In November I celebrated a ‘milestone’ birthday, and the very next day I escaped the dreary UK weather and flew out to the continent that I have come to love and that has well and truly got ‘under my skin’. I spent nearly 5 weeks in Kenya and Zanzibar, volunteering with African Impact who I have volunteered and worked for on numerous occasions. As usual, I took hundreds of photos and will spread them out over a few blog posts. Here is some of what I got up to over the first few days.
I flew out to Nairobi a few days before I needed to start the volunteering project as I’d promised myself that if I ever went back there I’d visit 3 places; The David Sheldrick elephant orphanage, the Giraffe Centre, and the Karen Blixen museum. I’d discovered the Elephant Orphanage a few years ago when I watched a documentary series about it on TV. I then went on to read the true story – An African Love Story: Love, Life and Elephants which is the incredible memoir of the life of Dame Daphne Sheldrick. It tells two stories – one is the extraordinary love story which blossomed when Daphne fell head over heels with Tsavo Game Park and its famous warden, David Sheldrick. The second is the love story of how Daphne and David devoted their lives to saving elephant orphans, at first losing every infant under the age of two until Daphne at last managed to devise the first-ever milk formula which would keep them alive. The orphanage is an incredible place and they have successfully released many elephants back into the wild. There are many wonderful stories about elephants making their way back there if they are injured or unwell, coming back to give birth or bringing their own babies to say ‘hello’ simply because they know that it is a safe place to be and that help will always be on hand if needed. I could write loads more about it, but if you’re interested, visit their website or read the book. Links to both are above.
Next stop was the Giraffe Centre. This was founded after discovering the sad plight of the Rothschild Giraffe which is a subspecies of the giraffe found only in the grasslands of East Africa. When it was started there were only 130 of them left. Thanks to various breeding programmes there are now over 300 Rothschild Giraffe safe and breeding well in various Kenyan national parks. It’s been a long held dream of mine to spend a night at the exclusive hotel Giraffe Manor where the giraffes poke their heads through the windows , but the cheapest single room started at an eye watering US$1,375 for one night, so that rather ruled it out!! The Giraffe centre is right next door however and the grounds are connected, so a visit there is the next best thing and is not at all expensive.
Below is the exclusive Giraffe Manor. So near yet so far……. !
I also wanted to visit the Karen Blixen house because I love the film ‘Out of Africa’. It’s based on a true story, stars Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, and the museum was once the centrepiece of a farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills which was owned by Danish Author Karen and her Swedish Husband, Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke. It was interesting to visit but I didn’t take any photos as they were not allowed.
Shortly before I left for Kenya I was told about a walking tour in Nairobi that sounded fascinating, so I did that too. The 3 hour tour is with the city’s best storytellers, former street children brought up in Downtown, one of the biggest slums in Nairobi. All of them raised themselves at an early age on the streets. My guide lived on a roundabout on his own, from the age of 5!!! It’s just unbelievable, and to hear his story of how he survived through begging and hustling was heartbreaking. Here is a very short YouTube clip about him – do take a look. There are now a group of 7 of these young men and they are nowadays trying to improve the situation of their families and friends. TripAdvisor reviews were all 5*, everybody wrote that they felt completely safe, and that it was not to be missed so I felt it was something that I should experience. He took us to areas that I never would have ventured on my own and looked after me extremely well. I didn’t feel at all unsafe and am so glad I did it. Cameras weren’t allowed but it was actually good to experience it and not be behind a camera all the time. My guide asked a friend to snap a couple of images though and sent these to me. The second and third photos were taken outside of where somebody lives. It’s barely bigger than a cupboard.
Next stop – the Maasai Mara…..