We awoke rested after a long nights sleep and ready for the day ahead. Breakfast was included at the hotel and so we treated ourselves to all the trimmings, fried potato, fried eggs, noodles, sausage and fried bread with some fresh mango juice and green tea. Feeling very full we headed downstairs to the lobby to wait for our driver. He introduced himself as Kenneth and seemed keen to be off before we had even told him where we wanted to go; the Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Centre and David Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage. We had an appointment booked here at 4.50 to meet our fostered elephant Maramoja but otherwise the itinerary was flexible. I had been keen to also take my mum to the daily feeding they do there so asked to include that too. He seemed very confused about the Karen Blixen Museum and started on the way to the National Museum rather than what we had asked for. Definitely a language barrier. After saying Karen Blixen a lot of times he finally got the message and we headed off – having to ask for directions three times since he had never visited before.
We arrived and strangely he came in with us – he had never been before and we didn’t have to pay for him so no big deal. The house was beautiful and very Swedish in style. We wandered along the front façade which was beautifully framed by tall trees and set in some gorgeous gardens with bright colours. We paid our entrance fee 1200KSH each (about £10) and met our guide Rebecca who would be taking us around. She started out at the front of the house explaining that Karen came to Kenya to marry her Swedish half cousin who was a prince. He sold all of their wealth to buy coffee crops and land surrounding the property to grow it. Unfortunately for him the land is not at all suitable for this and despite many hard hours of labour by Karen and the locals the crops were not successful. She showed us some of the machinery including a very old tractor that was shipped in from the UK. We then headed into the house. It was decorated in lots of dark woods – some local cedars and some imported mahoganies. Karen was very lonely as her husband was often away for long hunts and so she fell in love with Dennis (Robert Redford in the film Out of Africa, based on her life). She met him at the nearby country club and eventually divorced her Swedish prince for him. Sadly Dennis died whilst flying his plane and Karen eventually returned home to Denmark where she started writing her famous novels. I read Out of Africa the last time I was here and I have to say struggled through. The film is way better for those interested. It was nice to see the house and Rebecca was fab. We had a quick look around the shop before heading to our next stop – the Giraffe Centre.
This is somewhere I had visited before on my last trip and absolutely loved! It is a breeding centre for the endangered Rothschild giraffe and set on the outskirts of Nairobi National Park. We paid the 1000KSH entry fee and headed straight over to see the gentle giants. They are absolutely enormous and walk right up to you as they know you will feed them. Luckily there were 2 small calves under a year old and so we managed to feed them as well as their mums. Daisy was particularly cheeky and made the perfect posing companion. We then headed up to the terrace where you were at giraffe height and could feed them face-to-face. We saw Eddie the only male and hence father to the two young calves. He was very friendly but one of the giraffes had cottoned on that kids are annoying as hell and pull its hair etc. so a guide stood beside warning all the children back – if you annoy them it’s only fair they won’t like you. Finally we sat through a great educational talk about the giraffe and the issues they are facing, mainly due to human encroachment on their habitat. It was sad to hear how few of the rare Rothschild are left but thankfully due to breeding centres like this one there is still hope. We also had the chance to hold an extremely heavy leg bone of a giraffe – their main defence mechanism and see how they don’t have any teeth. They do however, have enormous black tongues with antiseptic saliva to protect against being pricked by the thorny acacia trees.
At this point we realised we still had a lot of time to kill and had missed the feeding at Sheldricks due to a misunderstanding with our driver. With 4 hours to kill we headed to Artcaffe for an amazing lunch. I had an iced tea and grilled halloumi salad and it was delicious. Weirdly the driver came along with us for lunch and expected us to pay for him after he ordered the most expensive thing on the menu! Talk about cheeky. Galleria mall is where I had come on the Overlanding trip to stalk up on groceries for the next week and so we wandered through to kill time. With 3 hours left to go we headed to somewhere completely new and off the tourist trail – Uhuru Gardens. It is a sort of park with 2 huge Independence monuments – one for 20 and one for 25 years. It felt a bit strange visiting knowing that this was the place the local people celebrated us leaving but it was a lovely sunny day and so we took the chance to chill out in the sun. It was obviously quite novel as one of the local girls came over to say hi and high 5 me.
Around 4 we headed off up to Sheldrick’s Orphanage. When we had fostered the elephant there was a chance to go and visit him by appointment. So after emailing and being invited we turned up at 4.50 and sat in the sun with the other foster parents waiting on our ellies coming back for the day. The elephants are all there because they became separated from their mothers either due to poaching, falling down wells, animal/human conflict. The separation is extremely heart-breaking for them and the newest arrivals could be seen lying on the floor crying, it was really sad. The others head off out with the rest of their friends and keepers and spend the day exploring Nairobi National Park. Then in the evening they come running home to see their foster parents. We got a short talk explaining some of the elephants are still very traumatised and so not to enter their pens but to stand outside and watch the keepers feeding them. This was a little more hands off than we expected but it was lovely to wander around and see them all eating and attempting to use their trunks to hoover up some water from the troughs outside. Maramoja took his bottle well but was quite scared of people while some of the others would say hello with their trunk but soon lost interest when they realised we had no food. There was also a giraffe named Chico and a blind rhino named Maxwell who we had the chance to meet before heading out. It was an amazing experience being so close to so many tiny baby elephants but not quite the hands-on parent experience we had envisioned. One of the keepers explained it is important that the elephants don’t come to see all humans as their friends hence the boundary so at least it is all for a good cause
We headed back to the hotel for a lightning fast change before making our way to Carnivore for dinner and our final stop of the day. Our chancer driver tried to just leave us and only when I argued about hiring him for 12 hours and not 9 did he relent and gave the security guard his number so we could call him to come and get us when we were done. The restaurant is very cool and set around a hot coal grill used to cook the meat. We opted for the set dinner – a starter of mushroom and sweetcorn soup which was my highlight of the meal, then an unlimited choice of meats which the servers bring round and carve off for you served with salads and sauce, and finally a desert of your choice. I opted for a bottle of Shiraz to compliment the meats and while there was definitely a lot of them (chicken, pork, beef, turkey ostrich, crocodile etc.) none of them were cooked to perfection and some a bit chewy with bone/fat. Given the high recommendations I have had I was slightly underwhelmed and reckon you could get nicer meats elsewhere for significantly less. The desert was fine, nothing special. I was absolutely stuffed afterwards and we made our way back to the Saab Royale for our final night before embarking on our 4 day safari the next day. Excited was an understatement.