Nairobi Giraffe Center: a slobbering affair

It was my last day in Nairobi before I went back to Beirut for a month. My flight wasn’t until late that night and I had plenty of time to kill. Being the big time planner I am I had already scheduled (before I even got to Nairobi) a visit to the local giraffe center followed by a performance of traditional Kenyan music and dance.

 The taxi ride took us through most of Nairobi, areas where I have never been before and despite the hectic traffic, the heat and the dust I enjoyed looking out of the window at everything happening around me.

I got to the center, paid my entrance fee and walked in. It turned out to be even smaller than expected. There was the raised wooden platform I had read about and that was about it. There was a small turtle enclosure; a café and a couple of gift shops and not much else. I thought maybe there was more behind the platform but a closer inspection revealed only toilets. Did it really matter? No, because the giraffes were there and I would get to feed them. I wanted to leave the best for last so I went and spent some time with the turtles, watching their stumpy feet and pointy faces, their leisurely walks, their carrot munching; I watched the children gathered around the enclosure fearfully touching the shelled beasts. It is quite something watching a child exploring the world around them – the fear, the curiosity, the smiles, the excitement, the magic in their eyes.

Families, young people, friends enjoying the giraffes!

Families, young people, friends enjoying the giraffes!

Did you know that the tongue of a giraffe is grey and long?

Did you know that the tongue of a giraffe is grey and long?

Oh hello!

Oh hello!

After a stop at the crafts kiosk here was nothing else to do but climb up to the giraffes. I climbed up the stairs, got a handful of giraffe food and made my way through he throng of visitors who were trying to feed the giraffes, snap photos, take selfies and were generally a nuisance. I mostly stood behind all that observing. It is amazing what you see when you just stand back and watch. There were children there encouraged by their parents to feed the giraffes. It was funny to watch how scared they were to approach the friendly creatures and how quickly they would remove their hand after the food was gone. Still there was a smile on their faces, a mix of fear and wonder. There were young people playing it cool by putting a piece of food in their mouth so that the giraffe would “kiss” them. I thought about it myself but quickly changed my mind after realizing what a slobbering experience that was. Giraffe saliva is thick and sticky I learned soon. There were Japanese snapping photos like crazy without thinking too much about the shot; there were Americans who couldn’t understand what a Kenyan woman was saying to them in English and thought she was speaking a foreign language on account of her accent. All in all excellent people watching opportunities and I was loving it! People are funny.

Anyway, enough about people. Let’s talk about the giraffes! I tried taking a few photos of my own – afterall I am not in close proximity to giraffes everyday – but it was very difficult because the all the people around me, the bad lighting and the constantly moving giraffes. Couldn’t they stop for a minute? Oh the fact that I was alone, trying to take photos of myself probably also had something to do with the quality of shots taken.

After a while I gave up and decided to just enjoying feeding them and getting slobbered all over. Good times!

A some point I thought I’d had enough for the time being and decided to check out the kids drawings exhibition which was for sale for charity, some pretty awesome pieces and I took a photo of most of them thinking they would make excellent children’s room decoration on day 🙂

Pretty children's drawings sold for charity

Pretty children’s drawings sold for charity

Then I headed for a walk in the nearby forest. They had a few short trails worth exploring and since there wasn’t anything else to do and I had plenty of time to kill I thought ‘Why not?’. I was the only one around and it felt somewhat disconcerting at times. Remember this is Africa and wildlife is everywhere. Every time I heard a noise, rustling in the surrounding vegetation or an animal lair I got all tense and alert. A natural flight or fight response.

I am only smiling for the photo. In reality I'm pretty nervous about being Alone. In. A. Forest.

I am only smiling for the photo. In reality I’m pretty nervous about being Alone. In. A. Forest.

What I assume is a Hakuna Matata Pig layer

What I assume is a Hakuna Matata Pig layer

Some pretty flowers :)

Some pretty flowers 🙂

I hiked to the top of a small hill that provided some great views of the valley below me and after I’d had enough of the scorching sun I thought I’d continue walking alongside a fence surrounding some unknown estate. I walked, and I walked and every time I reached I couldn’t quite see beyond I felt curious and slightly worried at the same time. I wondered what was beyond? And at the same time I was nervous about going into unknown territory – where was it going to lead me? Was it safe? Would I get lost? Would I be terribly late? Remember I still had some other place to be. Curiosity took over every time and I continued walking. Still I reached a point that would have taken me around the estate and who knows how long that would have taken so I turned back. When I reached the top I went down another side of the estate until it took me to what looked like a rather thick vegetation area and it would have taken some serious bush whacking which I wasn’t prepared to do at the time so I turned back again.

Only if Africa!

Only if Africa!

Back at the center I watched people taking what I assumed were great photos of their day with the giraffes and it bugged me that I don’t have photos of what has been an awesome experience for me. So I walked up to what I thought was a decent choice of a photographer and asked her to take a few photos of me and the giraffes. I was happy.

Yeah! That's right! Eat my hand :)

Yeah! That’s right! Eat my hand 🙂

After some yummy samosas for lunch and a long wait for a taxi I was on my way to Bomas.

People watching while munching on mini veggie samosas

People watching while munching on mini veggie samosas. What a lunch spot!


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