Following our safari to Kenya in 2008 we were determined that we would return. As with our first visit, this safari was to mark a special occasion – this time it was our Silver Wedding Anniversary. We chose to use Kuoni again, picking an itinerary that was almost identical to that followed in 2008.
Also following on from our 2008 adventures in Kenya I had made the leap from a “bridge” digital camera, to a Canon DSLR camera and invested in a Sigma 500 mm lens – those animals were no longer going to be an indistinct dot in the distance if I could help it!
Saturday 16th July 2011
We were picked up by car from home and conveyed to Heathrow Airport (Terminal 4) in plenty of time for our Kenya Airways flight KQ101 to Nairobi. As we relaxed in the Business Class lounge waiting to board our flight, the English weather outside produced a rainbow through which it appeared inbound flights had to pass as they landed on Heathrow’s northern runway.
Through the spectrum
We were boarded in plenty of time for an on-time departure as we settled back into seats 1A & 1B at the very front of the cabin. While the flight was very comfortable, sleep eluded us through a mixture of excitement at returning to Kenya, and the noise of the air conditioning.
Saturday 17th July 2011
As we crossed the Equator at 32,000 feet we got a stunning view of the sunrise. Arrival into Nairobi was delayed slightly because the airport had lost power and our crew were unable to contact the control tower. We circled the city twice and eventually came into land. We were among the lucky ones, as earlier flights had been forced to divert to Mombasa.
We cleared Immigration very quickly, via the “Kenyan & East African Passports Only” desk, courtesy of a very helpful and friendly Immigration Officer, who waved us from the queue we were waiting in and welcomed us to Kenya with a beaming smile; collected our baggage and once again were the first Kuoni passengers to emerge from the terminal! We met up with the Kuoni rep, and once the other passengers had emerged from the terminal, we were conveyed to the Southern Sun Mayfair Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn where we stayed in 2008), in Westlands.
Were there any differences between the Holiday Inn, Nairobi and the Southern Sun Mayfair Hotel, other than the name and branding changes, since our last stay in 2008?
Not really, the buildings had received a refurbishment both inside and out, but otherwise we noticed little change. The grounds were still well-kept and formed an oasis within a busy city environment; a peaceful haven just yards from the busy Parklands Road. The staff and the service were still to the same standard that we had experienced 4 years previously with no noticeable differences.
After checking in and preparing our bags for the safari, we boarded a minibus to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to meet the orphan elephants, stars of the 2007 BBC television series “Elephant Diaries”, and their keepers, led by the amazing Edwin.
Some of the orphan elephants are led in from the bush to meet their visitors
This centre serves an invaluable purpose in the care and rehabilitation of orphaned young elephants. When they arrive, from all over Kenya, they are often traumatised. Some have seen their mothers senselessly slaughtered by poachers after the valuable ivory tusks; others have fallen victim to deep wells and been abandoned by their mothers unable to rescue them; while some have been attacked and injured by predators such as Hyenas.
However, what all these young elephants all have in common is their good fortune in having been found by members of the community or by staff from the Kenya Wildlife Service, in the nick of time, and as a result given the chance to be restored to health and eventually reintegrated into the wild. It is certainly a heart-warming experience to witness and support the good work being carried out here by people who very clearly care deeply and passionately for the animals in their care.
Following a very pleasant and entertaining hour in the company of these mini-pacyderms and their human carers, during which one of the baby elephants reversed onto Sandra’s foot (no damage done to human or elephant, just a healthy deposit of red mud onto a white trainer shoe!), we re-boarded the minibus and set off for the Giraffe Centre at Karen.
A baby elephant receives its bottle of milk after a morning in the bush
At the Giraffe Centre we met the Rothschild giraffes and fed them pellets. One of them was keeping her distance, and we were advised by the staff that this was because she had a six-day old calf, which we could see in the distance.
Please respect the Giraffes’ diet
The Rothschild Giraffe is one of three breeds of giraffe to be found in Kenya, the other two being the Masai Giraffe found in most of East Africa; and the Reticulated Giraffe found in northern Kenya. Thanks to the Giraffe Centre and its breeding programme, over 300 Rothschild Giraffe have been reintroduced into the wild in various Kenyan national parks.
Adjacent to the centre was Giraffe Manor Hotel where the giraffes wander on the patio and are known to poke their heads through the windows to see what the guests are having for breakfast!
George… ….there’s a giraffe in the garden!
From the Giraffe Centre we headed off for lunch – toasted open sandwiches, washed down with Tusker lager, at a nearby restaurant.
Following lunch we made our way to the Karen Blixen Museum for a thorough and very interesting tour, although most of us were too tired now. On our return to the hotel we retired to our room for a rest before dinner.
Dinner was in the poolside restaurant where earlier we had seen a Black Kite swooping down from the trees behind the restaurant, and stealing from diners’ plates as they ate! And so to bed after a long 48 hours with very little sleep, but it is really great to be back in Kenya once again!
Lala salama… …goodnight!