I’m just about to get my last wink of sleep in a normal bed before the camping starts. I’ve had a really wonderful few days in Nairobi with Lucy, Ryan, and their babygirl Elsie. I also ventured out on my own with Peter to visit the Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, the Giraffe Center and a park with crocodile reserves.
At first pass, and over the course of 36 hours, Nairobi seems worlds apart from at least Addis Ababa. The infrastructure is much more advanced, traffic is (at least slightly) more organized, and it’s much greener (partly because they’re in the middle of one of two annual rain seasons: the long one, which just means more continuous unbroken rain – a big problem for flooding in the slums). Also, dare I say safer? Maybe that’s not fair, but Nairobi at least invests a great deal in the division of halves and have-nots by highly gated, guarded, monitored compounds. Lucy and Ryan’s place is near the UN and they say the area suffers from safety one-upmanship. It’s almost absurd how many safety measures are in place: high walls, barbed wire, armed guards, guard dogs, grated windows, an alarm system, and – if all else fails? A panic button.
The first place I went was the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. The elephants being taken care of there ranged from a few months old – tiny, tiny toddlers with little blankets on their backs to keep them warm – to older, fully-grown orphan elephants. I arrived for meal time, so they come out in a long line to get milk from big baby bottles and afterwards will trot up to the rope and let you pet them.
Next we went to the Giraffe Centre and feed giraffes tiny kibbles like dog food. They come towards you open-mouthed with their purple, reptilian tongues but despite appearances are truly the most gentle giants and don’t mind you petting their Dr. Seussey horns or Petrie-shaped bill snouts as long as you have a kibble for them to flap at.
Finally, we went to Mamba Village to see crocodiles. Depending on how old they are, they have to be kept separate since they’ll just eat each other given the opportunity. Another surprising thing I learned: the only edible part of a crocodile is their tail, and this is because they keep their food in their body so long, their flesh becomes toxic (… sick).
Also, one way to tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator is to look at their mouths when they’re closed. If they’ve got teeth busting out all over their chops, they’re crocodiles. If they keep their grills all in their mouth, it’s an alligator.
Also at Mamba Village I was handed a huge tortoise to hold, fed a few ostrich, and got a better opportunity to see animals which were less confined.