My very last day in Nairobi was free. Quite deservedly so, after the gruelling but very successful days before! Now, going to the more impressive national parks was out of the question – it took too long or cost too much. But guess what lies just some 10 minutes from Nairobi? The Nairobi National Park! Like, there's a natural reserve, with wildlife, 10 minutes from the city! I convinced a colleague of mine to come along, and we set off on a safari! BTW, safari in Swahili simply means trip. Neat, right?
Anyhow, this was one amazing safari. True, the park is too small to hold bigger animals like elephants, or enormous herds of wildlife. But being my first experience of the kind, it was simply fabulous!
Soon after we entered the park we spotted... warthogs! These fellows are so ugly they're cute! LOL. I loved them, and seeing them right there, free, among the bushes, just got me all fuelled up with expectation about the things ahead!
A bit further ahead, on some posts to the sides of the road, monkeys! Oh, by the way, you enter on your own vehicle and wander along designated roads. The roads are ok, though they can get pretty rough at times, so having a big sturdy car is best. So you are sort of exploring the savanna, in a controlled way, but you still feel you're "out there"...
Hippos were the most boring, of course, as all you could see were their ears and eyes just above water level. The lake they decided to rest at, though, was beautiful.
Next – and my favourite by far – was a giraffe. Sure, I had seen giraffe at zoos, but seeing this one, coming to us from afar, getting bigger and bigger, with its both awkward and elegant walk, and looking so frankly alien in comparison to other mammals... I fell in love with it. And we saw plenty of giraffe afterwards – plenty! – but this one in particular filled me with awe and stole my heart.
That, and the savanna... to think we were seeing this, and so close to the city! So close, in fact, it was not hard to make a turn and have the cityscape in the distance and, occasionally, with some animal, like a buffalo! (and we also saw buffalo aplenty!)
Not as closely as we wold have wanted, but close enough, we saw graceful impala, massive ostrich...
And very up close, a small group of zebra! They are the cutest thing!
Now, every time we crossed another vehicle, the drivers would chat and exchange info: zebra are that way, ostrich are that other way, have you seen this or such animal? At some point, it actually seemed everybody except us had seen lions! We would be pointed in some direction, would see more wildlife but no lions, and then some other driver would say "Oh, yeah, we spotted some that other way!".
It became a bit annoying and since we had seen plenty already and it seemed the frigging lions didn't want anything to do with us, we decided to leave the park. But then, heading towards the exit, our driver's keen eye caught a number of vehicles in the distance and he guessed, correctly, that meant there was either a lion or something else worth watching! And indeed, it was lions! Two females enjoying the shade of a tree!
Majestic things, these beasts. And we were pretty close. In fact, the tree sort of hid them, so most of the cars were on the "wrong" side, while we were right next to them. Then, one of the lions looked my way, and my reptilian brain kicked in – I felt fear, worry, reached for the window handle and started rolling the window up! I mean, it was silly to think the lion would leave the nice shade to attack not just a person, but a person inside a car. But hey, so many generations of people who survived by not letting themselves get eaten by a lion surely do leave a genetic imprint, correct?
That would have been plenty for a morning. But just when we were very close to the exit, baboons! So many of them! And you could tell who the leader was because it was one massive son of a gun! One hit by that bastard and you'd be gone! An incredible sight. And sort of like a bonus one!
So, an amazing trip all in all. I got to see what Nairobi looked like, I enjoyed meeting its people, I had one of my most satisfying work experiences in the last couple of years (I can finally say with confidence I am a practitioner in my field!), and I even got to go on a small safari! Yay!