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Elephants, Elephants, Elephants!


NancyS
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So in September we finally made it to the 3 Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Reintegration units - Ithumba Hills, Galdessa, and Umani Springs to spend time with the elephants!!! Thanks to Christine and Safari Talk (where we all met).

In the fall of 2019 Christine @penolva told Safari Talkers that she was planning a return trip to see the elephants at Sheldrick’s reintegration centers. She was looking for others to join in on the trip. Having read her previous trip reports on Safari Talk, I and several others jumped at the opportunity. The trip was planned for Feb 2021 but then of course covid hit. After rescheduling the trip 3 times it finally happened this September and was well worth the wait.

So it came down to Christine and her daughter Jo, Stephanie @neeners815 and Clay, Margo @mtanenbaum, and myself for all 3 properties and Pam @pamshelton3932 and her daughter Amy for 3 days at Galdessa.

We started off separately, met up at Malaika Camp in the Masai Mara for a safari, then back to Nairobi for supplies, and then off for 3 nights at each of the 3 camps.

I’m starting this off and hopefully the others will join in.

 

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Edited by NancyS
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Tom Kellie

~ @NancyS:

 

I love the group portrait above!

 

Thank you for posting it.

 

        Tom K.

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Here is our group

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I was on my own for the 1st two days. Arrived in Nairobi 11:30pm. I was staying at Wildebeest Eco Camp and had arranged for someone to pick me up at the airport. I was very happy to see him waiting there for me when I came out of the airport. Got to my room about midnight.

The next morning I had arranged for a Max, a driver/guide to pick me up to check out the sites. I also used his services on the last day of the trip and I really recommend him. He was great company, always on time, ready to go where ever you wanted to go. First we went to the Giraffe Center where I enjoyed seeing the giraffes up close and getting to feed them. Also listened to an informative talk about giraffes.

After that I went to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage for their 1 hour viewing of the elephants coming in for their mid day bottle. To finally see the elephants coming running in for the bottle, after waiting so long for this, was amazing! Also, after over 2 1/2 yrs of emailing back and forth I finally met Christine and her daughter Jo.

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@NancySIt was lovely to meet you too and go on our elephant adventure together. 🐘🐘

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Pamshelton3932

We certainly had a fine time with the elephants.  D34D7B5B-AB79-420F-8DD9-556C28F687E7.jpeg.671d57e646b9b92416348b48b2a4d441.jpeg

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Pamshelton3932

Galdessa camp was amazing.  Watching wild elephants along the river from a safe distance each afternoon was a real treat.

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Up early my 2nd day in Kenya for a half day safari in Nairobi National Park. Mainly I wanted to see rhinos. I've been on safaris twice before but never saw a rhino, so this was a great opportunity. Saw lots of other animals as well of course. Also, where else can you see wild animal with the backdrop of a city? Spent the afternoon on a city tour of Nairobi (Na Nami City Tour) which I really liked. Then next morning it is off to the Masai Mara.

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Don't worry there are lots of elephants to come at the Sheldrick reintegration units later in the trip. But next I headed to Malaika Camp for a 4 day/3 night safari. Met Margo the night before the flight to the Masai Mara and we flew in together. Then finally met Christine, Jo, Stephanie and Clay who were already at the camp. Pam and Amy were not there at the time we were, but they went later. This portion of the trip was great (as the whole trip was). We saw LOTS of animals and had a very good safari. I did get to see the wildebeest/zebra Mara crossing on two different days which was totally unreal. After seeing countless videos of the crossing, to actually see it live was unreal.

I actually have 3,000 photos/videos from the trip but will only post a few here. The rest of the group can add in their comments/photos as well. 

 

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mtanenbaum

Nancy, thanks for getting this started! We literally have many of the same photos and I don't want to be repetitive, but I will share a few of my favorites as I have time. My favorite from the whole trip was this ridiculous photo of me having my head massaged by an elephant at the Voi Reintegration unit. This particular elephant appeared to be in training for a hair salon, as she enjoyed rubbing everyone's hair! Definitely a unique experience!!! Jump in Safaritalkers, if you have had your hair done by an elephant...  By the way, my hair is straight, so you can tell that I have a new hair-do. Even the Sheldrick keepers seemed amused! 

 

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That was definetely a unique experience!

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After a wonderful safari in the Masai Mara we all flew back to Nairobi. The next day we visited the elephant orphanage. It is always great to see the elephants there, especially the smallest ones. 

Next we headed off on a very necessary shopping expedition. We had to buy all of the food needed for the group for the next 9 days at the Sheldrick properties. That is quite an undertaking, but Christine was ready with lists of everything we needed to get and some items had already been purchased on line and were delivered to our hotel.

The following morning we were off to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's Ithumba Hill Camp in Tsavo National Park.  Later we were able to have our 1st visit with the elephants staying there as well as lots of ex-orphans and also wild elephants who came for the water which is trucked in daily.

 

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For me it was wonderful to be able to see our special orphan at Ithumba again, Jotto. Unbelievably he came right over to me so I could tell him what had happened since I last saw him. It was an incredible experience and he was so gentle. Is it true elephants never forget?  It was also great to see Benjamin again who has devoted so much of his life to the orphans. Benjamin appears in many films and TV programme about the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust but tells us he never gets to see himself in those films. 

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Benjamin and Jo

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While we were there we got great wild dog sightings - once by the elephants afternoon water hole and also on the road to the elephants. I always love to see them.

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After 3 days at Ithumba, we were off for our next adventure. Our next stop was Sheldrick's Galdessa for 3 days to see more elephants and other wildlife. The accommodations at Galdessa were great! Open on 3 sides with a great view of the river. Wildlife all around monkeys, baboons, and wild elephants right below my deck! What more could you want?

 

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elephants right below my deck

 

 

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Stehpanie and Clay

 

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Pam and Amy

 

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Great to see you got wild dogs. A nice bonus to your trip I'm sure. @penolva I'm so glad you returned to your elephants, hope you had a wonderful time

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While staying at Galdessa Camp, in Tsavo East National Park, you get to visit the elephants at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's Voi Reintegration Unit. It is about an hour away and the drive there becomes a game drive.

 

 

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The meeting with the elephants was a very interactive experience! It is truely a once in a lifetime experience. Now that I am back home this what I miss most.

 

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I never thought I would actually touch a cape buffalo.

 

 

 

 

 

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Next stop, 3 days at Sheldrick's Umani Springs in the Kibwezi Forest. This unit is mostly for the physically compromised elephants, but some of them are eventually able to return to the wild.

 

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Dining room and community area

 

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Christine and Jo's rooms

 

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My room  - it was nice except for the outside bathroom which was fine during the day. But at night there were wild elephants, cape buffalo and a leopard prowling around. I did not think that it was safe to use at night, walking to it and then it being open on one end and no door. That was a negative for me.

 

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Wildlife on the property

 

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And of course the main attraction - the elephants. Their stockade was a 10 minute walk from us. We could go there in the morning (6am) when they came out for the day and in the evening when they return for the night. Midday we also got to see them at their water hole/mud bath spot which was a short walk from where we were staying.

 

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Getting a good dusting

 

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friends

 

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Kapei - their latest rescue. He arrived at Umani Springs just before we did. We were very lucky to be there the 1st day that they let him out with the others. The other elephants immediately surrounded him and were ready to take care of him or protect him if needed. It was beautiful to see.

 

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Rangers could take you on a walk to see the springs, wild elephants ....

 

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The last night there we went to a beautiful sundowner spot.

 

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After a wonderful 9 days with the elephants, I was back in Nairobi for a day before heading home. Again I had Max, my driver/guide for the day. Margo and I went to Ocean Sole where they recycle flip flops into beautiful, colorful animals. It is a great way to help the environment as well as to provide jobs. Of course I had to buy some for my grandchildren as well as myself. 

 

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We also visited Kitengela Hot Glass Studio where they blow glass and Nani's where they do stained glass work. Be warned. It is down a long, VERY rough road. Not good for regular cars. We proceeded at a very slow speed. I was almost wondering if it was worth it, but when we finally got there, it really was. I loved being able to see them blow glass and to see their beautiful products.

 

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The hot glass studio

 

 

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Even got to see several of these guys.

 

Then sadly it was time to go home. It truely was a wonderful trip. I saw lots of wildlife and many interesting places. Nothing can beat the time spent with the elephants and the close interactions with them. I might have to go back at some point. Thank you to my wonderful travel companions! It was so good to meet you after 2 yrs of planning this trip. It was great to share this experience with you and to make lots of great memories. I also thank Safari Talk because this is where I met Christine and the others. I found out about the Sheldrick Reintegration Units by reading Christine's trip reports on here from her previous 2 visits. After reading her trip reports, I really wanted to go. When she started planning another trip I was able to jump on board and I am so happy that I did. 

 

 

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Thanks Nancy for posting this. I was so glad to be able to spend time with Mashwoti again at Umani Springs. The first time I saw him he only came up to  my shoulders.. He is just about to return to the wild which is a fantastic success considering his injured foot. A snare cut into it when he was a baby. It was great to meet all the elephants and keepers again and to meet the other Safari Talk members who joined me. I could not have done it without you!IMG_6511.JPG.81dc54ff32af26d0a769042f4b336683.JPGIMG_5981.JPG.d0e89858bbeb51519a3bc195c2ec4267.JPGfullsizeoutput_254d.jpeg.3905659eba88902243c36d2c65d57a8e.jpeg

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/11/2022 at 2:49 PM, dlo said:

Great to see you got wild dogs. A nice bonus to your trip I'm sure. @penolva I'm so glad you returned to your elephants, hope you had a wonderful time

@dloThank you.  I was so glad to go back one last time and see my orphans. They are so loving. Pen

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Such a beautiful and heartwarming report.  Thanks for taking me back to Sheldrick's. 

 

"Kapei - their latest rescue. He arrived at Umani Springs just before we did. We were very lucky to be there the 1st day that they let him out with the others. The other elephants immediately surrounded him and were ready to take care of him or protect him if needed. It was beautiful to see."  This is so uplifting to read.  How wonderful you got to see it.

 

Good idea to walk to the springs at Umani Springs with the rangers to see the wild elephants, and more.  A 3-night stay gives enough time for that. 

 

You really had some great interactions with the ele calves!  Tsavo West really delivered a nice variety for you.  The mother & baby rhino in NBO Nat Park with the city backdrop are an outstanding find.

 

"Nothing can beat the time spent with the elephants and the close interactions with them. I might have to go back at some point. "  I couldn't agree more!

 

Thank you for sharing your elephant adventure with us. 

 

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