May 22, 2012

Jambo (hello) Kenya

Antilopes in the Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

Named after the Out of Africa depicted coffe grower Karen Blix, Karen neighbourhood of Nairobi is outside the city. In that sense, it offered a safe alternative to Nairobbery as locals referred to it. Right or wrong, I did not feel any threat and enjoyed the military compound that I stayed at and the great food. To my surprise, the food was much influenced by India: samosa, masala, saffron lentils. Apparently many people of Indian descent are established in Kenya as my visit to the Junction Mall nearby proved it. Nevertheless, at Carnivore Restaurant, we were able to taste local types of meat such as ostrich, crocodile and even testicles.

A giraffe at the Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

A rhinoceros at the Nairobi National Park
is not happy with our presence.

As I was stuck in the training at Karen, my real moment of joy came when we visited the Nairobi National Park, a huge jungle in the middle of the city amid the traffic jams. Indeed, it is so huge that one can drive in it for hours. At the same time, when one approaches the borders of the jungle, one can see the skyscrapers of the city in the distance and even the airport, blurring the difference between the jungle and the city.

Zebras at the Nairobi National Park
were one of the most elegant animals.

After a certain point in the park, one is not allowed on foot and it becomes clear why. In the beginning, when you are greeted by the welcome committe of the park, the antilopes, it feels like a game. Then, one runs into pretty aggresive rhinoceros at which time we are instructed to be silent to not piss them off. Even non-aggressive animals like buffalos, zebras and giraffes can be dangerous because they are big and strong and even a light accidental strike can become deadly.

A buffalo at the Nairobi National Park.

During this short “safari” on bus, it was very interesting for me to see Africans from other nations than Kenya as excited as ourselves. I would think that by now Afrians would be completely bored of these animals. It is not so. Further, many people in the bus were saying that they never saw lions. Also, seeing the animals you saw only in books as a child and their subsequent gaze at you while you go crazy to take their pictures, is such an otherwordly experience that one can hardly get bored of it.

A playful lion at the Nairobi National Park.

The big cat's close-up at the Nairobi National Park.

While we were thankful that despite the rainy season, we could see so many animals if not lions, when were about to leave, we came to a spot where our guide pointed us to a well camouflaged beige color in the grass. It was the big cat finally revealing itself! There were four lions sitting, yawning and at times looking towards us. On the way back, our bus had a flat tire in the middle of the night but having seen the lion, this did not put us down as we sang the song “hakuna matata” (no problem). For surely, this trip was a "jambo Kenya" for me.