Nairobi Tented Camp is every inch the traditional safari camp, and in a beautiful, truly wild area.
Nairobi Tented Camp: Our full report
The only accommodation inside Nairobi National Park, Nairobi Tented Camp opened in 2010. A traditionally styled camp of large tents, it's located in a hilly, densely wooded area of fig, ebony and wild olive trees on the west side of the park, close to several popular south-west Nairobi attractions.
The major advantage of staying at Nairobi Tented Camp, apart from the beautiful environment itself, is being able to transfer to and from either Wilson domestic airport or Jomo Kenyatta International (JKIA) without having to struggle through the Nairobi traffic. Nairobi Tented Camp is permitted to do night transfers through the park, so there is a lot of flexibility.
An alternative overnight or day-room option in the park area would be the beautiful Emakoko which straddles the southern park boundary. With its sumptuous rooms and pool, it offers a completely different stay – much more of a hotel-style lodge.
The approach to Nairobi Tented Camp is off the plains and up a bumpy trail though the forest. Vehicles are left in a clearing and you do the last 200m from the parking area on foot, with traditionally dressed Maasai warriors carrying your bags. As always, their garb is everyday wear, not put on for show; they normally switch to Western clothes for a trip to the city. As the camp is unfenced, the Maasai askari team will escort you everywhere, as dangerous wildlife does wander into camp on occasions.
Nairobi Tented Camp’s lounge and mess tents are set in a clearing, where big forest trees lend shade and troops of monkeys periodically use the canvas roofs as a trampoline to bounce from one tree to the next. There’s a nicely laid-out dining tent, with grass mats on the floor and sheepskins thoughtfully added to the standard folding wood-and-canvas dining chairs around large dining tables, where guests often eat together. Two steps away is the lounge tent – cosily furnished with a big Indian carpet, deep sofas and armchairs – which also serves as reception.
Behind the lounge and mess is the fire pit, where guests gather before dinner to talk about the day – and after dinner to talk a bit more, and to listen to the African night.
There are also hammocks for lazy afternoon siestas where you can sleep off lunch – before filling up again on tea and cakes before your afternoon game drive.
Set among the trees, Nairobi Tented Camp has eight good-sized tents, which are accessed via a gently rising earth footpath that passes right in front of them (and obviously has an impact on privacy). The tents are pitched lengthways, which allows for a long entrance and veranda (with a table and directors’ chairs) and makes them feel extra spacious, but they are relatively close together – a little too close for complete privacy. They’re well provided with large mosquito-screen ‘windows’, with roll-up blinds. The tents are normally configured as four doubles and four (fairly narrow) twins, but this can be flexible.
Inside, the floors are laid with soft grass-fibre matting and sheepskins – a cosy touch in a location that gets chilly at night and in the early mornings, especially in Nairobi’s July and August ‘winter’ season. A hot-water bottle is popped under the covers while you’re at dinner. Along with wrought-iron beds flanked by bedside tables and bedside lights, you’ll also find a small writing table, and a simple clothes hanger.
Bathrooms include a stainless-steel washbasin in a camp-style vanity unit, safari showers (i.e. hot bucket showers available when required) and modern flush loos. The toiletries provided, all locally made in Nanyuki, include shampoo, conditioner, soap and body lotion.
You’ll be woken at your chosen time, with tea or coffee and biscuits and the wonderful dawn chorus of the surrounding woods. Driving out of the woods into the savanna of the park as the sun rises, keeping a sharp eye out for a leopard, is as exhilarating an experience as anywhere in Kenya, and one of the standard activities at the camp. Nairobi National Park is a vastly underrated area and has a lot more to offer than its classic skyscrapers-and-wildlife landscapes. Morning and evening game drives can be included at Nairobi Tented Camp if you don’t have a flight to catch. You can even do night game drives inside the park and bush walks outside it (the walks include a 40-minute drive to Maasai gate, then a walk on the other side of the gate).
The camp has excellent guides and spotters and you have a very realistic chance of seeing several dozen species over the course of a couple of drives, including some of the park’s impressive black and white rhino (we saw a female black rhino with calf with a dramatically sweeping top horn that was the biggest we’ve ever seen on a Kenyan rhino). Other frequently seen denizens of the park are its many giraffe, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest and eland, and its famous lions – often spotted hunting or consuming a kill. There are no elephants here, which is just as well for the preservation of the forests, but most other savannah species are present, including hippos, crocodiles, pythons and leopard tortoises, all of which we saw on our last visit.
The camp is close to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant orphanage (5km; daily visits at 11.00am) and, outside the park, the AFEW Giraffe Centre at Giraffe Manor (9km), both of which are extremely popular with children. There’s also the interesting Karen Blixen Museum (10km). If you want to explore Nairobi further, or have other things to do in the city, then Nairobi Tented Camp is convenient for most areas.
Our viewWe were excited to hear about the opening of Nairobi Tented Camp and it doesn’t disappoint. There’s a lot to be said for transferring straight from the airport into the bush, and as a first or last night in Kenya it offers an experience that no Nairobi hotel can match. The food, service and remarkable location make it one of the best options available for a stay in the city.
Ideal length of stay: 2 nights
Directions: 50 minutes’ drive from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA); 30 minutes from Wilson – half on tarmac to the gate, then the other half on earth roads in the park.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The meal schedule at Nairobi Tented Camp is flexible, depending on guests’ requests and requirements. Being based in Nairobi, the camp can obtain a fantastic variety of food and offers a very diverse range for a small safari camp.
Breakfast consists of fruit, cereal, cooked breakfast, homemade jams. The morning drive normally sets off at around 6.15am, so breakfast can be eaten during the drive (in which case it’s packed as a picnic) or on your return, when you’ll have a big appetite and time to sleep if off – before lunch…
Lunch is normally a buffet. When we stayed in 2012 it included pork chops with sage and roast potatoes, oriental noodles, baked mushrooms with herb and ricotta stuffing, vegetarian pumpkin risotto and homemade bread – quite a feast in other words.
Dinner was a three-course service. We started with an aubergine and tomato ‘tower’, with a yoghurt-pesto drizzle, followed by excellent beef paupiettes, mash and baby spinach (there was an alternative of vegetarian parmesan gnocchi), and griddled pineapple with a mint syllabub for dessert.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks are included. Alcoholic drinks are extra, but reasonably priced, eg US$5 for local beer or a glass of house wine.
Attitude towards children: 'Children of all ages are welcome at Nairobi Tented Camp.'
Property’s age restrictions: Not a present.
Special activities & services: None, although the very popular Sheldrick elephant orphans are just 20 minutes’ drive away.
Generally recommended for children: Nairobi Tented Camp is not an ideal place for children, though the camp is happy to welcome them. There’s thick bush all around, and big game, making it necessary to supervise little ones constantly.
Communications: There’s WiFi in all tents and main areas, with a computer that guests can use, but there’s no cellphone reception in camp.
TV & radio: None.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: It’s 15 minutes’ drive to the nearest medical clinic with a doctor.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: As well as Maasai askaris, the camp is guarded by armed KWS rangers at night
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in main areas and between every two tents.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: No Laundry Facilities
Money: Cash payments may be made in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or Kenyan shillings. Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted with a 5% surcharge.
Accepted payment on location: The only tented camp inside Nairobi National Park is a luxury tented camp set in a thick grove of fig, ebony and wild olive trees in the western end of the park.