Meeting giraffes and elephants near Nairobi

This item appears on page 48 of the January 2017 issue.
Mbegu insisted on holding her own bottle. Photo by George Anderson

At the end of a stay in Kenya in July 2016, the flight my wife, Sandra, and I would take from the game camp was to arrive in Nairobi around noon, but our KLM flight home wouldn’t depart until almost midnight, so our tour operator, BushBaby Safaris (110 Victoria St., Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal 3000, South Africa; phone +27 34 212 3216,, offered some options to fill the day.

Two of the options were the Giraffe Centre (phone +254 208 070 804,, where we could hand-feed giraffes, and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Nursery (Nairobi; phone +254 202 301 396, www.sheldrick

We rejected both of these , since they sounded a little Disney-esque (despite being nonprofits) and, after all, we would have just spent two weeks in the bush seeing giraffes and elephants “for real.” Long story short, the combination of a late arrival, Nairobi traffic and restricted museum hours left our driver with few options to offer besides these two stops. To our complete surprise, both were a lot of fun! 

Situated just outside of Nairobi, the Giraffe Centre — whose objective is to provide free environmental education to Kenyan youth and help with conservation efforts for this endangered species — allows guests to get up close and personal with a half-dozen Rothschild’s giraffes.

Giraffe tongues are purple. Photo by George Anderson

Visitors can give food pellets to them from a giraffe-height deck or from ground level. The animals’ huge tongues delicately curl to take the pellets. One option is to get a giraffe “kiss” by holding the pellet in one’s front teeth. (Giraffe saliva is antiseptic.)

The David Sheldrick trust reintegrates orphaned elephants into the wild. At the nursery, we “adopted” an elephant, Mbegu, for $50 [an annual adoption fee — Editor], allowing us to mingle with the babies and their keepers as they returned to their sleeping areas in the evening. Each baby has a keeper who is constantly with the baby, even sleeping with him or her. We will receive email updates about Mbegu for a year.

We recommend both attractions to anyone with a little time to kill in Nairobi.

Minneapolis, MN