A Day in Karen, Kenya (Part 2)

If you missed yesterday's post about the Elephant Orphanage, you may want to backtrack. I mean, it's a post just filled with pictures of baby elephants. Need I say more? But be sure to come back, because while the elephants were amazing, Layne and I both preferred the Part 2 activities even more!

One picture here, just to push you over the edge if you were debating. It IS worth it! 

One picture here, just to push you over the edge if you were debating. It IS worth it! 

After we had cozied up with the elephants for an hour, it was time to move on (but only because they kicked us out)! So, we headed to our next destination... 

2 - Giraffe Centre
At the edge of the property line of Giraffe Manor - a super fancy hotel that costs major $$$$$, but the giraffes walk wild right around you so maybe it's worth it- is Giraffe Centre. Here, you can actually feed and pet the giraffes. Note that both need to be happening at the same time, because the greedy giraffes won't give you the time of day unless you're feeding them.

This was the most incredible part of the day for me. Giraffes are beautiful. Like, really really REALLY pretty. Regina George would be jealous. Their tongues are rough like a cat's, but their coats are soft as silk. I could have stayed here all day.

We learned that there are three types of giraffes - Rothschild, with structured spots and what looks like stockings on their legs; Reticulated, like Rothschild but with spots fully down their legs, and Masai, with crazy spots all over. These were Rothschild. The giraffes at Lake Nakuru were also Rothschild, which is actually really rare because Rothschild giraffes are endangered and are rarely found in the wild. We also learned that giraffes only drink once a week! They get most of the water they need from the leaves they eat. Can you believe that an animal of this size only needs to drink once a week?! 

*** Be sure to check out my Instagram for a video of me just about dying with excitement over feeding these guys. ***

3- Mamba Village
Initially, we weren't sure we were going to go to Mamba Village. But we had some time after the Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Center, so we decided to go for it. Even though it hadn't really been recommended to us, we are so glad we went! This was Layne's favorite part of the day.

Mamba village is basically a crocodile zoo. This is the sign that greets you as you pay.

At this moment, we knew we were going to enjoy ourselves.

Because we are mzungus (that's white people in Swahili), we are automatic targets everywhere we go. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes not so good... When prices aren't listed, people inflate costs exorbitantly hoping to trick an unsuspecting expat or tourist into paying a premium. But it also makes it so people seek us out to provide a behind-the-scenes experience in exchange for a tip. A self-proclaimed, yet completely unofficial, tour guide made us his mark at Mamba Village, picking us out of the crowd immediately upon our arrival. He walked us around, giving special access to everything. He hopped the fences into the crocodile cages and prodded one repeatedly with a stick until it snapped its giant jaws. Layne and I were both startled, completely unaccustomed to this sort of interactive experience at the zoo.

Some of the smaller crocodiles; I forgot to take pictures of the larger ones. 

Some of the smaller crocodiles; I forgot to take pictures of the larger ones. 

There is no way to describe the crocodiles except for absolutely prehistoric. They look like dinosaurs with scales trailing down both sides of their backs, somewhere between giant lizard and giant snake as they lay on their fat bellies. Only their soft undersides are used to make leather; their armor-like tops, while far too hard to be used for goods, serve as temperature control. You can tell crocodiles apart from their American cousin the alligator because alligators have their bottom teeth inside their mouth, while crocodiles have all of their teeth on the outside. 

We headed over to the other side of the zoo where we were in for an even bigger surprise. Our guide hopped the fence again, and this time he grabbed a baby croc and handed him straight to Layne! We all got a chance to hold him. Feeling the writhing body in your hands makes your heart pound. Our guide also draped the body around our necks so that we could get even closer. I could not stop giggling nervously. 

Next we headed over to the tortoise enclosure where, once again, our guide hopped right over the fence. He grabbed up tortoises for all of us to hold - Baby Tortoise, Mama Tortoise, and Daddy Tortoise. Ok, so they were actually all different kinds of tortoises, but their three different sizes and weights were amazing. The shells were so much heavier than they look! I didn't even attempt to hold the big guy, afraid that my arms weren't up to the task. 

Our cab driver Robinson - aka Layne's best friend - came with us for the whole adventure. We paid his admission each place and made sure that every special privilege we got, he was treated to as well. Our tour guide kept trying to ignore him (since he knew Robinson wasn't the one paying) and it was the only part of the tour we didn't enjoy. This is what I mean about mzungus being the target. 

Our cab driver Robinson - aka Layne's best friend - came with us for the whole adventure. We paid his admission each place and made sure that every special privilege we got, he was treated to as well. Our tour guide kept trying to ignore him (since he knew Robinson wasn't the one paying) and it was the only part of the tour we didn't enjoy. This is what I mean about mzungus being the target. 

Our final stop on the tour was a trip over to what may actually have been a separate park (who knows?). It ended up being our second ostrich sighting of the day! But this time, our guide grabbed some leaves so we could feed them. It is a little scary as the ostriches stretch their necks and come down - SNAP! - lightning fast on the leaves, smacking their beaks shut. But our guide said the bite didn't hurt as much as it looked, and even had Layne stick out his hand for them to bite. Layne said it did indeed hurt, but agreed that it wasn't as bad as he expected. Still, no way was I going to try it!

Do my glasses hide my fear? 

Do my glasses hide my fear? 

Without our guide, Mamba Village may have just been a chance to look at some crocodiles. But because of him, we had several once-in-a-lifetime experiences.