Finding Holiday Gifts in East Africa

With the holiday season upon us, gifts are inevitably on the mind. While physical presents aren’t the only way to show you care, it can also be fun to find the perfect item to wrap up and surprise someone with… or simply a keepsake to hold on to your own safari memories! Here’s a quick roundup of where to find unique, locally handmade gifts in East Africa.

1. Shanga

Location: Arusha, Tanzania

While Shanga has been a staple in Arusha for over a decade, you can now find it housed within Arusha Coffee Lodge, with facilities comprising an open workshop as well as a small store showcasing handmade Shanga products.

Why we love it: Shanga is a social enterprise which employs people with disabilities to create unique, high-quality, handmade items. Products range from jewelry, glassware and homeware using recycled materials, to glass-blowing, weaving, sewing, tingtinga painting, bead-making and metal work. Over the years, Shanga has grown to employ more than 70 people with a wide range of disabilities to make creative products. Their sustainable model provides these at-risk individuals with stable employment and a rich community life.

2. Kazuri Beads

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

You’ll find the workshop in what used to be part of the historic Karen Blixen Estate.

Why we love it: Kazuri employs local women to create beautiful handmade jewelry and pottery. The small beading workshop began with just two women and now employs over 300, most of whom are single mothers. Their unique jewelry and crafts reflect the culture and wildlife of Kenya while providing steady employment and healthcare resources. The workshop’s clinic provides free medical care for all employees and their immediate families. Plus, Kazuri absorbs 80% of medical bills for treatment received outside the factory clinic.

3. Lodge Boutiques

Location: Across Africa

Why we love them: Many lodges and camps house small boutiques and galleries. While purchasing from these is a less personal approach, it still offers you the chance to bring home some African flavor with utmost convenience. Pop in and out of these boutiques in between game drives or right before you depart. Singita’s Sabora Tented Camp offers one such boutique and gallery, with original treasures gathered from across the continent. Gifts range from sculptures, home-ware and furnishings, to artefacts, and authentic carvings, locally crafted jewelry, and museum quality, fine-art prints.

Bonus: David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Admittedly, this isn’t a physical present you can buy and take home with you, but we couldn’t resist featuring a conservationist feel-good option!

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world, and one of the pioneering conservation organizations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. When a new-born elephant is orphaned, it is often because its mother and family have been killed to serve the brutal ivory trade, or due to other, conservation-related issues. Donating to foster an orphan helps DSWT continue to successfully hand-raise hundreds of infant elephants and reintegrate them back into the wild herds of Tsavo.