A special THE LOCAL VISITOR VISITS LOCALS post
A few months ago, we became parents to a beautiful baby girl...
Her name is Malkia and she was rescued from Tsavo National Park by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) after her mother died during a very dry season. Wanting to be the best elephant parents we could be, we decided to visit our newest family member at her home in Nairobi, Kenya.
To be honest, we booked the flight (a very belated honeymoon) and then adopted Malkia, but that's not the story we tell her.
We were in Kenya for just over a week and packed a lot in, mostly taking photos of animals. Highlights included a visit to the DSWT, of course, an orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program that reintegrates orphans back into wild herds. While the elephants are young and still require bottle feeding, though, visitors can attend bottle feeding / mud slinging for an hour at the watering hole. The mud is usually directed at other elephants, except when a certain Vancouverite gets in the way inadvertently and ends up covered from head to toe in mud (and who knows what else). As 'parents' we were allowed to return in the evening to watch the baby elephants charge back into their stockades to be fed a bottle and be put to bed. Each elephant has a keeper that sleeps in their stall, which makes being an elephant 'parent' very easy.
We also visited the Giraffe Centre, which educates Kenya's schoolchildren about the country's wildlife and gives visitors an opportunity to come in contact with the resident giraffes. It was started by two Kenyans in an effort to establish a breeding program for the Rothschild Giraffe. Today, there are over 300 of these giraffes in various national parks around Kenya. Some of the giraffes remain at the 60-acre sanctuary and appear at a viewing platform to kiss visitors with their long, purple tongues.
The real reason for our trip (sorry Malkia) was to go on safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Since it would be impossible to write about the trip in a succinct way that would take you fewer than 5 days to read (one day for each day on safari), we have uploaded photos here.
While many of the camps in the Reserve are probably excellent, we cannot say enough good things about the accommodation and staff at the Mara Intrepids Camp, and especially our driver, James. We were woken up each morning with a cup of tea and cookies before going on safari, and fell asleep each night with a warm hot water bottle to keep our toes warm while listening to the animals. We were surprised by the staff (who all knew our names and Ms. Sarah's obsession with Mango juice) with a special candlelight dinner under a gazebo, with packed breakfasts to eat while watching the hippos in the Mara River, and with a private catered breakfast on our last day. We visited a Maasai village, saw the view from a hot air balloon, and experienced a full rain storm from the comfort of a Land Rover Defender. We saw so much wildlife and gained so much respect and understanding of the ecosystem, thanks largely to James' never ending knowledge, patience (male lions are not as easy to find as you might think), and sense of humour.
We are already planning our next trip back (mostly to see James again) but until then, the photos will have to do.