A Day in Nairobi Visiting Orphaned Elephants

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Flag of Kenya  ,
Sunday, January 29, 2012

Waking up for the final time in Amboseli, I quickly packed my things and headed for a quick breakfast before the scheduled departure of 730 for a 905 flight back to Nairobi. As always, I was running a tad behind and I think we left closer to 815 once I'd eaten, written in the visitor book and bought a traditional Masai beaded belt from the gift shop. Doubt I will be wearing the belt outside of Africa, but something about the belts just had me hooked. Bibi (the otherwise referred to 'Czech Woman’) and I had our final, albeit mini, safari drive in Amboseli on way to the airstrip. Kilimanjaro was hazy and you could see ok with naked eye but doesn’t show up so well in photos. The mountain was never as clear as it was that first day for the remainder of my 4 days here. Just glad that I had that one day when it was visible all day. Apparently it is clearer in the wet season (the rain cleans out the sandy air) but the animal viewing is not as good cause there is lots of water for them to source and not congregate around the one set of wetlands. Oh well, I reckon I had the best of both worlds, just not every day but at least for one day.

The plane was a lot smaller and a rougher ride than my trip out here and just one pilot...what should happen if he has a heart attack I thought as we began our ascent. There were a few bumps here and there and I had my hands firmly planted to the seat for extra grip to stop my head slamming into the ceiling if we suddenly dropped. We landed safely 40 minutes later in Nairobi where my driver/guide was waiting for me. So good to just grab your bag directly from the undercarriage of the plane and then out a side gate of the tarmac and not go thru any airport bullcrap.

We had some time to kill so my guide (prearranged thru the booking of the lodge) drove about 30 kmh down the freeway giving me facts about Kenya, Nairobi and the shopping malls we drove passed at Nanna speed. We stopped off at a really nice and new Mall (called The Galleria!) and had a look around. Could be a shopping centre in any 1st Class city in the world, very nice and surprising. Security is heavy tho given the recent terrorism risk – to get into the mall carpark u need a token, inspection by security guards who use a mirror to detect if any bombs etc underneath the vehicle. Nairobi appears well developed overall, with China investing money to build roads and infrastructure...no doubt in return for development approvals/permits.

We’d killed enough time to arrive at the Elephant Orphanage which is only open 11-12 noon each day. I paid $40 for this and the sign at the entry said it was only $7...hmmm. I figure that the extra $33 was for the driver/guide and transport. It annoys me how these travel companies can’t just be upfront with their costs when u book. Of course they will have a mark-up and be wanting to make a profit , we expect that, just at least be transparent about what you’re charging tourists. Anywho, the elephant orphanage is the highest rated thing to do in Nairobi. It was good, but after having seen so many bloody elephants in Amboseli I struggled with the concept that orphaned elephants needed a refuge. A Rhino or Leopard orphanage would have more conservation value. The baby elephants are indeed cute when drinking their milk and playing around in the dirty bath. After thinking an hour would not be enough, it was too much. Standing in full African sun with 500 tourists struggling to hear what the attendants are saying (their speaker equipment was broken!) was ok for half hour and then I resorted to the fringe of shade. For the number of tourists paying 7 bucks a pop every day, they could do so much better. I did enjoy watching children unexpectantly get mud sprayed all over them by the adolescent elephants tho! There is one Rhino (Maxwell) who was abandoned by his mother soon after birth because he was born blind. Such a huge creature he is and in a relatively small pen – hopefully they let him out often.

Following the orphanage, we headed to Carnivore, an African themed restaurant where the meat is served direct off a sword. I had expected to taste some of the game animals I had just seen, but the Kenyan govt banned this a few years ago and now the most adventurous meat on their menu is crocodile, ostrich and Ox balls (yep, that is exactly what the waiter said to me when he brought me a plate of white round things "Ox balls sir?"...um, no). It was an overall good place to eat at, but I found the service slow (as if they were being deliberately slow so u didn’t eat too much since it was effectively an ‘all u can eat’ restaurant) and the lamb/beef too rare. After the meal, I hung out at the ‘Simba Saloon’ bar where the Australian Open tennis final was in play which I was pleased about, but didn’t get to see the end since it was time to transit to the airport for flight to Zanzibar.

Boarding the plane, I felt more tired than when I’d finished my 6 week work stint. I mistakenly thought that a 4 day safari would be a time to catch sleep and relax. Too much happening to sleep, and I kept reminding myself that Zanzibar would be my moment to get rid of the black circles under my eyes.

Some Kiswahili words: Jambo (hello), Mambo (how are things?), Sawa Twende (Ok, let’s go), Asante sana (thank you very much), Karibu (you’re welcome), hakuna matata (if you’ve seen the Lion King 400 times like I have thanks to my sisters and cousin, then you’ll know what this means).  Oh and a side-note, we picked up some random kids on way to the elephant orphanage who stared at me (the white guy) the entire trip. They asked if I knew any of their language and were very impressed when I said a few words. When they were getting out of the van, one kid reached over out of my eye sight and touched my hair! The black kid wanting to feel what a white guys hair actually felt like.
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