You know that feeling you get when you’re traveling. It’s that “this is what life is really about” feeling. Everything in perspective, everything slowed down, clear, simple, obvious. And then you return home and soon you’re back to the grind, back to reality. If you’re lucky, some of those feelings and perspectives will stick with you, if even in the background.
Africa was perspective changing to say the least. The beauty, the simplicity, the kindness, the poverty. The four of us left the trip with dreams to travel back sooner than later, to share what we saw in an effort to help the wonderful people we met who are in great need.
I encountered some technical difficulties when we got back with a good number of my photos and most of my videos getting lost due to a corrupted memory card. It was devastating and yet the perspective I had just gained on the trip allowed me to let it slide easier than usual. Lost pictures is what we would now consider “first world problems.” Plus for the amount of money I was quoted to have it fixed, I could have flown back to Kenya.
It’s been a year since we returned from our trip. The anniversary has me diving back into photos that I never shared and telling stories I haven’t told yet.
After our time in the Masai Mara, we traveled back to Nairobi to Giraffe Manor. It was everything you see in the pictures. Cozier even. We stayed in 2 rooms in the main house (which has 6 rooms total). The rooms didn’t even have locks, they were just bedrooms. There was no lobby or front desk, it was small and quaint … and exciting! Because we were about to hang with giraffes.
The giraffes come visit during afternoon tea time and then again in the early morning and breakfast time. I swear we were almost panicked to get ready and downstairs in time, like missing even a second with these incredible animals would be a total shame.
The giraffes live on property but their roaming space is like 110 square miles or something like that. No one MAKES them come to the manor at the particular times, they just do. It’s routine. And they must really like the pellet treats we feed them.
The room my sister and I stayed in had a big balcony that the giraffes would come up to for snacks in the morning. The room Pam and Kristen stayed in had windows that they’d stick their heads into before the sun rose. It was magical.
Breakfast was a blast. I highly recommend dining with Giraffes. Just don’t withhold pellets, see the video for why.
We stayed two nights which meant two tea times, two early mornings in our rooms with the giraffes, and two breakfasts. Sure I could’ve stayed for a lifetime, but it was a good alternative amount of time.
Now…how many giraffe pictures are too many?
DSWT Elephant Orphanage
On the one full day we had at Giraffe Manor, we visited the nearby David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Nursery. The Trust operates the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.
The keepers at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) have hand-raised over 240 orphaned elephants to date. Most come in to their care from poaching, but some are through human-wildlife conflict and drought.
At the orphanage, the keepers guide them through infancy while they are still milk dependent. They release them back into the wild when they are ready (usually after they are 3 years old), all while keeping tabs on them to make sure the reintegration is successful. They also run 10 anti-poaching teams because keeping their orphans and other elephants safety is incredibly important. Over the years, their vet units have saved over 2,000 elephants’ lives.
The orphanage was about 15 – 20 minutes away Giraffe Manor. They have a daily public visiting at 11:00am where you and (up to a couple hundred) others stand behind a rope and watch the orphans as they come in from grazing to get their milk. It’s an adorable sight to see and I would recommend it over NOT visiting at all. However we opted for the afternoon private tour ($600 for up to 10 people), figuring we would get more one on one time with the elephants and would be able to learn more about the orphanage and its services. We also figured the $600 was like a donation to an amazing cause and we’re so happy we made this choice.
There were five of us so we got a lot of up-close-and-personal time with the orphans. One of the videos I lost was one of all the baby elephants emerging through the trees and trotting into the clearing where they would be bottle fed by the keepers. They were beyond cute, grasping the bottles with their trucks, chugging them down in a matter of seconds and then being sneaky and trying to steal more. It was clear they had SO much personality.
The keepers know each of the babies so well and have deep relationships with them. Each orphan has a “bedroom” complete with a raised bed for the keeper. Up until the elephants are two years old, the keepers sleep with them through the entire night, waking up every 3 hours to bottle feed them. Sometimes the babies reach their trunk out to feel for the keeper, letting them know they want them close. I couldn’t help but compare it to human babies and their needs. The keepers also keep them warm with blankets because in the wild baby elephants would be surrounded by members of the herd while they sleep.
DSWT has opportunities to “adopt” an elephant. So we chose spunky Maisha, a 16 month old baby elephant we were especially fond of during our visit. A couple months earlier, she was discovered alone, lying limp and lifeless in the scorching sun; she had been looking for water during a terrible drought in Tsavo. She was transported via plane and vehicle to the Nairobi Nursery and Doctors and keepers cared for her for a full day before she found the strength to stand on her own feet. They named her “Maisha” the Swahili word for LIFE. Meeting her and witnessing her spunk (photo below) was an experience I will never forget. We get monthly emails and pictures to keep up on with her and her friends.
If you don’t already – follow DSWT on Instagram for daily baby elephant cuteness!