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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nairobi National Park & Petting the Cheetahs!

OMG! All I can say after today is OMG!!! I am too tired to write everything out tonight but wanted to post some photos from today's amazing excursion! From petting Cheetahs to seeing giraffe up close and personal out in the wild it was an incredible day to say the least!

I hired a driver who was to pick me up at 10:40am and take me to the park for the day. He was called away last minute so sent his brother, Francis. He was a bright, friendly 23 year old with a comfortable, small car (more on the car later!) We arrived at the park at around 11:30am and decided to do the safari walk first. This was similar to a zoo, however the animals are in large habitats surrounded by fencing. After seeing Sneaky the crocodile, we moved on and found Milo the Cheetah. She was walking around and we kept trying to get a better look at her. A guide heard us calling to her and approached us asking if we wanted to see her better. Expecting him to show us a better place to stand, we followed him: right INSIDE the pen! He took my camera and told me to go up to Milo and pet her!!!!!!!!! What an amazing animal and experience!! The cheetah’s coat is very coarse and she was SO gentle! I did not want to leave but there were so many more animals to see!

From there we moved throughout the walk and our guide, Julius, led us through a restricted gate down along the leopard pen. We got right up to the fence but Lipi did not want to come too close; she just laid down and gave us pretty pictures! She was absolutely gorgeous! Julius then led us through a restricted area to get close to the Rhino, Dubai. We met so many animals, most of which had very appropriate names: Hippos Bob and Elizabeth, Buffalo Sarah & Betty, Matthew the Lion, Lila the Wildebeest and an Oryx Antelope named Samburu who was adopted by a Lioness when she was a baby and was raised by her until she was brought to the park!

After the Safari Walk we went to the Animal Orphanage where animals are brought when they can’t fend for themselves out in the wild. Once again a guide approached us (I guess they figured the American was good for tips!) Anyway, Jared was our guide here. He has been a volunteer in the Orphanage for ten years! He knew all of the animals and they knew him! Some of the monkeys were so protective of him that when he held his arm out and told me to touch him, they would go “bananas”!

Here is who we met here:

  1. Spot-Nosed monkey named Benin (named after the region he was from), the Warthogs brother & sister Patrick & Patricia, the first Cheetah was 11 mo old-Alice, the other 2 cheetahs-Festus & Sarah, the Cheetah I pet was Sharon; she is SO sweet just like Milo. Then there were the Serval cats that look like miniature cheetahs, the main one was Ali. Then there was Charlie, a majestic lion who is the oldest of all the lions there at 13 yrs old! We met Blue Legs, an ostrich with a love of peanuts. Jared gave me peanuts and had me hold them between my thumb and forefinger for Blue Legs to take. The idea is to make him work a bit hard so you can get a photo snapped. Well, Mr. Blue Legs decided he liked the flap on my watch so kept trying to bite my wrist instead! Boy can an ostrich bite! J

Next we met two young lions who have not yet grown their manes (they don’t come in until about 1 ½ years) Limlas and Romulus, and a lioness named Blondie. They were all just lounging around. (The big cats are SO lazy!) Case in point: Doudi sleeping soundly and comfortably with all four legs up in the air (like my Boomer used to sleep!). Then we have the Buffalo, Sammy and Alima, the Baboon who catches peanuts on command! Jared throws peanuts at her and yells: peanut, peanut, peanut, stone and she will catch the peanut every single time he says “peanut’ without fail and as soon as he says “stone” she lets the peanut fly right by her! It is amazing (you can watch the video if you want!) There were the Patas monkeys and then a pen with 2 different types of monkeys: Varvets where we met Jared and a 1 week old Varvet and a Sykes monkey named Julie who is known as a pickpocket! She will literally go into Jared’s (the guide not the Varvet!) pocket to steal peanuts!

Then we met Gabi, short for Gabriella, an 8 month old lioness who was turned over to the Orphanage after her owner realized that lions do NOT make good pets!

There was a family of Jackals, Jack & Jill and their family, and an African gray parrot who also liked peanuts from your hand! The Crested Crane was very pretty. Finally, we came to the last pen, 2 lions Pavoratti & Yumi, and a lioness named Nabi. The lion handler, David, had just arrived and he had a big slab of meat that he was taking to Gabi (from earlier) but he put the meat down and went to the pen where these three lions were. He called them over like dogs and they all got up and came over to him! They got up on their hind legs and nuzzled him through the fence, with Yumi even giving him kisses!!!!!!!! It was the coolest thing! They were so loving to him. David has raised them and he actually considers himself a lion He said that he has to do that in order to not be afraid of them. If he is afraid they will sense it. If he acts like a lion and considers himself one, they will accept him as one. He doesn’t lose sight of their strength and capabilities though. I will try to post the video when I get home (I need to edit it because it is too long and there is some wasted footage).

After the Orphanage, we went into the game park. At this point it was already 3:45 but it was the perfect time; it is the time when the animals leave where they are and go “home” for the night so they are out and about. It took awhile to find them and we had to drive deep into the park but once we found them, we found them! There were tons of Antelope and Gazelles, Wildebeest. Ostrich and we even found Giraffe!!!!!!!! But I really wanted to find a lion out in the wild and Francis finally spotted one lying in the grass, quite content to be lazy! We drove up and rolled down the windows and she could not have been more than 30 feet away from us! By this time both our cameras had died so I fired up the laptop, stuck it out the window and put the webcam on! That is why it is so hard to see the lion I the photo I posted but it was better than nothing! It was now getting quite dark and I reluctantly agreed to go.

Remember I mentioned that the car Francis brought was small? Well, there is a reason why you take a 4x4 on safari! The “roads” were just bumpy dirt trails and the bumps were sometimes REALLY bad. The car kept hitting something on the bottom! We even had to drive through a deep puddle! I sure hope Francis’s car is ok! I told him he should have his brother get his car looked at to be sure it is ok ;-)

The day was a bit more expensive than I had anticipated but I can honestly say it was well worth every single penny or Kenyan shilling! I can not wait to do the safari to Massai Mara next week! Now meet some of the animals!

Meet Milo the Cheetah

Yes thats ME petting Milo!

Doudi the Lazy Lion

Lipi the Leopard

These monkeys don't have names

Patricia the Warthog (Patrick, her brother, is behind her)

Sharon, the Cheetah, isn't she beautiful!
Yep, thats me again!

Then there is Gabi...only 10 months old and so sweet!

The Giraffe were SOOOOO cool! I first saw them on the horizon, then we got close!

They were just some of the animals that roam free in the game park!
If you look closely you will see the lioness lounging in the grass about 50 feet from our car!



  2. Aren't they amazing! I still want to bring a lion cub home :-)

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