A Wintery Cape Cod Weekend

Sometimes you need to get away from you routine and have some adventure, which is what lead me to Cape Cod this past weekend. I was in need of escape and joined my parents on the Cape for a weekend of exploration. We arrived at their house on Friday night, and woke up early on Saturday to hit the road heading down to Woods Hole, MA.

We meandered down to Hyannis and did a drive by the Hyannisport compound of the Kennedy’s. This photo below was taken a little further down the street from the compound. What a beautiful day. Blue sky, snow on the ground and even mini-icebergs in the water. What a sight.

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While in Hyannisport we made a stop into Tim’s Used Bookstore on the main drag. They have a great collection of art/coffee table books at reasonable prices (fyi). Im trying to save my pennies, so I didn’t get anything although we did spot this hilarious book below:

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It’s trying to appeal to 50 Shades of Gray loving nuns? Why does the nun on the cover look like she’s 12?! Hilarious and horrible at the same time.

We got back in the car and continued on until we hit the Falmouth Public Library. It’s a beautiful building (with clean public restrooms). They have a fun Main Street, with cute shops and restaurants. We stopped into Quarterdeck for lunch. It was good food with generous portions and the decor is meant to make you feel like your in the captains quarters of a boat. It’s really fun and I recommend it. Below is a photo I took looking up at the ceiling over our table.

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After a quick walk around we got back into the car and continued on to where Woods Hole Rd. meets Water St. Most of Woods Hole seems dedicated to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They have many buildings and dorms dedicated to ocean and animal life research. They are often on the scene if anything exciting happens along the east coast (with respect to science and marine life). They also have a FREE Science Aquarium that is for sure wrath the visit.  I took so many photos and had such a fun time watching all the fish swim around. I could stare at them forever.

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If you’re visiting Woods Hole, the FREE aquarium is a must. When my parents visit in the summer, they bring their bikes, ride around town and then stop in the aquarium to see the fish and enjoy the AC. Given that it was snowy this past weekend, it was nice to get toasty in the heat.

Eventually we left the aquarium and did a walking loop around Eel Pond. It was so frozen over that many people were out walking, ice skating and even playing hockey on the ice. It was quite a sight!

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After a walking loop we stopped into Coffee Obsession and grabbed some coffee for the road. Before leaving Woods Hole we visited a beach off of Gosnold Road, where we saw people kite-skiing! It was insane! They were really flying around out there on the water that had frozen over. Normally that would be a sandy beach with water hitting the shore and instead it was a kite-skiiers paradise. I had no clue that was even a sport, but it looks really fun.

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Back in Harwich Port, we had a puppy cousin reunion which involved lots of white puppy hugs 🙂

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Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we just finished 2 days out on the Serengeti and visited a Maasai Warrior tribe. We got back into our trucks and made the drive back to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater where we are spending the night at the Simba Camp overlooking the crater.

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We got back into our trucks and headed to the crater!

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Here’s an overlook by the entrance down into the crater. We were just in the Serengeti, which is such a vast land for animals to explore, where as the crater is a much smaller area for the animals to live in. These areas aren’t fenced, but the steepness of the crater makes it hard for animals to migrate out. This means that it’s a much more concentrated area for animals. We would find out the next day just how many animals there are to see!

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Above is the Dutch Aunt and nieces from our Nomad Tour group. They were a lot of fun. I’m glad we stopped to take these photos, as the next morning the view point was fogged over, and the views were incredible.

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The landscape here is just beautiful.

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But you have to keep your eyes on the road, as you never know when a bunch of giraffes might go running across it!

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Just another 20 minutes down the road and we reached our Simba Campsite. The tents were all setup for us when we arrived (they were the same type of tent from the Serengeti). Being right on the rim meant the views were incredible.

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This campsite had restrooms and showers in that blue/green building above. Funny story- later in the night Erica went to use the restroom and had to wait for a pack of zebra to go by before she could reach the bathrooms. There’s no fences here so you never know what you’ll find outside your tent! Adventure!

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Once our Nomad Tour group got settled in for the night (it was chilly when the sun went down, so many layers were added) we headed to the dining hall (this also looked just like our dining space on the Serengeti). Below you can see they made us stew with spaghetti with veggies, yum!

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The next morning was foggy right around the rim of the crater, but once we made our way down into the crater it was pretty clear. The upper layer of fog kept it chilly for our morning game drive, but we all dressed in layers.

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On the Serengeti the two animals we hadn’t seen yet were the wildebeests and black rhinos. And our day in the crater started with tons of wildebeests! Notice the grey crowned cranes in the background.

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Oh and of course the occasional ostrich just running around. Oh Africa 🙂

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Wildebeest crossing ahead! There’s one of our other Nomad Tour trucks ahead.

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Wildebeests!

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Now once we got down into the crater our guide was clearly rushing to bring us somewhere, but he wouldn’t tell us why. Since the guides speak swahili to each other on the radio we couldn’t tell what they were saying, but something exciting was happening. Sure enough there were 2 very rare black rhinos that we were trying to get to before they hid in the grass. It’s rare to see the black rhino walking around and once it sits down in tall grass they are nearly impossible to see. We got there just in time! See the two above!

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The landscape here is incredible.

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We turned another corner and saw this mama lion…

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With her two baby cubs! So adorable!

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We looped around to get closer and more trucks joined us to see these cuties playing.

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The cubs were so playful.

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I want one!

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They’re just big adorable cats, right? I could watch them all day.

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We continued on as there was so much to see in the crater. No more than 5 minutes down the road and we ran into these large male lions sharing a meal. You’ll notice the zebras and wildebeests keeping a wide distance behind them. Also notice the other animals waiting to get their chance at the lions leftovers. There were even birds circling overhead for their chance to get a snack.

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This was our first time seeing adult male lions with the full mane. Just incredible.

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After seeing all the lions and the incredible landscape, I really felt like I was in the Lion King.

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We ran into a group of zebras walking right by the road.

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These zebras loved rolling in this spot. One after the next, they kept coming up and rolling in that same spot, what a sight!

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Why did the wildebeest cross the road? To join his buddies!

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Here’s one of our Nomad Tour trucks (above).

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Midmorning our guides timed a restroom stop (with toilets) at a spot near a bunch of hippos.

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Above is the kori bustard, another giant bird that was common in the Serengeti and in the crater.

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The white stretch in the distance is not snow, but salt! Way far out we could see flamingos and other birds enjoying it.

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Our other Nomad truck off in the distance.

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Cranes and wildebeests sharing the same watering hole.

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On our way out of the crater, we ran into another black rhino! Since there are only about 15 rhinos in the crater, to get to see 3 of them is pretty special.

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Bye, bye crater. Our time here has come to an end and it’s time to head back to Arusha.

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Just as we exited the Crater gates, we passed about 50 baboons in and around the road. They were being so playful and even one couple got into a fight.

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Cuties.

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Family love. At this point we heard the baboons climbing onto the truck and even saw their hands trying to climb into the windows. At this point we decided to take off and get back to our campsite in Arusha.

Next up, we make our cross country overland drive to Dar es Salaam, where we take a ferry to Zanzibar for the island resort portion of the trip.

Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we entered the gate to the Serengeti to begin our game drives. There’s a second check-in center once you get into the Serengeti, so we stopped there (clean restrooms!) and then made our way to the center to look for animals.

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The rules are that the trucks have to stay on the road, and we can’t get out of the vehicles around the animals (you wouldn’t want to). You also aren’t allowed to feed the animals or make sounds to attract them. When animals are around it’s best to stay silent to not scare them away. While we game drive our trucks padded roof lifts about 2 feet up, so we can comfortably stand in the truck and see out to take photos.

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I thought the above animal was a Thomson’s Gazelle, but it’s missing the black stripe so it might be a different gazelle? The gazelle’s scare easy, so just the slightest truck sound and they go running.

Here’s what I learned about the animal life out here- every animal has ways to protect themselves and ways that they are a target (pros+cons). For example, the gazelle is the size of a deer, smaller and thinner than a lot of other animals, so it’s an easy snack for a lion, but their thin legs make them fast runners. While the lions are big and scary, they can’t run very fast, so assuming the gazelle is healthy it should be able to outrun a lion. It really is survival of the fittest!

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I come from a family of birders, so I had to include the giant ostrich images (they are huge!). And their legs are SO pink! Below is the Superb Starling Bird, which is a very colorful bird.

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I just love the landscape here. The uninterrupted land goes on for miles.

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The above colorful lizard is an Agama Lizard. I wonder if the less colorful lizard is also a Agama lizard… maybe the female Agama?

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So pretty! When on a game drive your eyes are constantly scanning the land looking for animals. Lions sleep 90% of the day, so it’s best to look for them laying down in the grass. The cheetah’s also like the tall grass. Leopards climb trees, so it’s best to look up at tall trees for them.

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Above is a beautiful giraffe. You can identify the different types of giraffe by the pattern of their skin. This is a Masai giraffe.

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Above is a hippopotamus. They easily hide in the water as their backs look like wet stones.

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A vulture keeps post at the top of a tree. One way to look for animals is to follow the vultures. They scout out for animal attacks, which means they are usually around when lions are feeding.

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The sunsets on the Serengeti are so beautiful. The bright colors and the silhouette’s of these umbrella trees have me in awe.

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Our first LION! Night one of game drives and we turn a corner to see a lion feeding on a newly deceased warthog. As a vegetarian, I had to really prepare myself for this sight. But once you see how much life is sustained off of one deceased animal, you see that it is the circle of life and it needs to happen to keep the world moving. For example, when the lion is done with the warthog, hyena’s will come in to snack, next the large birds pick at it, and then the smaller animals come in until that warthog is just bones licked clean. Nothing is wasted, and this warthog ends up helping so many other animals survive.

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I shoot my photos on a Canon G12 (nothing too fancy), and I attempted some video footage with it while in Africa. It’s not amazing quality since it’s not really meant for videos but I just have to share:

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(Above) Nomad Tour goers, scouting out the lion. The photo gives you a sense of how the truck and game driving works. The guides (who are driving) try to get you the best view of the animals. Our driver was AWESOME! He was so good at navigating that he would get us so close to the action. I was so impressed. Once the guide gets you in a good position you take photos and hang out until there’s some action or you decide to move on. Our guide had strong binoculars that we would pass around.

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I just love the colors at sunset! Note one of our 3 Nomad Tour trucks to the left.

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Just when I thought we were going to head to our campsite for the night, we turn a corner and see a pack of LIONS!! Can you see them above? Now do you see how difficult it is to find animals hiding just feet away from you in the tall grass. There are about 10 of them here in the grass.

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Our driver was able to get us SO close. Night one of game driving and I could literally stick my hand out and pet them if I wanted to (but obviously that’s not allowed and not a good idea). It’s so tempting though… they seem just like large kittens!

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They were sleeping and yawning and stretching, just like a pet cat. Like a really large pet cat 🙂

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After spending lots of time with these cute lions, we had to make our way to the campsite for dinner and bed.

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I should note that the whole group slept in one and 2 person tents at a designated campsite (above). This campsite doesn’t have a fence, or a guard or anything. It’s literally open to the animals. Later in the trip Norman told me a story from three weeks earlier when he was in this same campsite with a different Nomad Tour group and a large group of lions cut through the campsite. They say if you need to use the bathroom (they have group camping style toilets and a couple cold water showers- bring your own toilet paper), you flash a light outside your tent to scare off any animals. That night there were baboons hanging near the tents. Be sure to keep your tent zipped as the baboons would love to get in and take your cell phone.

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Dinner is prepared for us and we eat in the structure above. Bring your headlamp, as it only has a few little lights. The food is delicious as it has been all along. They always do a soup and bread, then meat (or a veggie stew dish for me) and pasta or rice and veggies. Usually there’s a fruit plate for dessert. If you want to drink alcohol you’ll need to pick it up before you arrive in the Serengeti, as there aren’t any stores here. When we were near the Snake Park in Arusha, we stopped at a place where people could buy juice, wine and beer. They provide hot water for tea and hot cocoa. The food is quite filling, and then we make our way back to our tents for the night.

Up next: More game drives!! So many more animals!

Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Art Caffe

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
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In my last post I talk about the first half of my 24 hour day in Nairobi, Kenya. I spent it visiting orphaned elephants. Now it’s time for giraffes! Erica and I took our taxi to the Giraffe Center next. We hired a taxi for the day to take us around Nairobi. Split between the two of us it was an affordable flat rate and the most time saving way to see as much as possible in our 24hrs. When you meet a local driver you trust, be sure to get their phone number and call them when you need rides. Erica met a driver she liked when she was first in Nairobi so it was easy to call and get a quote for a day of touring around the city.

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We arrived at the African Fund For Endangered Wildlife Kenya (or the Giraffe Center), and paid 1000 Kshs ($11.50 USD) to enter. The center includes a cafe, gift shop and feeding platform. The photo above is the feeding platform and it is amazing. It puts you right at the height of the adult giraffes.

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Look at the feet of the giraffe above, and you can see the giraffes buddy: the warthog. The warthogs hang around the feet of the giraffes hoping to catch their scraps.

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You can see the feeding platform sits along the perimeter of a large area reserved for giraffes. Look at them eating off in the distance. They are just so gentle and sweet.

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“When I was a young warthog!!” – The Lion King

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Once I got up on the platform, an employed hands you many food pellets that the giraffes love. This giraffe came galloping over when he saw arms with pellets extended.

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That’s my hand on the left and the giraffe just grabbed a pellet from my hand with his tongue. I was nervous to feed them at first, but once you see that they don’t want to bite you, it becomes more fun. You can even pet their fur when they lean their head in.

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They have a purplish/black tongue and it’s super long. They can grab the food pellets out of your hand from a wide distance using it.

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There’s something called “kissing the giraffe”. The workers encourage doing this and it’s one of those must-do things for visiting the giraffes. Apparently giraffe’s will eat those pellets from anywhere…. anywhere. If you hold a pellet loosely between your lips, they can use their tongue to grab it. Erica got a face full of tongue above!

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Such a cutie.

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Me feeding my friend 🙂

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Next to the Giraffe Center is an expensive private hotel called Giraffe Manor. This hotel is also a feeding area for the giraffes. Supposedly they come right up to your hotel room windows and stick their heads in. You can also feed them from your dinner table. Knowing that this $12 Center is right next door, which gives you a similar yet much more affordable experience, I recommend it over spending all that money to stay in the hotel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the manor’s amazing but it’s so expensive and has to be booked so many months (years?) in advance.

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After feeding the giraffes and many “giraffe kisses”, we bid farewell to our animal friends and took our cab to the Karen Blixen Museum. Have you read the book or seen the movie Out of Africa? Karen Blixen wrote the book which is based on her life in Kenya. The museum is her actual home in Nairobi where most of the book takes place. Some of the Meryl Streep movie Out Of Africa was even filmed on these grounds.

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Much of the tour takes place inside the home, although no photos are allowed inside which is why I only included exterior photos here. The house inside is just as beautiful as you can imagine and they even have some of the clothing/props from the film.

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Karen Blixen (photo above) was a friend of the Kenyan people. She employed many people and often helped the community. Many locals would visit seeking medical and personal advice. She was loved by the Kenyan community.

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Karen owned a very large piece of property and even grew coffee beans. The above machine is used in the process of preparing the coffee.

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Once our tour ended, our taxi driver made a quick stop back at the Galleria Mall so we could get a dinner to go from Artcaffe (Erica’s favorite local restaurant good for Americans). Just a warning, security is tight at the malls in Nairobi. These malls are not nearly the size of a typical American mall, but are very large and fancy by local standards. Due to the terror attack at the Westgate Mall in 2013, there is a strong police presence at the mall. Also like many places in Africa, photography around the mall is not allowed.

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We had to try one of the Artcaffe cakes 🙂 It was delicious.

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Just to give you a sense of where we went for our 24 hours in Nairobi, Kenya, here’s a map and LINK to the directions.
A) The Nairobi Airport Stopover Hotel
B) The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
C) The Giraffe Center
D) The Karen Blixen Museum
E) The Galleria Mall – Artcaffe

Africa II: Kenya Stop 1, Baby Elephants

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
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Last I left off, Erica and I were at the Nairobi Airport Stopover Hotel about to embark on our 24 hours in Nairobi, Kenya. We researched ahead of time and figured out that The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (elephant and rhino orphanage) does a feeding in the morning which is the best time to go. We decided to start our day there. Next we would hit up the Giraffe Center where we could feed and pet Giraffes. After these two spots, we would visit the Karen Blixen Museum (Karen’s home where Out of Africa was based and filmed). Lastly we would visit one of Nairobi’s nicest malls (the Galleria) where we could eat dinner at Artcaffe (yummy!) which serves American food safe for tourists. This is a chain Erica and I both enjoyed, so if you are in Africa and see an Artcaffe, it’s a great place to grab a meal or coffee. The mall was also our last opportunity to purchase any gear for Kilimanjaro.

Since each of these activities above involved MANY photo taking opportunities, I will use this post to share just the images from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (elephants!) and the next post will focus on images of the giraffes and Karen Blixen museum.

If you only have 2 hours in Nairobi, go to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This was a highlight of the trip for me. I think it costs less than $10 USD and the money goes toward the orphan project. They rescue these baby elephants when either a parent has died (or been poached) or if they’ve been rejected from their group. A single baby elephant alone has a low survival rate (they can’t protect themselves), so they are saved and brought to this orphanage. Here the caretakers feed them and care for them like a mother would.

It’s a very sweet place and fascinating to see the elephant feedings. Once the elephants are old enough (and able to fend for themselves) they are released back into the wild, as this isn’t meant to be an elephant zoo or jail. It really is a place to rehab and teach these animals survival and social skills. Watching these animals interact during the feeding, you can see their personalities. Each elephant has a name and story, which is explained to us during the feeding.

Enjoy these adorable creatures:

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The elephants come from out in the protected woods area. The youngest group comes out first. They are so little!

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It was cute to see the school groups arrive and live the edge of the elephant area. The kids love to pet the animals, and the elephants love the attention.

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Once the baby elephants finish their feedings and are lead away, another group of slightly older elephants comes running from the woods. They know where their food is, and they are excited to get it.

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They drink powdered milk with water added, as this is most cost effective and I think closely mimics their real milk.

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After each age group drinks their milk, they walk around and play together. Above the elephant is drinking water from a barrel.

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Some elephants lay down and roll in the dirt. They love the dirt.

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Elephant heaven- rolling in the dirt. They are so happy in the photo above.

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They are so much like people and each elephant has a different personality.

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The kids were so adorable with the baby elephants.

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Happiness!

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The largest group of elephants came out last. This group enjoyed playing with the tree branches, as they eat the leaves.

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This elephant was swinging these large branches around.

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Sneaky elephants! Above and below these elephants stole extra milk bottles. These guys knew right where the crew kept the bottles and kept sneaking over by it to find left over bottles.

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Kissing elephants.

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As our time with the elephants was coming to an end, off in the distance some Thompson Gazelles stopped by to watch the elephants. These two animals coexist together in the wild and are friendly to each other. This was my first taste of seeing African animals in the wild, and I was in awe.

Giraffe’s are up next!

Do This Today: Architecture for Dogs

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Architecture for Dogs is an exhibit at the Long Beach Museum of Art until Sept 22. If I had today off from work, I would be there in a heartbeat. Their website says it’s only open until Sept 1, but other media outlets say it’s open until Sept 22. If you check out the website, you can download the specs to build your own doggie play-scapes.

Event: Architecture For Dogs Exhibit (event link)
Location: The Long Beach Museum of Art, 2300 East Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA
Time: Thursday September 12, 11a-8p
Cost: $7 adults

GIBBONS!

This past weekend my sister and I jumped in the car and ran up to Santa Clarita to spend our Saturday morning at…

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The Gibbon Conservation Center! They’re open from 9:30 – 1pm (the website says they’re only open until noon, but the sign at the facility says 1pm).

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When you arrive they give you a laminated sheet with info about each gibbon on one side. The back side shows a map of the enclosures and feeding times.

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The above photo gives you a good taste of how the enclosures are kept. They have shade and sunlight. There are plenty of branches and toys to play with as well as little igloos for privacy. There are metal benches everywhere for viewing pleasure.

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This back edge of the property is where tools and even other gibbons are kept.

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Feeding time!

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So human like.

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How cute are mama and baby above? They are my second favorite gibbons. My favorite gibbon is…

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Goliath! He’s barely a year old and super adorable.

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😛

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He played with a blanket in his enclosure.

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Here’s Goliath’s mom above.

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Just hangin’ out.

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This lady came up and posed for me! She heard my feet against the gravel as I walked up and came running and slid onto the ground. So human-like.

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I made the above clip to show you how they jump around. Some are docile and others are all over the place. They seem to really enjoy people watching as much as we enjoy watching them. Some seemed to put on a show.

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They don’t just jump around, some walk.

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Watching them eat was fun. They have a very healthy diet. This gibbon was just fed fruits and veggies. The cost of their groceries must be extensive, so I highly recommend visiting the gibbons, paying the $10 admission fee and even donate more if you can. It’s warm out there and it’s not inclosed so bring sun screen and a hat. It’s also all gravel, so wear sneakers or walking will be uncomfortable. If you stick it out until feeding times, you’ll get to hear their special gibbon “singing”.