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‘Karibu’ means ‘welcome’ in Swahili and it was the first thing I heard as I got off the plane. On landing at Nairobi airport, we headed straight to the Sarova Stanley hotel, where we were booked to stay. Located in the very heart of Nairobi, near its vibrant city centre and other shopping markets, this heritage hotel has been voted the best in Kenya at the World Travel awards, described by the Wall Street Journal as the ‘Oscars’ of the global travel and tourism industry. It was grand indeed. After checking in, we headed for lunch to its famous outdoor Thorn Tree Café which had functioned as the oldest post office in Kenya many, many years ago.
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Nairobi National Park
My eyes opened to see dark clouds out from the plane window.. I was worried because the flight was 1 hr late, I was worried because rains were unexpected and more importantly I was worried because I thought the driver who was supposed to pick me up at 6:30 am would have left by now. It was 7:15 and I got down at the airport in this confusion. My mobile network was unavailable. I inquired if any paid telephone booths were available at the airport so that I could call John (the driver cum guide) and ask if he was still at the airport. But no booths and more confusions. I requested one of the staff members of the airlines if I could use their mobile phone and she sweetly agreed. Thankfully he was there and I informed him that i would come out of the airport after I get a visa. The queue was long as two flights landed one after the other. Till the time I reached the counter I was not sure if Visa on arrival is available for Indians. The process was complete and I was out in the rainy day looking for John. He was carrying a placard with my name. After a warm handshake he greeted me "Karibu" and took me towards the car. I was slightly scared of being alone in a new city without any mode of communication. And then Aks called up on John's mobile giving me a sense of security. I also remembered that I had given John's number on the immigration form. So, it was now time to relax and enjoy the ride. I paid the pre-decided amount to John and he stopped by a fuel station.I purchased water and cakes as snacks and then we entered the Nairobi National park through back gate which was near the airport. John picked up our entry passes and we went in. As we entered, I had many questions in mind, whether I would see any animals, will they be far or near, will the battery of my camera run till the end, will I see a lion? So many of them I kept on asking Passing through the grassland within 2 minutes of the entry I spotted some brown animals on my left as we went closer, they looked like dear which are known as big gazelles. So swift and so many. They were crossing the dirt road we were passing through. Then came the crown crow and later biggest antelope of the world Eland. They were all amazing and to see them in wild, much more amazing. As we moved ahead I saw some thing stripped amongst the gazelles on my right. Oh really!! Those were the zebras and I was seeing them for the first time. I had seen them only in books and TV programs. They were far but we stopped for a while and I observed. John was smiling as asked if we could leave. I said OK and we moved with the speed not exceeding 20kms/hr.It was just 15-20 min after we had entered and we spotted giraffes... first 2 then 4 then 8 and then many. They were walking towards us. Though 10-20 ft far from the vehicle I could see them closely. I felt like i should get to touch them,interact with them, but being a forest area this was not allowed. I was observing these creatures for a long time, some very very tall, some were short, some had slender neck while few of them had a fat neck. All kinds and they were grazing with their heads down as the plants were shorter to the. One of those was staring at our car continuously, perhaps it was ruminating. But for all the time we were standing there, I got a clear view of many giraffe. I pulled half of me out of the rooftop to experience few drops of rain, the cool breeze, the chirping sound in the background and the wild beauty. We stood there for a long time, after I was all fulfilled with the experience we decided to move ahead. many gazelles and elands were grazing around. And John exclaimed pointing towards right, ostrich. Oh really!! Are they spotted so easily so close or I am just lucky. All animals I saw were very close. John explained that because we entered from back gate and the atmosphere was all rainy,you could see so many out. But I was lucky for them being close. So, I had seen house flies and the wild flies, the butterflies in many colors, then the birds small and blue, grey and orange and many other kinds followed by crown cranes and vultures and Ostrich as the largest of them. Ostriches are nearly my height when they stand tall with their stretched necks. And their necks moves like a classical dance just the neck. It seems as if a hand is plucking something from the shrubs. Just ahead comes the zebra. Blend of black and white and yet amazing.With all those stripes if many zebras stand together, you just can't differentiate between two. Some kind of hypnotism or illusion is created with their movement. Amazing creatures representing the opposites staying together- Black and the white. Now I was awaiting the Rhinoceros but no signs. We saw another vehicle stop by in front of us. I thought it is stuck in the mud as we saw many such stuck vehicle behind. But they were looking towards something. John said Rhino! but I was unable to spot it. He had really sharp eyes. It was nearly 100 ft or may be more away from us. I used binoculars and maximum zoom of my camera to see it closely. That was not a fun part just a satisfaction of seeing a rhino. We then went somewhere with a lot more greener view. But we could not spot any animals there. Perhaps, because of the dense trees none were visible or they were away partying somewhere else. But they had Baboons there and a sign board to beware of them. We could step out of the car at this location and I clicked some pics of me and John with the car. Once we crossed the greenery, we decided to move towards the exit as I had spotted most of the animals except for the Lions. But where ever we went all other animals were coolly grazing and we knew that lion must not be Later we stopped near a water body which was overflowing from the mud road. To my surprise I spotted a hippopotamus taking rest in the water. Although I couldn't capture it well, I got a glimpse of that really ugly but cute creature. After nearly 4 hours of our safari, we came out, me with a fulfilled heart and John with a heavy wallet. We came out from the main entrance which was nicely decorated and more lively than the one we entered with. But the back gate had it own benefits. We had 2 more hours in hand. Instead of Giraffe centre, I decided to have a city ride. I was tired but wanted to see. John suggested if we could go to the KICC, one of the tallest building of Nairobi from where I could see the city. The KICC had an entry ticket. The experience was good but not that worth if you are really short of time. We just spent 15-20 min there and started with our drive back to the airport... On the way I saw the poster of a Airlines which said Karibu.. you are welcome to our country!!