Sunday, 1 February 2009

Day 2 – Animal Magic

Mosquito bites: 0 (unexpected)

Interesting fact: 1 – did you know that the contents of one ostrich egg are equivalent to 24 chicken eggs? One to tell the grandkids.

Well, I said today was going to be a day devoted to animals and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. We were picked up at 6.30am and taken to Nairobi National Park, unique because of its suburban location with wildlife roaming only a few kilometres from the city centre. It was pretty quiet for the first half an hour or so and I was beginning to worry that the most I was destined to see in the way of animals this week was a few birds, those cows and that possible sheep. However, over the course of the next three hours we were to encounter a very respectable four of the ‘Big Five’.

First ticked off the list were buffalo, which we spotted grazing way out across the landscape. Despite our best efforts to beckon them over, they stayed resolutely away. All I’ve got to mark the sighting, therefore, is a grainy image of a few black dots. Once I’m able to upload photos you might question the buffaloes’ resemblance to bushes, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Next came some giraffes, which was number two ticked off the list. Sorry to skip over number two but I’m sure you’ll understand my haste to get to number three, the big one – lions! As we entered ‘Lion Valley’, we could vaguely make out two females crouching in the long grass, looking like they were up to something. All became clear a second later when we spotted a herd of zebras in the horizon. We were overcome with excitement, thinking we were about to witness a real life chase and kill. Of course the lions were having none of it and lazily let the zebras run past - I’m sure they must do it deliberately just to wind up tourists desperately willing them to play the game. Still, being that close to lions was pretty amazing. We then passed a few males sunbathing and generally not doing much, prompting a great quote from our guide: “the lions behave like Africans – the women do all the work”.

Following this was the last of our big five sightings and materialised in the form of a rather large rhinoceros. Simon spotted it with his binoculars and we all strained for a glimpse. The rhino started moving slowly but surely in our direction and a few minutes later, with bated breath, we watched as it crossed the road right in front of our jeep. It was incredible to be that close to such a magnificent animal and the highlight of the safari for most of us.

We also saw hundreds of zebras, some menacing looking ostriches (see interesting fact:1), wilderbeast, baboons and these weird creatures that resembled over-sized shady-looking hamsters. Apparently they come from the same family as the elephant – the only member of the big five we didn’t see as sadly there are none in this particular park. All in all, a fantastic experience and one I hope to repeat some day.

We rounded off the afternoon with a walk round an animal orphanage, home to creatures unable to survive in the wild (or so they say: a cynic might imply that tourism has something to do with it). We enjoyed the experience anyway, and a particular highlight was being allowed to enter an enclosure to stroke and play with a cheetah – I’ve got the scratch on my hand to prove it. We also met a pair of warthogs called Patrick and Patricia and a monkey going by the name of Barack – Obama is huge here, unsurprisingly given the fact that his half brother lives in one of the Nairobi slums.

On the way back we stopped off to observe a religious demonstration and were roped into being interviewed by a film crew making a documentary about Kenya’s reputation across the world. The sheer randomness of it was a great way to end an unforgettable day.

Tomorrow is when the tourist trail stops and the real reason for our trip begins – and I for one can’t wait to get started. First on the list is the Huruma Township to visit a youth development project the Foundation is supporting...more on that tomorrow.


  1. Hi :)

    A sheep? really? What was it doing? Paint me a mental picture.

    Patrick the Warthog - are you kidding me?

    Glad you're enjoying it. Not to make you jealous but you're missing some serious weather back home. There's snow on the ground and cheer in the air. Five strangers have said hello to me this morning. Five. I feel like a celebrity.

    Hope the slums were everything you dreamed they would be.


  2. Can't wait to see the photos.

    I've added a news item on Tribalnet about your blog so no pressure to keep them this entertaining!


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  4. Hey Kit Kat,

    Don't go stroking them there lions, or any rabid dogs, for that matter! We're missin' ya semolina, have an amazing time G x x

  5. Hi Cat! Great entry - I cant believe you've seen a real life Warthog !!!!! Enjoy.. Jo x