Okay, by this point we are 6 days into our travel and have reached the un-official "day off" before departing on our safari. So Olivia, Jort, Shelby, and I decide to take the day and roam around Nairobi checking out a few sights and a local bazaar. Nairobi is the only city in the world to have a protected wildlife reserve within the city that has a full array of rhino, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, buffaloes, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and so on. A great majority of our day was going to be spent in and around the park.
First up was going over to see the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage which sets on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. Everyday the orphanage allows visitors to come in for an hour and see the elephants as they exercise and bathe. When we were there they had 22 elephants on display ranging from 6 months to 4 years old. All of them had lost their mothers from poaching, illness, old age, or being eaten by predators. Every rescued elephant receives 24 hours of personal attention while in the orphanage, and when they are ready (the elephants let the keepers know when they are ready) they are returned to a herd if not the exact same herd they came from.
All the elephants were brought down in two groups of 11, and it was absolutely awesome to see them explore and run around and play with each other. There was only a thin nylon rope keeping the elephants from the crowd, and several times they would come over an "introduce" themselves to all of us. We were allowed to pet and rub them and also pull and tug on their ears and trunks. Completely amazing. The orphanage also has a couple of baby black rhinos, but they weren't on display.
After our time was was up we headed a couple of miles up the road to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage at the main entrance to the Nairobi National Park. The Nairobi Animal Orphanage is the oldest orphanage in Kenya, established in 1964 as a refuge and rehabilitation centre for wild animals found abandoned or injured throughout Kenya. This is where you will see just about every animal that the parks of Kenya have in them, but unlike a safari, all of these animals are in cages or behind fences. Basically it's a zoo, but a zoo with a ton of giant cats.
Shortly after we had entered the park we came across a guy standing in one of the cages with a cheetah. He was standing over the cheetah pulling on it's ears and tail trying to get it to wake up. I told Shelby that we were about to see someone die, and the guy over heard me say that. To make a long story short, it turned out that he was the head keeper of the orphanage and the cheetah was his little girl that he's raised since she was a cub. We talked with him for a little bit before moving on, and he came out of the cage and met back up with us. He ended up giving us a pseudo personal tour through the orphanage. Unfortunately I can't for the life of me remember his name, but I'll find it!
The crazy thing was he had names and individual calls for every animal and they all responded to them and walk up to the bars or fences of the cages.
Now about this time a few monkeys from the national park came swinging into the orphanage to scour for food and pester tourist. It turned out that Shelby was number one on their list.
We continued our trek around the monkey cages and our guide kept getting grabbed by all the monkeys showing him love. One even checked him for fleas.
In Kenya African Wild Dogs are extremely rare. They've been endangered for 20 years and less then 6,000 of them live on the entire continent. Massive rabies outbreaks have killed a bunch of them off, along with farmers poisoning them when they mess with their livestock. There have been reports of them showing up here and there in the Mara, but we never saw them. Luckily the orphanage had one for us to see.
Our guide said the only cage he wouldn't get in was the leopards'. He said they were too unpredictable and powerful for him, and that this one had a little bit of an attitude. So I guess us playing catch with it was out of the question.
Before we left our guide took us up to feed a 6 month old giraffe they had just rescued for the national park.
We left the animal parks and headed to an open air bizarre to look around and buy some souvenirs for our friends and family. For some reason I didn't take a single photo while we were there, massive fail on my part. It reminded me of some of the arts and craft festivals we have here back home.
After a fun filled day of watching animals, we decided to go eat some at the world famous Carnivore restaurant. Carnivore's specialty is meat, and features an all-you-can-eat meat buffet, and are famous for their game meat. At one time they served lion, elephant, and zebra, but today the exotic meat is limited to giraffe, wildebeest, ostrich, and crocodile. Our menu that night only had crocodile, ostrich meat balls, and ox testicles. The first two were fantastic, the testicle not so much, but we all figured while in Kenya, let's eat like the Kenyans do.
I think I still have heartburn from the ox testicle.
The evil red smoke pit was awesome, I'm going to have to incorporate something like that into my backyard redesign.
After dinner we returned to our apartment to pack up and prepare for the safari. I was already on animal overload after spending time with all the elephants and the animals in the orphanage. Little did I know what my next couple of days were going to consist of and how they were going to be some of the most fascinating of my life.
Up next, Part 5: We Arrive At The Mara.