Thursday, September 25, 2014


During our return drive to Hotel Intercontinental from Nairobi National Park, then from there to our next destination, we enjoyed a few of the sights of Nairobi, a city of over three million people. 

The growing population doesn't stop Marabou storks from nesting in the trees lining the city streets. These birds can have wingspans of up to 20 feet, among the largest of the world's birds:
They reminded us of the beautiful white storks we saw nesting in Strasbourg, France, a few years before:
Strasbourg 2012
How does the stork fold up those enormous condor-like wings to fit its body?
Photo by E. Tooke
In flight, the Marabou stork is a strange combination of a beautiful ballerina and a hunch-shouldered undertaker:
Photo by E. Tooke

In spite of tribal adherence to native traditions, 82% of Kenyans say they are Christian and 11% are Muslim, although some sources say Muslims actually make up to 35% of the population. Most of the Muslims live in the northern and coastal regions of Kenya. We saw several interesting Christian churches as we drove through the city, such as this modern structure with its free-standing tower:
. . . and this older, more traditional church:
I'm always on the lookout for graffiti, and we didn't see that much in Kenya. (There aren't many surfaces to tag out on the savanna, and while a tagger might escape the notice of cops, he's not likely to go by unnoticed by lions, leopards, and cheetahs.) I was intrigued by this graffiti we drove past in Nairobi. The word "Slave" and the curvaceous woman appear to have been painted at the same time, but the words "Love your skin color" seem to be more recent--perhaps a response to the original graffiti?
There are many references to Jomo Kenyatta, the very popular leader of Kenya from its independence in 1963 to his death in 1978. Of course, this sign could refer to Jomo's son Uhuru, the fourth and current President of Kenya, but it likely dates back to Jomo's rule:
We saw windows like these several times, their high reflectivity creating an interesting mosaic effect:
Three miles from the city center is the affluent suburb of Karen, named for none other than the author Karen Blixen, whose home--now a museum--is in this region. The neighborhood is full of Kenyans of European ancestry, as well as American, Japanese, German, and Scandinavian expatriates.   

Our first of three stops in Karen was the Giraffe Centre, a sanctuary and breeding center for endangered Rothschild's giraffes. When the Centre was establish in 1983, there were only 120 Rothschild's giraffes left in the world, and they were all on a ranch in Western Kenya. Today there are about 670 Rothchild's giraffes in the wild--not a lot, but certainly a substantial improvement. We were lucky enough to see some at Lake Nakuru.

Admission for the Giraffe Centre was 1000 Kenyan shillings for foreigners, or about $11.25. Foreign children pay half that. Kenyan adults pay 200 KSH, or about $2.25, and Kenyan children pay only 50 KSH, or 56 cents. Awesome. 

We saw several of these delightful "Polite Notices" in Nairobi:
I love the African obsession with precise location. This Centre is exactly one mile above sea level, just like Denver, Colorado:
AFEW = African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. Photo from here.

The most popular part of the Centre is the giraffe feeding platform:
Uh-oh. Looks like another American law firm preceded our group:

Up on the deck, employees were handing out giraffe food that looked a lot like the alfalfa pellets we would give to pet rabbits and guinea pigs. We could go back for as many refills as we wanted:
The employees first demonstrated how to feed a giraffe:
. . . and then turned us loose with a handful of feed:
. . . or for some of us, several handfuls of feed:
Bob was having a blast.  The last time he had so much fun, we were in Thailand . . .
. . . feeding elephants at a similar facility:
Thailand, summer 2007
Yep, he was giving that giraffe plenty of loving:

Should I be jealous?
Nah. Who can blame the giraffe for preferring food taken from this funny two-legged creature over leaves scavenged from a thorny acacia tree?
The beautiful coat of a Rothschild's giraffe looks like my middle school diagrams of cells under a microscope, complete with spots of dark nuclei and other organelles:
Besides hanging out with the animals, the Centre provided lots of great information about giraffes, including this map showing their distribution in Kenya. The green spots are National Parks and the red ones are Game Reserves. There are a few tiny yellow dots on the map that represent the Rothschild's giraffes:

Just as in the wild, there were other animals running around obnoxiously, tripping up the giraffes:
Pumba! Is it you?
It IS you!
Some leopard tortoises were in another pen. Local people eat these critters:
I guess the word "lift" could therefore have a double meaning here:
A lot of the shrubs and trees were labeled with their names and uses. Wow, this one has a pretty wide range of benefits. I confess that I had to look up "anthelmintic." It means it rids the body of parasitic worms. I hope I never need medicine from this tree, for that reason or for most of the other reasons listed:
An outdoor gift shop was selling carvings of African people wearing familiar-looking robes:
Somehow I think one of these wouldn't look as cute on my end table as they do standing together as a tribe on these shelves:
My bird-lovin' husband couldn't resist these birds made out of gourds. We chose a small one that would fit in our luggage without too much difficulty.
It was a hot and humid day, and it was at the end of our visit to the Giraffe Centre that my morning fatigue began to turn into an upset stomach. I looked around for a tree or shrub that could cure my nausea, but unfortunately there was none to be found.

Coming up: The Karen Blixen Estate and Women's Memoirs


  1. I think you could have used some of that tree that day. You always manage to find the good graffiti - I don't recall any in Africa.

  2. I think every public sign should begin "Polite Notice". The world would be a better place. Love the giraffe feeding--what fun!

  3. It is always fun to be able to feed animals, don't know why but it is.

  4. That "polite notice" is terrific, and goes right along with the "we'll sue everyone" sign which MUST have its origins in polite America. Enjoyed seeing the up close photos of the giraffe, but I didn't forget that sign which warned people to watch out for slippery floors--is that because of giraffe drool?

    I can't believe you can go go go for so long. I'd be dying, looking around for a Polite Nap.