JAMBO! That’s “hello” in Swahili, one of the main languages spoken in Kenya. We have been here for 10 days and have SO much news to share that we have decided to divide our adventures into separate blog posts, keeping their length manageable for everyone. This first post will describe our first couple of days in Nairobi, our home base while traveling here.
The BEST thing about Nairobi is that one of our closest friends (Blair’s college roommate), “Pickle” (Nina) Henning, and her husband Lobsang Bhutia live here. They have been the most incredible hosts for the past 10 days, and you will see them in our pictures throughout the blog posts to come. Having lived here for three years now, Pickle and Lobsang are very familiar with traveling in Kenya and have given us a much more interesting and adventurous perspective on this country than had we been on our own or with a tour group.
So… here we go with Nairobi Part One!
Schuyler: Jambo everyone! We had quite the journey from Rome to Nairobi. We had a 6-hour flight out of Rome at 10:30pm. Most of us slept on the plane, but unfortunately Thayer did not get a lot of sleep so she was really tired. We landed in Doha, Qatar at 5:40am the next morning. Qatar is a small Arab state in the Middle East and from our airplane window we could see everything made from sand! We saw a lot of different types of people in the airport. We saw women wearing burkas and men in traditional Arab dress, and we saw Indians and Africans and Western tourists as well. It was a big melting pot! Then we boarded our next plane (approximately 6 hours) to Nairobi. We were greeted by our friends Auntie Pickle (my Godmother) and Lobsang. They gave us real flower necklaces as a welcome gift. In Swahili “karibu” means welcome. You might be able to imagine how tired we were, but the travel was so worth it!
Zoe: We drove in a van from the airport to Aunt Pickle’s house. It was really hot and there were some new smells like car fumes and people making charcoal by the side of the road. It’s so different to drive in Nairobi than in the States. The roads are bumpy and the cars look older and black smoke comes out of them. We did not have air conditioning in the van so we left the windows open. The breeze felt nice but a lot of dust and fumes came with it! There are no lanes or speed limits but it all seems to flow together somehow. I was very excited to be in Africa for the first time!
After an hour drive through the city and out the other side, we entered a more lush, green residential neighborhood. Pickle and Lobsang live in a really nice apartment in the bottom of another family’s big house. It is all one floor but there are 3 bedrooms, an office, and 4 bathrooms! There is a gate with a guard named Ben and barbed wire around the walls enclosing the house. All the houses in Pickle’s neighborhood have gates with guards and some have dogs. The neighborhood doesn’t feel dangerous to us, but living in a developing country can be unsafe so you have to pay more attention to your security.
Schuyler: Pickle’s house is quite lovely and spacious. When we arrived we felt so hungry and were delighted to find delicious homemade Mexican food that Pickle and Lobsang had made for us! We all ate and settled in for a while. Then we went for a stroll around the neighborhood before dark. We saw Jacaranda trees which are so beautiful! There is a lot of new vegitation to look at here. After our walk, we had a little more to eat and then went to sleep, exhausted! I was feeling SO happy and comfortable, excited for our adventures to come!
Meet Pickle and Lobsang!
Elephant Orphanage (The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)
Schuyler and Zoe:
On our first full day in Nairobi, we experienced one of the highlights of our trip! Ever since seeing the IMAX Documentary, Born to be Wild, which featurs an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, we really wanted to go to it but never thought we would get the chance to. This day was like a dream come true!
Last July, we raised money at a yard sale so that we could “adopt” elephants at this amazing center. We arrived at the orphanage at 11:00am, just in time to see the staff bring the first babies down to the viewing area to have their bottles of milk. The elephants came in three separate groups based on their ages. The youngest were about 1 month old, and the oldest were 2-4 years old (kind of like teenagers). After the elephants reach 3+ years and seem ready, they get re-introduced to their natural habitat. The goal is for every elephant to get back to the wild.
Each elephant as his/her own “keeper” who takes care of them 24/7. The keepers even sleep with their elephants! All of these elephants were rescued after their mothers were poached for ivory or because they were injured or left behind from the herd for other reasons. We learned that elephants have very complex feelings and family ties, often grieving for long periods of time after being orphaned, so the individual keepers help them feel safe and secure.
Here are some photos of the elephants feeding and playing right near us!
And here is a video clip of the elephants in action!
Adopting our elephants
After watching the elephants being fed, we went to choose our elephant babies for adoption. Caring for these elephants costs thousands of dollars a year, but to adopt one you only need to pay $50 for the year and you get email updates each month about your elephant’s progress. You also get a photo of your elephant and an adoption certificate. You can even do this online from the States, in case any of our readers are interested! The website for the orphanage is: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org. Check it out! We also posted videos below about each elephant’s adoption. They are all about 4 minutes long, and very cute. Thayer would like you all to know that the video about Kamok might be the cutest – we saved the best for last!
Schuyler: My elephant is named Sonje. About 3 years old, she is the oldest of the three elephants that we adopted. Sonje is very playful and warmed up quickly to her new surroundings when she was first rescued. She is so fun-loving and is also best friends with an elephant named Lima Lima, whom Zoe adopted. Sonje loves to put on a show for the visitors each morning. To watch the story about how she was rescued, click on the video link below.
Zoe: My elephant is named Lima Lima. She is very playful and loves to splash around in the mud with Sonje. She is about 2 years old. During her rescue, it was difficult for the keepers to catch her because she kept running away, probably in fear. Now she is happy and settled at the orphanage. To learn more about Lima Lima, click on the video link below.
Thayer: My elephant is named Kamok. She is the youngest elephant in the orphanage, which feels so special for me – she is only 1 month old! She is so tiny, the smallest of the small elephants. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. She was rescued on September 8 of this year. I am one of the first people to adopt her. Kamok is so cute, I just had to help her. She was not difficult for the rescuers to capture, but they did notice that her legs were really wobbly and didn’t seem to work right, which is why she fell behind the herd. Now she is already doing much better. Her keeper helps her every day. Kamok pokes around in stuff with her trunk because she is so curious. I love Kamok SO much. Click on this video if you want to learn more about Kamok.
Later in our stay, we will return to Nairobi and can go back to the orphanage one evening to help the keepers put our adopted elephant babies to bed! We will post on this at the end of our Kenya blog posts, so stay tuned!
Next stop, Maji Moto Cultural Camp in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya. We don’t know quite what to expect, but we know it will be a far cry from the familiarity of Europe and the comforts of our new Nairobi home base. Off we go!