You Think You are tall? Just wait until you see your friends inside…!

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By Lorna

That was the first comment the gate keeper made as he saw me walking through the gates of the Giraffe Center, located in Langa’ta, approximately 5kms from Nairobi City.I smiled back in amusement; such comments are not new to me. My height has been compared to that of a giraffe since I was in Kindergarten. I remember being taller than all of my peers.

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The last time I visited the Giraffe Center I was just 4 years old. If my memory serves me correctly, I cried out loud as my mother carried me up on her shoulders, encouraging me to stretch out my hand and touch one of the residents there. In my defense, I think Giraffes can look very scary to a 4 year old, with their large eyes, strange Hairy horns (called Ossicones) and incredibly long tongue.  I didn’t remember that visit being very successful, so it felt good being back 23 years later to give it another try. And yes, I am 27!

 

I climbed up the stairs of the raised observation platform with no trepidation, only excitement. The main attractions for visitors there are seeing, handling, feeding and even kissing the giraffes (yes that is a thing there). I was very excited when one of the guides gave me a handful of pellets; I was then ready to make amends for my childhood fears all those years ago.

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One of the giraffes stretched her neck, raised herhead and stuck out her long slimy tongue towards my hands. She was named Daisy and this was the closest I hadever been to a wild animal. I was concerned and cautious at first in case she would bite me, but after popping a few pellets into her mouth my fears dissipated and my confidence increased as I watched her eat greedily, but gently, from my hand. She was so calm and gentle with me, allowing me to reach out my hand and pat her on the head as she remained still. I am sure she enjoyed it as I saw her close her eyes, just like we humans do while receiving a relaxing head massage. She let me do this until someone else moved beside me with a fresh handful of pellets. I swear she almost winked at me as she made her move to her next new friend!

The Giraffe Center was established as a tourist destination in Nairobi 1983 by the late Jock Leslie-Melville, a Kenyan citizen of Scottish descent. He and his American wife Betty devoted their lives to protecting and breeding the Rothschild’s Giraffe species, native to East African grasslands. They started with one Giraffe calf (also named Daisy) in the 1970’s and the programme has been a success since then, resulting in the introduction of several breeding pairs into Kenyan National Parks. Sadly, Rothschild’s Giraffe remains on the endangered species list to this day, but they can be seen in the wild in both Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya and Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.

To be able to get so close to these majestic animals, feed them from your hand, look them in the eye while giving them a head rub – all while supporting the protection of the species through simply paying your entrance fee – I’d say the Giraffe Center really is a “must do” destination when visiting Nairobi.

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http://www.lornasadventures.com

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Ngamba Island -Chimp viewing and Birding

Ngamba Island is a chimpanzee sanctuary for 49 orphaned chimps currently. Numbers may continue to grow because of the illicit trade of chimps. Lucky enough there is an organization like the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and wildlife trust (CSWCT) an NGO that has taken it upon themselves with the support of donors to provide exceptional care to the chimps.

The chimps are confiscated and rescued throughout Uganda. They are later handed over to the wildlife authorities who entrust the chimps with the NGO.

Chimp viewing and Birding

A visit to this island is such a wonderful experience. My visits to this place have always been exciting. On my recent trip with friends we extended our trip to neighbouring  Koome Island for bird watching where we were surprised to see the Black bellied Bustard mostly seen at Lake Mburo National Park. Seeing the chimps feed is such a humbling experience. What impresses the onlooker is the time keeping and the gesture requests for food. Indeed they are man’s closet relatives .Chimps are fed four times a day on the Island. Chimp Intelligence is 98.7%.

These chimps are held behind an electric fence so that they do not escape. The NGO has done its best to keep them in the forest habitat alongside caged shelter. This is done to enable the chimps to assimilate to its original environment and also have a chance to closely look after them.

It is humbling to listen to the sanctuary care taker stories about their behavior especially the battle for the Alpha male position, grooming and looking after the young chimps. The rivalry for this position reminds me of the various leadership rivalries at School, Sports arenas and Politics where individuals compete for positions. The chimps are no exception since they are man’s closest relatives.

There are many activities at the Island available to the visitor that includes Chimpanzee feeding, visiting the nearby fishing villages, become a care giver for a day, go for a sunset cruise. If you are bird watching enthusiast, you can go birding at the nearby Koome Island.

Voluntering

Volunteer programs are also available at the Island and other natural habitats in western Uganda. This program gives you a firsthand insight into the conservation activities of these endangered species. This enables you the visitor to further educate yourself and the public about the importance of chimpanzee conservation .Meet Medina the chimp artist and other chimps with interesting stories. You have to be there yourself to capture the real stories.

Any visitor Restrictions: No visitor age restrictions. All are welcome.

Accommodation: Tented accommodation is available with additional camping tents.

A Night visitor will also be able to enjoy an evening camp fire.

Booking: Book directly with the Ngamba reservations office or tour operators like Rafiki Eco Safaris.

How to get there:

Ngamba Island is 23km on Lake Victoria. It can be accessed through Entebbe by boat. The boats cater for various groups and budgets. Traditional motorized canoe takes 90 minutes. Speed boats travel for approximately 45- 50 minutes. Half and day boat trips leave at 9:00am or 12:45pm.