Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cheetahs in Nairobi


When you have to kill time in Nairobi, because you are waiting to catch an international flight or a bush plane, there is not a lot to do. It's not a city you want to walk around in alone. Going downtown to see Parliament or the Supreme Court is a hassle due to incredible traffic jams. A city of three million people with no traffic lights or other traffic control devices is not a nice thing to experience at rush hour, or anywhere near.

You can see the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, but it's only open in the mornings. You can visit the Giraffe Center and pet and feed giraffes, but once you have done it once, it's no so exciting you feel you MUST go back. You can eat at Karen Blixen Cottages (good food), or if you want to try exotic farm raised meats like camel, impala, crocodile, etc. you can go to a restaurant called Carnivore. There is some shopping I suppose, but since I hate shopping, I never really consider that something to do. There is a Park, Nairobi National Park I believe, but it doesn't have a very high concentration of animals, and mid-day you won't see any anyway. This leaves you with a Safari Walk or a visit to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage (next to each other). Both of these are sort of like zoos. The Safari walk actually overlooks parts of the national park and so the animals aren't all in captivity. In both the orphanage and the safari walk the animals in captivity are all orphans who cannot live in the wild, or animals who were injured and now cannot be released back to the wild.

At both the Orphanage and the Safari Walk, you can actually pet cheetahs. They don't advertise this, but if you pay for a guide there, the guide will arrange with the zookeepers for you to go pet the cheetahs and have a picture taken with them if you like. (Naturally a gratuity is expected for this). Cheetahs are incredible friendly, and it's great fun to pet them - they roll over for a belly rub just like any dog or cat you know back home. This trip, the final thing I did involving animals was to visit the cheetah above for a few minutes. I really liked her; she was affectionate, and I left with a red wrist from her scratchy tongue. A cheetah purr is very deep and rumbly.

Every time I touch cheetahs I long for one I could adopt - I know how Callie, my dog, would love to race the cheetah around the foothills...and it would be so fun to watch. I know my existing cats would really be impressed by a cat bigger than the dogs - the power structure in our house might change. I can imagine the cheetah getting along with the horses too, since cheetah don't attack zebra in the wild there should be no problem. All wistful daydreams, but I can't resist thinking them. But, you can't adopt endangered species. Amazingly, you CAN go pet them for about $10.

Thus concludes the tale of my latest African adventure. The next big trip will be Madagascar in the fall, so stay tuned for lemur reports. Posts will be few over the next couple of weeks due to a work commitment I have until mid-June, but I will keep up as best I can.

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