What you need to know:
- The key to a spectacular picnic haul — particularly when you're looking to impress — is to be "fearless”
- If the weather does not favour an outdoor picnic, move the date indoors
If you've left your Valentine's Day dinner booking till the eleventh hour, then it just might be the perfect excuse to ditch the stuffy, white tablecloth pomp for a sumptuous — even sensual — picnic spread in a secluded location of your choosing.
But the key to a spectacular picnic haul — particularly when you're looking to impress — is to be "fearless.” You have to figure out the right spot before addressing what you need to take with you. If the weather does not favour an outdoor picnic, move the date indoors, somewhere with a great view or by a fireplace.
If you are in Nairobi and surrounding environs here are a few outdoors ideas:
Open from 6am to 6pm, as an outdoors lover, this is one of my favourite spots to go cycling or hiking with friends two days a week, and I always spend a few quiet moments taking in the waterfall. There are five designated picnic sites to choose from, and pre-booking through the KFEET office is advised. Not more than 25 pax. Charges are Sh150 for adults, Sh100 for kids, parking fees paid separately.
Paradise Lost, Kiambu Road
Exciting activities here include exploring the caves which have long been eroded by River Gichi, marveling at the stunning waterfall, quiet picnics at their wooden tables, sport fishing, boat riding and visiting a coffee farm. You can also do horse or camel riding, walk through the nature trails, bird watch. Rates Sh400 for adults, Sh300 for children. Call 0725 885570.
Oloolua Nature Trail, Karen
It is open from 9am to 6pm, and entry is Sh200 for adults, and half of that for children. There is a 20-foot waterfall in the forest. Walk along the Mbagathi River and stop by the caves which are said to have been a hiding spot for Mau Mau freedom fighters. The picnic site has benches, and be sure to dispose of your trash in the bins. Camping with your own tent is also possible at a fee if you’d like to stay the night.
Nairobi Botanical Gardens, Kipande Rd, Nairobi
Few people seem to know about this garden at Nairobi National Museum which aims to showcase the plant diversity in Kenya and enhance learning of plant science by using thematic displays which include grass, herbal and succulent gardens, an orchid house and a cycad display. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the serene surroundings, and thereafter, the museum and snake park await.
Thayu Farm, Tigoni (Opposite Tigoni Golf Club)
This is a family-run hotel with rustic charm and its African-themed restaurant has serene lush green gardens which mirror the surrounding tea farms of Tigoni, and the grounds are perfect for everything from baby showers and weddings and to parties. To book call 0727 832406.
Nairobi Arboretum, State House Road
The entry fees are under Sh150. The collection of 350 indigenous and exotic plants here is largely for conservation and scientific research, and the walkways are under canopies, as are the picnic lawns. Jogging trails are also available for fitness enthusiasts. Bring a picnic blanket as you will need it.
Fairview Coffee Estate, Kiambu
The estate is 250 acres, and you can sign up for a farm tour or simply check out the waterfall then picnic on the lush grounds. Bring a book and pack your own lunch or order 24 hours in advance for Sh1,000. For bookings call 0774 472 756.
Lang’ata Botanical Gardens, Lang’ata South Road
There are four beautiful gardens in this private park, and each is nestled amidst trees and flower bushes, perfect for hosting events. Check out the array of indigenous trees and fish in the pond. You can also dine at the Botanical Garden Restaurant. Be sure to call ahead on 0722 382 615
Tips for the perfect picnic
Nail the essentials
Make sure your picnic basket is a sturdy one, and pack everything in tightly to avoid spills. Don't forget to pack a few cushions and an umbrella for shade.
Keeping it cool
Ice packs purchased from the supermarket will help keep everything cool and at a safe temperature.
Keeping the flies away
A chemical-free fly repellent fan is the perfect tool to keep the flies away from the food.
Packing your basket
All heavy items go first, followed by the delicate and soft items on top. Mason jars make great salad holders (and makes it look extra special) but always store the dressing in a separate container to keep everything fresh. Reusable sealable plastic containers work just as well and create less of a mess.
Valentine's Day touches
Create a playlist for the occasion and don’t forget to carry a portable speaker. Some soft background tunes can help set the mood. You can't go wrong with chocolate-dipped strawberries — they're as sexy as they are delicious.