Giraffe Manor & Meru National Park – Three Destinations in Kenya Part One
In February 2019, Chuck and Nancy Bell began their exciting tour of Kenya which would take them to 3 iconic destinations and places that would leave them with a bevy of memorable experiences and inspiring images.
Filled with images captured by both Chuck and Nancy, these avid photographers are sure to sweep you up to live their journey with them!
We arrived in Nairobi in February 2019, on a tour arranged for us by ORYX Photo Tours. We headed directly to the world famous Giraffe Manor, where the endangered Rothschild’s Giraffe is bred and cared for in an effort to save and help repopulated this species in its native regions.
Since its founding in 1979, Giraffe Manor’s conservation centre has returned more than 50 giraffes to the wild.
The manor house, in what is now a Nairobi suburb, was built in the 1930’s as an English squire’s hunting home. It has been impeccably restored and preserved.
We stayed in the Karen Blixen suite. Karen, the author of “Out of Africa”, lived nearby and wrote of her life here.
(Below left) Karen visited this home when she lived here. The armoire, which is partially seen at the far right of this photo, also belonged to her.
(Below right) This is Karen Blixen’s desk on which she wrote some of her celebrated work. I put my laptop on it to edit these images.
By far the best part of our visit, though, was the giraffes. They come to the dining room windows at breakfast, and we were given “giraffe kibbles” to feed to them. It was really an experience like no other.
We had two memorable mornings feeding giraffes as we enjoyed wonderful Kenyan coffee and a delicious breakfast spread.
During the day, the giraffes came up to the edge of the garden to get more treats from the Manor’s guests.
With giraffes still on our minds, we headed to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport for a flight to Meru National Park with this young lady as our pilot. We saw the jagged top of Mount Kenya breaking the horizon.
Our home for the next several nights was at Else’s Kopje (hill), where George Adamson raised the lioness he named Else, immortalised in the book, movie and song “Born Free”.
Our private chalet at Else’s Kopje Lodge was spectacular, with a beautiful view out over the national park.
Marred by serious poaching in the 1980s and the subsequent murder of George Adamson in 1989, Meru National Park fell off the tourist map and has never quite managed to get back on. it was restored between 2000-2005 with a major international grant, and now it is one of the finest reserves in all Kenya. And it is one we enjoyed without the throngs of tourists one finds in other Kenyan parks.
Meru is home to the endangered Grevy’s Zebra. Its population has dwindled from 15,000 to just 3,000 in the past half century, living in scattered pockets in northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia. Its stripes are much more narrow than those of the more abundant Burchell’s Zebra.
Meru also has a sanctuary for the White Rhino. It is in a vast fenced enclosure with controlled entry, and the rhinos are very well protected by park service ranger patrols.
The Gerenuk, also known as the Giraffe Antelope, is another uncommon resident of Meru National Park.
It is endemic to the drier parts of East Africa and is classified as “Near Threatened”. Its long neck enables it to browse high up into the trees.
Meru National Park is a sanctuary for another Endangered species, the Reticulated Giraffe. Its traditional range includes Somali, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya, but its population has dropped to just 8,500 animals living in the wild.
Cape buffalo were fairly abundant in the Park. They are a favourite prey of lions.
Meru is designated as a lion sanctuary, and we came across them frequently in our morning and afternoon vehicle safaris.
One pride had taken down a Cape buffalo the previous night, and we came upon it as some of the pride fed.
Some of the Lions rested after eating, and they didn’t like being disturbed!
The big round belly on this cub shows that it had certainly eaten its fill!
Another pride we came upon was lounging along a stream bank, and this female had climbed a tree to rest in the shade.
It seems that Lions are known to climb trees in only a few East African parks.
Warthogs must keep a wary eye out for Lions, but they can be formidable opponents.
By any measure, the Gray-crowned Crane is one of the most beautiful birds in all of Africa.
The orange or sometimes white pompom tail of the male Somali Ostrich distinguishes is from the Common Ostrich.
It is classified as Vulnerable and exists only east of the Rift Valley.
Even back at the lodge we found things to photograph, particularly the cute Rock Hyrax that scampered about the hillside on our walk from our chalet to the dining area.
This is an unusual white morph of the hyrax.
After three wonderful days, it was time to say goodbye to Meru National Park, return to Nairobi and join an ORX Photo Tour group led by Penny Robartes to photograph in Kenya’s Masai Mara.
To be continued in Wildlife Photo Tour to the Masai Mara – Three Destinations in Kenya Part Two.