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Adventure #3: Nairobi National Park and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Ok so this is becoming more of a monthly thing but perhaps that’s more realistic? I’m still behind in posting about my adventures…so to update you, since I last wrote: I ended up on hospital on a drip because of food poisoning (it was bound to happen eventually), I spent a week in Ethiopia and then 2 weeks in the UK. Although it wasn’t African, the 4-day safety training course I did in Surrey for working in fragile and conflict-affected states was quite the adventure! The scenarios were, let’s say, quite realistic and now I’m even more paranoid than I was before. Still, better be safe than sorry! Once again, as you can imagine, all this travel and work involved going to meetings within hours of 9-hour international flights, writing presentations at 4am and various other stresses. Since I got back to Nairobi though, I’m trying to maintain more of a work/life balance. This was working well until “half-day Friday” (today) ended up being longer than a normal day with no lunch break. I suppose I can’t complain that I’m bored and at least I’m enjoying the work. Oh and I also travelled out of the city the weekend before last to Crescent Island, which is a beautiful game park you can walk around freely near to Naivasha (blog post to come). Tomorrow the plan is to hike up Mount Longonot, a dormant volcano located in the Rift Valley. If it’s a nice day, the views should be stunning. Fingers crossed!

So let’s move on to my next “adventure” to the Nairobi national park. Just 7km from the centre of Nairobi, this park is unique; it is the only protected area in the world close to a capital city. It’s quite amazing that you can see lions, rhinos, giraffes, etc. without even leaving the city. It’s also said to be one of the cheapest safaris in the world because compared to the Masaai Mara and the like, it’s a bargain to get in (although still pricey for non-residents), you don’t have to spend hours getting there and you don’t have to make an overnight stay. So obviously, in typical ‘This is Africa’ fashion, getting there is disastrous and I had found out the night before there was no point even going to the park without a car, as it is difficult to find a vehicle at the park entrance. Apparently you’re meant to go on a tour if you don’t have a car… So we arrive at 7am, having gotten a lift from my friend who happened to be going to the airport. We are told that there is normally a bus ran by Kenya Wildlife Services but it’s not running because of the rain. Of course. But there is the possibility of hiring the VIP vehicle for 7000 KSH, around £50. We have travelled that far and can’t be bothered to wait anymore, it’s a bit pricey but we say we’ll take it. The vehicle arrives after about 30min -it feels like an eternity, we haven’t eaten yet or slept properly and of course all the restaurants around the park entrance aren’t open yet. We are then told that the vehicle is to be used by the President today. Not sure we appreciated just how VIP this vehicle was then…quite amazing really! It was a bank holiday so that is apparently how the President spends his time off. Fair play to him. So anyway, we are then stuck at the park without a vehicle. We try asking minibus drivers carrying passengers to take us (thinking that they would jump at the chance to make a bit more money from their empty seats) but everyone seemed reluctant. By this point, we just wanted to get in the park so the last option is to pay for a taxi, which seemed somewhat risky given the adverse weather conditions (there had been lots of heavy rain the past week). Anyway we decide to run the risk and ask one of the ticket staff to find us a taxi. The guy assures us that the driver knows the park well and that way we will be sure to see animals. N.B. Although it’s great that you can just drive around in some of these parks without a guide, it is not seen as advisable since you won’t know where the animals are and you may take a wrong turn and end up getting stuck in mud or something. The car that turns up is what can only be described as a ‘clap-trap’, to be honest, I’m surprised it’s still on the road. One of the doors doesn’t open, one of the windows has to be pushed down to open it and the suspension has almost definitely gone. Ah well, better than nothing! Time to safari. Twende!

So yeah, we drove through this...

So yeah, we drove through this…

In this.... (the 'clap trap')

In this…. the ‘clap trap’

I can’t remember the order in which we saw the animals but I know we were extremely lucky that day! We saw rhino, giraffes, (different types of) antelopes, buffalo, ostriches and hippos. And best of all, 2 lions! There are apparently only 10 lions in the park so to see 2 was amazing, I wasn’t expecting to see any. To see all of the big 5: elephant, leopard, lion, buffalo and rhino, just 2 months in and doing 2 safaris is not that bad going really! What’s incredible about the park is that it actually is like the photos you see of Nairobi on Google Images, you really can see a rhino in the wild with skyscrapers in the background. It certainly isn’t the same experience you get of the “open” wilderness you get in other parks but a definite photo opportunity. Scary moments of the safari drive included driving through huge puddles/lakes (I honestly didn’t think the car was going to make it) and having a gun pointed at my face (yes…a ranger got in the car to help us find the lions and happened to just hold it in that position). It was well worth it though. If you’re only in Nairobi for a short while, and don’t have time to travel out to any of the big game parks, I would definitely recommend visiting the park here. It’s a morning or afternoon well-spent!

Giraffes!

Giraffes!

Quite possibly one of the best photos I've ever taken...

Quite possibly one of the best photos I’ve ever taken…

'The' photo opportunity, and my first spot of a Rhino

‘The’ photo opportunity, and my first spot of a Rhino

As well as the park, we visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, also known as the ‘elephant orphanage’, just on the outskirts of Nairobi national park (although not reachable from the park itself). For just 500KSH (about £3.50), you can see orphaned baby elephants being bottle-fed milk up close. In one word: adorable! Here, elephant calves orphaned (particularly by poaching), receive specialised treatment from staff at the Trust who provide them with the care and attention they need. I actually wasn’t aware before, but young elephants will die without their mothers’ milk. Once the calves are old enough (and well enough), they are moved to Tsavo national park, in where they are carefully reintroduced into wild herds So the centre is open to the public each morning (11am-12pm). You hear each of the elephant’s stories and see them interact with each other. For anyone visiting, I would stress that you need to arrive at the centre at 10.45am at the latest otherwise you will miss the ‘event’. It’s not a show per se but it has a set start and finish time. Unfortunately for us, the heavens opened bang on 11am so we got pretty wet. My friend Jo (who was visiting at the time) hilariously had accidentally bought waterproof trousers instead of a jacket to Kenya so needless to say, she was drenched. It made for a good photo though! A trip to the orphanage is an absolute must for animal lovers and families. You are also supporting a great cause. It’s possible to actually foster one of the elephants (they all have an individual profile on the site) and receive updates as well as other benefits including exclusive visits to the park. You can find more about fostering an elephant and the initiative in general on the website.

A selfie in the rain

A selfie in the rain

This cheeky elephant was eager to be fed!

Orphanned elephants drinking milk from the bottle = ADORABLE

Orphanned elephants drinking milk from the bottle = ADORABLE

A lesson learnt...

A lesson learnt…

So I guess this post shows that it is possible to have an “adventure” without even really leaving Nairobi. For now, I better pack my bag and prepare for tomorrow’s trek up Mount Longonot. I’m just grateful that my legs have recovered from the intense work-outs my colleague and I have been doing this week (yes I’m talking lunches with weights and sit-ups). Two days ago I was staggering around the office in pain. Always awkward when people think you have actually injured yourself but you are actually just unfit! Oh and today, we went to yoga (there’s a free class on Friday evenings in our apartment block). It was enjoyable but possibly the weirdest yoga session I’ve ever done, not only were we ‘exercising’ to rock music for the most part, we then ventured outside and literally ‘hung off’ garden furniture by the pool. So once again, apologies for the delay in writing – I know it’s been a while. I’m not even gonna promise to write again soon because it’s not a vow I can keep. As per usual, here’s a favourite track of mine, this time by an up-and-coming Kenyan band I had the pleasure of seeing live last month. They are called Elani and actually are good friends of a friend of mine (sorry, that means this is a shameless plug but oh well). I think they’re great!

Finally, since it’s #FundraisingFriday, this is a plea to sponsor my lovely sister Laura. I am incredibly proud to say that she will be going to Bolivia in April for 3 months to volunteer for International Service as part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme. She will be working directly with a charity called UpClose, a family-run charity which aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged children through care and education. The ICS programme is organised and funded by the UK government and she is required to raise a minimum of £800 in order to secure her place. The money you donate will not go directly to the overseas placement she will be working on but instead to the programme as a whole. It will ensure this opportunity continues to be available for young people like her, who wish to contribute to something worthwhile and make positive changes in the lives of others by having the chance to volunteer in developing countries. So if you are able to help her at all, to support this great cause – please donate HERE. I believe the minimum donation is £2 so even if that’s all you can spare, every little helps. And think about it – £2 is less than a pint of beer, or a coffee from a popular coffeehouse! Many thanks in advance 🙂

Asante sana for reading. Until next time,

Abbie x

PS. In other news, I am officially a RESIDENT of Kenya so I can stop paying ridiculous mzungu rates. Wahey!

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2 comments on “Adventure #3: Nairobi National Park and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

  1. Great post and thanks for pointing it out to me on Twitter.

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