Clumsy, soggy, and uncomfortably abrasive – there’s nothing romantic about being kissed by a giraffe. Flapping his femme fatale lashes, my suitor sticks out his purple tongue, eagerly seeking food. I stay back, while other guests put edible pellets between their lips, urging the hungry animals to retrieve them with a wet, slobbering snob.

Feeding a community of endangered Rothchild’s giraffes is a top attraction for visitors to Nairobi. Founded in 1979 with the aim of increasing the number of diseased subspecies, the Giraffe Center in the city’s upscale Karen district is now an educational resource and one of the few places in Africa where it is possible to get acquainted. with the tallest animal in the world.

Even more intimate shows are reserved for guests staying at the nearby Giraffe Manor hotel, where lanky ungulates roam the manicured lawns daily to poke their heads through ivy-shrouded windows, or trot around the new spa and pool area. of the property.

As the capital of Kenya and the gateway to adventures in the Maasai Mara and beyond, it is no surprise that wildlife is central to Nairobi: a national park lies at the heart of the city and beyond. Pockets of protected forest line its periphery. But in recent years, the electrifyingly creative hub of East Africa has broken free from its safari roots.

Across town, experimental chefs have opened restaurants on organic farms, in log cabins, or in partnership with boutique hotels. Proving that there is more to African cuisine than traditional meat and corn dishes, the menus are varied, combining local flavors and international techniques.

Several dedicated food and drink markets have also sprung up in the Westlands entertainment district, with international fare served at ingeniously designed stalls: dine on a converted bus; supporting a bar built from cassettes; and listen to Afrobeat DJs while hanging out with the city’s avant-garde crowd. The art and fashion scenes are equally vibrant, with galleries and workshops making bold statements about politics and culture, raising a voice that is finally heard by the Western world.

Of course, Nairobi is not the easiest place to explore. Its neighborhoods are sprawling, the traffic can be appalling, and the public transport network is basic. Rumors of street crimes and shaky memories of terrorist attacks have also put off visitors in the past. But Kenya’s capital is a rapidly changing city, becoming safer, friendlier and more accessible every day. Progressive and dynamic, it vibrates with a sense of the possible. Getting on board for the trip promises an exciting ride.