On Elephants and Giraffes

From Dec 30th to Jan 20th, Ben and I were on our epic honeymoon trip to Kenya, Tanzania, and the United Arab Emirates. It was three weeks of travel and adventure. We’ve been home for a few days relaxing before we go back to work. We’re still suffering from jet lag, but hopefully soon we’ll adopt a normal sleep-wake cycle soon. This post and following posts will contain details that aren’t necessarily of interest to anyone, but ourselves. I want to record as much of our trip as I can.

We left on the afternoon of the 30th (JFK to CDG to NBO) on Delta & Kenyan Airways. I participated in the Skymiles Medallion Status Match Challenge, where if you have elite status with one airline you can participate in a one time challenge match with Delta by flying a certain number of miles in a 90 day period. Kenya is far away, so I easily met the challenge and now I have Gold status until Jan 2017! Having Gold status was great because we took advantage of having access to lounges in order to eat, drink, and have Internet access. The lounge in Paris had good pastries.

We landed in Nairobi on the 31st a few hours before midnight. We took a taxi for $25 (about 2,500 KSH) from the airport to Villa Rosa Kempinski, known in Nairobi as Obama’s hotel. Not because President Obama owns the hotel, but this is where he stayed when he visited Kenya. Although the rack rate for Villa Rosa can be pricey, Ben’s good at finding deals and we spent a reasonable $105-110 for each night we were there. Also thanks to Ben’s sleuthing for bargains, we only spent $650 for round trip airfare to Nairobi.

Our NYE was pretty low key. After showering, we headed to one of the hotel bar areas to get a drink and ring in the new year. It’s been so long that I’ve lived in the East Coast that I forgot what it was like to have a warm NYE. We had a drink out on the patio, overheard a DJ at a nearby party countdown, and saw a few fireworks through the trees. Then we went to bed exhausted from our long flight.


Baby elephant feeding

The next day based on recommendations from several different people, we visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant orphanage, and the Giraffe Centre. Getting around Nairobi is difficult so the hotel arranged for us to have a private car drive us around for $40. Our first visit was to the elephant orphanage. They rescue baby elephants, who lost their mothers because of poaching or other human activities. Baby elephants require care from their mothers for two years. In addition to feeding and caring for the baby elephants, they also re-introduce the elephants back into the wild. Because elephants live in tightly-knit social groups, it takes 5-8 years for a baby elephant to be introduced and then adopted by a wild elephant group. When the baby elephants are older and feeding themselves more, they are slowly introduced to a nearby group of wild elephants. Basically for a few years, the baby elephants hangs nearby and around those elephants, until they decide to accept the baby elephant into their group. At that point, the workers know the baby elephant will be okay and the group will teach the elephant where to eat and where to go.


Baby elephant giving itself a mud bath

Visiting hour is between 11:00 am – 12:00 noon each day (except for Christmas when it’s closed) and costs 500 KSH. They bring out the baby elephants in two groups (a younger group and then an older group). You get to see the baby elephants feed and play around. If the baby elephants come by near you, you’re allowed to pet them. I got a chance to pet one. The skin was rough and had more stringy hair than I had expected. The baby elephants were super cute and we greatly enjoyed watching their antics in the mud puddle. There was speaker who did a wonderful job of telling us about elephants (all the info I gave you came from him) and introducing each elephant to us and what they know about how each elephant became an orphan. Surprisingly a number of the elephants were orphans because of land encroachment. Many had accidentally fell into a well and their mothers were unable to save them and left them behind. The hour long session was informative and fun.


Ben met a giraffe

After our hour long visit, we went to the Giraffe Centre, a centre for breeding the endangered Rothschild giraffes. For foreign non-residents, it costs 1000 KSH and only 500 KSH if you’re a student; entry fees are MUCH cheaper if you are a resident of Kenya (only 200).  We went without much expectation, but we ended up LOVING the Giraffe Centre. It was so cool being able to see these majestic giraffes up close and to feed them. I would have thought that any interest in feeding animals died out when I became too old for petting zoos, but it was such an interesting experience feeding giraffes.

We were given a handful of pellets from a handler. He instructed us to hold a pellet between our thumbs and index finger and that the giraffe would use its incredibly long and flexible tongue to retrieve the pellet. We were initially apprehensive, but we were quickly reassured by how agilely and delicately the giraffe’s tongue curled around the pellet to gently pluck it from our fingers. It was fascinating watching the giraffes and their tongues, which were moist and slightly sticky. There were several giraffes hanging around waiting to be fed. We went up to the observatory deck where we got a better look at the giraffes.


I kissed a giraffe and I liked it.

Our favorite moment was when I got to “kiss” a giraffe. The handler showed us how to hold a pellet between our lips. Then a giraffe swooped in to grab the pellet with its tongue. For once, I went first because Ben was dubious about kissing a giraffe. I placed a pellet between my lips and offered it to a giraffe. It quickly came over to grab it. I felt the tip of its tongue on my chin and that was about it. Then went next, but he wasn’t quite as lucky because more of the tongue licked Ben’s face. Hahaha!

We adored having so much interaction with the giraffes. Honestly if it weren’t for the fact that we had limited time because of the private car situation, we could have spent hours there feeding the giraffes. Then we went back to the hotel.

Our first day in Nairobi was off to a great start.

12 thoughts on “On Elephants and Giraffes

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