I’ll admit it … when we landed in Nairobi all I wanted to do was catch a few hours of sleep and then head out into the Maasai Mara. A visit to the Langata Giraffe Center just sounded like a way to kill time and only served to delay the real purpose of the trip – an African safari. But as we walked into the Giraffe Center and I saw all the magnificent creatures grazing freely under the trees I had a bit of a paradigm shift. I was instantly lost in the moment surrounded by these gentle giants. The next couple of hours generated beautiful memories that will be forever imprinted in my mind and on my soul.
The Langata Giraffe Center is also affectionately known simply as the Giraffe Center. Its real name, however, is the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Kenya Limited. The Giraffe Center was founded in 1979 to help protect Kenya’s endangered Rothschild giraffe. It has since grown into a successful breeding and educational program that also teaches Kenya’s school children to respect Kenyan wildlife and live together with it in harmony.
For my travel group the highlight of the Giraffe Center visit was the feeding platform that allowed visitors to be eye-to-eye with the resident giraffes. Many of them were friendly and came right up to you expecting to eat food pellets directly from your hands. The Giraffe Center’s staff supplied us with the pellets free of charge, and we were allowed to stay and feed the giraffes for as long as we wished.
But eating from our hands wasn’t intimate enough for these loving creatures. Their true desire was to actually give us kisses and take the food pellets from our lips. That’s right … I can honestly say that I have been mouth-to-mouth intimate with an adult giraffe!
Now, if you’ve never kissed a giraffe, you may not know that their tongues are exceptionally long, strong and prehensile. Oh – and I should probably mention that they are also very slobbery. In any other situation I’m sure I would have been worrying about germs … and disease … and epidemics. But at this particular place in this particular moment in time, all I was worried about was the long-term survival of this magnificent species. Thanks to the Langata Giraffe Center, those odds look pretty good.