Sadly, we are leaving today. I would love to come back again, especially during the Wildebeest migration which takes place between July and November each year. 1.5 million Wildebeest, along with half that number of Zebra and Gazelle, come from Tanzania Serengeti National Park to the fresh grasslands of the Kenya Maasai Mara Reserve. The zebra and the gazelle come first to trim the grass to half height and the wildebeest come next and turn the areas they pass into stubble.
Ok ignore that previous comment, having spoken to Denise one of the other guides I would not like to come back and watch the migration. Whilst it would be great to watch the herds I would not like watching the killing frenzy that accompanies it. Crocodiles snatch the zebras and wildebeest as they cross the rivers and the big cats peel off the young, sick and weak. I am aware that this keeps the herds strong but don’t want to see it.
We left the camp at 11 and headed to the airstrip. Along the way we saw giraffe, gazelle, tobi and zebra. The plane is an 8 seater and full but despite the warning that it may be a bumpy ride it was fine and we arrived back in Nairobi on schedule. To get your luggage you were directed to the outside of the airport where you sat on a bench and waited under the watchful eye of a security guard.
Walter from Albatross tours arrived to pick us up along with Rafael. Walter is not going on the day site seeing trip so we set off with Rafael.
The first stop was the Karen Blixen Coffee garden which I was expecting to be like a cafe but was actually a pretty upmarket restaurant. As it was Sunday there were lots of families enjoying the sunshine.
We had a very nice relaxed lunch and then we headed off to the Karen Blixen Museum. This is the second house that Karen lived in when she was in Africa from 1917 to 1931. After Karen left Africa, having become bankrupt, she never returned. Karen’s legacy lives on with a number of schools and trusts named after her.
One of Karen’s major achievements was her care of the Maasai who she assisted with medical care and before she left Kenya she had secured a tract of land for them to live on. In the house there are a number of articles used in the film “Out of Africa” such as clothing and furnishings.
After this we headed to the Giraffe Centre founded by Betty and Jock Melvin in 1979, the visitor center opened in 1983. The Giraffe Center breeds Rothschild giraffes to release into the wild as breeding pairs. The Rothschild giraffe is endangered and when the program started there were just over 100 left, now there are over 600.
The giraffe as an adult male can weigh up to 1.5 tonne. They ward off predators by kicking and running but are vulnerable to attack when drinking as they have to splay their front legs to drink. They can see for approx. 2 kilometres so usually can check that the area is predator free before drinking. Warthog tend to live in proximity of giraffe as they have poor eye sight and use the tracks that giraffes create for getting around. Warthogs have a brain the size of a walnut and a memory span of 45 seconds!
After this we went to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which is an orphan elephant and rhino center. So far 244 orphan elephants have been rescued. The center was started by Daphne Sheldrick in the memory of her husband David and all the work they had done to save wildlife.
The aim is to reintroduce the elephants into the wild, which starts from about 4 years old and can take up to 5 years. An elephant has to makes friends in a herd before they will be accepted into the herd and this can take years.
Baby elephants until the age of 3 need to be fed milk every 3 hours. They spend from 6am until 5pm in the Nairobi National Park. They come back for a rest mid-day before going back out again. At 5pm they come in and go into their individual stalls for the night.
In each stall, a handler sleeps with them to feed them during the night and keep them company as elephants are very social animals. A significant amount of the funding comes from elephant adoption where you pay a few to adopt an elephant each year. You get a monthly update on the progress.
We adopted Larro who was found in January 2019 separated from her herd. To see more about baby Larro, including a video about her rescue, click here.
At the center are also two rhinos – Max who 13 and blind so will not be able to be re-introduced to the wild, and Maarifa who is 4 months old. Maarifa was stuck in mud and her mother had been trying for hours to get her out. Unfortunately, when she was rescued by locals the mother then refused to have anything to do with her.
As well as looking after orphans, the center has
1. anti-pocket planes* and helicopters keeping an eye on the animals (*Editor’s note: I am assuming Kaye means anti-poaching planes?)
2. Tracker dogs that can sniff out wild animal meats, horns and products leading to arrest
3. A water program to assist wildlife in drought affected areas, they have boreholes plus temp emergency water supplies.
I really enjoyed seeing the 30 elephants ranging from 11 months to 4 returning from the reserve in the evening.
One last stop at the supermarket for supplies for the ride before returning to the Wildebeest Eco Camp. The supermarket was comparable with the supermarkets at home in size and range of products.
Once back at the camp we got our bikes and bags out of storage and took them to the room then went and caught up with Shirley and Dan. I have done 2 previous rides with Shirley and Dan: the 2015 South America ride and the 2018 Pub Ride. Great to see them again. Shirley and Dan started 2 months ago in Cairo.
We also met some of the TDA staff and fellow riders. There are 43 riders including the 6 of us joining here. The tour leader, two assistant tour leaders, chef, lunch truck preparer and driver and medic Jan from Scotland, mechanic, two drivers ,communications/ photographer.
We had dinner at camp which was a Kenyan meal with salad, beef stew, baked potato and fresh fruit salad.
Having been riding for two months already the other riders all look very fit!
I was very touched by the story of your adopted elephant. Hope you quickly settle back into the bike riding routine!