The excitement of landing in Africa wiped out all the stress and pain of the 15-hour flight. Well, most of it. Nairobi Tented Camp was our first stay. It is part of Nairobi National Park, in the world’s only wildlife capital city, and just minutes from the airport.
We were picked up right outside the terminal and driven through Nariobi, a large city with high-rise buildings, lots of traffic in cars, trucks, buses, on bikes and on foot. We drove through a section called “Karen” with the Karen Blixen Museum (the “Out of Africa” Karen Bixen) and past Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. There are tours available of both; neither was in our plans.
At the camp, we were warmly greeted, seated in the community tent, presented with wet towels to freshen up, and served a cool drink. After a short, friendly informational session we were escorted to our tents. Having grown up in a scouting family, these were the biggest, most luxurious tents I had ever seen. Flush toilets, sinks with running water, and showers inside the tents. Hot water for a bucket shower was arranged when requested and also delivered every morning to your door step in a large pitcher along with your choice of hot coffee, tea, or cocoa. Glamping, indeed! I was impressed… and about to be even more impressed as the trip enfolded.
We were late for lunch but they rustled up some sandwiches and, after a short rest, we went off with Gordon on our first game drive. The two funniest things about this drive was 1) the dissonance of seeing the animals roaming freely with a city backdrop and 2) our excitement at the first animals we saw. It was a small group of impalas and we stopped and took lots of pictures. There was a more experienced couple with us from CA who asked us if this was our first rodeo, oops, I mean safari.
At the end of our trip, after two weeks of game drives, we understood their polite amusement. By then, although we were aways delighted with babies, if the adult animals weren’t fighting, hunting, being hunted, mating, nursing, or giving birth, we were not that interested. Q: Had we become that jaded? A: Yeah, almost that jaded.
Like camping but better
The Nairobi camp site was relatively wooded and felt the most like camping in the wild. There were small dikdiks roaming around during the day and mysterious animals rustling in the trees after dark. Evenings, we sat around a small campfire and were served adult beverages.
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
We made two visits to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage. This is a very special place, close to the city and not to be missed. You can read about its wonderful history in Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story.
Before coming to Africa, we had each adopted an orphan elephant, qualifying us for private visits. We first went to the public viewing, which had a lot of school children. When we returned for the smaller private visit, we were able to spend time with our “adopted” baby elephants and meet the CEO Angela Sheldrick. The center also has a resident blind rhino named Maxwell and an orphaned Maasai giraffe named Kiko.
The Giraffe Center
We also went to the Giraffe Center where they are protecting and breeding Rothschild giraffes, an endangered species. We were given pellets to feed these gentle, long-necked creatures. They will eat right out of your hands…or grab a pellet held between your teeth. Seems like that trick was the biggest draw. If you are lucky, you’ll also see a Poomba (warthog) or two wandering around.