? Any other great places you’d recommend to stay? Tell me in the comments!