“Let’s go and find us some animals, boys!” I exclaimed as we embarked on the flight from Livingstone to Nairobi. Although there was no need to try and excite my little ones, their noses were twitching just like mine, already inhaling the imagined scents of a faraway wilderness.
We are not short on imagination in this family. All kinds of stories find their way from mind to mouth on trips, filling the time on planes with great adventures and did-you-knows – whether accurate or not.
On this flight, we scribbled and doodled wild animals and open plains on iPads and concocted great tales while staring out the window of the plane, working ourselves into an inevitable froth of animal anticipation.
That’s what travel does. It creates so much joy and hope – from the minute you decide to take the trip. Before you’ve even seen anything in real life, the adventure has begun in your mind and heart, spreading suspense like a wave rolling in to shore.
Adding to the suspense for me was the element of surprise! The boys didn’t know it yet, but before our greater safari to Angama in the Maasai Mara, we’d be turning in for the night at a home for giraffes in Kenya’s capital – Giraffe Manor. The secret remained intact until we landed and they saw the sign with our name on it at the airport – with a giraffe on top of it. Carlos figured it out in an instant, while Renzi clocked as we drove in, close to midnight and spotted the giraffes in the garden!
The meeting of animal and child would have to wait. We had beds to crawl into (little bodies can only take so much excitement at a time). Their eyelids heavy, the boys contemplated the sounds the beautiful tall creatures would make on greeting us. In the morning, we would meet our herd. We would, we imagined, have our snort and grunt and hum down by then, fluent in giraffe.
The next day, before anyone in the manor was awake and stirring, we crept downstairs in our pajamas. “Giraffes never change their clothes,” the reasoning went. We sat down to tea and breakfast when all of a sudden they arrived! The resident herd of endangered giraffes.
Two majestic creatures looked down over us with long slobbery and curious tongues. Ah, that was how you greet in giraffe! Carlos stuck his hand out and a tongue returned the sentiment. It showed no shame. The boys didn’t either and offered their own tongues. Before letting out great yelps of thrill and delight from the tickling taste-detectors.
We had always seen the images of the giraffes of Giraffe Manor, this 1930s manor house on the outskirts of Nairobi. The only place in the world where you can feed and photograph giraffe over your breakfast table and watch them from your front door and your bedroom window.
We had heard the stories, but getting one-on-one time with the animals themselves, in the stillness of morning, it was worth all the anticipation. Like visiting with old friends who’ve moved far away, familiarity reestablished in the first embrace, an instant connection over tea and tongue-wagging.
Read more about Giraffe Manor. here.