Last week I shared an overview of our week-long safari in Kenya, including my review of Explorateur Journeys. As I said in that post, we have so many amazing photos and memories from our African safari, that there is no way to do them all justice in a single blog post. Therefore, over the next few weeks I will be sharing additional posts with more photos and details about each of the destinations during the safari week (Nairobi, Samburu National Reserve, Lake Nakuru, and Maasai Mara National Reserve). Today I am taking you along with us for our first day, which we spent in Kenya's capital city, Nairobi.
The Fab Fam (my husband, my two sons - ages 4 and 6, and me) arrived at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi early in the morning on our first day, after a long travel day that included layovers in Toronto and Amsterdam (more on our long layover in Amsterdam later). Even though it was a long day (actually, a little more than a day) of travel, the boys did really well. The flights were broken up in approximately eight-hour stretches, with the layovers providing a nice break in between. I think this helped them to maintain patience on the flights, and also get some good sleep each time.
That being said, we were all pretty tired after landing at 6:00 am Kenyan time. We were picked up at the airport by the guide company (Classic Safaris) that would be with us all week. They helped us coordinate currency exchange to Kenyan Shillings before we braved the Monday morning Nairobi rush hour traffic. Most of us fell asleep in the car on the way to our hotel (we had plenty of time due to the traffic going into the city), but in between naps, I was able to observe how many people (including lots of shared vanpools) poured in from the suburbs to work in Kenya's bustling capital each day.
The boys were completely passed out as we checked into the InterContinental Hotel
S comfortably napping on Daddy in the InterContinental lobby
Our hotel, the InterContinental Nairobi, is in the City Centre. It is located right next to Parliament, and we were told that this is where Hillary Clinton and lots of other visiting dignitaries stay when they visit Kenya. As a result, the hotel was incredibly secure. Not only did we have to stop at a gate at the grounds entrance where guards checked our vehicle, but we also had to go through a metal detector when entering the hotel itself. The high level of security was definitely interesting, but also comforting to see the level of attention to keeping guests safe.
Once you enter the lobby, you are in a world of its own. The hotel was appointed comfortably and stylishly, with friendly customer service. We were greeted with a "jambo" by everyone, and the boys and I got to practice some of the Kiswahili phrases we'd learned (click here to see how we learned some key phrases, and click here to watch a video of the boys practicing). Here we saw one of the first examples of how kid-friendly it is in Kenya. Hotel staff would address our boys personally, introducing themselves to them, asking their age, and asking them about what they were excited to see in Kenya. One sweet woman even taught and quizzed the boys on the animals that made up the "special five" that we may see during safari.
We had a few hours to get rested, refreshed, and enjoy the hotel breakfast buffet (which included a diverse assortment of local, western, and eastern offerings proving its international appeal) before starting out for our first day of adventures. We got out of our travel clothes, and donned the first of our coordinated safari outfits (click here to see the Fab Fam's safari wardrobe).
S, G, and me in front of the hotel as we awaited our driver for our day of adventure in Nairobi
While we were planning our trip (custom-curated by Explorateur Journeys), the boys had two desires: S wanted to see baby elephants (elephants are his favorite animal, and he specifically wanted to "feed baby elephants" if possible), and G wanted to get up-close-and-personal with giraffes (his favorite animal). We knew we'd see both elephants and giraffes aplenty during our safari, but Nairobi offered the opportunity for us to interact with these animals in safe environments. It also offered us the ability to get some education around these animals, and the dangers to their existence, prior to us going off and seeing them in the wild.
Our first stop was the David Sheldrick orphanage for elephants. Orphaned baby elephants are cared for and rehabilitated here, with very loving and nurturing treatment by their caretakers. For only an hour each day, the babies are brought out to a central area where visitors can see and interact with them, and learn more about them.
These little guys have been through sad circumstances that led to their being orphaned... in some cases they were injured, found stuck in a well, or, in many cases, they had lost their parents to poachers seeking the ivory of their tusks. Sadly, many orphaned elephants do not survive for long, so the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust tries to intervene as quickly as possible to nurse the helpless babies back to health.
Elephants are very social creatures, and build great, trusting relationships with their caretakers
This was a dream come true for these boys!
This little guy came directly up to us as soon as he came out into the central area. The boys laughed in delight as he tried to step over the rope that corralled the elephants to try and join us!
The elephants were brought out in two different groups (separated by age range), and got to snack on tree branches and bottles of milk
G with his Chandler Bing smile, and S with his joyful face after getting to pet a baby elephant
It warmed my heart to see how happy these little guys were, despite their long memories and having experienced tragedies in their young lives. They love their caretakers, and formed new surrogate families with their fellow orphans. These two were playing with each other, which was absolutely adorable to watch. The staff also shared stories about how certain females take on maternal roles with the other younger orphans, and really bond to care for each other.
The older babies were quite a bit larger... it's amazing how much they grow in a year or two! These mammoths don't stay small for long.
We got to pet a lot of these little sweeties, and won't soon forget our hour of watching them, and how it felt to have them greet you by wrapping their trunks around you!
Still tired, but re-energized by the awesomeness of the experience at the elephant orphanage, we were ready for our next stop: The Giraffe Centre. The Giraffe Centre is not only an animal sanctuary, but is also dedicated to education for Kenyan youth on conservation.
Beautiful giraffes, young and old, wandered the Centre grounds, and came right up to the human visitors in hopes of receiving treats
Centre staff have giraffe treats for visitors to feed the giraffes. These guys were not shy, and were very gentle as they licked treats from our hands with their big, blue tongues.
Look at the blue tongue!
An elated G wiping his hand after getting licked by his favorite animal
S giving us his traditional mad dog look. Despite how 'happy' he looks here when posing for this photo, both he and his brother had an incredible time at the Giraffe Centre.
This smaller giraffe waits patiently for a treat at the upper platform of the Centre. I loved their "puppy dog" eyes, lined with black outline and long lashes, as if they were wearing makeup.
The second dream come true in a day! G told us this was the best day of his life... and it was not the last time he said that by the time our safari week was out! This was an epic beginning to a trip of a lifetime for all of us.
S especially loved feeding the babies
After the Giraffe Centre, the fatigue was really starting to sink in for all of us. We knew an afternoon nap would be needed, but also wanted to make sure we got a good lunch. At the recommendation of Gabriella with Explorateur Journeys, we went to Nairobi's Carnivore restaurant. Essentially the same as a Brazilian steakhouse, Carnivore (as its name suggests) will have staff bring you endless meat, freshly barbequed on spits, and carved onto your plate until you surrender (there was literally a white flag that you raise at your table when you've reached your fill). Meat included traditional options (beef, pork, poultry, sausage), along with some more exotic game meat (crocodile, ostrich).
Adults at Carnivore are offered a "medicine" at the beginning of the meal to help aid in the digestion of all the meat. The "medicine" was a hand-muddled cocktail called "dawa," made tableside by the "medicine man."
These two goofballs loved Carnivore, and especially had fun with the idea of getting to eat until they had to surrender
Even though we had initially planned to fight the jet lag and try to get onto Kenyan time this first day, we ended up passing out for a too-long nap when we got back to the InterContinental after lunch. We had hoped to nap for an hour or two then enjoy the beautiful hotel pool, but ended up passing out until almost 8:00 pm (oops). We opted to have a casual dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, then give the boys a fun bath in the hotel room (we let them wear their swimsuits and pretend the bathtub was a swimming pool since we missed the pool's opening hours during our too-long nap).
Who needs a pool? The Fab Fam is not afraid of going with the flow and finding fun in our hotel room!
My happy travelers at the end of safari day 1
Some lingering thoughts about visiting Nairobi: What we did get to experience in our short amount of time there felt very friendly, welcoming, and safe... however, I don't feel as though I truly got to experience the city from an authentic, local perspective. We definitely got to see some of the tourist highlights, and were well-taken-care-of by our driver and guide, the hotel staff, and the servers at Carnivore. But I feel as though we were almost so taken care of that we were a bit sheltered. There was not the ability for us to wander and explore (and perhaps that was intentional, but I don't know), as we didn't go anywhere or do anything without our escorts.
After an amazing first day of our adventure, we got a good night's rest, as we were to leave early the next morning for Samburu National Reserve. Stay tuned for the next post with details on that part of our journey! Thinking of visiting Kenya yourself for a safari (solo or with your family)? Don't forget to pin this post for inspiration, and read our overall safari experience review here. You can also hit @fabeverydayblog up on social media to see more photos, and to ask any questions you may have.