The best way to experience any destination is to get off the beaten track, and it’s no different in magical Kenya.
Visit a tea plantation
Near Nairobi are the hills of Limuru, a town located on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley about 30 miles North-West from Nairobi. This is where the first Kenyan tea was grown in 1903. The first to do so was AB McDonnel, a pioneer in the tea industry being one of the first to make and sell tea commercially in Kenya – now one of Kenya’s largest exports.
His farm Kiambethu, situated at a height of 2200 meters, is still in the family five generations later and is run by his granddaughter Fiona. Take a tour of this grand colonial estate, learn about the history of the farm and the process of making tea followed by a walk through the tea fields. Take an informative walk in the indigenous forest with a local Kenyan guide, who will identify the plants and explain their traditional use – look out for Colobus monkeys who call this forest and the surrounding gardens home. The tour ends at the estate for a lunch and tea.
Go on a scenic bike tour
My Little Adventure offers a great choice of four guided bike tours with varying difficulty levels and distances, from 24 to 40km. You can choose between leisurely rides through local villages, palm trees and mango forests – or a coastal bike ride that sees you travel through the lively town of Mtwapa, and the traditional village of Giriama in the Kilifi district.
Coastal tours provide a fantastic view of the Indian Ocean, while other routes focus more on a challenging fitness experience. Bike tours a great way to experience the off the beaten track sights that Kenya has to offer, without an environmental impact.
A community visit with a difference
This enlightening day tour with One Horizon, takes you to a Kikuyu village on the outskirts of Nairobi where you will meet some entrepreneurial grandmothers. Many Kenyan grandmothers play a vital role in raising their grandchildren and extended families, and the ones you get to meet are, through hard work and commitment, beating their generational cycle of poverty through small-scale farming. You’ll be shown around a pig farm and pitch in with the chores if you like, join in some joyful singing and dancing over a cup of local tea, help cook a traditional meal, and by sharing lots of laughter.
By listening to their inspirational stories, you’ll get a real insight into the strength and resilience of these remarkable Kenyan women – who sometimes have up to 20 family members living in a one-room corrugated iron home, and whose financial constraints are extremely challenging. You’ll learn how the grandmas earn a sustainable source of income from their pig farming to feed their families, and how they make use of a bio-gas system to create energy out of the waste to power their homes. A benefit is that trees no longer have to be cut down trees for cooking and heating purposes. Each visit helps support their training, as well as veterinary care and feed for the pigs, and this is a rare opportunity to support a grassroots social enterprise.
Explore the Gedi ruins
Located around 16 Km south of Malindi Town and about 90 Km north of Mombasa, the Gedi ruins are one of Kenya’s most fascinating and mysterious locations. They are believed to have been built in the early 13th century, this abandoned town is hidden within the lush Arabuko Sokoke Forest on the Kenyan North Coast.
A visit to the wondrous Gedi ruins can’t be missed. Today the monument is under the care of the National Museums of Kenya and is on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The site of Gedi includes the ruins of numerous coral-brick houses, a palace as well as an impressive mosque. The indigenous forest surrounding the ruins is still known as a sacred and traditional site for the surrounding community. The ruins have baffled scientists with how well established and developed the town once was, especially considering the time of which it was said to have been erected – correcting the assumption that Africa was behind the rest of the world before colonialism. Many interesting artifacts such as Ming Chinese vases and Venetian glass, have been found there – and there’s even evidence that the town had running water and flushing toilets.
Guided tours around these ruins, to get a feel of the fascinating Swahili history, can be arranged from your hotel whilst you are staying on the North Kenyan Coast or Mombasa.
Visit Kitengela Hot Glass
Founded 30 years ago by Anselm Croze, Kitengela Hot Glass specialises in creating exquisite blown objects, chandeliers, lamps, beads and pieces of beauty all from scrap glass. Located on the Athi Kapiti plains approximately 50 minutes’ drive from Nairobi (traffic dependent), this studio and workshop transports visitors into the magical and ancient art of glass blowing.
Learn how to blow a glass bubble, shape a paperweight or make a glass object from scratch. Or just watch as the magic happens, then sip a cappuccino in the delightful garden surrounded by sculpture.
Images – Wendy Tanner – Flickr (Kitengela Glass), Wikimedia, One Horizon Africa