2 min read
Kenya can be startling. Gentle grasslands and easy blue skies turn fiery at sunset. Calm, ancient plains can feel downright spooky after dark. Nothing is usual here. It’s a place where dream-like images catch you up short.
You can be on the beach in Mombasa (Kenya has 330 miles of coastline) and suddenly a camel plods by, kicking up sand. Yes, camels on the beach. The first one makes you jump to your feet. Then there are dozens more. Soon you realize this is the new ordinary. You just have to catch up.
My video crew and I have come here at the behest of Kenya Tourism to prove to the world that all is calm and peaceful here, once again. A few months back, during the previous presidential election, some Kenyans did what we just fantasize about here in the U.S. – rival supporters actually killed each other.
Now things have calmed down and we’re here to record scenes of safe, happy tourists.
In truth, that’s what we see. Whatever pockets of violence erupted earlier have settled back into the subconscious of what seems a polite, welcoming society.
Twenty-four hours of travel and layovers have brought us to the capital city of Nairobi, which I immediately love. It’s urban and modern but also distinctly African. You’re never too far away from the animals.
There’s a special sanctuary for baby orphaned elephants. Dozens of these miniature creatures gently crowd you, slurping from their giant baby bottles. It’s a scene of devastating cuteness.
The Giraffes of Giraffe Manor
But we begin our Kenyan journey at another well-known Nairobi institution – Giraffe Manor. It’s a small Tudor style hotel and forest sanctuary, where a herd of Rothschild Giraffe share the grounds with visitors and guests.
It’s also a big tourist spot and that’s why we’re here, to record the up close contact between these huge giraffes and the much smaller tourists. We’ve heard the giraffes will stick their long necks right through the windows of the hotel to join guests at the dinner table. Little children have been known to feed these friendly giants.
As we amble onto the grounds with our gear, I take in the sight of the long-legged beasts. They’re graceful, elegant… even sweet. They reach up into the trees, their long, green tongues snapping up parcels of yummy leaves. Peaceful vegetarians. No, they’re more than vegetarians… they’re Vegans! Aren’t they? Just leaves and vegetables all day long.
I mean, did you ever see a giraffe eat dairy? I don’t think so.
They are quiet. Do they even have voices? When I’ve seen them at the zoo they always seemed so mild mannered, just getting along with everyone. Always on their best behavior. No drama like those monkeys or big cats. Giraffes are sort of the gentle groundskeepers of the animal kingdom. Or perhaps the clergy.
As I look them over, I admire their almost Zen-like calm…. It’s a little odd. Actually, a little weird. Plus, they don’t quite look like anything else in the animal world. Sure they’re beautiful… but all the other animals have sort of a squarish, boxy look. Giraffes are sort of an un-box, a rhombus… with a neck attachment… that’s just a little—bit--creepy? And what’s with their strange-looking horns?
I snap out of my daze. We’re real close to one now and our guide is telling us some cool stuff about giraffes: they have an incredibly strong back kick. In fact, he tells us, a giraffe can actually kill a lion!
Whoa. Hold on – this just turns everything upside down in my personal animal kingdom. A giraffe can take out a lion? No way. Maybe he can out-meditate a lion….
But our guide tells us to be cautious as we circle the creature, our camera and the long microphone pole dangling pretty close to that huge head. He’s probably never seen anything like us before.
I Don’t Think He Likes Us
I definitely get that feeling. He moves away, just a bit. He bucks a little. We look at each other. What’s up with him?
And then he charges!
What? Instinctively, we back off… quickly. But we also laugh in disbelief. Except now he’s really moving toward us and a quick glance at the panicked face of our guide, off to the side, tells me to stop laughing.
The three of us scramble, shout and bump into each other as we race to the safety of a nearby tree. There, we take refuge on the far side of the tree trunk, where the giraffe can’t see us.
We catch our breath and offer expletives. But only for a moment.
Because the big guy suddenly stretches his long neck way around the tree trunk, to look us over. We are eyeball to eyeball with him. Did we really think we could hide behind a tree from a giant giraffe?
Steve is first to speak, “Holy shit!!”. We explode away from our tree refuge, running about in panicked circles to escape, bumping into each other, like The Three Stooges on safari.
In the insanity of the moment, I’m yelling, “Whoop-whoop-whoop!”
JR is going, “Nyaaaaahhhh!”
Steve adds, “Eeeb-eeb-eeb!”
If this was a real Three Stooges episode, there’d be a nearby lake where the three of us would now run at high speed and dive in head first.
This being Giraffe Manor, we instead, scramble away from the now bemused giraffe, to the Manor house and run up the steps, into the foyer.
There, we breathlessly collapse and take stock. We’re OK. We’ve had our first adventure. We feel like idiots. But we’re ready for Africa.