Children will make just as big an effort to get on safari as adults!
Traditionally, American family safaris operate almost exclusively within the summer school vacation window, July and August. I try to push mine a bit earlier, since the game is better and the veld not quite as dusty and dry.
The Addington family really pushed themselves to meet this opportunity. Nicholas and Phoebe, 9 and 7 years old, with little sister Jane (4 yo) and Mom and Dad left school Thursday afternoon on its last day and a few hours later were on a plane from New York to London, and arrived Nairobi Saturday night!
The teenager triplets, Alex, India and Ellery (16 yo), and their little sister Emma (9 yo), crammed all their finals at school into one day (it was usually three), so they could be in Nairobi Thursday night to be able to sightsee in Nairobi, Friday.
We spent all of Friday touring Nairobi and environs. My Nairobi entry activities are all optional, because some people really need to wind down. So Saturday was split in two: morning and afternoon sightseeing. The morning sightseeing began at 9 a.m. Everyone was there, after having not hit the sack the night before until 10:30p.
We started at the national museum. A wonderful, unexpected attraction was to see the lines and lines of Nairobi school children on an important field outing. I explained to the kids on my safari that most Kenyan children never see a wild animal. One of the main attractions for them is the central exhibition hall with its huge display of stuffed big game.
We raced through the museum, noting the brilliant exhibit of the different gourds from around Kenya, representing the different cultures, tribes and languages. The floor-to-ceiling pyramid of more than 150 beautifully decorated gourds is an impressive lesson on how diverse the people of Kenya are.
It was then to the Early Man Hall. As I’ve written before, this is one of the finest exhibits in any museum in the world. The Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg gets close, but Nairobi actually displays for the public seven of the most important original early hominid fossils, including Turkana Boy.
We then went into the city and walked the streets from Parliament to the Stanley Hotel. I’m able to describe history, politics and relay many funny stories on this section of the trip. We were really lucky to have such a beautiful, fresh day, too. At the Stanley we enjoyed their famous coffees, pastries and Stony Tangowizi for the kids, and took some time to look at the beautifully restored early colonial bar on the second floor.
An unexpected bit of excitement was when Ellery was stopped on the stairs of the New Stanley by a reporter from Nairobi’s hip talk radio, 91.5. Ellery is a soccer star at school, and the reporter wanted to know his impressions of the recent sale of Ronaldo from Manchester United. (Ellery thought the transaction was a bit excessive.)
The afternoon began at 2 p.m., with hardly an hour free time in between, and once again everyone was there. We traveled to the suburb of Karen and started at the Kazuri Beads Womens Cooperative before visiting Giraffe Manor. Even smaller Phoebe was photographed stroking the giraffe head which was easily twice her entire size!
I feel very strongly that visitors to East Africa need to see more than just animals, and this first day in Nairobi opens many eyes and hearts to the hopes and miseries of this wonderful place. You can’t drive to Karen from Nairobi without driving past some slums. And the traffic — what locally we call the “jam” – is an unbelievable reality of modern life in Africa. One porter at the Norfolk Hotel told me it takes him nearly 2 hours each way to commute to work, when five years ago it was only 30 minutes.
Needless to say, everyone was exhausted. Great way, I think, to attack jetlag!