ISSUE 20| JULY/AUGUST | FREE COPY
CABIN FEVER THE GREAT OUTDOORS
A MOUNTAINEER'S JOURNEY
THE RHINOS FLYING TO BOTSWANA
KAYAKING THE NILE RIVER
OUT OF OFFICE REPLY: GONE OUTDOORS!
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Close Earrings in Brass, Ebony & Leather Closure Collection @amidoshishah www.amidoshishah.com
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GO BACK AND PACK YOUR GUMBOOTS!
am hopeless when it comes to packing. I always forget to bring the most basic of things. A toothbrush. The other part in a pair of socks. Body lotion. My phone charger. I even rocked up to an airport once having forgotten to bring my passport. When it came to packing for Mt Kenya, therefore, I packed light, and to an onlooker, I might as well have been heading to the gym. Brian (photographer) and Peter (videographer) came to pick me up from my apartment block on the morning of the trip, and when I walked out in converse and a small duffel bag (which was mostly filled with my photography gear), they looked at me in bewilderment. Compared to me, they were so bundled-up that Peter was in fact wearing wellies. “Are you sure you’re not just being dramatic?” I asked pointing to his boots, and shortly after, seeing all the bags they had stuffed into the back of the car. “You do realize that we’ll be going up to 3,500m above sea level, right?” they asked in near perfect unison, as though
they had rehearsed their lines before I came downstairs. And so, after having some sense talked into me, I rushed back to the house and packed every piece of warm clothing I had in my closet. Wellies, though, were another matter altogether. In fact, I don’t think I have ever owned a pair. A stop in Thika town had me running around in search of a pair ‘just to be on the safe side’, and at Bata, I got lucky. Later on during the trip, while trudging almost knee-deep through a swamp at Ragati Conservancy immediately after crossing a river for the umpteenth time, the boys were unabashedly quick to remind me how much they had practically saved my life. As you do your own packing, don’t forget your mittens, scarves, fleece jackets, torches and cooler boxes as you come up to the mountains with us. We set off to the eastern and southern slopes of Mt Kenya, go caving at Mt Elgon, kayak down the Nile and take part in an array of outdoor activities which you’re welcome to try. Most of all, remember to go back and pack your gumboots!
wattaonthego NOMAD ISSUE. 20 · JUNE/JULY 2019 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR WENDY WATTA DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI SALES VANESSA WANJIKU CONTRIBUTORS SAMANTHA DU TOIT, SOPHIE IBBOTSON, MAURICE SCHUTGENS, MARTYN POLLOCK, WANJIKU KINUTHIA, KARANJA NZISA, ROBBIE MINGAY, FAITH KANJA, JOSEPH MURIITHI, HANNAH SIMPSON CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS BRIAN SIAMBI, DANIEL MSIRIKALE, KAELO JONATHAN, PETER NDUNG'U DIGITAL FAITH KANJA MARKETING & OPERATIONS DANIEL MUTHIANI, ANGELA OMONDI SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL EDITOR@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO
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ON THE COVER RAGATI HOUSE IN RAGATI CONSERVANCY. SHOT BY BRIAN SIAMBI
In this issue 12. TOP SHOTS This monthâ€™s featured photographers capture a waterfall in Tanzania, and a mother cheetah with grown cubs in the Mara. 17. WHATS ON From the Nyege Nyege festival in Jinja to Paint the Run and a mountain biking challenge, find a roundup of must-attend events this season. 18. NEWS The Lamu coal project gets brought to a halt, Great Plains Mara Nyika is set to open this August and Hell's Gate national park inspires the new Lion king film. 22. GLOBETROTTERS A skydiver, hiker, adventure biker and a scuba diver share what draws them to the great outdoors. 50. WHAT I PACK FOR MY TRAVELS Music publicist & journalist Anyiko Owoko gives us a peek inside her travel bag.
FEATURES 28. A MOUNTAINEER’S JOURNEY With his dad being a mountaineer, growing up, Mt Kenya was always a key fixture in Joseph Muriithi’s life. Today, having climbed it 90 times in five years, he recounts what makes this place so special. 32. THE GREAT OUTDOORS With no electricity for the weekend and miles of beautiful landscape to wander, Wendy Watta discovers the joy of fly fishing, hiking and a cozy cabin at Ragati Conservancy. 36. DID SOMEONE SAY LAKE ELLIS? The Nomad team’s highly anticipated drive up to the scenic Lake Ellis at 3,500m up Mt Kenya doesn’t exactly kick off as planned.
42. THE RHINOS FLYING TO BOTSWANA Sophie Ibbotson writes about Rhinos Without Borders, a project which aims to move 100 rhinos from poaching hotspots in South Africa to new safe homelands in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
40. HIKING THE UNDERDOG Mt Elgon may get far less visitors than its more popular counterparts in Kenya and Uganda, but its charm is certainly not lost on Martyn Pollock.
24. AGE OF THE CONSCIOUS TRAVELER When people travel, it’s easy to engage in what may seem to be great ‘photo op’ moments without thinking of the real life consequences. Conversations around sustainable travel have therefore never been more vital.
44. ROW ROW ROW YOUR KAYAK Whitewater kayaking is one of those experiences that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list but it’s one of the more difficult adventure sports to actually get out and try. For kayaking guide Robbie Mingay, it’s just another day in Jinja.
26. THE ELEPHANT AND THE BEE Samantha Du Toit’s children listen wideeyed to an ancient African folktale about the largest of land animals being afraid of a tiny honey bee, and how this is presently being used to help farmers protect their crops.
46 46. COMOROS: AFRICA’S FORGOTTEN ARCHIPELAGO Floating between Mozambique and Madagascar lies the Comoros, the romantically named Islands of the Moon. Maurice Schutgens paints a perfect picture with five activities that should be on your bucket list. 56. LAGOS WOES A series of catastrophes lead to Karanja Nzisa almost being stuck at an airport in Nigeria in this month’s Last Word column.
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HIGHEST RANKED HOTEL IN KILIFI TOWN
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FANCY A CUPPA?
ROBBIE MINGAY Adventures in Jinja, Page 44
FAITH KANJA Globetrotters, Page 22
KARANJA NZISA Lagos Woes, Page 56
Usually I'm out on the river, either for work or for fun. After a big day of paddling, my favourite spot to refuel in Jinja is either Moti Mahal's for Indian cuisine or a local bar for fried pork and cold beers with friends.
The cold season reminds me of a road trip to Nanyuki. I can vividly recall how warming the hot chocolate at Barney's Restaurant was. Looking forward to another sumptuous breakfast there on my next trip north! Trout Tree nestled along the Buruget River is also a great go-to.
Largely due to its proximity to my office, Le Grenier à Pain has become a favourite haunt of mine. Though not a big coffee person, I relish their macchiato, especially when accompanied by the poulet curry sandwich which feels a lot like home.
OLOOLUA FOREST Let’s talk about conservation; let’s have a conversation about it. This is what we did with the team at the Oloolua Community Forest Association (CFA) who are passionate about creating awareness regarding Nairobi’s green space. Oloolua Forest, as CFA reveals, is an important wildlife refuge and biodiversity hotspot. Considered a lung for Nairobi, it covers 618 hectares and is home to a significant acreage of indigenous trees. The forest is part of the larger Ngong Forest block which also comprises Ngong Hills and Kibiko Forest. It provides a habitat to a variety of wildlife (including small antelopes and other mammals such as hyena and the occasional leopard).
Like most forests, Oloolua is under threat from human activities. Quarrying, encroachment as well as development of major roads and the SGR through the heart of the forest put it at the brink of deforestation. This has sparked the need to have the forest fenced in a bid to prevent further fragmentation and loss of green space. Statistics reveal that we are losing 5,000 hectares of forest cover per year in Kenya. This translates to an economic loss of over USD 90 million. The CFA has taken up the initiative to protect and conserve the remaining Oloolua Forest by fencing it in two phases. This initiative is informed by the successful
example of the Karura Forest Environmental Management Plan. They plan to involve all surrounding communities including Gataka, Embulbul, Karen and Olkeri. Employing forest scouts will provide livelihoods for members of this community. Moreover, it aligns the forest’s interests with theirs through a sense of ownership. A great deal of training will be done to ensure sufficient empowerment in safeguarding the forest. If you haven’t visited the Oloolua Nature Trail, here are some unique features about the forest: • 33-foot Maumau cave • Picnic sites • Bicycle riding trails • Waterfalls • Walking trails also suitable for pets • Hiking and running trails for nature lovers and fitness enthusiasts As CFA strives to create a green, safe, versatile and recreational space for Nairobi, we hope that you are also playing a role in ensuring the sustainability of our green spaces for future generations. You can support them via www.gofundme.com/ oloolua. For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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KAELO JONATHAN Instagram: @kaelophotography This shot was taken late afternoon in the Maasai Mara. I was following a mother cheetah with her grown cubs. Cheetahs like climbing to higher look-out points to be able to scan the area for potential prey or predators. When I saw the dead tree, I knew this would be a perfect opportunity as the group would be tempted to climb it, and with the sun setting in the background, they did. My settings were ISO 200, F/ 6.3 and a shutter speed of 1/8000 using a Canon 1DX Mark II with a 500mm lens.
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
DANIEL MSIRIKALE @that_tanzanianguy I took this shot of Malamba Falls about 15km from Tukuyu town in Tanzania, at around 1:00pm on an overcast day. I used a Canon 5D Mark IV with a 50mm lens using the settings: ISO 100, F/3.5 and shutter speed of 1/400 sec. Tip: shoot the same subject at different times of the day. How the light hits it at different times will greatly affect the final image.
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
The Art of Culinaryx Excellence EXECUTED TO PERFECTION
Whether its lavish breakfasts and classical dinner dishes that have been reimagined with contemporary influences in the Manor Kitchen, sharing plates in the Craven Lounge or gourmet pub-style fare enjoyed in the cosy indoor environment of the Taphuis or on the outdoor terrace, at Lanzerac our superb cuisine - boasting the very best locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable ingredients - will take our diners on an exciting culinary journey. ACCOMMODATION | SPA | RESTAURANTS DELI | WINE TASTING | CONFERENCING | CELLAR TOURS
NYEGE NYEGE FESTIVAL
Located on the banks of the Nile in Jinja, Nyege Nyege is more than a festival; it’s a real East African gathering that brings some of the most exciting new acts from the region together with exciting musicians from all over the continent and beyond (this year especially from Asia, South America and the US). Nyege Nyege is now considered the most important four-day international music festival in East Africa for both its one-of-a-kind curation and its unique East African party vibe. This year’s event takes place from 5th-8th September. For more information and tickets, visit www.nyegenyege.com
PHOTOGRAPH: Courtesy Paint The Run
PHOTOGRAPH: Make It Kenya Photo / Stuart Price
This is a one day mountain bike event hosted by Mt. Kenya Epik. The challenge, which covers approximately 60km, will take place on July 27 at KALRO, Muguga. Teams are made up of two people and categories accommodate men, women, mixed teams and juniors. The route takes participants through undulating hills set in agricultural land and forest areas offering a challenging combination of technical and endurance riding. Entry and registration cost is Ksh 1,500 for adults and Ksh 1,000 for kids www.mtkenyaepik.co.ke.
PAINT THE RUN
The third edition of Paint The Run is finally here. Set to take place at the Ngong Forest Sanctuary on Saturday July 20th from 11am, get ready for their most fun run yet. There will be an exciting obstacle run, a glow festival and much more. Last year’s theme was well-being, with the aim of encouraging mental and physical health using fun activities. Get your advance tickets for Ksh 1500 for one and a Ksh 3500 for a group of four via www.cloud9xp.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
GREAT PLAINS MARA NYIKA SET TO OPEN THIS AUGUST LAMU COAL PROJECT HALTED
A momentous win for Lamu and environmentalists as tribunal halts plans to construct the country’s first ever coal-powered plant near the coastal town of Lamu, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The license previously granted to Amu Power, the developer of the controversial Lamu Coal Plant, has been cancelled. The National Environment Tribunal (NET) ruled that the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) issued the environmental impact assessment license to Amu Power without following the law. The Ksh 200 billion project was Kenya’s first coal-fired power plant. The tribunal faulted the project for omitting engineering plans and details of the plant from public participation. Moreover, the project was not consistent with the Climate Change Act.
LION KING FILM INSPIRED BY HELL’S GATE NATIONAL PARK The London premiere of the new Lion King Movie saw Magical Kenya’s logo being displayed on the film’s back-drop banner. Kenya sponsored the movie premiere and the partnership between Walt Disney and the Kenya Tourism Board is meant to generate huge visibility for the country as a destination. Hells Gate National Park inspired the Lion King Film as it is considered the home of the Pride Rock. The dramatic and scenic landscapes, abundance of wildlife, rock climbing and cycling make the park a favourite for many. The 2019 Lion King remake premieres on 19th July 2019.
The Great Plains Conservation will be adding to its collection another luxurious glamping property in the Mara, after Mara Plains. Set in the Mara Naibosho Conservancy, it is set to open its doors to the public in early August. The camp is set in a valley, straddling a small stream. The light-coloured canvas tents are designed to sit under the canopy of umbrella thorn trees while still offering guests views out over the bush. Walkways from tents to the main area evoke the feeling of a treehouse under canvas, and the camp’s ethic and inspiration is one of exploration and adventure.
KENYA LAUNCHES MOUNTAIN BONGO RECOVERY PLAN
The Kenya Forest Service has allocated 776 acres within the Mt Kenya Forest ecosystem for conservation of the endangered mountain bongo. The land will be used for expansion of the current bongo sanctuary and also will be fenced and paddocked to allow for breeding. The mountain bongo is a chestnut-red forest-dwelling antelope with 12-14 white stripes traversing its shoulders, flanks and hindquarters. The country’s population is 77 out of 96 total in the world and is under the custody of Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy in Laikipia. Their population has been shrinking considerably due to human activities like poaching and logging, as well as diseases and loss of habitat.
Nestled in the foothills of Mt Kenya, award-winning accommodation 40 minutes from Nanyuki, endless opportunities to relax, reconnect with nature and the special people in your life. Now offering half-day horse riding safaris into the neighbouring 36,000 acre, privately-owned wildlife conservancy. Proud to be #1 of 21 on TripAdvisor, B&Bs/Inns of Laikipa County
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EXECUTIVE CORPORATE TRANSPORT We are an executive car hire company Best known in the provision of excellent selection of chauffeur driven executive cars, that will cater to your, • Business meetings • Conferences • VVIP Transport • Airport Transfers • Special and Red carpet Events WEDDING CARS FOR HIRE • It is all about the great attention to detail • We understand that Special Days require Special Touch • Experience an extra touch of class and royalty. • Ride with the most sought cars in the Industry. For more Details Contact us on: Mobile: +254 718 708 771/ 723 756 942/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.lesusexecutive.co.ke
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SEEKERS A sky diver, hiker, adventure rider and a scuba diver share what draws them to the outdoors.
You are an Olympian, what does that entail? As an Olympian, swimming becomes more of a lifestyle than a sport. I moved away from home at a young age to attend a sports boarding school. This was characterised by long training hours, numerous competitions around the world and many sacrifices. However, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. The journey to the Olympics taught me so many lessons and helped shape the person I am today. How did you get into skydiving? I believe in living life to the fullest and as such, skydiving was on my bucket list. After my first (and only) tandem skydive, I didn’t get much fulfilment. I therefore decided to take the AFF course and get my license. I wanted to see the world from a different perspective and have the freedom to fly. Since then, I have completely fallen in love with this sport, and it reminds me that you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to. Getting my license was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Aside from Skydiving, what other adrenaline driven activities have you immersed yourself in? I love anything that makes me feel alive. I free dive and rock climb. I also love to wakeboard, kite surf and scuba dive. Sometimes I fear I will give my mother a heart attack because I am always either jumping out of planes or high edges, or swimming with big fish! What do you love about the outdoors? The fresh air, and the feeling of being such a small thing amidst this vast and incredible world. I don’t like being confined within four walls. When I immerse myself in nature, the sky or even under water, I feel grounded, humbled and so inspired.
ROOP SINGH KHALSA THE ADVENTURE RIDER @adventureriders254
boat to Manda Island and Shela. Feeling the breeze came as a relief after a long, adventurous ride.
What’s been your most memorable ride thus far? I went to Addis Ababa with friends, and it took us three days. From searching for fuel in unexpected places to celebrating the Ethiopian New Year upon arrival, this is one of my favourite adventures to date. Immersing myself in the country’s rich culture was one of my highlights. The traditional food, coffee and hospitality will have me returning. Another memorable ride was to Garissa, Lamu and thereafter Malindi. We however had to park the bikes at a local’s home for two days then take a
What satisfaction do you get in being outdoors, especially with your bike? The experience is priceless. There is so much satisfaction when the sun hits your face in the morning, when relaxing to a magical sunset or being soothed by the sound of a river and chirping birds. Getting around by bike will definitely take you farther and deeper within a short time while being in contact with all the elements of nature. The sense of self-sufficiency and independence is unmatched. All you need is a great playlist to listen to inside your helmet and you’re set.
TALISA LANOE THE SKYDIVER @talisalanoe
What’s your dream trip? To travel the world on my motorcycle. I believe life is short and riding to as many destinations as possible makes every second count. Meeting new people, capturing moments, happily accepting surprises on the road and enjoying every kilometer of the journey- this to me is the true adventure. Would you trade your bike for a car? No...any person who owns a car should make an effort to learn how to ride a motorcycle. The thrill is riveting. AZIM ASGER THE SCUBA DIVER @wind_obsession What draws you to the ocean? My love for the ocean dates back to my childhood...it may sound corny but my first memory is that of the ocean. It gives me a sense of freedom and I am inspired by its colours, especially during sunrise and sunset. The variety of marine life is beyond beautiful. I have equally met amazing people in my life because of getting myself out there. How did you get to be a diving and windsurfing instructor? I was five when I first went diving with my father who used to be an instructor. My love for the sport had me enrolling for PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and from there, I became certified. As for surfing, I would go to the beach, rent a cracked board for Ksh 40 or simply find a plank of wood and try balance whilst pretending to be surfing. After a great deal of practice and learning, I am now a windsurfing instructor. I now also advocate for marine life and coral reef conservation as well as plastic free oceans. What have been some of your best or even scary moments under water?
I remember swimming with two giant whale sharks, which was an unbelievable experience. It’s always pleasant encountering a pod of dolphins during dives and joining them for a swim. Another best moment was seeing a shark while undergoing my PADI training. The excitement was comparative to seeing a lion while on safari. Scary moments are when my student divers get too excited upon seeing something interesting and they tend to swim away to explore. This is always a risk and I can only hope I am fast enough to stop them. MIRIAM AMIANI THE HIKER @just.mimie How did you get into hiking? I started off in January 2016 after making
the ceremonial New Year’s resolutions. I had decided to indulge in two new activities that would challenge me: hiking and riding motorcycles. One day I signed up for a hike up Mt Longonot. I got rained on and was soaking wet from my head to my shoes, but I actually enjoyed that. I knew it was something I would continue doing whenever I got the chance. What do you love most about hiking? Being in the mountains is a great break from the chaotic city life that I live. Aside from reconnecting with myself, I have met amazing people and most of my valuable friendships have been made in the mountains. Hiking has been a constant reminder that nothing good comes easy. The hike may be treacherous but once at the summit, you see the beauty of the universe beneath you and say to yourself it that it was all worth it. What draws you to the outdoors? It’s the best way to spend time alone or with friends. The solitude gives you time to think about life, get new ideas and reduce stress levels while keeping fit. Once in a while, it’s good to actually stop and smell the flowers...talk about free aromatherapy! Creating great memories and bonding with friends is something I have come to value about being outdoors. Any advice to readers who want to take it up? Hiking starts with your mental state; if you perceive it, then summiting is as easy as ABC. All you need is a good pair of hiking shoes and a good attitude. Every mountain has its own experience and it always brings out something new about ourselves.
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
AGE OF THE
CONSCIOUS TRAVELER When people travel, it’s easy to engage in what may seem to be great ‘photo op’ moments without thinking of the real life consequences on things like the environment. Conversations around sustainable travel have therefore never been more vital, writes Wanjiku Kinuthia.
any were appalled when Kim Kardashian recently shared a throwback photograph of herself posing next to an elephant, with a rider straddling it, in Indonesia. Kardashian insisted that the elephant was photographed in a ‘sanctuary’, but many were quick to point out that elephant sanctuaries do not share in some of the practices visible in the photograph. All over the world, when people travel, it’s easy to engage in what may seem to be great ‘photo op’ moments without thinking of the real life consequences. I'm certainly not an expert in sustainability models across tourism industries, however I have learned lessons from working on a conservation landscape for over seven years where sustainable practices are key, and interactions with highly conscious travellers and friends have ignited conversations over many sundowners as to how we can all see the world and not ruin it while at it.
MINIMISE YOUR TRAVEL FOOTPRINT One of my dearest friends, Abagi, is a vegetarian. When I first found out about
this, I automatically thought that it was for the benefit of animal welfare. But she said, "Ciku, I fly too much for work. I'm a vegetarian to minimise my negative impacts on this world." This brief conversation ignited my thinking around how we travel, what we do during these trips, how we can take ownership of our impacts and try to do better. According to a study published by Nature Climate Change in 2018, the carbon footprint of global tourism is four times more than previously estimated, accounting for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Transport, shopping and food are significant contributors. While travelling, how often do you consider, alongside cost and convenience, the most sustainable form of transportation to get to your destination? In many cases, aeroplane travel is unavoidable. But with regional and in-country travel, choosing a train, bus or car over an aeroplane is a better option. According to a study on green travel by the Union of Concerned Scientists, this can mean 55% to 75% fewer emissions than flying.
PICK DESTINATIONS THAT ARE GENUINELY DOING GOOD
I often joke, working in conservation in
Kenya, that most tourism properties are quick to declare how their models promote development and livelihoods in local communities. Usually, there are claims of sustainable practices, but the reality on the ground is different. Greenwashing, as it is called, is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits. Another dear friend, Kasmira, only travels to places where she can effectively research and substantiate their green practices and social impact. "I usually choose to stay on properties that are locally owned or managed. Popular tourism sites become less impactful for the country and residents because they become commercialised and focus less on an authentic product. This means that they offer little or no real benefit to local people." One of the quickest ways we check for this is to look at the management of
a property, and then ask ourselves, if we stay here for a few days, who does it truly benefit? Does it benefit endangered species or forests and ecosystems? Does it improve livelihoods with direct and clear benefits to people? Do they have practical and visible sustainable practices?
FIND WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
Incorporate activities that involve supporting the ecosystem. If you wish to run a marathon, run it on Lewa where funds raised directly support conservation and development work across Kenya. While in Watamu, visit the Local Ocean Trust, volunteer for beach clean up activities and learn more about the marine environment. Every two years in January, make a point to visit northern Kenya, go glamping and become a citizen scientist by photographing and collecting data on the endangered Grevy’s zebra. Around the world, find similar activities that not only enrich your experiences but
also contribute to creating an improved environment.
EMBRACING SUSTAINABLE LIVING
We all know the negative effects of single use plastic. But beyond plastic, there are other products that we use in our day-to-day lives, and mostly while travelling, that are harmful to the environment. Two examples are sunscreen and fast fashion. I only discovered recently from The London Chatter, a Kenyan lifestyle blogger based in London, that there’s more to think about than just SPF when it comes to responsibly choosing your go-to sunscreen. Most have an active ingredient, Oxybenzone, that can be toxic to ocean life by damaging coral reefs. According to some reports, between 6,000 and 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen end up in reef areas each year. The fashion industry is also one of the major polluting industries in the world. To make better choices, buy less. Buy second
hand (yay to mtumba!), swap clothes with your friends and buy good quality items that last longer. Buy clothes from sustainable brands while being aware of ‘fake’ sustainable ones. While at your destination, wear clothes and accessories made using locally sourced, sustainable materials to promote industries and boost income for the people.
BECOME A SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL CHAMPION
Sustainable travel needs allies, now more than ever. Behaviour change is key and we all have the power to influence our friends and family. Travel influencers and travel platforms have already established platforms to impart sustainability messages. It’s cool to care. Do you have a story you would like featured in this column? Email a detailed pitch to email@example.com
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NOTES FROM THE BUSH
AND THE BEE
Cornflakes forgotten, Samantha Du Toit’s children listen wide-eyed to an ancient African folktale about the largest of land animals being afraid of a tiny honey bee, and how this is presently being used to help farmers protect their crops.
he elephant and the bee. It sounds like the start of one of Aesop’s fables; a story of the largest of land animals being afraid of a tiny honey bee. Instead it is an ancient African folktale, and it turns out to be true. The children listened wideeyed over breakfast one morning to the story of how elephants all over Africa hate even the sound of buzzing bees, turning tail and fleeing from the noise. Cornflakes forgotten, they listened to Lucy King, who works with ‘Save the Elephants’, explain how she had taken the folktale, tried and tested it, and then turned it into a means to help farmers protect their crops from raiding elephants. ‘So, the farmers get a fence made of bee hives which stops elephants coming in. They then get honey to sell and the bees may in turn help pollinate more of their crops. This sounds like a good idea all round!’ Seyia, our daughter, concludes. Elephants have returned to this area after perhaps a couple of decades of absence. Where once simply to see their tracks was
exciting, they are now a very common feature of the landscape. Maasai people of my age tell me that all their children have seen elephants now and know what they are, where as when they were children themselves elephants were merely mentioned in stories of the past. This, from a wildlife conservation perspective, is a source of pride for the local communities who believe that elephants feel this is a safe place to be. But there is a cost too. Elephants have found their way to the local farming area, and can devastate a farmer’s crop in mere minutes. And regularly do so. Fast forward a few months; the children and I joined the team from Save the Elephants, together with the local farmers and other community members, to build some beehive fences for three farmers up in the fields. The children got straight in, helping to dig holes, hold up bee hives (empty as yet), clip wire and of course have sweet, milky tea during the break. At the end of the day, we all feasted on fresh goat stew provided by the farmer as gratitude for the team effort.
The sun was setting behind the escarpment by the time we were driving into camp, the children tired, dirty and ready for bed. They looked up sleepily as we passed a herd of six bull elephants making their way out of the thickets and into the plains for the night. We whispered to the elephants as we went by that they were welcome to stay here on the plains and away from the farms, while we all hoped the bee hives would fill quickly with bees, so as to dissuade these majestic animals from eating where they were not welcome. I remembered the saying ‘one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure’ which applied so well to this story. It made me realise more clearly than ever that if conservation is to succeed, we must do all that we can to turn more peoples’ pain into pleasure. Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.
air c ha rt er fl igh ts
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.tropicairkenya.com27 NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
JOURNEY With his dad being a mountaineer, growing up, Mt Kenya was always a key fixture in Joseph Muriithi’s life. Today, having climbed it 90 times in a span of five years, the 24 year old certified guide recounts what makes this place so special. PHOTOGRAPHS: JOSEPH MURIITHI
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
ong before my arrival, my father was busy climbing mountains for a living. My fascination started pretty early. I remember walking to primary school and each morning, the glorious ice-capped peak of Mt Kenya would stare back in all her majesty. Back then, the slopes of Mt Kenya were a complete snowfield, the white glare ever present from January to December. Whenever my dad was away on expeditions, I would look up to the peaks and hope to see him. I swear if I squinted really hard, I could spot him.
emotions. It felt like a veil had been lifted and for split-second, I forgot about all the tough trek to get here. Then an orange sun rose in the distance and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. A landscape that had been engulfed in darkness came to life, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There was also an overwhelming sense of accomplishment which I am still unable to articulate. Right there, on that summit, I promised myself I would return, and I did, over again for four and a half years now.
As I gradually racked up the number of hikes, I got interested in guiding. Dad had all the tools I needed for that. At home, I read his collection of books about the animals and birds of East Africa, studied plants, animal behaviour and the mountain ecosystem and finally passed my assessment test to become a Mount Kenya Guide. With this knowledge came the privilege and opportunity to share the experience with travelers from all over the globe. My favorite overall is climbing via the Chogoria Route and camping by Lakes Ellis and Michaelson. The greatest honour as a guide is witnessing visitors shed tears of joy after reaching the summit while uttering words like, “Thank you so much Joe. Thank you so much for showing us your beautiful mountain”. Experiencing that feeling of accomplishment after pushing through all that the mountain threw at them, just like I did on that first climb, and seeing that grand sun take to the skies in all its glory.
During my gap year after high school, I asked my dad to take me up the mountain for the first time, and he agreed. I had no clue what I was getting myself into and was mentally and physically unprepared, but this experience changed my life. We spent a total of four days climbing and descending the Sirimon route. Everyday I carried a 5kg daypack and each time, my lungs, legs and virtually every muscle in my body cried out for help. “Dad, how far do we have left to the next camp?” I asked, panting heavily from the heavy exercise. “We have three more hours to go,” he responded, grinning. “We are done with the hardest part of the day,” he added reassuringly. Spoiler alert: we were not done with the hardest part of the day. Getting to base camp Shipton’s at 4,200m above sea level was so challenging that I started reevaluating my existence as a human being or why I had even asked to do this. What I didn’t realize during the self-reflection, however, was that this was the mountain asserting its authority and challenging my mental endurance. The summit, Point Lenana (4,985m) was normally attempted at 3:00am, and my dad and his clients were to do it the following morning. “Are you ready to go? Do you think you’ll wake up tomorrow and attempt Lenana?” He asked me over dinner. “Yes, of course. How hard can it possibly be?”I responded. Early morning came, we had some tea, pointed our flashlights in the guide’s (my father’s) direction and trekked towards the top of the world. This goes on record as the toughest three hours of my life. In the eerie silence of the mountains, even breathing becomes so loud. I started re-evaluating my life choices and cursing myself for even agreeing to all of this. Still, I trudged onwards and upwards. After three solid hours of traipsing in total darkness, our group finally reached the Via Ferrata (metal stairs to the summit). Upon climbing these stairs and actually standing on the summit, I was suddenly flooded with
LIFE AS A MOUNTAIN GUIDE
BYE BYE GLACIERS
In the early 2000s and prior, the mountain was always decked in permanent ice with snow falling every year. Statistics indicate that snow fell up to the 3,000m altitude zone. This is seconded by my colleagues who have been climbing the mountain for more than 20 years This is now a thing of the past. If there’s snowfall, it can only occur at altitudes of 4,500m and higher. Even if it falls, it melts as fast as it hits the rocks. Weather patterns have changed drastically. Glaciers, once commonplace, are no more. 16 glaciers were recorded to rule over the slopes of the mountain, and the first to diminish was the Krapf Glacier in 1926. There are six glaciers left and the biggest of them are the Lewis Glacier, Darwin Glacier and the Diamond Couloir. All these are however shrinking at an alarming rate due to climate change. Rivers that once were shall dry up. Communities depending on this water will suffer and be forced to relocate. Dry seasons are already becoming longer while the wet seasons get shorter and more destructive. The dry spells echo tough times for wild animals that call the mountain home. It’s not all doom and gloom however.
My favorite overall is climbing via the Chogoria Route and camping by Lakes Ellis and Michaelson.
Organizations like Mount Kenya Trust and Rhino Ark play a crucial role in ensuring that the locals are well educated on the important issues to be addressed regarding Mt Kenya as well as what we can do to remedy this.
LESSONS FROM MOUNTAINEERING
Nature is beautiful and magnificent, but it can also be ruthless and unforgiving. Approach it with respect and finesse. Kenya is a breathtaking country and its natural resources must be protected. Mount Kenya has some of the biggest buffalos in Africa. Wild animals will show you respect as long as you respect them first by sticking to your guide’s instructions and not diverting from footpaths. Always bring extra warm gear. Mount Kenya may be at the equator but the nights are bitterly cold. When ascending to higher altitudes, tone down the pace to a slow-and-steady in order to acclimatize. Always stay hydrated. Altitude sickness can be very dangerous. If you experience the signs and symptoms, DON’T hike to higher altitudes. Rest on the same elevation. If symptoms get worse, descend immediately to a lower elevation.
WHERE TO STAY SIRIMON ROUTE:
Old Moses Camp (3,300m) Shipton’s Camp (4,200m)
Meru Mount Kenya Bandas (2,900m) Rutundu Log Cabins (3,100m) The Road Head (3,300m) – campsite Lake Ellis (3,470m) – campsite Lake Michelson (4,000m) – campsite Mintos Hut (4,200m) Naromoru Route: Met Station (3,000m) Mackinder’s Camp (4,300m)
The list could go on, but to sum it up, climbing Mount Kenya 90 times in a span of five years has shaped me into the man I hoped I’d become. When I thought I was punishing myself by carrying heavy backpacks, I was being taught perseverance. When I thought my body couldn’t take it anymore, it taught me endurance. When I thought the wilderness and nature were dangerous and I didn’t belong there, I realized that they are as much a part of me as I am of them. Carrying my camera with me always, it is my hope to inspire more adventurers people from all over the world to have the Mount Kenya experience. And to those who can’t physically make it to the mountain, I pray that my images take them along my journey into the Mountain of God. Joseph Muriithi (@andreyjosephs) works as a guide for his dad’s company, Polemark Tours (www.polemarktours.com).
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
A CABIN, A MYTHICAL FOREST, A WHITE MONKEY
With no electricity for the weekend and miles of beautiful landscape to wander, Wendy Watta discovers the joy of fly fishing, hiking and a cozy cabin at Ragati Conservancy. PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
thought I had developed some semblance of pain resistance to the stinging nettle, but as my hand brushes against yet another low leaf along the trail we have been hiking through, I instantly feel the intensity and wince in spite of myself. Ever resourceful, our lead guide Jimmy reaches above his head with a machete and cuts off the leaf of a plant from the stem. He rubs the juice over the already swelling area and almost instantly, the pain ebbs. Just in time, as I can now focus on admiring the bomb crater we have just walked up to; a gaping hole in the ground that was once used to test bombs in the 1982 coup d'état. Shortly after, we come across the Ragati River which snakes across the trail with its numerous tributaries, and have to cross it, yet again. The measured journey across begins. I gingerly feel my way around the ground for solid footing before making each next step. A miscalculation however has me sliding over a moss-covered stone, and the ice cold water rushes inside my wellies with gusto. Once across, there is no time to pour it out, however, as we now have to walk across a muddy swamp, boots sinking calf-deep with every step. As I am next in line after Jimmy, I am careful to step exactly where he has trudged before me. Set on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya, the Afro montane forest here is breathtaking. Tall, narrow trees tower high above the ground with branches meeting at the top to create a canopy which keeps the harsh sunlight at bay. The area is said to be teeming with wildlife ranging from buffalos to elephants, leopards, the mountain bongo and an array of birdlife. While there are no face-to-face encounters during our hike, the
signs are there. The closest shave is a buffalo which the guides spot somewhere in the distance, and given its strong olfactory sense, we have to divert off the track to ensure our smell doesn’t waft back to it. There is an old carcass of an antelope that must have been left up the tree by a leopard several days ago. Fresh elephant dung indicates that they would have passed through this path not more than two days ago. My favourite, however, is the cluster of feathers - of a Haurtlaub’s Turaco - which we find lying right next to the river. This bird whose beautiful plumage has all the colours of the Kenyan flag, and would therefore be an excellent national mascot. One of the guides lines these feathers along his hat resulting in a beautiful design worthy only of an avant-garde issue of Vogue magazine. An all-white monkey playfully flits through the higher branches with two colobus hot on its tail. We stare on for a while, and even the guides admit that this is the first time they have seen it. Peter’s (videographer) timer beeps. It has been five hours since we started walking from the cabin. I am feeling the burn. So much so, in fact, that when we have to climb yet another fallen tree trunk, I have to manually haul my left leg over with my hands. Our mecca, however, is a bit of an anticlimax today. There is thick vegetation but it is the dark cloud cover that blocks the mountain’s peak in the distance. We are here for all of five minutes, and then it is time to circle back.
When we arrive here late at night, we have to pack our car a little way from the cabin after which a few staff members come to
help us carry all our luggage inside. A fire is crackling in the grate which makes it easier to acclimatize. Light is by way of solar powered lamps set around the space, but thankfully, the water in the shower is hot. There are four double rooms, a spacious living and dining room, an enviable fully-equipped kitchen with a gas cooker where I whip up the day’s supper, and a massive front porch. It is however pitch black outside, so I am unable to get a true sense for the surroundings. I am woken up by the sunlight washing into my room through the large windows, some birds are chirping right outside and I can hear the water rushing in a large waterfall which I was told is nearby. Like an excited kid at Christmas, I rush outside to check out where we are, and spotting the scenic glade upon which the house sits, my breath is taken away. A wooden pathway from the balcony leads to a bridge under which the river streams, and Ndongoro Log Cabin is by all accounts a beautiful spot. Fishing is a key activity here, and Jimmy tells me that Ragati River was initially stocked with rainbow trout in the 1920s. In the time since then, they have gained a unique red colour, and this is now a go-to spot for fly fishing enthusiasts. Armed with all the required tackle, we walk down to the base of the waterfall where, after a few pointers from Jimmy, I am off casting my line like a seasoned pro. With no entertainment and the rest of the day to just relax, by evening, the cabin fever has set in, and I am hallucinating that I’m highfiving Forrest Gump. Accommodation starts at Ksh 11,500 per person per night, with children under seven going for free. This includes the conservancy fees, fishing licence, guides, fishing equipment, guided walks, staff fee and firewood.
There is no electricity but solar lamps are available. Pack torches and bring a cooler box. Bring a book and some board games to while away the time as well. If you intend to go hiking, pack wellies. Trousers and long sleeved shirts/jackets will also serve you better than shorts and T-shirts- the nettles are fearsome! This is a self-catering spot so bring all of your own food to last the duration of your stay. You can do all of your own cooking, but there are two cooks that can help as needed.
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
DID SOMEONE SAY
LAKE ELLIS? An anticipated drive to the scenic Lake Ellis at 3,500m up Mt Kenya doesnâ€™t exactly start out as planned, writes Wendy Watta PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI, PETER NDUNG'U
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
rowing up you are warned not to trust strangers, but no one ever thinks to warn you about a guide trying to keep you motivated to keep climbing a mountain. I think their ploy is to get you so far up that there is just no turning back. “Lake Ellis is just around the next bend,” he says, yet again. When we get to the said bend, however, it’s like the lake packed her bags and stealthily left in the dead of the night like a slighted girlfriend. Ever so near, yet so far. I am panting heavily, which arguably has less to do with my physical fitness and more with me struggling to adjust to the altitude. Heck, I remember turning in my bed the previous night, and at about only 3,000m above sea level, that slight activity had me wheezing like I had just competed in some 100m dash at the Olympics. In my defence, too, I had just walked for six hours the previous day, and when I woke up this morning, a hike was certainly not on the itinerary. Matter of fact, the plan had been to drive our Land Rover Defender up the scenic Chogoria Route on the eastern side of Mt Kenya, all the way to Lake Ellis. In hopes of catching the sunrise, we had
gotten up at 5:00am and bundled into the car ready to make the 7km stretch which would ideally have taken us 30 minutes, but even with some forewarning, we had underestimated the state of the road.
About 30 minutes later, I walk up to an elevated viewpoint from which I spot the lake shimmering from its base down below, and a little above my eye line, all three jugged peaks of Mt Kenya are visible. Rocky escarpments and green vegetation frame the setting. The pain of the climb is forgotten, and with renewed energy, I run down to the lake and touch its waters. Lake Ellis is a beaut.
It is that last bit of very rocky and relatively steep ascent up to the lake that gets us, and now, the Land Rover is left somewhere along this treacherous trail, and I trudge on as though I weigh 400 pounds. It is rainy season, too, so mercifully it hadn’t poured as there is just no way the car would have even made it through that first kilometre. My hands are blocks of ice and I feel as though if I were to knock them on a rock, they might shatter all over the place into a myriad of bloody fragments. At this altitude, I am eyeball to eyeball with the clouds, and the rising sun plays peekaboo from behind a rocky outcrop. Despite my struggle, the scenery makes the climb all the more worthwhile. The lush green is emerging yet again from the charred remnants of the fire that swept through the mountains only recently. Reading about it is one thing, but seeing the destruction it caused first hand is a different matter altogether, and I am appalled at the loss of indigenous flora.
We spot some happy campers who as it turns out, have been here for two days. One, Mathew, an avid sportfishing enthusiast, is trying to snag some trout but has so far been unlucky all morning. His friends are whipping up breakfast, and I’m reminded that we left our picnic back in the car as the package was too heavy to haul up. I do not even like tea, but when we’re offered a cuppa, I happily oblige. The rest of the morning is spent marvelling at the lake and taking photos and videos of the scenery, after which our new friends generously drive us back to the car and help us manoeuvre it out of the rut. When we learn that there is a 100ft high waterfall called Nithi around, we decide that it won’t hurt to make a short detour.
WHERE WE STAYED MERU MT KENYA BANDAS Commonly known
as Chogoria Bandas, this spot is run by the Kenya Wildlife Service. We were unable to make a booking beforehand as the staff are hard to reach given the network situation, but we easily found some rooms on arrival. The cabins are all painted black with a coat of green around the shutters, and accommodation is Ksh 1,500 per person. The rooms are basic with three dorm-style beds inside, and we also had to pay Ksh 600 extra for the gas cooker. There is no electricity, but paraffin lamps are offered and I get my electronics charged at the Chogoria gate which is actually a walking distance away (I however get strict warning not to walk there alone at night as this is still the wilderness). Utensils can be offered on request at no extra cost, and there is a small shop with limited goods such as beer. It’s a lovely spot to stay particularly as there aren’t many options around, but expect only the very basic of necessities and service.
• • • •
KWS don’t accept cash at the gate. Luckily, they told us exactly where to stand to get network and we were therefore able to pay with MPESA, otherwise, we would have had to drive back down to be able to complete the transaction. It is ridiculously cold. Carry warm clothing, including gloves and a beanie. Jeans, as it turns out, don't have good heat retention- I learnt that the hard way. If you love fishing, carry a rod as Lake Ellis is a haven for rainbow trout. Camping is available, so plan accordingly. You will have to be self-sufficient and carry everything you need including firewood. The drive up to Lake Ellis requires nothing short of a 4X4. You can however also walk there and we were told that this would take about 2 hours, but to me that seems only plausible if you’re actually sprinting. Carry water bottles; single use plastics are banned in Kenya’s national parks and game reserves. NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
HIKING THE UNDERDOG
During Martyn Pollock’s three-day climb up Mt Elgon to see Kitum Cave and summit Koitobos Peak, he only meets one other tourist-and-guide combo. It may get far less visitors than its more popular counterparts in Kenya and Uganda, but this mountain’s charm is certainly not lost on the writer. PHOTOGRAPHS: MARTYN POLLOCK
usii lands disappear behind me and with the Nandi Hills of Kisumu in sight, my Nissan Note powers up through the Rift Valley towards Kitale. She doesn’t complain until the last 20km of murram road where bottoming out becomes a constant affair on every pot hole, bump and rock. But, rental cars can go anywhere. They have special powers of driver indifference that you do not get with a regular vehicle. Mount Elgon, like most other large mountains in East Africa, is an extinct volcano, formed over 20 million years ago as the earth spewed molten rock over an area 80km in diameter. Straddling both Uganda and Kenya you have the option of several approaches to reach the many summits. I’ve chosen Kitale on the Kenyan side to start my journey. My guide David is late. Despite having phoned me the night before insisting I arrive by 7:30am, he rocks up at 8:40am with no explanation. After the standard formalities we are on our way walking through thick ancient forest with an abundance of zebras, bushbucks, waterbucks, dik-diks, baboons and colobus monkeys. At this stage it is more of a safari than a mountain climb and I begin to see the charm that sets this mountain apart from other climbs in the region. The mountain massif is particularly famous for its abundance of large caves, and Kitum Cave is the biggest on the Kenyan side stretching over 160m into the mountainside. I always forget how much I dislike caving, until someone takes me caving. Especially when it is prefixed with “follow me” and I think we are going a further 10ft into the cave to see something interesting, when in actual fact, what follows is a 20 minute subterranean cave tour in complete darkness with nothing but David’s phone to light the way. He points the light towards the cave ceiling and thousands of bats descend, rushing past our faces but never touching. Claustrophobia aside, the caves are an amazing spectacle: the entrance is like a huge opera house and there is clear evidence that tourists like me are only one of many visitors. As well as most of the antelope species on the mountain and some of the cats, an unlikely group of visitors are the elephants who come here to scrape and lick the salt off the cave walls in the hours of complete darkness, using nothing but smell and intuition to guide them into the depths. A note of caution: post trip I learned that Mt Elgon and specifically the bats that live
in the mountain’s many caves are associated with a strain of the Ebola virus. There have been no confirmed deaths due to cave visits since the 1980s, but as a precaution the WHO suggests avoiding the bat colonies, and if you do need to get close, to wear gloves and a face mask. Sadly you won’t get such advice or guidance from your guide or even from the park authorities, so best to be prepared. Situated far from the main tourist attractions of both Kenya and Uganda, Mount Elgon gets far fewer visitors than Mount Kenya, the Aberdares or even the Rwenzori. During my climb, it seemed practically deserted. I only met one other tourist and guide combo in the three-day trip. There are the same lobelias as well as thick forest and bamboo sections that you find in other African highlands, but what struck me most were the fields of lavender that cover the mountainside giving an omnipresent sweet floral aroma. David convinces me to skip out a day of the trip by going straight from the gate to camp two. It makes for a more intense climb, but also means we will not be too idle at each stop. This is good as the campsites are basic: a cleared area and a rock circle for a fire and that’s about it. Don’t expect huts with bunk beds and three course meals being served to you after a hard day’s walk. Pretty quickly we are in a rhythm and any guide/client relationship is out of the window. I build the tent while he builds the fire, he gets more wood while I cook and so on. With huge downpours of rain coming daily, working together is the only way we can ensure we get everything done before the inevitable soaking. I really should stop climbing during the long rains, but I rarely get to choose when I am free. Lunch time on day two we reach the summit of Koitobos peak. From the campsite it is a really quite pleasant 6km walk with several other peaks in view throughout. The last 200m is a scramble through a rupture in the solid Basalt column. From the summit the full extent of the massive caldera is visible, one of the largest in Africa with several distinct peaks on both sides of the border. Koitobos is the third highest overall and second highest in Kenya, but for me this is largely immaterial. There is no triumphant moment of conquest, of man vs mountain. It is a cliché to say, but the joy is in the journey. Losing yourself in the isolation of the natural world where nothing matters except staying dry and staying hydrated. All of life’s normal worries and responsibilities melt away into insignificance. This is the true beauty of climbing.
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
THE RHINOS FLYING TO BOTSWANA Sophie Ibbotson writes about Rhinos Without Borders, a project which aims to move 100 rhinos from poaching hotspots in South Africa to new safe homelands in Botswanaâ€™s Okavango Delta. PHOTOGRAPDHS: DAVID MURRAY, SOPHIE IBBOTSON
kudu blocked the path to my tent. I looked across the channel from my deck at a giraffe sauntering by. And when I drove out in the late afternoon, the heat of the sun still burning, I envied the shaggy maned lion chilling out in the shade beneath a tree. The Gomoti Plains, a private concession to the east of the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, is remote and challenging to reach, but in the absence of many humans, the wildlife populations thrive. What I had not expected to find, even here in this southern African Eden, was a rhino. It was a species I previously associated only with zoos, or occasionally staring out at me forlornly from the pages of National Geographic beside an article talking about their imminent extinction. Rare and precious, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I might drive out one evening and be confronted with a fully grown white rhino. But there he was, munching away on the grass, completely ignoring my presence. I struggled to stifle my shrieks of excitement and was grinning from ear to ear watching his every move, entranced. The world’s rhino numbers have been decimated in the past 100 years. It is estimated that a rhino is killed every eight hours, and that South Africa alone has lost 7,130 rhinos since 2008. More rhinos are lost to poaching than are born, and most countries lack the resources to fight back against the illegal trade in rhino horn which drives the killing. Botswana, however, offers a beacon of light for rhinos and other big game: it has more elephants than any other country in the world, for example. Though recent changes in hunting laws may be a cause for concern, as a rule, Botswana has a no tolerance approach to poaching. In the national reserves, anyone carrying a gun is a legitimate target for the wildlife rangers. This, combined with the low human population density, the proper resourcing of wildlife rangers (supported where necessary by troops) and constant monitoring of big game has ensured that Botswana is arguably the safest place on the planet to be a rhino right now. This is all well and good if you happen to be a rhino born in Botswana, but what about rhinos living elsewhere? It is not as though they know to walk across a continent to this safe haven, or would be able to do so unharmed. Thankfully, Rhinos Without Borders is managing the logistics on the rhinos’ behalf, and in doing so might well save the species from oblivion. Rhinos Without Borders - a joint project between &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation - aims to move 100 rhinos from poaching hotspots in South Africa to new,
safe homelands in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Some 77 rhinos have already made the journey and it was one of these fortunate emigres that I met during my stay at Gomoti Plains Camp. Translocating a rhino is no mean feat. You cannot simply put it into the back of a van and drive it along the road. (And remember: there are a hundred rhinos to move!). Every rhino had to be tranquilised and airlifted to safety, with a heavily armed guard to protect them whilst in transit. Flying reduced the journey time and risk of ambush while cutting down the amount of stress the rhinos had to endure so that they were more likely to settle in well when they arrived. As you can imagine, flying a rhino anywhere doesn’t come cheap. Rhinos Without Borders estimate that it costs $45,000 to relocate each rhino and to secure it in Botswana, requiring a total budget of $4.5 million. Such funds couldn’t be raised overnight, and the translocation process also took time to refine. In the first three years, 37 rhinos steadily made the move and then the pace accelerated and 40 more were translocated in a three week period in 2018. The work can’t stop once rhinos arrive in Botswana. They need time to acclimatise to their new surroundings, find out where to graze and recover from the shock and stress of the journey. Rhinos Without Borders commissioned purpose built steel bomas for their charges so that they could be closely monitored and then released once vets and conservationists were happy the animals were in good condition. Every rhino has a specially designed telemetry device so it can be tracked for research and security purposes; even in Botswana, no one is taking any chances. Rhinos Without Borders have released the rhinos at multiple locations across Botswana, in both national parks and private game concessions. The chosen locations were kept secret during the move, but once released, the rhinos were free to roam. A few days after my initial rhino sighting at Gomoti Plains, I was treated to an encounter with a mother rhino and her calf heading down to the river bank at Rra Dinare. Unlike the elephants, which stick together in huge herds, the rhinos seem to be much less sociable creatures. If these pair did have a guard (which many of the rhinos understandably do), he was well hidden, camouflaged amongst the bushes and grasses. It felt as though it was just me, the guide and two of the most precious, spectacular mammals on earth. Sophie Ibbotson is the author of five Bradt Travel Guides, including the first guidebook to South Sudan. She travelled to Botswana with wildlife and wilderness specialists Africa Exclusive.
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
ROW ROW ROW YOUR KAYAK Whitewater kayaking is one of those experiences that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list but it’s one of the more difficult adventure sports to actually get out and try. For kayaking guide Robbie Mingay, it’s just another day in Jinja, Uganda.
first travelled to Uganda for what was supposed to be six weeks of kayaking the Nile’s famous rapids. Little did I know that six weeks would soon stretch to three months, then to a year, and on to another. It’s not an uncommon story; kayakers from all over the world have travelled to Uganda and many have stayed for far longer than they ever could have anticipated. One of the reasons I have stayed this long is because I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a whitewater kayaking guide for Kayak the Nile based in Jinja, Uganda. It’s a wonderful place to teach others how to do what I love, and the reasons I enjoy working here are the same ones that make it a wonderful place to learn to kayak. As a beginner, your first river can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy yourself. This is what makes Uganda’s White Nile so special. It has the unbeatable combination of being deep and warm, with great rapids. Because kayaking is such a niche sport, most of my clients are usually first timers. The introduction classes are always a favourite to teach. To take your own knowledge and pass it on to someone else is both challenging and rewarding. Everyone learns in different ways; some people like to hear instructions while others need to see something to understand, and this makes every lesson different. And so we get out on the water and paddle down the river giving them a chance to see a side of Uganda that they usually haven’t experienced before. We pass fishermen carefully tending to their traps and casting their nets, villagers doing their washing on the river banks and beautiful areas of dense indigenous vegetation which are home to countless bird species. As we glide down the Nile, it’s usually not uncommon to hear the familiar, laugh-like call of a pair of fish eagles perched high up in the tree-tops. When we approach the first rapid of the day, the first thing you notice is the sound. Initially, it’s faint, a barely perceptible white noise somewhere in the distance, but as you draw closer, it begins to amplify. Every paddle stroke propels you closer to the source of that sound and it is in this moment that one of my favourite parts of the day occurs. We approach our first rapid called ‘Jaws’, and that faint white noise begins to creep into the forefront of guest’s consciousness as they realize what that sound actually is. How people react to that realization is a great part of my day. You can see them mentally shift gears depending on how they feel about the approaching challenge. For some, the excitement overrides their nervousness and it’s full-steam ahead. Others shift to neutral; more questions are asked, more hypothetical scenarios are talked through and, eventually, we go. Some switch to reverse but it’s only temporary as in the end, the draw of the rapid is too much to resist. People crave unique experiences and running a rapid in a kayak on the Nile is as thrilling as it gets. As for the rapids themselves – they are big, with large powerful waves, swirling currents and fast-moving water. Despite that, they are remarkably safe and many are not too difficult to navigate. With the skills we teach on someone’s first ever day kayaking, many beginners make it down some of the rapids without capsizing. Those that do capsize end up swimming down the rapid which, in the Nile’s warm water, can be just as fun as paddling them. Whitewater kayaking is one of those experiences that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list but it’s one of the more difficult adventure sports to actually get out and try. Travellers visiting Jinja should be excited by the wonderful opportunity they have to try whitewater kayaking on such an incredible river. For more information on kayaking the Nile River in Jinja, check out kayakthenile.com
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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
AFRICA’S FORGOTTEN ARCHIPELAGO Floating between Mozambique and Madagascar lie a number of volcanic islands, tropical in climate, unspoiled in nature and positively wild: this is Comoros, the romantically named Islands of the Moon. Maurice Schutgens paints a perfect picture with these five activities that should be on your bucket list:
1. EXPLORING MORONI Set in the shadow of Mount Karthala, with a name that roughly translates to “in the heart of the fire”, Moroni is the capital city of Comoros, home to an eclectic mix of Arabic, French and Swahili cultures. Moroni is loud, somewhat gritty and possibly ever so slightly chaotic. My overloaded taxi, blaring the latest hip-hop tracks, drops me off at the famous Volo Volo Market at the heart of the city. From the get-go it’s a sensory overload. I’m offered ripe produce from the flanks of Mount Karthala, freshly caught tunas and tasteful local fabrics worn by Chiromani – Comorian women. Vanilla aromas hang heavy in the air. I head for the serenity of the medina awash with intricate Arabic architecture and beautifully carved Zanzibar doors, a fading reminder of former glory. I wind my way aimlessly through the deserted maze of narrow streets striking up conversations with local Comorians about everything and nothing. Finally I move along, heading for Moroni’s most iconic landmark in the harbour: the Ancienne Mosquee du Vendredi (Friday Mosque) dating back to 1427. As the sun sets, I people watch, my legs swinging over the embankment. It’s a mesmerizing place.
2. SCALING MOUNT KARTHALA Mount Karthala looms large over the southern half of Grand Comore, its imposing presence a constant reminder of the fury that bubbles just below the surface. The crater rim, located at just under 2,400m, appears permanently lost in the equatorial clouds. Karthala is one of the most active volcanoes on earth and the opportunity to look down into its crater irresistible! I leave my hotel at 3:00am In the cool of the night. As the sun crests the horizon the landscape changes, we leave the equatorial forest behind and head up into a wild tundra like landscape characterized by stunted trees, giant heather plants and remnants of ancient lava flows. Upwards we go, sweating profusely though it's only 6:00am. Three hours later we crawl onto the crater rim. I am absolutely battered but the pain is temporarily forgotten for the views are breathtaking. Ahead of us lies the colossal moonscape of Karthala’s caldera. We descend into it and cross the soft grey fields of ash till we stand on the rim of the new crater.
3. SCUBA DIVING IN MOHÉLI MARINE PARK Mohéli Marine Park, established in 2001 as the first National Park of Comoros, is home to some of the healthiest coral still thriving in the Indian Ocean. Its location directly in the path of the warm and nutrient rich Mozambique channel, means that the islands are teeming with marine life from humpback whales and dugongs to giant manta rays. Through a powerful deluge, my taxi circumnavigates the island to the diminutive and laid-back village of Nioumachoua, home to Laka Lodge – an oasis of calm and the gateway to the islands of Mohéli Marine Park. Richard – the resident Slovakian Dive Master, takes me to his favourite diving spots. We start with a 15-minute traverse over to Leprosy Island (yes you read that right). The water is startlingly clear as we watch the rays of sunlight pierce far into the depths. We strap on our tanks, take a healthy breath and roll back dropping down quickly to coral outcrops beneath, teeming with a staggering variety of fish. The hours spent underwater are over in a flash.
4. GREEN TURTLE NESTING ON ITSAMIA BEACH On Mohéli Island lies an isolated fishing village by the name of Itsamia. It is here that Green sea turtles have found a safe refuge to come and nest year-round. Up until about 20 years ago sea turtles were commonly killed for meat and the population was in serious decline. The villagers put a stop to this and their conservation work has yielded dramatic results. Today more than a million turtles hatch on Itsamia’s beaches every year, transforming it into the second largest nesting site for the species in the Indian Ocean. Late at night we head out on a nocturnal patrol with one of the local eco-guards. Under a billions of stars we
head to the village’s main beach looking for the tell-tale drag markings - It doesn’t take long before we spot one. We watch her lay her clutch of eggs then slowly return to the depths of the ocean. It is a humbling experience to share with her. 5. DISCOVERING GRAND COMORE’S UNIQUE SIGHTS Grand Comore, known locally as Ngazidja, is the largest island of the archipelago with many sights worth seeing. I hire a barely roadworthy vehicle and head south, out of Moroni soon coming upon the village of Iconi, home to the impressive 16th century ruins of the Palais de Kaviridjeo where the mighty Sultan of Bambao once ruled and
where Malagasy pirates plied their trade. I continue my journey further south passing Sangani, a small village partly destroyed by one of Karthala’s mighty eruptions in recent times. The north of Grand Comore is a barren expanse of stark beauty and jagged rocks. I head towards the town of Mitsamiouli, where Maloudja, a stunning palm tree lined beach awaits. I ditch my car and walk along several secluded bays that lead to the Trou de Phrophete (Prophets Hole) where Prophet Mohammed is rumored to have sought refuge from pirates. The water is crystal clear – perfect for a swim. I push on to Lac Sal, a stunning little coastal crater of deep green water, the locals claim it is bottomless. The walk along its rim is as hair-raising as it is spectacular.
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
GETAWAY IN DIANI Inspired by a fusion of African, Indian & Arabian architecture, this exquisite 5 bedroom beachfront villa in Diani Beach makes the ideal holiday retreat. Available on an exclusive basis, the 5 acre property comes with a chef, waiter and 7 additional staff so you and your family can relax in the privacy of this palatial home.
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SANDSTORM: WHAT I PACK
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Anyiko Owoko is a Music Publicist, Journalist and travel enthusiast. She just got back from Lagos then went to Diani Beach shortly after. These were her travel essentials on those trips. Instagram: @anyikowoko
GARNIER MICELLAR OIL-INFUSED CLEANSING WATER I get the smallest bottle which usually lasts about two weeks. It works as both a cleanser and make-up remover so I get to save space while packing. I also don’t have to wash my face again after using it. BOSE SPEAKER Small but powerful. I’ve been using this when getting ready in the morning or preparing for bed in the evening. When people come to hang out on the balcony of my room for drinks, for instance, we can just play some music and have a good time. CANON 5D MARK III I might need to record myself at an event or might be interviewing a celebrity and so this always comes in handy for my work. ADELE DEJAK JEWELLERY I have a collection of earrings, chockers, rings and bracelets. They are gold and made of brass, and I love that they are bold. In Lagos, for instance, people kept asking who I was wearing so that’s always a good
ice breaker in a social gathering. I sometimes pair them with my Maasai jewellery. H&M ONE PIECE SWIMSUIT It comes in my favourite colour. It’s also very stylish and I actually wore it like a top, with pants and a jacket. I recently saw Victoria Kimani wear it like that as well and immediately identified it. WAZIWAZI BAG It is stylish, made from cowhide, is very spacious and even has a compartment for my laptop, and this is also an authentic Kenyan brand. What’s not to love? IPHONE AND POWER BANK I carry two phones so one will still have my Kenyan sim while the other will carry a local line in a new country. This is to ensure I’m online always, can take enough photos and videos of the trip and gather all the content I need on the road. Chances are I might never do that activity ever again and the last thing I want is to be offline for prolonged periods of time.
NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
Inspired by vintage British horsedrawn caravans of yesteryear, these huts in Nanyuki are certainly one of a kind. PHOTOGRAPDHS: BRIAN SIAMBI
inally, the Nomad team arrives in Nanyuki after a couple of days up in the mountains. To electricity and hot showers and KFC, which is actually our first stop in town. Nothing short of fast food will suffice! For supper later that evening, we swing by Little Barney’s at One Stop for some takeaway pizza before being shown to our cottages, Bramble and Oak, which are actually only a stone’s throw away. Similar in design, these stylish and quirky huts are traditional shepherd’s wagons that were used during lambing season in the UK from the 15th to the 20th century. Raised and with extended wooden front porches, they actually even have the standard wheels at the bottom and would therefore be mobile should they ever need to be moved. Nestled in a garden, an outdoor lounging area leads to the main door which opens to an intimate space with one double bed, a single bed and kitchen area where you’re more likely to easily whip up coffee with toast than cook a full meal for dinner. It includes a fridge, kettle, tea bags, instant coffee and enough glasses to invite a handful of friends over for a quick sundowner, possibly out on the verandah while taking in the views of Mt Kenya on a clear day. My hut could comfortably sleep three. The space looks bigger than it actually is thanks to the spotless all-white coat of paint within as well as the large glass windows and doors which let in maximum light. The eco-friendly toilet and bathrooms are private, solar-heated, set right outside the room and intentionally designed to create a rustic African “mabati chic” feel. Unique in the country thanks to being inspired by vintage British traveller horse-drawn caravans of yesteryear, Shepherd’s Hut is set opposite the Nanyuki airstrip and thanks to its location at One Stop Nanyuki, you can find an array of facilities and services ranging from a farm shop and hair salon to a vet’s office right within the premises. Accommodation starts at Ksh 5,000 per person. A safari tent with one king size bed and two singles is available, and if you have tents, you can camp here for only Ksh 500. A swimming pool is currently under construction, and there is also a wooden three-bedroomed house said to be over 100 years old that was recently transported to Nanyuki from its previous location in Nairobi. For its age, it is surprisingly still very intact, and is being restored exactly as it was with very little reinforcements, and it will likely be ready for bookings by the beginning of August. Once the decor is completed, likely in a similar simple, stylish, airy and tasteful manner as the huts, it will certainly be one of the most charming places to stay in town. www.onestopnanyuki.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
ELEWANA KIFARU HOUSE A visit to Elewana Kifaru House is to plunge into the timeless tranquility of Africa. Located within the world-famous Lewa Conservancy, home to East Africaâ€™s healthiest black and white rhino populations, this bijou property, appropriately takes its name from the Swahili word for rhino. A haven of luxury in the bush, you will immediately feel at home on arrival, warmly welcomed by the friendly and attentive staff. The comfortable sitting room with wellstocked bar and elegant dining area extend out to a large, comfortably furnished terrace. Here, you can enjoy a sunny breakfast al fresco and watch the busy goings-on at the waterhole below, or you can choose to relax
by the picturesque infinity pool and enjoy the magnificent views over the distant plains. The property luxuriates in total exclusivity with five charming thatched cottages tucked away in an oasis of vibrant lawns filled with birdsong. All have well-appointed bedrooms with sumptuous four-poster beds and generous en-suite bathrooms. With an excellent library and log fires in the lounge and dining rooms, you can truly sink into delicious, cozy comfort during the cool evenings and luxuriate in the peace and serenity of the African night. ELEWANA LEWA SAFARI CAMP Sprawling over the rolling plains north of Mt Kenya, Lewa is a prolific wildlife
conservancy that is popular with celebrities, conservationists, writers and photographers. Lewa has in recent times found media attention with stories of a royal romance and the fairytale engagement that followed. Visitors to Lewa are privy to some of the most spectacular wildlife viewing that Kenya has to offer: lion, leopard and jackal thrive on the rich diversity of prey that inhabits the area. The Wildlife Conservancy is home to the largest concentration of Grevyâ€™s zebra in the world, and its range of habitats attracts diverse birdlife and hosts over 130 black and white rhino. Featuring large tented bedrooms with verandahs and full en-suite bathrooms, the
camp offers authentic comfort for its visitors; cozy log fires in the sitting room are perfect for relaxing after a day in the conservancy. This unique and exclusive retreat offers privileged access to 65,000 acres of private protected wilderness. Underpinning the glamorous magnetism of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a serious mission: a pioneering and pragmatic approach to conservation, founded in the 1970’s, that has developed into a thriving and globally recognised rhino conservation habitat. Profits and conservancy fees generated by the camp are reinvested directly into the conservation and community efforts of Elewana Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
THE LOCATION Lewa covers 65,000 acres, a vast wilderness. It has dramatic views to the south of snow capped Mt. Kenya, and to the north down to the arid lands of Tassia and Il Ngwesi. It has many diverse habitats from pristine forest, fertile grasslands, extensive springs and acacia woodland. Registered as a rhino conservancy in 1983, the conservancy is famous for its successful rhino and Grevy zebra breeding, two endangered species; Lewa is home to 10% of Kenya’s rhino, and 20% of the worlds population of Grevy zebra. The whole conservancy is fenced, and the conservancy employs over 150 rangers. The conservancy does extensive outreach work into the
surrounding communities with its Community Development Program, including healthcare, education, micro-finance, and water projects – in order to share with the community the benefits of wildlife. With over 70 recorded mammal species within the conservancy, for you, the wildlife experience is unrivalled. Elewana Collection manages Elewana Lewa Safari Camp and Elewana Kifaru House on behalf of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. www.elewanacollection.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
mongst my abundance of catastrophes at airports, one incident in Nigeria so shook me that I may have slipped into a temporary mania. Standing at an ATM machine that wouldn’t dispense any cash, I wept and cackled, then wept and cackled in repeat. I can’t say for sure how long this went on, but I remember pulling myself together when a stranger yanked at my elbow and said something I couldn’t comprehend. The day had begun without a single ominous sign. As a participant in a twoweek workshop, I attended all the scheduled sessions that Friday before tearing out of the facility and into an awaiting taxi bound for the ill-famed MMIA (Murtala Muhammed International Airport). See I had to leave Lagos mid-stay to attend to an urgent matter, and had bought a round trip ticket to fly home for the weekend and get back to Lagos on Sunday in less than 48 hours (oh the follies of hope). Off to the airport I went, feeling happy with myself as I had only hand luggage and just barely missed the traffic snarl up for which Lagos has earned a ghastly reputation. Cruising the Third Mainland Bridge that joins Lagos Island to the mainland, our jalopy jerked violently a few times before coming to a silent and rather final halt at about the same time my heart sunk to the bottom of my gut. After a half hour of waving down speeding motorists
with the flashlight on my phone to avoid my imminent death while the driver fiddled with bolts and cables under the bonnet, the damned tin box sputtered back to life and we went on with our journey. We hadn’t gone far at all before arriving at the scene of a horrific accident and had to wait nearly an hour while the raging fire that had engulfed a luckless danfo bus was put out. When I arrived at MMIA, my flight hadn’t left. Rather, our aircraft hadn’t even arrived. Thanking whatever gods might have been working in my favour, I marched confidently to the check-in counter from whence the second part in the terrible drama that was my night unfolded. The airline official scrutinised my passport with a scowl, tapped her knobby fingers on her keyboard, looked at me sadly and said in that dulcet Nigerian lilt, “I’m sorry SAH your ticket isn’t in the system.” Snorting, I read her my booking reference number, told her she was speaking nonsense and requested that she check again. Five minutes and no ticket later, a queue of grumbling passengers was forming quickly behind me and I was grinding my teeth in exasperation. As it turns out, my travel agent had made a reservation which because of a technical glitch, never made it on the other side of the ticketing queue, which meant no ticket number had been issued, which also meant - as I discovered sitting in the airline Station Manager’s musty office- that I couldn’t get on the flight. The matronly manager made dozens of futile calls to Nairobi. Realising
the window of opportunity was closing fast on me, she advised that I bring forward my original departure ticket and pay the negligible change fee. “Should be easy,” she said, guiding me to the Flying Blue office as that original ticket was an award ticket bought with my accrued flying miles and could only be modified there. I didn’t have enough cash so I happily handed my bankcard over. “Declined”. Second try. “Declined”. Substitute card. “Declined”. Mad dash to the ATM machine. “Please contact your bank”. Meltdown. I later discovered that I should have given official notice to my bank that I would be travelling to a country marked for ‘fraudulent activity’. Back in that dreary office, the darling lady offered her regrets and informed me it was way past closing time and there was nothing more she could do. Then she left and with her, all my fortitude. The gods were not asleep however, and my partner had made a call from Nairobi to the Flying Blue office in Amsterdam, pleaded my case and asked to make the payment over the phone, which they allowed. Zooming through the night skies towards Nairobi with the trace of dried tears on my face, I replayed the events of that evening in my head, took down some notes and made a promise to myself that one day I would write about my ordeal.
SKETCH: MOVIN WERE
By Karanja Nzisa
NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019
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