Exploring Kenya: The top 8 things to touch!
Am I the only one that has been jealous about the way children look at the world with wonder and amazement and think why can’t I have a bit of that for myself? Take touch, it seems like that by the time we get to be an adult, our natural human curiosity to touch things has been so repressed by rules and shouldn’t do’s that we maintain a polite distance from our environment. As a result, we often miss out on the opportunity to engage with the interesting textures, sensations, and experiences.
I think we underestimate the power of touch to connect with the world around us and the world that came before. I will never forget the feeling of smooth ancient marble when overcome by excitement, I reached out and touched a 2000-year-old statue of venus from ancient Greece at the Louvre in Paris – whoops! To this day that memory sticks with me over a decade later and made me feel connected to a time and place that seemed elusive before.
After nearly six years of exploring, adventuring, and generally bouncing around the world I found that I was becoming jaded and was disconnected from what I was seeing. At some point along the journey, without me realizing it, adventure became more about checking things off a list than really being in the moment and drinking in the experience. I wanted to see the world in a new way and what better than exploring through the sensitive nerve endings on my fingers and hands?
Here are my top ten things to touch in Africa and none will get you yelled by a hostile Parisian museum guard:
#1: The velvety soft little fingers of a Sykes monkey sitting on your arm eating a banana
This was the experience that shocked me back into life and travel wonder. I had seen countless Sykes monkeys, we have a regular troop that visits our backyard, but I hadn’t really engaged with them. I had no idea they could eat so gently or that their little hands were so soft!
#2: Running your fingers over the intricate beading of a Masai necklace
For most tourists trips to Africa are about safari and seeing the wilds of the Savannah. The people aren’t the attraction, more of a curiosity. Often the Masai are presented as fierce warriors and their famous jump dance is often performed for tourists. What most tourists don’t know is that the Maasai have been creating bead jewelry for a long time, well before their first contact with Europeans.
Each color in the jewelry symbolizes something scared to the Masai, the red for bravery and cows blood, white for the white cows milk which brings life and health, blue for the sky which rain falls to provide for cows, and black for the struggle of people.
Something that I had thought of as a generic tourist trinket took on new meaning and connected on a much deeper level to a people, their history, and culture.
#3: The scratchy feel of a Giraffe’s tongue as you feed it by hand at the giraffe center
Don’t miss the chance to kiss an endangered Rothschild Giraffe! You can visit the feeding platform at Giraffe Center, a sanctuary focused on conservation and education.
This is just right up the street from us, and I never get tired of seeing the giraffes waiting to cross the road on evening walks.
#4 Rub the head of a cheetah as it deeply purrs and stretches up for more strokes
I admit I was a little scared, but there is nothing quite like petting a cheetah while it purrs in contentment!
This picture came from an experience with cheetahs that are being rehabilitated in the animal orphanage in Nanyuki, Kenya and is quite an experience.
5. Try not to get knocked over by the playful snorting trunk and clumsy body of a baby elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
They are adorable and come right up to the fence, just keep an eye out for the mischevious ones that like to get tourists muddy!
6. Touching the bark on an acacia tree and soaking all of the sounds of the savannah
Acacia trees are without a doubt the most famous of all African trees, take the chance to touch one and think about all of the life it has seen.
7. Give a giant tortoise neck a gentle scratch, they like it as they can’t reach themselves!
I don’t think I had ever touched a 100-year old creature before I gave this giant tortoise a little rub on the neck. I didn’t expect him to like it so much! Seeing him wandering around was fun, but getting to actually touch a bit of animal history was special.
8. Don’t just drive by, get out of the car and mark the moment when you first cross the equator.
This might not seem like a big deal to some, but for us North Americans, to cross something you have only seen on maps and in geography class was pretty cool!
There could have been so much more on this list, maybe some day there will be a part two, in the meantime, get out there and touch something, just make sure it is consensual 🙂