Arrival/Day 1 in Nairobi
How very exhausting! We arrived at our hotel in Nairobi around 3 am and tried to sleep until 6:30 before jumping right into a full day of sightseeing. We were picked up at 8 am and headed straight to the giraffe center, which is a preservation center for giraffes. They had a number of Rothschild giraffes (also known as “white sock” giraffes due to the white fur up to their knees). These giraffes hail from Northern Kenya, where they are released back into the wild so that they do not cross – breed with other subspecies, which would make them weaker. Most giraffes are about 3 years old when released, but if they don’t adapt b well, they’re brought back to the sanctuary. We were allowed to feed the giraffes, and those that were brave enough could put the pellets in their mouths and let the giraffes lick them out of our mouths. You bet your bottom dollar I enjoyed a number of these giraffe kisses! After playing with the giraffes, we headed across the way to the nature sanctuary for a short walk before getting in the car (during which I had a close call with a sassy warthog who charged at me for getting too close -did you know that pumbas only have a memory that spans about 30 seconds?).
Next up, the main event and reason for this entire trip: the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Orphaned Elephant and Rhino Nursery. We got to watch 26 sweet baby elephants (1 group of 12, 1 group of 14) feed from bottles and tumble around in the mud for a delightful hour. Those of us nearest to the elephants got to touch them as they sauntered by! The keepers were very knowledgeable (they have to be, the orphanage doesn’t take volunteers, only trained people) and clearly care deeply for the animals. The crowd was asked to be silent so as not to excite or stress out the elephants. People mostly followed this rule, which was nice. Elephants rotate keepers daily so that they don’t get attached to one (this method is based off of Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s work and findings). They are released to a rehabilitation center around age 4 to prepare for being released into the wild. The center doesn’t keep track of the elephants one they’re released, since their life spans are so long that the microchips for tracking would have to be replaced. The trust does identify and treat sick and wounded adult elephants found in the national parks, and then releases them back to their herds. There was 1 baby rhino on site, but it wasn’t available for viewing. At the end of the hour, there was a chance to donate to the nursery by fostering a baby elephant, which I obviously did. I get to visit baby Esampu on our last day during her bedtime!
After all the excitement we were glad to enjoy lunch (the best falafel I’ve ever had) and rest in our hotel before a Japanese dinner at The Phoenician.
Day 2: Amboseli National Park
Early morning pick up at 6 am for a 3 hour drive to Amboseli! We were lucky to have nobody else on our safari tour, so we had the entire day to ourselves. The Kenyan government allows the Masai people into the park to let their cows get water, and there were many Masai around the park entrance. Nothing else except for pictures can describe how jaw-dropping this day was. The only downside was that I let myself get really dehydrated since there was limited bathroom access. We spent a few hours exploring from the safari vehicle before enjoying lunch at the Ol Tukai Lodge in the center of the park – a delicious buffet with a view to boot! Animals spotted included:
•Birds: spoonbill storks, crown cranes, cormorants, vultures, and more
•Thompson and common gazelles
•Elephants crossing the road right in front of us!
•Dazzles upon dazzles of zebras
We were so fortunate to be able to see these animals in their proper homes!
Day 3: Hell’s Gate
7 am pickup for a 2 1/2 hour drive to Hell’s Gate National Park. We drove into the park with a guide who took us for a hike into Elsa’s Gorge. Lots of scrambling around in a skirt, but being inside a gorge (we were lucky to be there during the dry season so we got to walk around inside of it) was totally worth it, especially seeing the parts that inspired scenes for The Lion King. According to our guide, it’s called Hell’s Gate because the Masai warriors would hide within the gorge to attack the explorers coming to Kenya in the 1880s.
We saw lots of zebras, Masai giraffes, warthogs, gazelles, birds, impalas, and buffaloes. After the rather draining hike, we enjoyed a view over Lake Naivasha during lunch before hitting the road again.
Tomorrow is our last day in Nairobi! We’ll be scoping out a Masai market, maybe seeing some dancing, and visiting Baby Esampu before I head to Budapest.