I have always been fairly comfortable at a reasonable distance from anything that qualifies as wildlife. They're over there and I'm over here and that's how I have lived my 31 years. But a visit to Mt. Kenya Animal Orphanage changed all that.
The orphanage is attached to the Mt. Kenya Safari Club. My wife and I visited my sister's family in Kenya and that was one of our big trips. During the day, we would go on safaris on the grounds, maintaining the distance from wild animals that has kept me alive so far. Then one afternoon we headed to the animal orphanage. And it was awesome!
So I admit, I wasn't at any point really worried for my safety with the wildlife we would meet. Except when we followed our guide to the cheetah pen with two large bowls full of raw beef. Then I was a bit worried – that didn't seem like the most prudent thing to do. Spoiler alert: we survived.
It's simply incredible to see these animals – some large like the bongo, others small like the dik-dik – up close and personal. We fed most of them grass or leaves, which they happily munched on. Many of these animals are being rehabbed for return to the wild. It takes time, and it's heartbreaking to know that poachers took many of the animals' mothers.
Our favorite animals to feed were the monkeys. They are playful yet mischievous, intelligent yet tricky. Our guide put some food in our hands – dragon fruit for the smaller monkeys, corn kernels for the colobus monkeys – and they happily jumped on our head and shoulders, scarfing down their late lunch without a care in the world. The smaller monkey ended up dropping half the dragon fruit on my head, but it was absolutely worth it. We even made a video about it!
It's not often you get to interact with wildlife like this (or at least it's not often that I do!), and it was one of the most memorable experiences on our trip so far. It may be tough to get to Mt. Kenya, but the orphanage and the surrounding national parks make this an incredible trip for anyone to take.