Saturday, March 15, 2014

honeymoon: nairobi one

Our honeymoon was truly the trip of a lifetime.  We considered so many destinations when planning the honeymoon.  But in the end, Kenya and Zanzibar just seemed like the perfect trip for us.  We are the kind of couple who plan to travel all over the world, for the rest of our lives.  We're adventure seekers.  So our honeymoon needed to be something really special; something unique from all the future trips we will take together.  

Part of what influenced our decision to go to Kenya is the fact that we're both animal lovers, and bib really loves elephants.  At one point, I really wanted to go to Bali for our honeymoon, and tried to convince bib, by telling him we'd get to ride elephants there.  But according to him, Asian elephants are wimps compared to the amazing African elephant.  We began researching Kenya, and heard positive feedback from friends who had visited.  Both friends and tripadvisors say that it's a trip of a lifetime!  Soon into looking into it, we learned that it's priced accordingly too!  But we just decided to go big and go wild.  We planned for 7 days in Kenya, and 6 on the island of Zanzibar.  

While researching what to do in Nairobi, I learned that there is an elephant orphanage called The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where you can go and visit baby, orphaned elephants.  They rescue these babies who unfortunately lose their mothers to diseases or worse, evil poachers, and can't survive without their mothers' milk.  I knew bib would love this!  So I contacted the orphanage to try to do something special for him when we would visit, and after speaking with such a nice and helpful woman there, I adopted an elephant in his name, and set up a private appointment for the two of them to meet.  We had set it up so that on our wedding day, they would email him the certificate of adoption.  This was one of the hardest secrets I ever had to keep, and whenever we would talk about what to do in Nairobi, I would always change the subject and avoid planning with him, because I didn't want him to know that this place even exists!  I wanted it to be a complete surprise!

The night before our wedding, he surprised me with this stunning painting that I fell in love with at an art show.  I gave him the printed adoption certificate, and he was speechless!  

We started our honeymoon off with 3 days in Nairobi.  We stayed at the Wildebeest Eco Camp in Karen, a suburb near the Nairobi National Park. This actually worked out perfectly, because it was quiet, nice, and close to everything we wanted to see and do, so we spent less time and money on taxis. The camp is supremely relaxing, although not as "eco" as its name implies. There was power and hot water all day, we were not deprived in any way.  We stayed in this adorable deluxe tent that was very well built, very tightly sealed, and very comfortably equipped. The camp is beautiful, and the staff are so friendly.

On our first day, we woke up to perfect weather.  Nairobi is beautiful!  We were surprised to see how beautiful, plush, and green the city is!  The people are so nice and easy going, and everyone greets each other with a kind smile. Neither of us had many expectations of Kenya, but we were constantly impressed with what we saw.  Bib couldn't get over the blue skies and cotton-ball clouds, nor the greenery that blanketed all parts of the city.

We spent our first afternoon at the Bomas, watching traditional Kenyan dance performances and listening to fantastic tribal music.  There was an area of traditional huts built in various tribal villages that we got to explore, very interesting.  Especially the village where the 1st wife's hut is exceptionally larger than the husband's hut.

We ended our first day with the very touristic must-do in Nairobi, dinner at Carnivore Restaurant.  We had so much fun there!  It's like a Brazilian steakhouse, with all kinds of meats grilling on massive skewers on a central grille, each then paraded around from table to table. You eat until you have to surrender your flag and stop. It was excellent.  We enjoyed crocodile, ostrich, beef, lamb, turkey, and more.  The food was so delicious, and the waiters were so friendly!! We were in shock over how wonderful Kenya felt, and it was just our first day!

The next morning, we woke up early to take a mini safari through Nairobi National Park. Even though we were headed to the Masai Mara, there was still a little bit of worry that we may not get to see all the animals we want to see.  So we booked the trip through the NNP, just in case.    Of course, after visiting the Mara, we realize how naive and silly we were to worry!  At 6am, the sun was just rising and the animals were just waking.  

We had a lucky trip with our wonderful guides. We got to see the endangered and rare-to-be-seen black rhino, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, bulls, birds, baboons, all kinds of antelopes, and we even saw lions!! Two male lions! The guides set up a breakfast for us in the park, where they protected us from hungry baboons, stubborn enough to do anything to get some food. It was thrilling, romantic, and fun!

After the trip through the park, we went to the Elephant Orphanage to watch the elephants being fed. Bib was beside himself with excitement.  It would be the first time he would see his elephant, Kithaka, or any elephant up close, for that matter.  When the elephants were brought out, we were so impressed by how well behaved they were! They all marched in a line straight to their keepers, who were ready for them with bottles of milk.  After they ate, they played with each other and their keepers.  They are such compassionate animals. 

Then we were off to feed giraffes at the giraffe center. They are such beautiful and friendly animals. They will eat right out of your hands with their slimy tongues, and their eyes are gorgeous!

Later at night, we returned for bib's private meeting with Kithaka, finally!! There were other foster parents meeting their elephants with us, so we were instructed to quietly stand in a line and wait for the elephants to walk back to their rooms.  As 13 baby elephants marched past us, each of their names were called out.  We both silently yay-d when Kithaka was identified, and like fate, he broke out of line and came right over to us.  The keepers were like, "Kithaka, back in line!  Kithaka is the naughtiest elephant at our orphanage!"  We did NOT mind!! It was as if he knew we were his foster parents.  We were so happy, we couldn't believe it!  Back at his room, we spent an hour playing with him. He would wrap his trunk around our wrists- which is super strong by the way, and try to yank us into his room.  He'd kiss us with his snout, and let us pet him.  His skin is really rough and thick, and he covers himself with mud to stay cool, giving him that reddish color.

Bib's face was amazing. He didn't say much, he was just stunned that he could experience something as incredible as this. We could have stayed for hours more.  We did not want to leave.

We got back to the camp, still a bit shaky from that amazing experience, and got ourselves ready for dinner.  I had made a reservation at Talisman a couple of weeks earlier, after reading great reviews online.  When I emailed them, I had only mentioned that we were coming to Nairobi for our honeymoon. When we arrived at the restaurant, they seated us at a special table, and even gave us a heart shaped keychain with the restaurant logo, as a gift. The meal and the service was superb. Between the delicious meal, and the incredible day we had just had, we were mumbling "Oh my god, I love Kenya," through mouthfuls of happiness. Kenya is wonderful. The nature, the people, the food. It is all fantastic. 

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