Welcome to Kenya!
When most people think of Africa, chances are they’re thinking of Kenya (even if they don’t realise it). This is the land of wide open savannah plains, dotted with flat-topped acacia trees and home to more wild animals that you can poke a stick at (not that you you would want to poke many of the animals here with a stick – Kenya is home to many of the world’s scariest predatory creatures, all of whom agree that human beings are the tastiest things on the menu). We’re here for an epic 2 week safari (commencing tomorrow), and are hopeful that we’ll get to see all the big “game” animals East Africa is famous for. It’s going to be AWESOME!
This particular part of our epic adventure is one that we’ve both been REALLY looking forward to. We’ve both been to Kenya before and thoroughly enjoyed our visit last time – so much so that we had to come back for more! I also grew up here (I was born just across the border in Tanzania and lived in Mombasa for most of my childhood), so for me this is a bit like coming home too. Don’t get me wrong, after more than 25 years living there Australia is definitely home, but there are things about Kenya that are so just familiar that I feel quite comfortable here too (I think the place where you grow up is always going to feel a little like home as its inextricably linked with your memories of childhood).
After our boring and exhausting 21 hour journey from Marrakech, we finally arrived in Nairobi late last night and checked in to this great boutique guesthouse on the outskirts of town. We had a great nights’ sleep behind our protective mosquito net (essential as malaria is endemic in this area), and awoke late this morning to a freshly brewed pot of coffee, delivered to our room (premium Kenyan coffee, of course). If only every day started like that!
After a leisurely breakfast and more of that fine Kenyan brew (Kenyan coffee is just so chocolately and smooth and delicious!), we decided to walk over to the nearby Giraffe Centre where they breed the endangered Rothschild giraffe for release into the wild. They also have a few giraffes that they keep there long-term that they let toursts like us hand-feed. It was great fun (and more than a little messy) hand-feeding Lyn, their oldest female giraffe. We also learnt a whole lot about giraffes while we were there. For example, did you know that…
- Male giraffes can be up to 5.5m tall; females are 4.5-5.0m tall.
- A giraffe’s tongue is 45cm long. That’s HUGE!
- Their hearts weigh about 11kg and pump blood with 3x as much force as a human heart – that’s how they get blood all the way up that neck.
- Female giraffes are pregnant for 15 months. They can delay giving birth to the babay giraffe for up to 3 months however if there isn’t enough food or water around.
- Baby giraffes are about 1.5m tall when they’re born.
- Baby giraffes can stand up within 30 minutes of being born and can run around within 10 hours.
- Giraffes are weaned after 9-10 months. from then on they’re on the same herbivorous diet as their parents.
- Giraffes in the wild live in herds with a single domonant male and his harem of beauties.
- They can run as fast as 56km/hour.
- A giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground. As a result, it has to awkwardly spread its front legs or kneel to reach the ground for a drink of water.
- Giraffes only sleep 1-2 hours per day. They sleep sitting on the ground with their head held high.
- Giraffes only need to drink once every few days. Most of their water comes from all the plants they eat.
- A giraffe’s feet are approximately 30cm across.
- Giraffes can kick front- and back-wards. They often kick at lions and other nasty beasties trying to attack them. They can also head butt pretty hard apparently.
- Females use their hooves as weapons to protect their young. Their kick is strong enough to kill a lion.
- Both male and female giraffes have two distinct, hair-covered horns called ossicones. Male giraffes use their horns to fight with other males.
- Giraffes have 4 stomachs.
- A giraffe’s spots are much like human fingerprints – i.e. no two individual giraffes have exactly the same pattern.
- The darker the spots, the older the giraffe.
- Kenya has 3 types of giraffes: the very common and large Masai giraffe, the smaller reticulated griaffe, and the endangered Rothschild giraffe. When the Giraffe Centre started its breeding program in 1979 there were 120 Rothschild griaffes in the wild in Kenya – now there are over 1,000. That’s a great success story!
Having satisfied our quota of animal visits for the day, we returned back here to the guesthouse for lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing and recovering from our travel day. The guesthouse we’re staying in is set in 2 acres of lush gardens and is full of birds, squirrles and vervet monkeys. It’s been great fun sitting in the garden, reading our books and watching the wildlife go about its business around us.
Finally, for dinner this evening we went out to Carnivores, Kenya’s most famous (and touristy) restaurant. The restaurant is very aptly named: they basically roast whole joints of meat over an open pit of charcoal and you get to eat as much dead animal as you want. They serve all sorts of roast meat, from legs of lamb, joints of pork, rumps of beef, entire turkeys and whole chickens, to “game” meats like ostrich, camel, gazelle and crocodile. It’s really touristy and cliched, but it’s also an institution and the food was great! Shane discovered he has a passion for charcoal roasted ostrich flesh and decided this is now his favourite source of protein in the world. My favourite part ofthe meal was the dawa we were served. You see, dawa is Swahili for medicine and this particular “medicine” came in the form of a very drinkable mixture of vodka, lime, soda, brown sugar and honey. Very therapeutic indeed!
It’s so great being back in Kenya! Sure you can’t drink the water (unless you seriously want to die in nasty and unusual ways); sure the roads are terrible, the traffic appalling and the public infrastructure virtually non-existant; sure there are more deadly diseases here than anywhere else in the world; and sure the crime rate is attrocious and as a Caucasian you instantly stand out as a potential target, but it’s still an amazing part of the world! The people are (mostly) friendly and welcoming, the scenery fantastic, the wildlife beyond compare and the food great (think Arabic cuisine meets Indian curries meets Swahili culture, all topped off by a generous serve of colonial English influence). What a brilliant end to our travels for 2013!