I was told that Uber is the best way to get around Nairobi so I took an Uber from my hotel to the Giraffe Centre so that I was there by the opening time. This was a good idea as tourists began to pile in not long after, but I had some quality time up close and personal with the Rothschild giraffes beforehand. And yes, I kissed one!
Their tongues are black and rough like sandpaper and they can be slobbery. Don’t worry, I kept my mouth shut! Conveniently there was a sink with soap and paper towels by the viewing platform. These giraffe’s were very cheeky. They loved being fed their pellets and just kept eating and eating! I sat and watched them interact with the other visitors for about an hour.
The Giraffe Centre is a part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, a Kenyan non-profit organisation doing amazing things to promote sustainable environmental conservation through education for the youth in Kenya, as well as through their breeding program.
Next to the Giraffe Centre you have the Giraffe Manor which is an exclusive, quaint guest house where you may have seen photos of guests having breakfast or laying in bed while giraffes poke their head in through the windows - It’s a bucket list item of mine to one day stay there!
After the Giraffe Centre I headed to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage. Once a day, for one hour, they open the centre to the public to come and see the baby orphan elephants being fed.
They were just ridiculously cute - I love elephants so much, my heart was melting. They have such personality and it was funny getting to watch them play and interact with us and each other for an hour. The team leader explained the situation of each orphaned elephant and the inspiring work they are doing to rescue and rehabilitate then reintroduce them into the wild with another group, all of which is a long process.
They run completely off donations and "foster parents" to be able to do what they do. So I decided to foster an elephant, little "Godoma" for only $50 USD per year. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is making a huge difference to not only rescue and protect elephants but also endangered rhinos.
My last stop for the day was to visit Moses, a guide who lives in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa which happens to be right in the middle of Nairobi. Moses was recommended to me and I wanted to see the "other side" of Nairobi that tourists don't usually see.
Kibera is an interesting place, it is like its own sprawling city within a city. Moses showed me places like the women's empowerment group, a space started by HIV positive women who were stigmatised and decided to come together, learn to sew and make crafts and jewellery. They've empowered themselves through the business they created to make a better life and provide a safe, supportive place for other women. The women’s empowerment group has grown over the last 10 years and more women now have a place to go to be together, be creative and make money when they would not otherwise have the opportunity.
I also visited a craft centre where Kibera residents make beads and ornaments out of recycled discarded bones from butchers. I got to see the schools and walk through the winding alleys and markets set up along the train tracks. Rubbish is a real problem here as well as other services like sewerage, water and healthcare. Although Kibera is a slum, many people there have taken up clever opportunities to improve their lives in any way they can given their circumstances.
Moses invited me into his home and it was a real eye opener to actually see inside a typical Kibera slum house. The house is nestled among narrow twisting alleyways between other houses. Moses lives with his mother and two sisters and his sister's baby. The house is the size of a small bedroom and has one bed in the corner where his mother, two sisters and the baby sleep while Moses sleeps on an old couch next to the bed. There is a small tv and personal items hanging on the walls. The ceiling and some walls are covered with a tarp. They have (unreliable) electricity but nothing else. There is a large container in the corner that holds water collected from the communal water tank which I'm told is dirty water that needs to be boiled well before use. I asked where they go to the toilet and was told there is also a communal place for that but this wasn't shown to me. Moses explained that paying for rent and electricity here can be challenging for many people. There is a similar level of crime in Kibera as anywhere else in any large city but the community may take it upon themselves to gang up on an offender to punish them.
Having an insider like Moses to guide me through his home area was an experience I was glad to have taken up. I felt safe and Moses seemed to know everyone. Moses makes money by guiding people around Nairobi and Kibera on foot and showing people what it's really like living in a slum like Kibera, while educating them about the empowering programs in place that are shining a light at the end of the tunnel for future generations.
At the end of the day I headed back to my hotel to pack and make my way to the airport.
I have to say, it felt strange coming home and it is hard to come back from an experience like this unchanged. My hunger to live more, experience more and help more has grown so much and although I have already been going through a period of self reflection this has only increased that reflection and forced me to reassess my priorities, be honest with myself, with what I want and what I can do with this life I am so privileged to have. Watch this space!