I got a call two months ago about the Gulliver travel with Google in Nairobi.I was understandably excited as it presented yet another opportunity to see a little more of Africa and of course understand the Google brand better.
Fast-forward to two months and it was time to for all the preparation and packing to become actual travelling. I arrived Nairobi on Sunday night ahead of the 2 day trip.Although my expectation of African airports and immigration is generally low, Jomo Kenyatta International airport managed to lower the bar even further.
Travellers coming to Nairobi are requested to get their visa online to ease long queues at the immigration. I tried to get my e-visa done before Lagos but my application was still pending and my travel agent still advised I should go ahead with my trip anyway. I had copies of the invoice and the application anyway, because, you can never be too careful, right?
The Jomo Kenyatta airport was frustrating beyond words. We were received by personnel from the health service for Ebola before we proceeded to the immigration queue where there was a long queue of passengers waiting to be stamped into the country. We joined the queue and hoped we would sorted soon.
For people like myself without the e-visa, we were sent to an office where they processed the visas immediately.
I reckoned those who had their e-visa from Nigeria would be spared any issues but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve never been that grateful to have had a visa application delayed.
Those with the e-visa were asked to go to the office I was referred too and unfortunately for them, there was a long queue.
In a nutshell, whether or not you apply for an e visa or not , there’s still the annoying step of going to the immigration office for clarification. I’d rather suggest they find a balance between visa at point of entry and the e-visa application.
All photos were taken with the Samsung Galaxy Edge 6 plus.
Journey into the city;
We had a team waiting for us at the arrival gate and we had our bags and hand luggage with us. We drove from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Sanrova Stanley Hotel, popularly regarded as the longest hotel in Nairobi.
Stanley Sarova hotel was established in 1902 and with all its years of history has managed to still competite with other B&B, guesthouses and hotels in the country. Stanley Sanrova is located right in the Central Business District of Nairobi. The landmarks around the hotel are; the city market, Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), and many more.
The hotel is listed on Trip Advisor and has won several awards. They displayed their awards and plaques proudly in the hotel lobby. Dinner was at Three Torns restaurant located right inside the hotel. The restaurant runs 24 hours daily.
Google in Nairobi – Explore Nairobi using Google Tools.
We had breakfast at Sarova Stanley hotel around 7 am. After breakfast, we had an intro to Google in Nairobi at the hotel court yard by Gareth Evans ( Communications and Public Affairs Manager EMEA). We had an exercise on how to use Google translator.
Each delegate was given a sheet of paper with words written in Japanese. We used the translator to get the meaning of what was given to us and it was.
It was pretty smooth as the tool allows you to take a photo of the text and the meaning comes up immediately. We were introduced to Google tools and also a short presentation on how to use them for our trip. We were assigned into different groups – team Lion, Team Rhino and Team Elephant.
Day one featured a trip from the hotel to the Great Rift Valley. The view of nature was amazing and we had to explore using our Google tools. What’s a trip without a selfie and perhaps a group selfie?
The photos were saved automatically in the google photo app. It was a great sight. This is one place I recommend to explorers, adventurers and travellers whenever you get to Nairobi.
From the Great Rift Valley, we paid a visit to the smallest church in Nairobi-Mai Mahiu Catholic Church, built by the Prisoners of War during the World war 2.
The church is still in the same location and it has little gardens around it. From the church, we made our way to Kimabethu tea farm. Now this was fun.
The tour of Kiambethu Tea Farm lasted for more than 2 hours but the experience was something everyone held on too. We were welcomed by the owner of the Tea farm – Fiona, and she took us around the to the house and she served us tea, beer and non alcholic drinks.
Later in the day, we were divided into different teams for tasks. The task was for each team to translate words in different languages and also give the meaning. The winning team won a pack of tea.
We had other people join us from Kenya and South Africa so it was a mix of three countries. At the end of the game, Team Rhino won. Did I mention that I wasn’t on Team Rhino?
We later had lunch at the farm and Fiona came by to explain the history of the Tea Farm and how her great grand father discovered the business and how why it is still running till now. Fiona had a great chat with group and she showed us round the gigantic farm.
We had to leave Fiona and her cute dogs and the gigantic farm to Karura Forest. There was a group challenge to walk to the Water fall inside the forest, take a group photo with a selfie and post it on Google plus using the hashtag #GoogleInNairobi.
We were excited when they organisers announced the challenge and we all moved in groups to the waterfall. We used google map to locate the exact place in the forest. We had our map with us on our phones, we had to sing on our way down to the waterfall, some people weren’t fit enough for the long walk.
We finally got to the waterfall and some of us had to rush down to take selfies and group and publish immediately on Google plus but ehn network showed us pepper because we were right in the middle of the Forest.
We made our way back to the Sundowner at River Cafe in Karura Forest. Before getting to the cafe, we tried as much as possible to publish our photos and Viola!! it happened. We sent our assignment online for the organsiers to see. We got to cafe and met with other team members who got there, shared our experience from the walk and we had drinks to top our chat.
Finally, the hour came and the organisers called out the results. there was a tie; team rhino and team lion. so Team Lion won this time around and we popped champagne to celebrate the big win. We left Karura Forest in showers of blessings and headed to Amaica Restaurant for dinner.
It rained heavily that night but it didn’t stop the fun. We had a special Kenyan cuisine experience at the restaurant and everyone enjoyed their meal. Some people couldn’t resist the main course meal and dessert.
We had to call it a day after everyone was satisfied and we headed back to the hotel to rest for day 2. Imagine the fun we had in day one, we were already looking forward to the next of fun, adventure and great experience in Nairobi.
We had an early morning wake up call for 4;00 am. Some had to wake up early and some came in late. We had breakfast on our way to Nairobi national Park. Who does not like to see animals in real life ? We were excited about this day because we were looking forward to seeing ‘Simba’ from Lion King.
If you want to enjoy wildlife trips and you want to have a great experience seeing the Big five and other animals in the jungle, you should set out in the morning. Even though the Lion has a reputation as the King of the Jungle, it is without doubt one of the laziest animals there.
They sleep for 22 hours in a day, hunt for food in the morning and take a rest for the remaining hours of the day. We got to Nairobi National Park and we had our hats and ‘Shukas’ with us to the jungle. We were ready for the challenge of the day and the challenge was for everyone to take their best pictures and publish online using #GoogleInNairobi. We had our photo game on.
We drove into the park and we were welcomed by the first animal we saw – a Giraffe -having breakfast. Then we drove to the tusk yard were they had the tusk of the dead elephants burnt.
So there was a sanctuary built to remember that. There was a discussion in the group about Elephants were poached because of their tusks- an illegal inhuman venture worth billions of dollars. Rhinos are facing the same fate and will likely go into extinct because of the way poachers are killing them for their horns.
We moved further into the jungle and saw a group of Impalas having breakfast. Oh well, you know what they say, “the early bird gets the worm”.
We came across other animals like the Zebras, Buffalos, A baby Giraffe with his mum, Antelopes,
Can you tell I’ve become a bit of a wildlife expert already? However, you don’t need my expertise to figure out that Buffalos can be aggressive. One look and even the bravest of us had to keep our distance. They weren’t mean looking enough to stop us from taking pictures though. We took our pictures and selfies. Yes, Selfies!!!
Please note that when driving in any park, do not drive fast. The animals are in their region and travellers have to respect that. There is a fine for killing an animal while speeding in the park. And it can be that serious. The idea is to have an experience of seeing the animals and see them exist in their natural habitat.
It doesn’t take a lot to make me teary eyed and it all took was a fresh carcass of a Zebra. It was sad. I managed to hold my tears in though. Jike, our ranger was communicating with his colleagues if they located any lion but it turned out that they were ‘sleeping’ somewhere in the jungle. We gave up on our search to see Simba and we went straight to Ololo Safari Lodge for our next session.
Nairobi National Park is the only park located right in the middle of the city. Imagine if we had this in Lagos!
On getting to Ololo Safari Lodge, we had to cross a long bridge to get to the other side. This was where I took selfie with Ruth and Jike. Selfie on the bridge.. Yeah!!! We all crossed and we were welcomed by the staff at the lodge. The tea and snacks they served proved to be superb consolations for not seeing any Lions.
Tea and snacks were served to us as we enjoyed the amazing view from the lodge. We were introduced to Google city view ad how to use maps to map streets in different cities. As a traveller on a new route, you can map it using the Google street view. This initiative from Google is a good one and everyone across different cities in the world can map their streets.
Still in the National park, we made our way to David Sheldrick wildlife trust to visit orphaned elephants on street view. The visit lasted for an hour from 11 am to 12 noon as we watched baby elephants parading the yard and also taking their milk.
They were fed with SMA gold and kept away from the wildlife because they had no parents to take care of them. We had a great time with the elephants and then we went to see little Maxwell – The blind Rhino. The story about Maxwell really made us sad but the good thing is that he is in safe hands at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Visit. After spending half of the day at the park, it was time for lunch and guess where we went to?
From directions on our map, we found ourselves at the Carnivore Restaurant. We were welcomed by the staff who had smiles on their faces as they served a three course meal which boasted Rabbits to lamb, crocodile, chicken, chicken gizzard, ox balls, pork and meat.
We had our menu in a different language we had to use Google translator to communicate our orders. Lunch ended with music from Carnivore staff – Jambo..
After lunch, we made our way to the Godown art centre located around the industrial area in the city. The Godown art centre has been running for 10 years with the Google cultural Institute. The place is filled with different shops from local stores, music stores, a restaurant, dance studio, art shop, production house and more. The co-ordinator of the Godown centre took us round to see the place and we met the producers of ‘Ogas at the top‘ series on Youtube. I am a big fan of their production. You should check them out on – Buni TV.
I also met a fascinating artist whose art works are famous in Africa and beyond. His name is Michael Soi. Find some of his collections below; (Photos of his collections).
We didn’t spend much time at the art centre and we had to leave. We made our way to Kenyatta International Convention centre for the cocktail party at the rooftop where we saw Nairobi city in a different light. We had to use different applications like panorama shot on the phone to get a better view of the city from the rooftop.
We also witnessed traffic congestion in Nairobi-between Nairobi and Lagos city, I’m not sure which city’s traffic congestion is worse. The city came to life at night and we had canapes and drinks. The night ended with the presentation of gifts from the challenge of the day. Arit Okpo won the challenge which shouldn’t surprise you because ‘Nigeria, no dey carry last’.
To travellers across the world, track your city using the street view, get to know the next person from a different background and country using google translator.
Take awesome selfies and the best architectural view you find in any city and save them in Google drive and Google photos. Upload your videos on Youtube and Google plus. You can never get bored using all these tools on your phone. Get upgraded and showcase your city the best way you can.