Animals make me happy. And rescued animals make me even happier. We have two special stops in Nairobi that Heather and I are super excited about.
Part of our guided tour includes a stop at Giraffe Center on the outskirts of Nairobi in Karen. It’s adjacent to the world-famous Giraffe Manor. Guest who stay in their luxurious rooms have the incredible experience of opening their room windows during breakfast and sharing their meal with giraffes. Sounds like a bucket list item to me, but since I don’t have a spare $1700 laying around (especially not since I spent almost exactly that for this whole trip…), a stop at the centre will be just fine.
We are given handfuls of food pellets to feed the giraffes after washing our hands. The ladies and youngsters bow gently to us over a fence. Daisy isn’t eager to take my pellets at first, but a little patience pays off and she follows me until my pocket is empty.
The tall males stand around a tower to be fed by people standing on the balcony. Seems much nicer for their backs and for my neck since I can see them almost eye to eye.
The guides suggest putting a pellet between your lips, but most people choose not to. I decide I probably won’t have the opportunity ever again, not that I’m sure I would miss anything, but oh well.
We get our giraffe smooches and admire their eyelashes and finally have to go.
On the southern edge of Nairobi there is a wildlife refuge that care for orphaned elephants and rhinos. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is home to a few dozen baby elephants at the moment and once a week they open to the public for a brief public feeding session that lasts only an hour. Heather and I make plans to be there.
When we arrive, a little later than we had planned, a crowd is already gathered around a rope barrier that encircles the feeding area. As we make our way to the edge a warthog crosses the walking path in front of us.
The first batch of youngsters is already exploring the piles of branches for a snack and playing in the red dirt.
Caretakers help the elephants explore safely without endangering themselves or their audience. One young male comes to rub his rump back and forth along the rope that surrounds his playpen. Another lays down in the dust and rolls while a caretaker shovels piles of dirt on him. The little orphan is overcome with bliss.
After about twenty minutes this group is ushered out while an announcer explains what the trust does and how they help the orphans. Many orphans have been found in wells or places where they couldn’t be recovered by their mothers. Some have been orphaned because of poachers, others have been injured by snares and other manmade hazards.
A second group of slightly older orphans (3-5 years old) is brought out, 2 at a time. These sweeties have obviously figured out the routine because they practically race out to the viewing area to meet their handlers and get their two large bottles of milk. Each elephant gobbles his or hers down and tries to sneak in line for more. After they are each given their drinks they have a little playtime too. Handlers scratch and rub their charges and shovel dirt in them as they roll and play. Some nibble on branches. Others stand and watch the audience. Some are shy, while others are outgoing and playful.
Sadly, and selfishly, we don’t see any rhinos here. Not that I would want there to be an orphaned rhino. But it’s more an indication of how few there are left in the world and how few even find their way to a trust for help.
It’s been so much fun. Our hour ends too quickly. On our way out we stop to read the bios of each of the babies to decide which ones we want to sponsor.