The Daphne Sheldrick Baby Elephant and Rhino Orphanage is a sure place to see African elephants with their large floppy ears and red dusted skin. Located near the Langata Gate of Nairobi National Park, it is part of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Fund. It is opened only for 1 hour from 11AM-12PM and it is 500 Kenyan shillings, minimum donation.
I made the mistake of visiting on Sunday, which is a “tourist” day. It was packed with people, shoving and pushing to get in the orphanage and then again to lean up against the rope to see the babies, like mosquitos to a fire.
It felt a bit like a sideshow circus where the elephants were up for display. Meanwhile the people and the children were screaming and talking despite the caretaker telling everyone to be quiet, so not to scare the babies. Of course, no one was listening. It made me wonder when or if I should ever take my kid if they so poorly misbehave.
From the side view, you can see the babies clambering out of the bushes, some cute ones, just bumbling on, bouncing with light feet, while the bigger ones treaded their way carefully. The smaller they are, the cuter they are, some just clinging to be petted by people.
They immediately go up to the baby bottles of the caretaker, ignoring the visitors who were oohing and aahing and laughing at them.
Many of the babies lost their mother early, mostly through poaching and others through basic wildlife survival fights. It’s already hard enough to protect a cub from natural predators, why must humans be so ignorant to poach for their tusks for “fake medicinal” purposes like curing impotency (see infograph showing 80% poachers from China)?
Human greed knows no bound.
The viewing is broken into 2 sessions. The first half hour is for baby elephants while the last half hour is to view slightly older elephants. They remain in the orphanage until about 5 years old before being released into the wild.
We left early to avoid the traffic jam and wound our way back towards Karen, named after Out of Africa‘s Karen Blixen. There we went to see her house. I’ve yet to read or watch the movie (with the amazing Meryl Streep and Robert Redford) but from our tour guide, it seemed like she had an interesting life.
Like the tea farm from the previous day, Karen Blixen’s farm was from her first husband, the baron who gave her syphillus (that dirty bastard). It was used to make coffee but after the factory burned down, it was much harder to maintain the land. She eventually sold the land and went back to Denmark, her home, where she wrote several books under a pseudonym, with Out of Africa being her most famous.
Many of the contents in the house are donations from the movie and Kenya National Museum. Other pieces were bought back or given by people who originally bought from the estate auction Karen Blixen had to help rid her debt.
Next door to Karen Blixen is a famous restaurant from the Tamarind group called Tamambo. It was a busy day so waiting for a la carte lunch would have been an hour long. They had Sunday brunch which included curry, stir fry, ad grilled meat, which I opted for since I was starving. During lunch, a caravan of various “safari” cars came by, dropping off their tour group.
Note to self, never do tours on Sunday or at least avoid tourist spots during the weekends.
It was 2pm by this point. I could have made it to see the giraffe feeding but opted to go home to rest for the evening’s celebration, which was long, wonderful, and lots of socializing. Living in New York with few friends and even fewer gatherings, you get used to not talking and just hanging out in PJs. But everyone was great and talkative and well cultured that it wasn’t hard to chit chat. Ah, the ways of the Italian families.