Ken was in the process of negotiating a tour for today with a private company here when we left Dubai. We planned to finalize the details when we got here, but the Internet was down. We weren't sure what to expect this morning, but the owner of the company, the man who will give us a final tour and airport transfer when we leave here and Peter, our guide for the day all showed up at 8am, just as we finished breakfast. Wonderful service!
So the two of us spent a great day with Peter sightseeing in the suburban part of Nairobi where our hotel is located. He said we are in the Beverly Hills of Nairobi. I would not have described it that way, but this is where some pricey private schools for mostly white students, a university, and some pleasant looking homes are located. While we waited for the elephant orphanage to open, Peter took us shopping. This might be our only chance, since we can leave a suitcase behind here to pick up at the end and not worry about what things weigh during the safari. First stop was a Masai collective of handicrafts; many had my name on them. There were so many different types of items for sale, I wandered around for half an hour before I felt like I had a handle on what was there. Nothing had a price and we weren't allowed to ask until we had piled up what we wanted to take; a bulk price became the initial bargaining point. We were surprised that this primitive looking place took credit cards, which made acquisition even more painless. We paid 2/3 of the initial asking price. Job well done.
The elephant orphanage was charming and amusing as only babies can be, and oh so sad when we thought about why these elephants were here. Some were only a month old and had been brought here from all over Kenya to be raised and eventually freed back into the wild. It is a lengthy commitment since even when they are released, the keepers stay nearby until they are sure that a new family group had taken in these highly social creatures. The keepers fed them a milk product closely corresponding to human milk formula and the older elephants nibbled on some branches and leafs. They splashed around in a water hole and rolled around in the mud. A few tourists who stood a bit too close got splashed with mud as well. The scene was loving, jolly, and happy, but I couldn't help thinking about the missing moms.
Then Peter drove us to the nearby Nairobi National Park, which charges locals $5 admission and tourists like us $50. It was money well spent in a huge park within eye sight of the skyscrapers of the city. As he drove we saw an amazing number of animals - baboon, lions, giraffes, water buffalo, water birds, rhino, zebra, various antelope and countless colorful birds. If the wildlife is so plentiful here next to the big city, I can only guess what we will see when we head out to the Masai Mara tomorrow.