Sunday, February 23, 2014


About 5 hours after we departed from the United Arab Emirates, our flight landed in Nairobi. We chose Kenya as our travel arrival/departure point because it was significantly cheaper than flying into Tanzania. Originally we had hoped to spend more time in Kenya, but that plan changed when we decided to head to the States before our Africa jaunt. We received a transit visa on arrival (good for 3 days...paid in post-2006 printed US dollars, and that seems to be the way most Africans want to be paid), which was quite easy as we were the only people in line. The airport has seen better days (there was a major fire last year and it is also undergoing renovations), but I think in a few years after the remodel, the airport will be much nicer.

I had arranged for our hostel to pick us up at the airport. Our driver was there when we came out of baggage claim and we headed off to Wildebeest Eco Camp, where we would stay for the night. On the drive from the airport, the most noticeable thing was people walking EVERYWHERE! So many people walking to work, public buses waiting to fill up to take people places, and insane traffic. The other noticeable thing was the smell of burning rubber. Wildebeest is located out of the city, in a more quiet suburban area. We arrived to find a gate with a guard for the property (we later learned guards and gates are generally standard in Kenya), which was about a 30 minute drive from the airport. 

We chose the cheapest option at Wildebeest, so we would be sleeping in a basic tent. Our tent was not set up when we arrived (we expected that, since it was about 7am!), so we had breakfast and then hired a driver to take us to an elephant orphanage and a giraffe sanctuary. Both of these were quite touristy activities, so they drew large crowds, but they were educational and informative as well. The elephants have been orphaned due to their mothers being poached for their tusks, so the money that people pay to watch the elephants feed (every day at 11am for one hour it is open to the public) goes towards helping to raise the orphaned elephants. Watching them run down the hill to the feeding area and then go straight to chugging down the massive milk bottles was really entertaining. Employees also answered questions about the elephants, the mission of the orphanage, and poaching. At the end they tried to make sure that people had a chance to pet an elephant as well. 

Who needs help holding the bottle? Not this guy!

The giraffe sanctuary was really crowded, and we encountered some rude people, so we had a more negative experience there. We did benefit from a brief information session about the different types of giraffes in Africa. We also got the chance to hold a few different giraffe bones, which were ridiculously heavy. Right next to the sanctuary is Giraffe Manor, where I would have loved to have stayed if we were rich, ha!
Yes, this sign is for real.
"Make sure you get my good side"
Don't judge! Giraffes have antiseptic saliva! Kelly and I were bonding in this photo.
Erik chose to feed the giraffe in a more traditional way.
We could have squeezed in a few more things in the afternoon, but we were happy to head back to Wildebeest to relax after our long day of travel from the States. We met some nice people (including the owners, who are Aussies) and enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner on the deck overlooking the grounds. The permanent tents look really nice, but we couldn't justify the splurge and our cheap tiny tent allowed for just as much sleep given we were exhausted when it was time for bed!
View of property from the deck where meals are served.

The next morning was spent at Wildebeest, again enjoying the relaxed atmosphere (they are putting in a pool soon, which will make it an even better place to stay!). Around midday, we took a taxi into the city centre, where we boarded Rainbow Shuttle for a 6 hour bus ride to Tanzania. The bus station area was a bit chaotic, but our driver was helpful in letting us know we were in the right place. After an hour or so of waiting, we were heading south to the country where we would spend the next 2.5 weeks!

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