Feeling: ADAPTIVE – SORRY, ADOPTIVE

Feeling: ADAPTIVE – SORRY, ADOPTIVE

So; two nights in Nairobi.

I’d booked to stay at the Intrepid linked hotel as it was a whole lot less hassle. We arrived back from the tour and I was shown to my room; sorry, my suite.

Kitchenette, two toilets, an open lounge and dining area then my bedroom complete with massive bed. When I first walked in I thought it was perhaps a tad opulent for what I needed it for, but by the time an hour had gone by I had well and truly moved in.

Emer has a friend in Nairobi was having her last few days in Africa with her; she was meant to head there when we got back (Erma to the friend’s, not the other way around; very confusing), but I asked if she wanted to share my plentiful pad with me and stay the night – with plans to hit the Elephant Orphanage (yes, it’s a thing) in the morning, it made a lot of sense and meant the goodbyes could wait 24 hours.

After a walk into the CBD with Emer and some of the other girls (Allison, my other fav of this trip, and then two I really rated – Erin – Aus – and Emma – Ireland) we had dinner in the hotel restaurant with Clara (she had another ten day tour starting the very night we returned) and then went to bed.

Emer and I had planned a deep sleep in and I really did try; however at 5.30am my eyelids opened. I tried to doze for half, but by the time 6am hit I was widely alert.

How good to have a seperate bedroom! I left Emer to slumber while I attended to admin. I sent some laundry in, did some organisation on the bag front, then snuck downstairs to get some chapatti for breakfast in bed (though when I got back up Emer had awoken so we sat in my lounge area and ate it). (Love it). (Meaning my lounge area, but the chapatti too).

And when 9.30 struck, it was time to head to the Elephant Orphanage.

(Ok, more 10ish – I got a bit excited on packing my bag and lost track of time, then it took a bit to get the Uber app going).

So the Elephant Orphanage is run by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – born from the late David Sheldrick and his wife late Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick, it was established more than 40 years ago and is best known for their Orphan’s Project, the rescue and rehabilitation of milk dependent orphaned baby elephants (and rhinos) through to their ultimate reintegration back into the wild. They get a call about a lone baby elephant and then after checking they are indeed alone, go and retrieve them and take them into their nursery (often they are severely traumatised by events that left them orphaned – involves poachers 90 per cent of the time. You see, a grown elephant’s only predator is man).

It took Dame Daphne 28 years to discover just what milk concoction was best to feed the babies – cow’s milk contains far too many fats that leads to the elephants getting severe diarrhoea and often dying from it, etc. human baby formula – comprised of emulsified fat with added calcium, magnesium and Vitamin C – proved the goer (and when a bit older, also with fortified coconut and cooked oatmeal porridge). And each calf drinks a good 24 litres a day. A different keeper is used for each elephant each day until they are two-years-old to keep them from getting too dependent.

Each elephant is different, but it’s usually between the age of five and 10 when they are gently reintroduced to the wild. The programme has 244 orphaned elephants successfully raised and returned to the wild. And, when released into the adjourning National Park, many of the elephants still come to visit – especially if they had had a baby themselves, with some coming to visit their human family with the calf immediately after giving birth.

Each day at 11am, the centre opens for an hour to the public to come and watch the babies being fed. It costs a minimum donation of 500 shillings (about $7.50) – all the money goes into the programme.

I was in my fucking element.

The gate opened at 10.55 and somehow I was right at the front of the feeding grounds. (Of course).

Honestly, quickest hour of my life. Six of the youngest elephants came out – responding to their names being called – and latched onto their bottles of milk. They then played around, splashing in the “waterhole”, eating leaves and jostling each other.

I really, really rated it; it was set up in a way that if they wanted to come near us they could, but the option to keep to themselves was there. And it wasn’t a zoo at all; I’d been a little apprehensive about how legit it was going to be, but it was very much a case of – an hour a day of a limited amount of people watching, then away.

There was a really, really naughty one called Nairo who kept throwing water at us (a few speckles on my new linen shirt, but no matter), rolling in the mud and doing big farts. She had a little sidekick with her, who the keeper giving us information over the microphone told us was her best friend – Larro.

(He also told us of Maxwell, a blind black rhino of 13-years-old who was a centre staple – having no eyesight with multiple operations unable to regain it, he is unable to be released back into the wild, so is a centre live-in for his entire 49-year life span).

After the nursery babies went out a couple of slightly older ones came in to say hi. One kept walking back and forth in front of me, letting me pet him on the head and run my fingers around his ears (shaped like the African continent, of course).

And then it was time to say goodbye.

We’d been told by the information man that the option was there to “adopt” one of the baby elephants – you’d get an email once a month telling of your orphan’s doings, a certificate naming you as their foster parent, a watercolour painted by Dame Daphne and – should you be in the area – able to make an appointment to come in at 5pm and see your baby elephant be put to bed.

I went in knowing adopting one was an option and hadn’t really considered it. It was $50USD for the year. You could do it later on the website at home. I wouldn’t be able to return at 5pm to see the babies going to bed, and was leaving Kenya in the morning. And the line was really long to register.

So of course I did it.

Initially I was thinking about the farty one as my wee adoptee, but when I reached the table I saw she was quite popular (lots of people can adopt each elephant, you see). I asked the man which calf got the least attention – he said it didn’t really matter as the money was collectively used for all the same. And then I thought about little baby Larro, only new to the nursery, and signed The Pedaller and myself up for her.

Meet my baby Larro.

After (a visit to the trinket store, of course) Emer and I went to the CBD and posted a handful of postcards each (race to see who gets to NZ first – them or me?). We walked around for a bit, then headed back to the hotel where I packed as she took some of my photos from the tour on her memory stick.

And then we said goodbye.

Insane how I’ve only known the Irish lass for a mere week – feels like a good few months. I felt really sad seeing her go, but I know with certainty that I shall see her again.

The rest of my afternoon consisted of 50 minutes running up and down the hotel stairs in my hiking boots, followed by a swim in the hotel pool (I’d googled it before I’d left and brought my Adidas togs and goggles along especially. I was dammed if I wasn’t going to get some lengths in). (Apparently I was the only one in it all day). (The pool, but my togs and goggles too. No one else but me got in them either).

And then I got a massage.

Well holy shit. It was the BEST massage I have ever received. I love in eastern culture how “full body” really does mean full body. I mean, this guy was massaging my traguses. (The hard bit covering the inside of your ear). Then he actually did inside my ears. And yes, guy – I’ve only ever had a massage by a male once at Shanghai airport and it was strictly clothes on. I was a bit unsure at first when I heard this one would be a male, but he was so insanely amazing I wouldn’t have cared if he was a hyena by the end of it (plus, something tells me there was a bit of flamboyance there) (namely his mannerisms) (also when I said I’d been running up and down the stairs he said he’d heard me, and when I apologised if I’d made too much noise he said, “Oh not. At. All. Girl! You go girl” with a little finger click). And he insanely killed my calves. (Limb ones, I’ll clarify; confusing when I’ve been talking about elephant babies above). I felt super drunk afterwards (though wasn’t the case at all – six months strong alcohol free!).

An evening chilling in my apartment then an 8.30am departure to the airport for my 1.30pm flight (Nairobi traffic is so insane what will sometimes take you half an hour can take three. So I’m going on the side of safe and leaving five hours before it takes off).

Part of me had wondered if I should’ve got off in Arusha, Tanzania as we literally passed through it on our way back to Kenya, but I’m super happy I came back. I mean, I got a foster elephant, I had the insides of my ears massaged and I got Kenyan keyrings. What more could you want?

To Tanzania! (Again).

– Last thing: Africa has all these flavours of Dairy Milk that I never even knew existed! Things very country specific – coconut and cashew does sound very African; Emer frothed it.


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