Sport is big in Kenya, especially the capital Nairobi. With its year round great weather, the city is ideal for those who want to get outside and play their favourite game. In addition, Kenyans love watching, and arguing about, football. Below is a selection some of the sporting highlights of Nairobi:
Where to watch football in Nairobi
Most football matches in Nairobi are played at Nyayo Stadium in the Industrial Area or Kasarani Stadium. Whilst the majority of Kenya Premier League matches are fairly quiet, any game involving Gor Mahia, or AFC Leopards tend to be fairly raucous. The derby between the two is the biggest match in Kenya. Expect colourful matatus (buses), vuvuzelas, non-stop singing and the odd round of teargas. The AFC fans, from the Luhya community, bring live chickens to the game, whilst the Gor Mahia fans, from Lake Victoria, all bring fresh fish. Definitely worth attending, though, for your own safety, it is advisable to sit in the VIP section (tickets are KES 1000).
Kenyans are also massive fans of the English Premier League, and matches are on show everywhere. The best bars to watch football are Kengeles in Lavington, K1 in Parklands and Gypsy’s in Westlands. However, for a more local experience, go to Max Land in Westlands or Fine Breeze in Lavington/Dagoretti, where they will have some grainy TVs. And then for the really local experience, the games are shown in the informal settlements, such as Kangemi or Kawengraw. They create make-shift viewing areas where fans watch on banks of seats. It’s KES 50 for big games, such as Man U v Arsenal, and KES 10 for QPR v Wigan in the informal settlements. Best to go with a local to these bars!
Where to run in Nairobi
Whilst Kenya’s football team is a bit rubbish, Kenya’s runners are the world’s finest, and Nairobi offers a few great places to run. The best is the beautiful Karura Forest which has 5km, 10km and 15km running circuits. The Arboretum is also a nice place to run. Running round the back streets of posh neighbourhoods in Kileleshwa and Lavington is fun, and a great way to explore the city despite the occasional wayward matatu (bus).
Several running races take place during the year, the highlight being the incredible Lewa Safaricom Marathon at the Lewa Conservancy. During most of the year camping is forbidden at Lewa, and the cheapest lodges there are $400 per person per night, so running there offers the chance to stay on a budget at one of the world’s most beautiful national parks. Following the race there is a party for the runners and the local community. Other than Lewa, Nairobi’s central business district gets blocked off for the Standard Chartered Marathon and the First Lady’s Half Marathon. These city marathons are really for everybody, from the world’s elite runners, to rather large mamas, who choose to walk the course, smiling and chatting their way round.
In terms of running clubs, the Urban Swaras meet at 7am on Saturday mornings, in a different location every week. Participants can choose to run from 10km to 30km, and a variety of ability groups attend.
Where to watch cricket in Nairobi
Cricket is Kenya’s most successful team sport, but rarely grabs the imagination of the nation. Kenya qualified for the world cup in every tournament from 1996 to 2011, and have even beat Sri Lanka and the West Indies. In terms of domestic league cricket, the Kongonis cricket team, established in 1927 play at the beautiful old colonial ground at Nairobi Club. Kongonis mainly take on teams based in the large Asian community, with teams playing at the Jaffrey Sports Club and Gymkana.
Where to watch rugby in Nairobi
Where to play golf in Kenya
Nairobi possesses several beautiful golf courses, either in, or close to the city. Whilst there is good reason to feel guilty about enjoying the beautiful fairways, when just next door people live cramped in informal settlements (see these harrowing photos), the golf course is a great way to get away from the hustle and the traffic of Nairobi.
The Vetlab course in Loresho offers 18 not-so-easy holes, in beautiful, quiet grasslands. The golf park inside the Ngong Racecourse offers surprisingly challenging golf and is the most affordable in the city. The Royal Nairobi, which backs on to Kibera, East Africa’s biggest slum, provides a good round near the city centre.
Outside the city, there are also some great golf courses, including the stunning Limuru Country Club (50 mins from Nairobi), and the very friendly Sagana Club (20 mins). For those with more cash, the Windsor, Muthaiga and Karen golf clubs offer stunning golf, but the day rates are pretty high at between KES 6000 and 9000 for a round. Finally, the Rift Valley Golf Club in Naivasha gives the opportunity to play alongside wildebeest, zebra and giraffes, who roam freely on the fairways.
Where to play tennis and squash in Nairobi
JD Tennis in Kilimani, and Amani Gardens in Westlands offer really good courts. Impala Club and Karura Forest offer dusty clay, but at only KES 200 per person it’s good value (if you can put up with the slightly wonky lines). For those who prefer running around inside, courts at the Impala Club (KES 200 per person) and Sarit Centre (KES 700), offer decent squash.
Where to cycle in Kenya
Nairobi has a vibrant cycling scene. Indeed, the world’s best cyclist, Chris Froome, is a third generation Kenyan, and learnt to ride here. One great experience is going for a cycle at the club run by Chris Froome’s former coach, David Kinjah, which is called Safari Simbaz. The club is situated in a small shed outside of Kikuyu town. See website for details. The Brackenhurst Conference Center in Limuru also offers mountain bike hire, and you can take your bike through the beautiful tea fields.
For a new series on the blog I’m asking some of my friends in Nairobi to write about their experiences and favourite things to do. To kick us off, the energetic Richard Scotney kindly wrote the above, detailing his favourite places to play and watch and sports in Kenya’s capital.
My Nairobi: Richard Scotney
I moved to Nairobi with my wide, Soleine, in 2014, for our jobs. Soleine works for the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and I work for the United Nations Environment Programme. It’s been a wonderful adventure of living in Nairobi. We love sports, volunteering, and exploring the country. We ended up staying longer than initially planned (three years) because we enjoyed it so much, but are now moving back to Paris where Soleine is from. We will miss the greenery, the blue skies and our amazing set of friends. We will not miss the traffic police.