“Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.” Roy Goodman.
Monday saw us traipsing back to central Nairobi again, this time to collect our letter of introduction and verification from the SA consulate for the Sudan visa. This means that they took 4 days to have it ready, but to be fair a South African public holiday intervened, so best make it 3 days. Unlike many other embassies they do not charge for this service.
We then had Jungle Junction’s driver Whycliffe take us to the Sudanese embassy where we filled in the requisite form (it is downloadable online if you want to save a little time), submitted the relevant documents and will be able to pick up our passports with visa after 2 days. I asked the rather brusque official at the front desk if we could by any chance obtain a 3 month multi-entry visa but he said this was not possible and we would need to have extensions done at the Immigration offices in the larger centers like Khartoum. I have updated the visa requirements on yesterday’s Geek post.
Tomorrow after picking up the visa and passport we will go to DHL at the Karen shopping center and send them to a visa handling firm in Pretoria to be taken to the Ethiopian embassy. We are hoping for a week’s turnaround, perhaps a little longer. The clock on our Kenyan stay is ticking as we have to have our vehicle out of the country by the 20/09 according to the endorsement on our carnet. Our 3 month East African visa expires shortly thereafter. Leaving Kenya by the Lake Turkana route will take us upwards of a week from Nairobi and that is without allowing time for visits to the Aberdare and Mt. Kenya National Parks on our way north (We eventually slotted these in during our long wait in Nairobi). We also want to spend some time at Maralal and Samburu NPs on the way north, although I suppose we can allocate some time for them on our southbound leg. South Africans are subject to new visa regulations in Kenya and on the return leg we will only be able to obtain a 30 day visa at our point of entry by land, but this visa situation remains rather fluid. Seeing that we would still like to visit Lamu Island, the coast north and south of Mombasa, as well as Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks, time will be tight. We are looking at taking a number of days away from Nairobi, whilst awaiting our passports. We are thinking of visiting the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya whilst waiting.
Today was a real treat. We visited the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant and Rhino Orphanage. This is just down the road from JJs and from Karen and will take you less than 30min to reach. It is on the Magadi Road and you enter at the Banda Gate of Nairobi NP. Most people will be able to give you directions. They only allow the first 100 people in. The visit is for 1hr from 11H00 to 12H00 daily so be there by about 10H00. Avoid weekends when it can be very crowded. Entry fee is only KSh 500 (US$5). If you pay US$50 you can adopt an elephant orphan and then can help put it to bed at 17H00 in the evening. They will also update you on your chosen orphan’s progress. Read Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s book An African Love Story to get the full background on this wonderful project.
This is really a must-do in Nairobi and we loved our visit. After paying your entrance fee you enter the viewing area, a roped off open area where there is a lovely mudhole. First the youngest elephant calves are bottle fed a special milk formula, there were 15 of these and as with the older group of 14, it is amazing seeing them running eagerly for their feed from the surrounding bush of the Nairobi NP. They each have individual handlers who are the only ones allowed intimate contact with them and the handlers even sleep in their stalls with them. It is quite an experience to witness the interactions these babies have with their handler. They obey the commands of their handler who may have to intervene when they get up to mischief. You are allowed to touch those that come up to the rope boundary and some even momentarily slip under the rope. They are real characters. After their 2l of milk they spend another 15min or so playing in the mud of the mudhole before on command of their handlers, moving off back into the bush. The second group of slightly older calves then entertain in the same way. There are few who can fail to be touched by this experience. A highly professional commentary identifies each of the orphans, explaining their individual circumstances and how they came to be orphaned. Some still bear healing wounds from their ordeal. Not all are orphaned because of ivory poaching, many fall into drinking wells and are abandoned.
Once the orphaned elephants are 3 years of age, and can feed on their own, they are transferred from the orphanage in Nairobi to Tsavo East National Park. Here there are two holding centers for them. They then gradually meet and mingle with wild elephants at their own pace, and slowly transition back into the wild. The transition can take up to ten years for some elephants, none of them are rushed. The success rate is very high and thus far almost 200 orphans have successfully been re-introduced into the wild. This is what makes this project so appealing, these do not become captive, zoo or circus elephants. At present there are no rhino orphans for viewing. I have chosen a number of photos which I hope will give you a feel for this very touching experience. You can obtain more detail from www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org