DISCOVER - EXPLORE - EXPERIENCE
ISSUE 11 | FREE COPY
WESTERN ISLES A JOURNEY ON LAKE VICTORIA
TSAVO BY TRAIN
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG IN ETHIOPIA NOMAD MAGAZINE AUGUST 2017
With the range of fun activities we’ll be offering over the Easter holidays, we think that there’s no place you’d rather be than with us at Lantana Galu Beach! Book to stay with us and enjoy our selection of activities put together for the whole family to enjoy ranging from Power Barre fitness, to water sports, a Kids Club and shopping for coastal-wear!
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WHAT DRAWS THEM TO WESTERN KENYA? Ivy Nyayieka Budget Pick, and Interview, Pages 48 and 16
A WESTERN INITIATION
have had something of a crash course in Western Kenya this month, particularly in terms of cuisine. Did you know, for instance, that Luos use a syringe to extract digested cow food from the bovine just before it is expelled from the body as a cow pat? This is one of the main ingredients of Ojuri sauce, and its other components sound scarcely more appetising - cow’s bile, for one. But I’m told it is delicious, and who am I to argue? It was actually not in Kisumu, but in Nairobi while researching our regular “walk through” piece, that I had my truest Luo food experience. Faced with a platter of gizzard, tripe and other such delicacies at the legendary K’Osewe restaurant, my stomach churned. But my companions took pity on me and spurned the sweetmeats for something a little more regular, a delicious tilapia stewed in coconut, for instance. It was authentic, local food - something increasingly hard to find once you leave the CBD. Much as the Kenyan coast has its own very distinctive Swahili cuisine, the West coast of Kenya has much to write home about too. But it’s not just the food, of course. It may not yet be the West’s answer to the Swahili coast, with its luxurious beachfront properties, swaying palms and white, sand beaches, but there are compelling reasons to visit this underdeveloped corner of Kenya, not least the seclusion and peace of the islands, the lakefront vibe of Kisumu, and a hillside retreat to escape the heat of the lowlands. In this issue, we bring you our experiences from Kenya’s Western “coast”, and Magunga Williams, who grew up in Kisumu, talks about how the city may have moved on from his childhood, but some things never change. We explore the best of the places to stay, and only wish that there were more to choose from. Elsewhere, Jill Craig entertains us with an account of her fateful Ethiopian trip, while still in the same country, Tamara Britten quizzes conservationist Neville Slade about the critically-endangered Ethiopian wolf. And looking for weekend away ideas? Why not take advantage of the SGR train to explore Tsavo? Tsavo East and West are often overlooked for the Maasai Mara, but now that you no longer have to drive (or fly) there, perhaps these parks can experience a resurgence. We hope so anyway, and we handpick six properties spread across the Tsavo ecosystem that we love. Meanwhile, we showcase the first of the winners in the Angama Foundation’s Maasai Mara photography competition - run in partnership with Nomad - and are delighted to see such an impressive calibre of entries. Away from the print copy of the magazine, we are launching a new section on hotel reviews on our website (www.nomadmagazine.co) that will, we hope, help you sift out the good from the bad with objective ratings, ranging from value for money, style and character, right down to the rooms and food, courtesy of a select pool of Nomad writers. In other news, Kenya has lost a dedicated conservationist and leading authority on ivory poaching in Esmond Bradley-Martin, murdered in Nairobi in February. In a poignant reminder of the devastation to rhinos wreaked by poaching, Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world, died in March, leaving behind two females. Finally, we hope you find some travel inspiration in this issue, whether it is to visit Western Kenya or elsewhere. If nothing else, I urge you to seek out that little bit of Luo culinary paradise, the goat’s tripe notwithstanding, on Nairobi’s Kimathi Street.
Spending time around the region gives you an opportunity to learn a lot not just about the region but about the world - evidence of the region’s long trading tradition that has brought people from all around the world together. My favorite thing, though, is fried tilapia. Although I was suspicious of the suggestion that Lake Victoria’s tilapia is different from anywhere else’s, I became a believer as soon as I had my first taste. Morris Kiruga School trips piece, Page 12 She insisted we had to go to the shore at night. I was tired, but not too tired. But I had already seen the lake for two days. I had sat in a motorboat to Birds Island, a mound of rock between Rusinga and Mfangano islands, which plays host to hundreds of bird species. Then there was the annual boat race, a competition of pure grit and coordination. If you look out towards the lake at night, it’s like you are looking at the sky on a clear night. An expanse of lights with nothingness between them. Little, flickering lights, only here they are not stars. They are men on boats, fishing throughout the night. Lake Victoria at night is a majestic city of lights. Magunga Williams Kisumu Uncovered, Page 22 The people, no doubt. We of the lake are like no other you will find in this country. We are the descendants of Ramogi. Skins the colour of a blackout, with features many times exaggerated just the way we like it. We live for the moment, brag of so much even when we have so little, we do not give up even when we are defeated, we drink from the bottle with our ancestors in mind, bathe by the lakeside unashamed of our nakedness, dance after the burial of a dear one in celebration of a life lived, and when we love it is always with the passion of a new romance. Get to know the people - otherwise what’s the point of coming?
NOMAD ISSUE. 11 · MARCH / APRIL 2018 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF CATRINA STEWART DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI, DIGITAL FRED MWITHIGA SALES, MARKETING & OPERATIONS LEROY BULIRO, GILBERT CHEGE, NJERI GATHARA, DANIEL MUTHIANI, JANE NAITORI, MICHELLE SLATER, DEVNA VADGAMA, JOY WAIRIMU, WINNIE WANGUI, VANESSA WANJIKU CONTRIBUTORS TAMARA BRITTEN, JILL CRAIG, MORRIS KIRUGA, IVY NYAYIEKA, AMI SHAH, SAMANTHA DU TOIT, MAGUNGA WILLIAMS, FRANCES WOODHAMS CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS MARK BOYD, PETER NDUNG’U, JALAN SAHBA, BRIAN SIAMBI SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL EDITOR@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO
@NomadMagazineAfrica NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
MARCH/APRIL 2018 ON THE COVER Fishermen on Lake Victoria
Phoptographed by Brian Siambi
6 6. TOP SHOTS A lion dips its head to drink in this marvellous shot, while a photographer captures the essence of Lamu. 8. NEWS The last male white northern rhino dies just days after a statue is unveiled in their honour, while the Seychelles enters into an unusual agreement to win some debt relief. 10. WHAT’S ON The Lewa Marathon is back for its 18th year, while the Rhino Charge offers spectators some thrills and spills the same month. Or head up to Turkana for its annual cultural festival.
8 GLOBETROTTERS 16. INTERVIEW WITH MSINGI SASIS The photographer and founder of Nairobi Noir hit rock bottom after his arrest in connection with terror charges over two years ago. He talks about travels, and how they influenced his work, and the road back to respectability. 44. WHAT I PACK … FOR MY TRAVELS Lulu Kitololo, graphic designer, gives us a glimpse into her Sandstorm bag, whether it’s bodycare products she makes herself, or the little rituals, whether it’s art or reflection, that give her life meaning.
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
FEATURES 18-27 WESTERN KENYA This issue, we’re off to Kenya’s Western “coast.” We explore the islands of Lake Victoria, and seek out some places to stay whatever your budget and taste. Magunga Williams, a Kisumu native, talks about his changing hometown. 30. DESALGN’S REVENGE Jill Craig attempts to book a trip to Ethiopia on the cheap, but events quickly take a turn for the worse. 32. SAVING THE ETHIOPIAN WOLF The Ethiopian wolf has been pushed to the point of extinction, with just a few hundred left in the wild. Neville Slade talks to Nomad about the efforts to intervene before it’s too late. 36. A WALK THROUGH NORTH OF KENYATTA AVENUE This month, we encounter a destroyed statue in a CBD park, the tattered archives of an famous library, and the amazing cuisine of Western Kenya. 38. A LONG WEEKEND AWAY IN TSAVO Forget the hectic Mombasa Road, and take the new train to Tsavo for a stress-free weekend safari. We select our favourite lodges. 48. ROAD TRIP Mwangi Kirubi shows us a different side to Mount Kenya in this photo essay.
REGULARS 12. NOT ALL TRIPS ARE EQUAL Morris Kiruga looks back on his school days, and skipping classes for the first real travel he ever did. These days, it’s a whole lot more complicated. 15. LIVING LIFE ON THE EDGE A prolonged drought provides valuable llife learning fodder for the children, writes Samantha du Toit. 42. GREAT HOTELS Ami Shah heads to the Maji on Diani Beach, where the owners have attempted to perfect the concept of a home away from home. 46. BUDGET PICK Think you know Nanyuki back to front? This month, we try out a little cottage on a Nanyuki ranch that is creating a whole new tourist offering. 50. RETROSPECTIVE Mo Amin, the late photographer, captures an unlikely image of the Safari Rally from the 1960s. 52. THE LAST WORD It’s holiday time, and it’s about time some relatives came along for the ride. But not everyone is in favour, writes Frances Woodhams.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
MARK BOYD Instagram @thisboydslife I took this shot in the ‘Double Crossing’ area of the Maasai Mara in the very late evening just after this young male lion had failed at hunting a group of zebra. I used a Canon D5 mark III, Tamron lens 150-600mm f5. This is a shot I’ve been trying to take for a number of years. It took lots of patience and a bit of luck. Some experience was vital to predict where the lion would drink. The low angle, the piercing eye contact and the details of the tongue and water drops are what make this special for me.
JALAN SAHBÁ Instagram @jalansahba I got this shot when I was roaming on the rooftops of Lamu around noon. Light and mood captured in thousands of unsuspecting pixels. I used an iPhone 7 Plus. Its efficacy and nonobtrusive nature keep shots spontaneous and natural, and the subjects unsuspecting and true. I love the veracity of imagery. For me, it is always about the people and their humanity. I feel most moved and attracted by our collective daily rituals and how much beauty they contain. I remind myself to ‘remain observant, curious and interested’ in life and in its daily miracles.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
LAST MALE NORTHERN WHITE RHINO DIES Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world, has died after contracting an infection, Kenya’s Ol Pejeta conservancy has announced. The decision was made to put him down after his condition rapidly deteriorated. Sudan, who leaves behind two females of the breed at Ol Pejeta, was 45. In a timely tribute, a massive bronze sculpture named “The Last Three” of the three remaining northern whites was unveiled in New York a few days before Sudan’s death. “We just wanted everyone to know their names so that when they do leave this world they won’t be forgotten,” said the Australian artist Marc Shattner, who created the sculpture along with his wife, Gilly. Any chances for the continuation of the breed now depend on costly reproductive technologies. PHOTOGRAPH: THOMAS HOEBBEL (INSERT), ED BARTHROP
SEYCHELLES AGREES TO DEBT-FOR-NATURE DEAL The Seychelles has adopted a novel and unusual approach to protecting its vulnerable coastal waters, abundant in turtle and tuna. In return for some relief on its sovereign debt, the Indian Ocean island, dependent on tourism and fishing, has agreed to set aside a third of its coastal waters as a protected area, free from commercial fishing and oil exploration and development. In return, the US-based group The Nature Conservancy will take on nearly $22 million of its $406 million outstanding sovereign debt.
GORILLA TREKKING ON THE CHEAP Once again, Virunga National Parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo is offering low-season discounts for gorilla-trekking permits. Instead of paying the normal price of $400, internationals will pay $200 for the gorilla experience between March 15-May 15, open to those aged 15 and above. Political instability in DRC means that a gorilla trek there has remained a much more affordable alternative to Rwanda - which last year doubled its permit cost to $1500 - and to Uganda, which charges $600 for treks in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. To book DRC permits (the reduced price only shows up when you book), go to www.visitvirunga.org
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
PHOTOGRAPH ASIM SHAH
SAFARICOM MARATHON, LEWA CONSERVANCY
RHINO CHARGE June 2
Even the rough location of the Rhino Charge remains a secret until just a couple of weeks before the event - lest anyone benefit from an unfair advantage. Kenya’s most gruelling off-road 4x4 race is back again, with teams required to raise a minimum of Ksh 750,000 for the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust. Spectators normally get most from selected challenges - such as the Gauntlet, spectator-friendly obstacles where you might, if you’re lucky, get to see a car flip. www.rhinocharge.co.ke
One of the few races where runners race through the wildlife (although kept well out of the way), the Lewa marathon is described by Runner’s World as one of the 10 “must-do” marathons in the world. Entries are now closed for the marathon and half-marathon (places go like hot cakes), but put your name down on the waiting list if keen, or just come to cheer the runners on. www.safaricommarathon.co.ke
And don’t miss these: KIGALI PEACE MARATHON, RWANDA
TURKANA FESTIVAL, LOIYANGALANI June 28-30
Every year, northern Kenyan tribes gather for this colourful festival on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, where you’ll get a chance to immerse yourself in local culture like nowhere else in the country. The three-day festival is an extravaganza of dancing, wrestling and races, but the real goal behind it all is the promotion of peace between the tribes who live in this arid area, and where conflict has uprooted communities. Within Loiyangalani, there is a reasonable selection of budget accommodation.
May 20 It’s not enough to run a marathon, but you want to throw in a few hills too? Then try this popular but gruelling marathon. www.kigalimarathon.org
TOP FRY CLASSIC SAFARI RALLY, NORTHERN KENYA March 29-Apr 2 Back for a second time, this classic car rally over 1,500 km of track takes place in northern Kenya. www.topfryclassicsafari.com
Set in an 18,000 acre wildlife sanctuary just 90 minutes from Nairobi you will ﬁnd Naivasha’s best kept secrets, Chui Lodge and Kiangazi House.
Enjoy Easter in the wild. Whether you want to relax by the pools, watch the sunset over the Mau Escarpment or enjoy a game drive along the shores of Lake Oloidien, we are able to oﬀer you the best of both worlds. Please enquire for the full Easter Special. Call: 0722 200 596/ 0707 645 631 Email: email@example.com
A KENYAN TRAVELLER
NOT ALL TRIPS ARE EQUAL
Morris Kiruga looks back fondly on his school trips, even if he didn’t get to win the girls. But will travel ever be so unfettered again?
ere’s some free advice no one ever gave me. Not all trips are equal. Let me explain. Like most Kenyans, most of my early travel experiences were schoolrelated. I somehow went through all eight years of primary school with not one trip though. The fun began in high school. My first school trip was a drama festival event. I couldn’t wait. So the crisp white shirt was folded and shoes polished days before the trip. I wasn’t playing any role beyond coming along for the ride, so I was sure I would have free time to talk to girls and, urm, make more friends. I was wrong. Here’s what I learnt that day, and never forgot. On every trip, one kid from Form One is always brought along as an unwitting joyrider. Only when you get there do you find out you have the most important role of all: watching everyone else’s stuff as they go to their events and walk around, sneaking kisses and getting school addresses. Essentially, he becomes the Guardian of the Heap. In my case, it was a mountain of shoes and costumes. I had to sit and watch this heap the entire day, and as people finished their events and added to it, it got smellier and smellier. Not exactly the way to attract the opposite sex. Definitely not the way I had envisioned my first school trip.
I paid my dues but it was the most boring day of my life. But things got easier. A perk of being the school journalist meant travelling for everything. Sports? Check! Prefects trip? Check! Some random club’s trip? Check! I even went for one Maths symposium trip when my grades in that subject were below C-level. Like way below. Travel then was mostly an escape from the monotony of a boys-only high school. Some trips were the right kind of chaos, like the time we had so much fun we almost missed the bus and had to chase after it. Others were absolutely boring, the only good thing about them being that we just weren’t in school. Every time, like clockwork, Pilot (as we called our bus driver) would be on duty and focused. Then he would disappear for ages at a time when he wasn’t needed, and bring me back a loaf of bread and random stories about his previous life as a long-distance lorry driver. I was in awe of how he seemed to know the directions to nearly every corner of the country. Many a Kenyan student went on such trips, which became the biggest reason for joining any extra-curricular activity. Organising a trip was a joy by itself. The absolute win, though, was having your name on the list. Early in my school life, I heard legends of people who sneaked into the bus before daybreak. They would hide there until everyone else boarded and the bus left. There must have been some truth to them because teachers begun doing a
pre-boarding check inside the bus, especially under the seats. In campus, I joined the global, student-run body AIESEC by a fluke (read, because of a girl) and began another run at whirlwind trips. Only this time it was conferences and official work followed closely by absolute chaos. On one trip to Lake Nakuru National Park, someone bravely decided he would restock the party by walking to the nearest shopping centre. We heard him, but we didn’t really listen. Until he came back slightly bruised and in shock, having received unwarranted attention from a lone buffalo. When we were done laughing at his brush with death, we found another way to restock. There was a recklessness to all of it that I can never quite replicate. Organising trips became harder, funnily enough, once we grew up and got money. There are now schedules to match, cars to hire, and hotels to book. There are adult things to do even when it’s for a holiday or just a quick getaway. Thinking about this the other day, it hit me that school-level travel experiences might be the only truly visceral travel experiences some might ever have. And that’s sad. Travel as a tax-paying adult shouldn’t just be for fun, it should be mandatory. Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com
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NOTES FROM THE BUSH
LIVING LIFE ON THE EDGE
As the drought continued to ravage parts of Kenya. Samantha du Toit and h er children had to learn some difficult life lessons.
he water has gone. The trickle, that was left sustaining life by the river just yesterday, has faded into the mud leaving us wondering not only how we are to continue but how the Maasai homes across the river will survive. Already, the wildlife around us has been unlike anything we have seen before, with the usual baboons, bushbuck, warthogs, impala and monkeys now sharing the last pools of water with herds of elephants. Two nights ago, all night we could hear the elephants digging, splashing and grumbling their way upriver past our cottage. We could not shine the torches on to them for fear of sending them into a panic, so we sat quietly and relied on our senses of smell and hearing to imagine the scene below us. The next morning the tracks in the dry river bed told the story of a mixed family group, with babies as well, scouring for water. We have been hearing stories from the herders further downstream that there are some unhappy hippos defending their last pools of water in the swamp, and charging at the cattle who try to come and drink there. This is not something people have seen before, and it seems that all the hope that has kept people going through almost two years of drought might be fading along with water in the river. Rain ceremonies, sacrifices of livestock and prayers have yielded nothing. Dust storms are a daily occurrence, sometimes so thick that the world turns red around you. Dust ‘devils’ rush across the plains in a hot, seemingly angry flurry of dirt and sticks. Life and death seem to feature in daily discussions. The day after the elephants passed
through, a tree branch fell down, killing the baboon who had been unfortunately sleeping on it. The children went to see it. At the tender ages of three and six, I wondered how they would react. They expressed sympathy for the baboon, asked what would happen to its body and marvelled at the chance to see its hands and feet close up.
Unhappy hippos were defending their last pools of water in the swamp, and charging at cattle who came to drink. On an early morning game drive a few months before, we had come across a young lioness who had killed a zebra. Later that evening, the children acted out the scene, offering the audience (parents) different options for how the story could have ended. In some cases little Taru, the zebra, managed to outrun big sister lioness. In later scenes, he was not so lucky. A few days later, on the path in the forest, Seyia, big sister lioness, found a small newborn mouse in the dust, having fallen out of the nest in the tree. With some help from her Dad, she made a small home for the creature and put it back in the tree to wait for its mother. We did
not know how to tell her that it was unlikely to end well. We should not have worried. When the little thing was no longer there later that day, Seyia assumed that it had indeed been reunited with family, only to discover later the ants had taken it away to devour it. “Well, I guess the ants needed feeding,” she said, and walked on. Not for the first time I admired the children’s pragmatic view of the realities surrounding them. The same could be said for our neighbours. With no water to collect from the river, and elephants crashing around their homes all night, Julius still came striding across the dry riverbed with huge excitement at the fact that his children had been watching elephants in the morning from inside their thorn bush enclosure, and had been able to see these animals close up. He was proud that the efforts of his community to conserve wildlife were indeed paying off. Despite the fact his family had lost four goats the previous week to the resident leopard, he reflected that, “We are really getting somewhere.” And so it is that I am left reminded that nature can be a cruel teacher, but that really she is a life coach. Her lessons make us reflect and grow no matter who we are. Perhaps if we listen to her lessons with the heart of a child, we might be able to see things more clearly. *This piece was written shortly before the rains arrived. 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.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
Nomad meets with the Kenyan photographer behind Nairobi Noir, a photography blog that captures Nairobi at night. In 2015, he was arrested as a terror suspect during a photo shoot, marking the start of a difficult road to clear his name. “Why should I delete your phone number? What’s wrong?” She said, ”First delete my phone number.” By now, we’re attracting attention. I delete her phone number. She said, “When I went to the bathroom, I googled you. You’re a terror suspect.” She left me sitting there in the club, her perfume still on my shirt. If I put it in Noir terms, the whole story was now stalking me.
Your inspiration for Nairobi Noir? When I was in my last years of high school at Aga Khan in Westlands, I would go home to Langata or to Eastlands - depending on which parent I was going to. I would cross the city almost daily, walking from University Way all the way down to near Railways bus station where the matatus left from. I usually left school late and would be in CBD when it was dark. It looked so alluring, and I would get the urge to stop in the streets and draw or paint the scene. That urge would become Nairobi Noir.
How did you end up on the streets? I had not paid my rent for some time. I went to the shop. I had left everything in the house. I was charging my phone. When I came back, I was not allowed in by the security guards at the gate. By then I had become so stressed because I had asked people for help. I would say: “You guys: just buy my prints [and] … I’ll be able to sort the debts.” There was cold silence. I figured if I can’t get help, I have to fend for myself somehow. The only place I knew where I can do that is Nairobi CBD.
What do you do when you travel? When I travel, there are two places I visit: libraries and bookshops. I came back from India with about a thousand books. The guy at customs was so shocked because they were all personal, not new books to sell. I also make a point of taking long walks in the streets to absorb the energy of the place and its people, especially in cities. In rural areas I’ll go to the market - that’s where all the energy and activity is. Your photography has landed you in trouble. Tell us about your arrest. I had been arrested many times before. In December 2014, a new bill was signed into law, [allowing] the state to hold you for up to 360 days [without charge].* So I was shooting my street photography and got arrested. This was different. I was taken to Langata police station [where I was told] I had been arrested as a terror suspect. I managed to alert someone and they saw which police station I had been taken to. But I was not even booked in the [Occurrence Book]. So anybody who came was told, ‘There is no Msingi here.’ There were people who could clearly vouch I had been taken there, and they had not seen me leaving. So some guys went online to lobby for
my release and that created a [stir] on social media. *Ed’s note: Aspects of the anti-terror law were later overturned by the High Court. How did it affect your career? Immediately after my arrest, my prints were selling well. But after about three months, when people had moved on to other news, demand for my prints became low. And then I called a potential client I had met for a portrait session and she told me, “Look, you seem like a very nice person. Your work is amazing. I’d like to shoot with you but I have seen something online, that you are a terror suspect. So you know - this is Kenya.” I went online and searched my name. The first 20 searches of my name came up with “terror suspect.” How did it all affect your personal life? I met a beautiful girl in a nightclub. We were just about to leave the club, when she said she wanted to go to the bathroom. We had already exchanged numbers. She came back from the bathroom, crying. I thought someone had done something to her. But when she gets to me, she doesn’t want me to talk. She said, “Please delete my phone number.” I asked,
How did you survive in the CBD? I had a business selling books before I went to India. … I started selling used books again. I take a book - let’s say it’s 100 bob but I know where I can sell that book for 500. From the money I’d make, I’d buy some breakfast: a proper meal - not like an English breakfast of tea and bread. I would save some money to shower in the morning and go to sleep. Surprisingly you can get a place to sleep for 50 bob. How did you come back up? After posting about my predicament on Facebook, I got a lot of demand from people to buy my prints. One client bought 16 prints in one go. And one print is Ksh 10,000. I was back in business almost as fast as I was out on the street. What’s next for Nairobi Noir? So one of the major things I have coming out is a 24/7 live stream of Nairobi at night. I have done a lot of test runs. While I have been setting up a studio, I have also been doing a lot of Nairobi Noir work so there’s so much new stuff I have created and not yet released. This includes Nairobi Noir songs and music. It’s all coming out like a fruitful harvest. *As told to Ivy Nyayieka
PHOTOGRAPH PETER NDUNG’U
How did travelling to other cities influence your view of Nairobi? Living in New Delhi in India for half a decade allowed me to see the city in a different way. It’s a city with many contrasts and the energy of chaos. I was in film school, and Delhi influenced me to explore the juxtapositions and dualities of the Nairobi night.
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WESTERN IDYLL Catrina Stewart heads to the islands on Lake Victoria in search of a peaceful retreat and a whopper of a Nile Perch. PHOTOGRAPHS BRIAN SIAMBI
ho killed Tom Mboya? The riddle over the murder of one of Kenya’s most celebrated politicians in 1969 remains unsolved to this day. Nahashon Isaac Njenga Njoroge, the man who pulled the trigger, said as he was arrested, “Why pick on me? Why not the big man? We did what we were told.” He never did reveal the identity of the “big man,” and was hanged in haste, most probably to prevent him from talking. Nearly half a century after his murder, Mboya’s name still resonates hugely in Western Kenya. Schools are named after him, and his mausoleum, moulded in the shape of the bullet that killed him, on a windswept patch of Rusinga Island still attracts a steady stream of visitors keen to pay their respects. Leafing through the Mboya family’s press cuttings about his life, I wonder what might have been. Would Mboya, as a pan-Africanist who claimed to look beyond tribe, have helped Kenya overcome its tribal divisions had he succeeded the ailing Jomo Kenyatta, as many expected? Or would he have succumbed to the trappings and challenges of power? Paul Ndiege, Mboya’s much younger halfbrother, who takes drop-in visitors on a tour of the politician’s final resting place, naturally believes that his sibling could have been Kenya’s saviour, perhaps even the continent’s. “Tom was beyond tribal or ethnic boundaries. He ensured Kenya was one vision, one people,” he says. “If he’d lived, Africa as a whole would have taken a very different course.” We take our leave, deep in thought.
Ndiege supplies no answers to the identity of those who sought his brother’s demise, but he talks eloquently about the decades of disappointment and marginalisation of Kenya’s Western peoples. We drive back along the rutted track that loops around Rusinga, and past the smart Rusinga Island Lodge, where a former owner with a background in shipping conceived a plan to restore broken-down steamers and fit them out for luxury cruises. It might have transformed this part of Lake Victoria into a more popular destination for holidaymakers and helped bring prosperity to the West. But he died an untimely death, and his plans died with him. The largest lake in Africa and source of the Nile, Lake Victoria spans 27,000 square miles. It was named by John Hanning Speke, the British explorer who first reached its shores in 1858. It is a lifeline for those who live here, with fishing, although depleted, still a main source of income for lakeshore communities. Yet, for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s not on many of my friends’ “mustsee” lists. Tourism in this region is still nascent, as evidenced by just a smattering of decent accommodation. My stomach knots with excitement as we scramble onto a launch in Mbita, a twoshack kind of place that has morphed over a relatively short time into a sprawling town and launching pad for the islands. We’re headed for Mfangano Island Lodge, a retreat on the attractive island of the same name. Unlike Rusinga, it has not been denuded of its trees, nor is it troubled by bilharzia, the parasite that thrives in stagnant water around Lake Victoria’s shores, and burrows through human skin.
We break the golden rule: do not cross the lake in the afternoon, when the wind starts to whip up. As our speedboat crashes over the swollen waves, I clutch my pregnant belly and castigate myself for not taking the weather into consideration. Soon, though, we are puttering around the edges of rugged, forested Mfangano, and we slowly motor into the camp, where a handful of attractive thatched cottages are clustered around a small bay. This serene resort is hardly what I expect to find in Lake Victoria. We are soon swaying in hanging swings, sundowner in hand, on the pier stretching into the lake. Dinner takes place by candlelight in the garden, where we’re treated to a feast of twinkling lights on the horizon, those of the hundreds of fishermen using lamps to attract the tiny omena, a silvery sardine-like fish. For the most part, those who stay at Mfangano - part of the Governor’s Collection - have traditionally been the safari goers, looking for a place to relax after a trip to the Maasai Mara. But perhaps things are changing in this part of Kenya, with events such as the annual Rusinga Island Festival, or Mfangano’s recent cycling race around the island, attracting a younger, more active crowd.
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WESTERN **** The following day, we do what everyone does on this lake: fish. Our target is the Nile Perch, which was introduced into the lake several years ago to the detriment of the native Tilapia. Within moments of our setting up the rods, I get a nibble. “Reel it in! Reel it in,” shouts Sam, the boat’s captain. Thrashing on the other end of the line is perhaps the biggest Nile Perch I have ever seen. It ducks and dives, but it is thoroughly snared. Sam leans over the side of the boat, and jabs a vicious-looking hook through the fish’s bottom lip. Hauling it over the side of the vessel, he makes a quick judgement. “It’s about a kilo,” he says, giving it a couple of quick thwacks to the head. I smile broadly - not just a fish, but a big one, too, I think. Sam quickly deflates my mood. “I once caught a Nile Perch weighing 71 kilos,” he says. “It was nearly as heavy as me.” I look at him doubtfully, trying to imagine what it must feel like to haul in a perch weighing 71 times as much as the dying creature - no longer a whopper, but a tiddler flapping gently at my feet. Leaning back in the boat, I survey my surroundings. Less than a couple of hundred yards off, two fishermen are hauling in a net. Unlike us, they haven’t yet caught anything. But it’s still early. We pack away the rods and continue our circumnavigation of the Bird Islands, two giant chunks of rock where cormorants bask in dying, dung-spattered trees, well-camouflaged monitor lizards scuttle away at our approach, and otters frolic in the shallows. We putter into Takawiri Island, where Manmeet and his wife Kati have taken over the management of a small lodge on what is possibly the only bit of white beach in the vicinity. Kati, who does most of the cooking for guests, is away when we visit, so Manmeet has rustled up a fish curry for lunch. Manmeet is no amateur, however. Both he and his wife once
ran a popular restaurant in Kisumu. Besides the rustic accommodation that they offer, the couple are landscaping a campsite that will be one of the few decent budget accommodation options on the islands. Back at Mfangano, I eschew the camp’s inviting-looking pool to make an excursion to the caves to see the rock art, said to be some 4,000 years old. Daniel, a hunched islander from the Suba people, with a jovial patter, leads us up a steep path through scrub and thorn bushes to a cave where we can just make out red and white whorls on the rock sides, painted by the Twa pygmy huntergatherers. Red was for rain, and white for drought, summoned to weaken the enemy and force them out. The cave was divided into two halves one for the men, one for the women. Daniel perches on a bit of rock which he says was the matriarchal seat, where the most senior woman would oversee her flock of girls, and ensure no impropriety. If a young girl was caught straying before marriage, she’d be sent back to the tribal home to marry an older man with several wives. And the man in this tryst, did he get off scot-free, I tease Daniel. “No,” he smiles, perhaps deliberately misunderstanding. “For the old man, it was a blessing.” Despite their legacies, certain groups have had only a tenuous foothold on these shores. The Twa were vanquished, forced into retreat in the Great Lakes, where they remain marginalised. I wonder if the Suba, struggling to retain their identity and their language in an overwhelmingly Luo area, could, too, face a similar fate. The two tribes coexist peacefully, but the Luos, too, feel threatened in this neglected part of Kenya. Our last day on Mfangano, we take breakfast on the jetty, the lake’s waters still and glistening in the morning sun. Ahead of us is the drive to Nairobi. It may be only a sevenhour drive, but it feels like a million miles away from the serenity of the lake.
I try to imagine what it must feel like to haul in a perch weighing 71 times as much as the dying creature at my feet. The writer and photographer were guests of Mfangano Island Resort. Resident rates start from roughly Ksh 16,000 pp, full-board. The lodge is closed in April and May. www.governorscamp.com
To access the islands, head for the mainland town of Mbita, where you can drive across a bridge to Rusinga, or catch either the water boat or ferry to Takawiri and Mfangano islands. Fly540 now flies to Homa Bay, 40 minutesâ€™ away.
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KISUMU UNCOVERED Ditch the guide book to Kisumu, and allow Magunga Williams, a native of the city, to introduce you to its wild side. PHOTOGRAPHS BRIAN SIAMBI
f you must - and you must - travel to Kisumu from Nairobi, try something different. The Kericho route is beautiful, what with the rolling hills covered in green tea plantations that look like a rich man’s lawn. But that is what everyone uses. Perhaps try branching off instead at Londiani. Pause for a minute to rest your feet from the pedals and let the market women swarm your car with cobs of maize. All you have to do is choose one of them, ask them how their day is, buy a cob, accept praises of how handsome you look in that car (even if it is hired) and then proceed towards Muhoroni. Allow the sunset to catch you at Koru. A thin road will tear before you through sugarcane plantations, hills rising up to kiss the orange sky, and a glowing ball of red fire dropping down from the sky on your left. And that is what will be a glimpse of what will be waiting for you in Kisumu - the unexpected. But only if you bother enough to find it, because Kisumu is the kind of city whose treasures are hidden. She does not reveal herself to strangers. You have woo her to love her. Luckily for me, I grew up here so I know exactly which buttons to press to get in Kisumu’s good graces. As a child, having fun revolved around four things; swimming at Sunset Hotel, going to Lwang’ni Beach for fish every Sunday, and when our parents were not looking, hunting for honey from the hives hanging inside Museveni thickets (the present-day Lolwe Estate), or skinny dipping at Kapenesa - a dam of green water along the Kakamega Road. We grew up and left for Nairobi. I stayed away for so long, thinking that Kisumu would wait for me. She did not. She moved on. When I came back, it was difficult to recognise her. She had morphed into this metropolis of sorts, with tall glass buildings, superhighways hanging in the air, busier streets and, heartbreakingly, boda bodas were no longer bicycles, but motorbikes. There used to be an assembly of trees that (depending on what direction you were going) would either escort you out or invite you into Kisumu via Obote road. All that was gone, and in their place streetlights had been installed leading towards Kisumu Airport. Sorry, Kisumu International Airport. In the Kisumu of old, the Imperial Hotel was the only hotel worth mentioning. Yes, the hotel’s still there, but other places have come up since, whether it’s Wigot Hotel, with its infinity pool stretching towards the Nandi Hills, or Acacia Premier Hotel, another new entrant in the hood that is famous for its stellar service and kick-ass cocktails. But right across from that is TLC, a tavern that will offer you the same food and drinks as Acacia, but at half the price.
WESTERN A five-minute walk past TLC, you will find the Victoria Railways Club that was a hit back when Kanda Bongo Man ruled the airwaves. The bony hands of time have touched its face, but not its kienyeji chicken. Get deeper into Milimani and you will find a range of spots next to the lake. Inside the Impala Sanctuary is the Impala Hotel. Further on down the road is Hippo Lovers Point - no prizes for guessing why it was named so - a perfect spot for sundowners. Those who just want to hang with friends on a Friday evening tend to head over to Dunga Hill Camp. There they sit with beers in hand, watching the hippos, and the fishermen sail out. There are painful mistakes tourists to Kisumu make. First, they assume we are only good for our fish (which they then go ahead and eat with chips or chapos – or, worse still, a knife and fork). They also assume this can only be eaten at Lwang’ni beach. But there’s a well-kept secret called Ka’Akwacha famed for one thing and one thing only: Anti Stock Theft meat. Or simply Anti-Theft. Which, in layman’s terms, is just roast meat - with chunks of fatty pieces - often served with ugali, kachumbari and a special Luo delicacy called Ojuri sauce (a mixture of cow dung extraction, bile and water). After having lunch at Ka’Akwacha, you’ll find the human race forever divided into two: those who have tasted Anti-Theft and those who have not. When darkness falls and your body starts itching for music, there are two places I would recommend. Not because they are the only ones that exist, no. Only because they represent the two kinds of crowds that you will find on a night out in Kisumu. The Roan rooftop on Oginga Odinga Street draws a more urbane crowd, who like to photograph their food and drinks in between shoki shoki and dabs [types of dances]. And then there is Vimba 68, next to Mamba Hotel, where Congolese musicians wearing colourful skinny jeans ripped at the knees send the crowd into a frenzy with their high-pitched voices. I love this place, not only because the beer is cheaper, but because of the old timers who come here. They remind me of a Kisumu I miss. Because the real beauty of Kisumu is not in those fancy hotels or rolling hills. It is and always has been the people. The loud, proud breed of human beings with dark skins and voices who have never been taught what it is to whisper. They are unashamed of how they dance, they know each other by name and village. And if you get to know them, you won’t have a dull moment in Kisumu.
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WHERE TO STAY IN AND AROUND LAKE VICTORIA
Heading to Lake Victoria? Then check out these places to stay in and around Kisumu, and on the lake itself.
KWEISOS HOUSE, KORU
About a 90-minute drive east of Kisumu is this simple, rustic homestead, built on a hill with tremendous views over the surrounding countryside. The original house is a Harrods flatpack, shipped from England in 1912. With three rooms - two doubles and a twin - it makes for a cosy family stay. Over the years, the owners have added four more double rooms, a little separate from the house, allowing it to accommodate up to 14 at one time. There is good walking in the area, tennis and horse-riding on request, and trips to nearby dams on the large farm for a spot of fishing for tilapia. Small pool on the property. Ksh 7,500 pp full-board, Ksh 3,000 pp self-catering. Ksh 2,000 for under 12s. www.homalime.com
KIBOKO BAY RESORT, KISUMU
A perennial favourite in Kisumu, and indeed, it hardly feels like you’re in Kisumu at all. About a 3 km drive from the centre, this camp has a prime spot overlooking Lake Victoria, whether you’re here for a sundowner on the pontoon or have come to stay. Accommodation is in spacious, nicely-furnished, wooden-floored safari tents, and come with hairdryers and coffee-making facilities. There’s a one-bedroom cottage available for those looking for more privacy, with its own jacuzzi and a bedroom. It’s not possible to self-cater, however. Although possible to swim in the lake itself, why would you want to when there’s a lovely pool and baby pool overlooking the lake? Starts from Ksh 13,000 for a double, B&B. www.kibokobay.com
RUSINGA ISLAND LODGE
A beautifully-designed lodge on Rusinga - accessible by bridge from the mainland - that has changed hands more than a few times in recent years. Nevertheless, it retains much of its charm - beautiful rooms with private verandas, a gorgeous lakeside setting with various resting spots scattered over the well-kept lawn and swimming pool and small spa. It is such an oasis in this part of Rusinga, and indeed around Lake Victoria, that it has become a very popular day trip spot for those looking for a lakeside lunch spot, or a day at the pool. Those paying top-dollar prices to stay here, however, may find it not quite exclusive enough. Starts from Ksh 16,000 pp, sharing, fullboard. www.rusinga.com
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MFANGANO ISLAND RESORT
A gem of a camp on Mfangano, the most attractive of Kenya’s Lake Victoria islands. Encircling an attractive bay, the camp, part of the Governor’s hotel group, consists of a huddle of cottages perched overlooking the lake. There’s a large romantic honeymoon suite out at the furthest point and a huge family cottage at the other end. When you’re not out catching Nile perch or visiting the rock art, the deck on the lake itself is a lovely relaxation spot with its swinging chairs, and there’s a pool for those who prefer not to swim in the lake. Breakfast is served on lakeside decking, and dinner by candlelight in the gardens. Starts from $163 pp (approx Ksh 16,000), sharing, full-board. www.governorscamp.com
LAKE VICTORIA SAFARI VILLAGE, MBITA
On the mainland just outside Mbita, the main jumping-off point for the islands, is this low-key, affordable camp. The bandas are fairly basic, with some considerably more spacious and appealing than others, but the main draw is its excellent lakeside spot with a small beach, and lake-facing restaurant. An unusual attraction is the lighthouse, built by the Norwegian owner in 2005, and a romantic spot with a bath overlooking the lake and its own private veranda. The Eagle’s Nest, a second room with windows all the way round to offer 360 degree views, is being built on top, likely to be completed in the next few months. Bandas start from Ksh 7,100 B&B for a double; Tents cost Ksh 4,800 for two. www.safarikenya.net
TAKAWIRI ISLAND RESORT
Unusually for Lake Victoria, Takawiri is situated on its own white beach. Owners Manmeet and Kati, who for a time ran a restaurant in Kisumu, do most of the cooking, ensuring exceptionally tasty fare. Solar-powered rooms are pretty simple, but comfortable enough, and anyway, you’re unlikely to be spending much time in them, what with a bay to swim in, boating trips and time spent chatting around the fire or the bar. For those on a budget, there’s a campsite with ablutions. The resort can arrange a mainland pick-up, or the water bus and ferry both stop at the island. Accommodation starts from Ksh 12,000 pp, sharing, full-board, drinks extra. Camping Ksh 2,000 pp. Search for Takawiri Island Resort on Facebook.
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COMPETITION At the beginning of this year, the Angama Foundation, in partnership with Nomad, launched a competition to find the best images from the Maasai Mara. Here, we showcase the first of the monthly winners. From 10 monthly winners, one lucky photographer will take home $10,000 in cash and win a five-night stay at the Angama Mara. For details on how to enter, see opposite page.
JANUARY WINNER: ‘RUN FOR LIFE’ BY PAOLO TORCHIO Nikon D500, Nikon 500 mm, ISO 800, F4.0, 1/1600 “One long afternoon in the Mara, following two female cheetahs, with the hope of seeing the fastest hunter on Earth in action. With the sun almost below the horizon, one of the cheetahs finally started the chase at incredible speed, and everything ended a few seconds later.” @paolotorchio
FEBRUARY WINNER: ‘THERE’S FOOD FOR EVERYONE’ BY KETAN KHAMBATTA Nikon D500, Nikon 70-200 mm, F2.8, ISO 400, F6.3, 1/1000 “A dead zebra is the feast here and everyone was restless to eat. The hyena, as a rule of thumb, goes first and the vultures need to wait their turn. But not all vultures are going to follow the norm as we saw. They went out of turn and tried to start picking on the flesh. The hyena had to occasionally threaten these vultures.” @ketankhambhatta
IMAGE COURTESY OF FEDERICO VERONESI
IMAGE COURTESY OF FEDERICO VERONESI
WIN WINUS$10,000 US$10,000IN INCASH CASH++AA55NIGHT NIGHTSAFARI SAFARI ENTRIES ENTRIESNOW NOWOPEN OPEN THEGREATESTMAASAIMARA.COM THEGREATESTMAASAIMARA.COM PROUDLY PRESENTED BY BY PROUDLY PRESENTED
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DESALGN’S REVENGE When Jill Craig and a friend embark on planning a trip to Ethiopia, they quickly realise that cheap isn’t always best. PHOTOGRAPHS: JILL CRAIG
It hadn’t started like this. No, no, no. Several years ago when I first became enamoured with the idea of visiting Ethiopia, I pictured myself skipping through the mountains with the long-haired gelada monkeys (the Simiens), staring in awe at the Debre Birhan Selassie Church with those distinctive angel faces on the ceiling (Gondar), darting around the famous rock-hewn churches (Lalibela), and eating my body weight in injera (everywhere), I had no clue I would find myself designing ruses to avoid a tour guide and then vomiting my way through one of the hottest places on earth. Indeed, a brilliant way to begin a travel dispatch. And a warning: if you have a delicate stomach and/or sensibilities, you should probably stop reading now. My friend Kati and I had carefully debated which places to visit on our 10-day trip and quickly realised some spots would need to wait until next time; Axum and the rock churches of Tigray, for example, didn’t make the cut. Because neither of us speaks Amharic, we
decided to hire a tour operator. But, things fall apart. In this case, our travel plans. Kati and I received several quotes, deliberated for a few days, and chose the cheapest guide. Big mistake. After all, you wouldn’t pick the cheapest eye surgeon or the clearance-price sushi. WRONG CITY, WRONG DAY And thus we met Desalgn, a man more than accommodating when discussing the finer points of a Western Union transfer, but less reliable with details like flight times, and providing a trip itinerary. One week after I sent him $511, the cost of our domestic flights, we still hadn’t heard from him. In the back of my mind, I remembered the Western Union employee asking if I actually knew this guy, and me laughing. Of course he was trustworthy, I said. Finally, Desalgn emerged, emailing us a photo of a crumpled piece of paper with a few numbers scrawled on it. Kati, the wiser of the two of us, immediately asked where our tickets were. Desalgn responded that we should go to
the Ethiopian Airlines office in Nairobi. “They’ll know what to do.” It turned out that Desalgn booked two of our four flights to the wrong cities and at the wrong times. I was informed that only he would be able to change those tickets; otherwise, Kati and I would need to pay another $300. I enlisted the help of Dawit, an Ethiopian colleague, to call Desalgn and explain the situation in Amharic. As he calmly read the printed itinerary from Ethiopian Airlines, I paced behind him like a caged circus animal, jabbing a forefinger into the paper when I heard words in English. “No, Dawit! You tell him we specifically said we wanted to visit Lalibela on Wednesday, not Thursday! Wednesday!” Desalgn eventually fixed the ticket situation, but then refused to answer our emails. He wouldn’t tell us where we were staying, what the programme was. Within the span of our month-long relationship, Desalgn had become a bitter soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend; refusing to communicate, but assuming we’d stick around anyway. So Kati and I had to take drastic
Somewhere in China, there are photos of a tourist emptying the contents of her stomach over the Danakil salt flats.
action: break up with him. Kati’s email: “Hi Desalgn, I hope this finds you well. We would like to inform you that we are cancelling our trip with you. Best.” Now, he was awake. He fired emails and calls at both of us, threatening to cancel our domestic flights to get back the 25 percent of the trip cost he said we owed him,. SUBTERFUGE IN GONDAR We found a new, professional tour operator, and tried to ignore his rather unorthodox customer service tactics. But since he was based in Gondar, where we first landed, and knew our flight times, I was paranoid he was going to find us. Once we arrived, I insisted Kati and I split up and act like we didn’t know one another at the baggage carousel, just in case. I wore sunglasses. What a start to a holiday. The plan seemed to work - at first. No one jumped out of the bushes or ambushed us. So far, so good. But as I was getting a new SIM card, a redeyed, slightly maniacal man began banging
on the passenger window of the car where Kati was waiting with the driver. He yelled that he knew she was Katrin and where was Jill? He accused us of “gambling” with him, and threatened to cancel our tickets. Finally, the driver drove off, returning only to pick me up. Despite my paranoia that Desalgn was going to appear randomly at one of our campsites in the Simiens, or the hotel lobby in Gondar, or maybe even show up in Lalibela or Mekele, we managed to avoid him. Here is a review of our trip over the next few days: Simien Mountains – beautiful. Gondar – fantastic. Lalibela – amazing. SICKNESS IN THE DEPRESSION Then, the Danakil Depression… When you mention Danakil to those who have visited it, they will probably tell you they loved it. It’s a place of otherworldly, stunning beauty, with its salt flats, camel caravans, sulphur springs and Erta Ale, an active volcano. It’s located in the Afar region of northeast Ethiopia, next to the Eritrean border, and is considered one of the hottest, lowest, and driest places on Earth. The average annual temperature is about 34.4 degrees. But straight off an incredible hike in the Simiens and some great tours of historic sites, Kati and I knew things were off to a rocky start when the tour guide forgot our luggage in Mekele, the town where Danakil trips begin. Twenty minutes after driving off, Kati asked me to check if our luggage was in the back. It was not. Our driver, who kept himself awake/ entertained by chewing copious amounts of miraa, didn’t seen too bothered and calmly turned the car around. Back on the road, we met the rest of our group: 12 Chinese tourists, four Americans, two Spaniards, and ourselves – an Austrian and an American. Our campsite in the Danakil Depression consisted of metal cots perched upon a field of rocks. When I asked our guide where I could find a toilet, he nonchalantly waved his hand toward the rocks. Not a squat toilet, not a hole in the ground, not even a shrub. Just a field of rocks.
Not a huge deal, until you start vomiting. Which I did, around 3 am; hunched over a stone pile, purging the previous night’s rather unsavoury spaghetti dinner in a most undignified fashion. Following a several-hour long pattern of purge, attempt to sleep, purge, repeat, I stumbled over to our vehicle to get some water. But the nausea followed me, and soon enough, I was loudly retching again. Fellow travellers started to photograph me. Somewhere in China, there are photos of a tourist emptying the contents of her stomach over the salt flats of Danakil. After everyone except me had breakfast, we drove off and prepared to see the sights. I slept, focusing on sipping water and avoiding direct sunlight. Each time we got to a new place, I would woozily get out of the car, take a few photos, then retreat to my backseat nest. OVERWHELMING FUMES I decided to attempt the 30-minute trek over volcanic rock to see the stunning Dallol volcano, with its craters containing hot springs coloured yellow, orange, green, brown and white at the surface. Overwhelmed by sulphuric fumes, which are never aromatic, but take on a new level of revulsion when you’re nauseous, I took a quick look at the springs and then headed back to the cars, where the drivers were playing cards and eating snacks. I had barely arrived when the vomiting started again. One driver gave me some water, an orange, and a small chair. Another guy watched me intently from his car and yelled out pointers: “You need to drink more water! That will help!” The others just stared. Shortly thereafter, Kati made the executive decision that our trip would end here. We would not see the Erta Ale volcano, the highlight of most travellers’ trips to the Danakil Depression. Instead, we returned to Mekele airport and took the next flight to Addis Ababa. That night in the Addis hotel room, I don’t think I was ever so happy to see a toilet. Thankfully, Desalgn did not appear, and he didn’t cancel our tickets. We never heard from him again. But in the end, he still got his revenge.
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SAVING WOLVES IN ETHIOPIA The last remaining stronghold of Ethiopian wolves is found on the alpine plateaux of the Bale Mountains National Park, where disease and human encroachment have pushed them to the brink of extinction. Neville Slade, project manager for the Frankfurt Zoological Society, talks to Nomad about the efforts to protect this endangered creature. PHOTOGRAPH: FRANKFURT ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY
What brought you to Bale Mountains National Park? We came to protect the Ethiopian Wolf; that was 12 years ago. The wolf is the most endangered carnivore in Africa and the most endangered canid in the world. At the time, there were about 600 left worldwide. Then rabies and distemper depleted their numbers further. In Bale, they went down from almost 400 to approximately 135. There are now about 350, of which 70% are in the Bale Mountains. The Frankfurt Zoological Society helps protect the environments of animals threatened with extinction, so this was a key place for them to be.
migratory species and 14 endemic species; wattled cranes and lots of vultures and eagles have been recorded here. It’s claimed that if conservation efforts here aren’t successful, more species of mammal would go extinct than in any other similarly-sized area the world over. But the population of Ethiopia is now around 100 million, and is expected to rise to 130 million within the next 30 years. Between 6,000 and 8,000 people live in the park, and many more around it, and they continue to exploit the land unsustainably, planting their crops and grazing their wildlife indiscriminately. In Africa it’s all about politics and people – animals don’t have a vote.
Are the wolves particularly vulnerable to disease? In 2015, and at the beginning of 2016, we had outbreaks first of rabies and then canine distemper. The rapid occurrence of distemper after rabies is unusual but it happens. There are many people living in the park, and they [keep] dogs for protection. These dogs sometimes roam in packs as they are not fed. Although our policy is that they do not roam more than 150 metres from the homestead, they do. And they will kill young wolves if given a chance, as well as carry the diseases mentioned. In three years, three areas [in Ethiopia] have lost their [wolf] populations. They were small packs, but [faced] pressure from the grazing of cattle, which brought the dogs and the spread of disease.
So what can you do? Last year, I took 15 Ethiopian government ministers to Kenya to look at the conservation areas there. They met people working in conservation including the Kenya Wildlife Service, and Richard Leakey. By the end of that eight-day trip they could see the value of conservation; they saw the way it works in Kenya, and how it could work in Ethiopia. They returned to Ethiopia with new enthusiasm; a general management strategy has now been ratified that includes the plan to move all the people out of the parks within the next 10 or 15 years. They also realised the protection of the water tower is vital, not just for the wolf, but for the 20 million people downstream. But there’s a lot of work to be done.
How can you protect the wolves? We work with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority. Because of the reputation FZS has of being a capable conservation society, we can attract funding, so we have the ability to implement projects. But to stop the spread [of disease], the teams need more money for protection and [to provide] a rapid response with vaccines. And of course, it’s not only about the wolves. Everything affects everything else and we need to protect the whole thing – the environment and all the other species – and we have to work with the local people to make this happen. This is a unique environment. Much of the park is over 4,000-metres and is one of Africa’s vital water towers. Four major rivers run off it onto the plains, supplying 20 million people [with water] between the Bale Mountains and the Somali coast. We need to preserve the very top of this chain. If you destroy the vegetation at the top, [then] when it rains, all the water will run off it or evaporate. What is the biggest threat to the area? High numbers of Ethiopia’s endemic species are found here, including the Bale monkey, mountain nyala and giant mole rat. There are also endangered species such as wild dog, melanistic leopard and harenna lion. There are 320 species of birds here, including 170
It’s claimed that if conservation efforts here aren’t successful, more species of mammal would go extinct than in any other similarly-sized area the world over.
How does tourism affect conservation? Tourism, done the right way, is of huge benefit to conservation. We get around 8,000 tourists per year in Bale Mountains National Park, and of those, about 2,000 go hiking. The park has an area of about 2,150 square kilometres but there’s only one road through it so only around 8% of the park can be seen from a vehicle. The remaining 92% can only be seen on foot or from the back of a horse. We have
a Porters Association, a Guiding Association, and a Cooks Association; all these not only enhance the tourists’ experience, helping them get away from the road to explore large tracts of the park, but also provide employment for locals. But entrance fees for national parks here are around $4 per day, whereas in Kenya they’re about $70, so it’s difficult to sustain tourism areas. National parks in Ethiopia need partners to fund and manage them. Education and capacity building of local government is also important. Seeing is believing. They need to see what’s possible. It makes much more sense when they’ve experienced it. Now Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency. This has a direct affect on tourism bookings and on our revenue. And when there are fewer tourists, we get increased pressure from people bringing their livestock into the park. How did you get into this line of work? I grew up in Kenya, living with the Maasai. My father was involved in the establishment of Olkiramatian Conservancy, near Magadi. Conservation was a part of my life from a very young age, and I lived and breathed it. Later, I spent 15 years in Mozambique doing forestry and livelihood schemes, always with an eye on conservation. When the opportunity came up to work with FZS in Ethiopia, I took it. I’ve been here for three and a half years now. As long as the project is viable and there’s interest in it, I’m keen to be here. Who knows how long that will be. What’s in a day for you? Every day’s different, with different challenges. We have 82 scouts, 50 horses and eight vehicles, and everything has to be managed. Recently some cattle entered the park illegally and were confiscated, and the locals retaliated. That needed to be resolved sensitively. We work with the communities to try to improve their livelihoods, and try to reduce the numbers of cattle and encourage different kinds of crops. We also try to encourage tourism as it brings income that can help our conservation efforts. I work very long days as I live on the job. What happens today directly affects tomorrow. It’s hands on all the time. What’s the outlook for the Ethiopian wolf? Further outbreaks of disease could seriously damage the population. When packs become too small and isolated, then the risk is higher as their breeding cycles and patterns are complex. If a pack ends up with three females or vice-versa, they will eventually disappear as the distance to and risk in accessing other areas with wolf packs increases with human population growth. The wolf could face extinction within the next 15 years. As told to Tamara Britten
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
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John Mutuku, who as Tarpo’s field supervisor for the last 10 years has set up camps all over Kenya and South Sudan, talks about the joys and the challenges of the job. WHAT DOES BEING A FIELD SUPERVISOR MEAN? It means I take care of most of site events and duties. I make sure that whatever has to be done is done the right way. My typical day setting up a tented camp starts early. We get operators to help us with the daily duties. We make sure they have their proper Personal Protective Equipment such as overalls, helmets and safety boots. Then we are set for the day. WHAT DOES SETTING UP FOR EVENTS SUCH AS RHINO CHARGE INVOLVE? Since it is a big event, we have to get more people in to help. First, we train them and prepare them for their site duties. This involves training them on how to set up the tents as well as dismantling and handling the equipment. We take precautions depending on where we are going - maybe there are wild animals such as snakes. Where there are wild animals, Tarpo hires security personnel to drive them away or to keep an eye on them.. WHAT IS A TIME WHEN SETTING UP DID NOT GO AS PLANNED? We went to a site where the organiser had not liaised properly with the local community so they started barricading the roads. They wanted to storm our camps and destroy the equipment. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST FEAR? Travelling by air. It is not a phobia as such. But when we go with the small flights, they have several stages where they have to come down and refuel. They are not as comfortable as the big planes. WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE ON THE JOB? Sometimes when you go to remote areas, the guys there don’t know your language so there is a communication barrier. Sometimes, you also go to a place where the climate is so hot. You are not used to it
but you have to adapt. Like Moyale. I went to Moyale; the area was too hot and the ground was too hard to peg down the tents. So we had to use big stones to secure the tents from the strong winds. WHAT MAKES TARPO DIFFERENT? Tarpo is unique because it trains its members of staff. There is room to grow. For instance, I got my first aid training here and I am also a fire marshall. When I first came to Tarpo, I knew nothing about tents. Once I came here, I was put in the camping department. Then I started developing an interest in camping. Actually, I got interested in travelling, too. WHAT ARE SOME MEMORABLE EVENTS YOU HAVE SET UP FOR? The Amazing Maasai is a charity event to organise funds to help reduce early marriages among Maasai girls. It is held once a year in Laikipia. After we get the numbers of the tents needed, we organise ourselves. We know the location. We know the layout. We go and set up as per the client’s requirements. Lewa is almost like Amazing Maasai. It also helps the local community. It is an event to raise funds to build schools, conserve wild animals and to build fences to avoid human-wildlife conflict. WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE JOB? I like travelling and seeing the wild animals. Since joining Tarpo, I have seen most of our wild animals and I have travelled all over - to Kisumu, Lamu, even to South Sudan. I would say Lamu was the most memorable. We went by boat to an island. It took several hours with the speedboats. It was scary but also great fun. HOW DOES YOUR FAMILY DEAL WITH YOUR BUSY SCHEDULE? In most cases, I am out for just two to three weeks. Then once I come back, I take leave to go be with my family.
A walk through north of...
Starting Point: Jeevanjee Gardens Finishing Point: Al-Yusra restaurant Time: 1-3 hours, depending on refreshment stops
n Jeevanjee gardens, there’s a plinth where a white marble statue should be. Queen Victoria, a colonial symbol who for more than a century has fixed her stern gaze on those perambulating in the five-acre city centre park, was mysteriously demolished two years ago by vandals. Nobody has ever claimed responsibility for the act. This city space, bequeathed to the public in 1906 by Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee, an industrialist born in modern-day Pakistan who largely supplied the Indian workforce for the construction of the “Lunatic Express” railway, is where we begin our walk. Over the past few decades, the park’s supporters, including Wangari Maathai, have fended off a multitude of threats to the park, including plans to dig a parking lot beneath it. Yet still it remains - perhaps not as well-kept as in its heyday, but nevertheless a peaceful spot away from the hectic pace of Nairobi’s central business district. We exit the park onto Moi Avenue, headed towards Biashara Street, the lively Asiandominated trading thoroughfare where a loyal crowd still comes to buy curtains, fabrics and baby clothes. It was here that the immigrant Indian community - brought in by Jeevanjee would later set up their own businesses. We stop for a while in front of Prembro House, a building of uncertain age, that is one of many gazetted buildings in Nairobi, this one for its contribution to architectural beauty. It now houses a toy shop, the colourful lettering oddly complementing its ornate white exterior. We continue along the street past Haria’s Stamp shop, a must for stamp collectors, until we reach Muindi Mbingu Street, and head in the direction of Banda Street. Set back from the main street is the MacMillan Library, easy
to miss despite its imposing exterior with the impressive lion statues standing guard at the main entrance. Opened in 1931, the library remains one of Nairobi’s most storied institutions, with some 270,000 volumes housed inside. In the main reading room, readers quietly pore over books and documents. It has apparently undergone a refurbishment, but beyond the reasonably smart main room, the condition quickly deteriorates. Books, their covers tattered or even missing altogether, stand abandoned in a recess of the library. A shelf full of old books has partially fallen against another, which, as suggested by the pool of water at its feet, was probably the victim of recent rains. Upstairs, through a carved door with ornate handle, one finds a treasure trove of old newspapers, East African annuals, Africana and coveted first editions. Under a stack of newspapers sticks out the corner of a 1929 edition of the East African Standard, its pages tattered. An illustrated annual from the early 1940s includes a British officer’s account of a fishing trip on Lake Victoria during the war. Meanwhile, barely visible behind a pile of junk, are the perfectly-kept complete writings of Theodore Roosevelt. Back on the street, we head down towards Kenyatta Ave to look at the “three men,” a tribute to the Africans who served in the Kings African Rifles and Carrier Corps during the first World War. The statue, representing a porter, a soldier and a rifle bearer, was erected in 1928. Less visible across the street is a modest obelisk, erected in memory of those who died in the two world wars. Their placing in front of the old Cameo Cinema, now housing a casino and Nairobi Water Company, is deliberate. This is where much of the fundraising for the war effort took place. Leaving the two war memorials, our walk takes us towards Kimathi Street, where on the intersection with Kenyatta Avenue once stood the legendary Torrs hotel, now Stanbic Bank. The hotel was started by Ewart Grogan, who, to prove he was of marriageable material to his
future father in law, walked from Cape Town to Cairo. He subsequently married Gertrude, the woman in question, after whom he named the well-known Nairobi children’s hospital. Built in 1923, the one-time Torrs hotel is said to be the oldest brick building in Nairobi, and if you head round to the back of the modern-day bank, you can see a small section of the original brick remaining. Torrs opened its doors in the late 1920s, before Grogan sold it in the late 1950s. In search of food and drink, we head past the black and white Nation building to K’Osewe, a long-time favourite for those in search of Western Kenyan food. The cavernous dining room quickly fills up at lunchtime as regulars, ranging from office workers to politicians, with Raila Odinga said to be a regular patron, come for traditional fare, with goat tripe, gizzards and liver all popular choices. Long before settling on his current location, the owner, Mr Osewe (he has officially changed the name of the restaurant to Ranalo’s, but K’Osewe, as in “belongs to Osewe,” continues to stick) was serving the likes of Barack Obama Sr. back in the 1980s when his restaurant was little more than a shack under a tree. We are invited to taste the four or five different variations on sukuma wiki - cooked in coconut milk, for instance, or mixed with an oil extracted from cow’s milk that is similar to ghee. Then it’s on to the main courses. I pass on the gizzard, and opt for tilapia stewed in coconut, followed by fried beef, which I mop up with chapati. I suppose my expectations had plummeted when I spotted tripe on the menu, but it’s among the tastiest meals out I’ve had in ages. Then it’s off to al-Yusra, a popular Somali restaurant just across the way back on Banda Street. On the menu are local favourites such as chicken tikka, camel meat as well as hearty breakfasts. But we’ve already eaten, so we’re simply here to wash it all down with a cup of camel-milk tea.
PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI
Catrina Stewart explores the area of Nairobi to the north of Kenyatta Avenue from Jeevanjee Gardens to a Luo restaurant that excites the taste buds.
WEEKEND AWAY IN TSAVO via the SGR Board the train early in the morning, and by midday you could be eating lunch in front of a Tsavo watering hole. PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI
Thanks to the recent arrival of the SGR train, Tsavo East and West, Kenya’s largest game reserve combined, are making a comeback. Since last summer, the train has stopped at Mtito Andei and Voi, both entrance points for the national parks. Instead of dodging the trucks on Mombasa Road, you could be safely ensconced at a lodge in the midst of the park within four hours of getting on the train in Nairobi or Mombasa. Tsavo was once Kenya’s most exalted bit of African bush. It was here the famous man-eating lions of Tsavo picked off Indian labourers building the railway from the coast to Uganda, and where Theodore
Roosevelt led a hunting expedition that killed more than 11,000 animals. Over the years, Tsavo has faced a multitude of threats, not least the poaching epidemic that wiped out much of its elephant population in the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years, it has been eclipsed by the plains of the Maasai Mara, much smaller in size, but teeming with game, offering a more consistent wildlife experience. Yet Tsavo still has plenty to offer. Its elephant population has partially recovered, and it is the only place in the country where “tuskers” still roam, the elephants with tusks of more than 100 pounds (45 kg). Tsavo West boasts both the eerie Shetani lava flow
and the remarkable Mzima Springs, not to mention Lakes Jipe and Chala to the south. In the much larger Tsavo East, the landscape is classic Africa, the red dirt soil dotted with scrub, where one can drive for miles without spotting another vehicle. To make the most of a weekend in Tsavo, we suggest you aim for at least two nights - the timings of the train make a one-night stay frustratingly short. Here, we highlight six lodges we like in different parts of the greater Tsavo area to suit different budgets and tastes. All of them offer transfers to and from the train station, whether as part of package or at an additional cost.
Na iro bi
Tsavo Safari Camp
Mtito Andei Finch Hattons
Tsavo Severin Safari Camp and Kitani Bandas
Satao Tented Camp
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
SATAO, TSAVO EAST
On any given day (particularly in the dry season), you are likely to find hundreds - yes, hundreds - of elephants outside your tent, with every room facing the watering hole. This is a charming camp, furnished in classic safari style - think simplicity, not opulence - with an inviting downtime area with daybeds and loungers. Much of the game comes to you, with the boundaries between park and camp pretty fluid. Vulturine guinea fowl, semi-tame impala, and other creatures wander in and around the 20-plus tents. We were particularly ‘wowed’ by the food here, with marinated kebabs grilled in front of us. The camp doesn’t have a pool, so arguably less suited for small children. FB starts from Ksh 5,500 pp, sharing, and Ksh 9,500 pp, sharing, for game-drive package. One-way transfer to and from Voi (around an hour) costs Ksh 2,000 pp (minimum of 2 guests). www.sataocamp.com
TSAVO SAFARI CAMP, TSAVO EAST
The adventure begins at the river with guests arriving via inflatable dinghy to this intimate camp in the northern section of Tsavo East. Accommodation is in classically-furnished tents, providing a yesteryear feel without the usual modern-day refinements. All sorts of characters have passed through this camp, including Beryl Markham, the photographer Peter Beard, to name but a few. Most have left their mark in the guest book, a remarkable slice of history. This camp is pretty family-friendly with its own pool, and a more lenient game-drive experience in landrovers, where guests can ride on the roof. Its location doesn’t lend itself to the park’s best wildlife viewing, but longer drives are possible. FB starts from Ksh 10,500 pp, sharing, and a package with game drives and Mtito Andei transfers costs Ksh 18,375 pp, sharing. www.tsavosafaricamp.com
LION’S BLUFF, LUMO CONSERVANCY
Perched on a hill - or bluff - with 360-degree views towards Tsavo West and over the community-run Lumo conservancy, this is a camp with a truly incredible perspective. Accommodation is in 12 solarpowered tents or two cottages overlooking the plains, all furnished in a rustic but colourful and cosy style. For families, particularly those with young children, rooms 11 and 12 consist of two adjacent cottage-style rooms. The lodge offers bush breakfasts, sundowners out in the bush, archery for kids, night game drives and nature walks. There’s also disabled access to one of the tents (as well as elsewhere in the lodge), although there are still about five shallow steps to negotiate. FB rates start from Ksh 7,500 pp, sharing. Oneway transfers to and from Voi cost Ksh 4,000 per vehicle. Game drives are charged at Ksh 2,000 pp. www.lionsblufflodge.com
FINCH HATTONS, TSAVO WEST
After a two-year renovation, this already luxurious lodge reopened in 2015, bringing new meaning to the word ‘luxury.’ Little expense has been spared, with the addition of a state of the art spa and spacious cabins clustered around a small lake. Rooms have vintage “old Africa” fittings, indoor and outdoor showers, brass baths and outdoor decking overlooking the lake. Abundant water features from the pool to the watering holes help create a serene environment here, and it’s little wonder that this lodge has had an impressive guest list over the years. Behind the huge family cabin is a Little Explorers Club, which includes a fountain room for kids to run through. The camp offers a full SGR package, arranging tickets and transfers. Two nights all-inclusive of food and drink, game drives, transfers and train tickets cost $820 pp, sharing. www.finchhattons.com
SEVERIN SAFARI CAMP & KITANI BANDAS, TSAVO WEST
This German-run lodge in the heart of Tsavo West is situated next to a watering hole, making mealtimes a prime game-viewing opportunity. Accommodation is in rustic wooden cabins, while honeymoon cottages a short walk from the main lodge hug another watering hole, and can offer exceptional game sightings. The lodge also runs the cheaper Kitani bandas, converted KWS houses that sleep two (or more if kids) on a s/c basis. It is equipped with a tiny kitchen and barbeque grill. Banda guests can use the lodge’s facilities, such as the pool. Severin’s FB rates start from Ksh 10,700 pp, sharing; the Kitani bandas from Ksh 7,300. Game drives are charged at Ksh 4,000 pp. A one-way SGR transfer costs Ksh 10,000 per vehicle. www.severinsafaricamp.com
KILAGUNI, TSAVO WEST
Location, location… Serena’s Kilaguni hotel, one of the oldest and largest properties in the park, occupies pride of place in front of a watering hole, the perfect lure for buffalo, elephant, buck, and other game. A sundowner veranda overlooks the spot, and all of the rooms to either side of the main block face the watering hole. Standard rooms are on the petite side, but comfortable. Each has its own private veranda, with the upper-level rooms enjoying the best views, with Mt Kilimanjaro usually visible. There’s a pool for refreshment in the heat of day, and a running track around the perimeter. Full-board rates start from Ksh 9,200 pp, sharing, with game drives costing Ksh 4,500 pp, or Ksh 6,800 for a night-time safari. A one-way transfer to or from Mtito Andei costs Ksh 1,600 pp. www.serenahotels.com *All rates given are for residents, based on low-season travel
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
By converting their family home into a boutique hotel, the Banins hoped to create a more intimate travel experience. Ami Shah finds out more.
n the early 2000s, a light aircraft hovered ominously over the savannah plains of Northern Nigeria. The pilot scouted in panic for the landing strip that no longer was. With fuel at near empty, he made a decision to land as best he could amid the scrub and grass. This was his only chance to get himself and the handful of passengers to safety. The propeller plane made a valiant attempt at a near impossible touchdown. Bruised and battered from the crash landing, its passengers staggered out and stood vigil over a carcass of crushed metal. Among the passengers of the wrecked plane, were Sansone and Caterina Banin. They were in the north of Nigeria to explore the viability of a luxury resort by invitation of the regional governor. They took this near-death experience as a sign, and decided not to proceed with the project, now a region terrorised by Islamist
militant group Boko Haram. This, among a handful of other extraordinary tales, occupied an hour-long window I had with the couple, owners of The Maji, a boutique hotel on Diani Beach. Now 85 years of age, Sansone has a wealth of experience in the hotel industry. He first came to Kenya in 1958 to work at the newly-built Oceanic Hotel in Mombasa and continued in the hotel industry for the next 60 years, later joined by his wife Caterina, an interior designer. From Diani Reef Beach Hotel (now Diani Reef Grand) in 1981 to the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana, in 1999, the projects he worked on were aimed at mass travel, selling the concept of the ‘democratisation of travel.’ Herein lay the problem. “At the back of my mind, I knew that we’d never be able to deliver the truest feeling of luxury in such big hotels,” Sansone said. “We always wanted to create an intimate travel experience where
PHOTOGRAPHS: ROSALIA FILIPPETTI
guests would feel as they did in their own home.” In the mid-2000s, they returned to Diani and built AfroChic, a boutique hotel concept that delivered on the wishlist they had created over a near life-long career as hoteliers. They sold AfroChic to Elewana shortly after the 2007 post-election violence and subsequent dwindling tourist numbers. Undeterred, they embarked on a project to convert their own home into a luxury travel destination, which since opening in 2012, has garnered handfuls of accolades, thanks to its discerning patrons on Trip Advisor. The Maji sits as a seemingly monolithic structure of white cement, clad with sanded coral brickwork, a backdrop for fuchsia bougainvillea and a moat-like swimming pool that snakes its way into the cool and open, inner confines of the property. Upon entering, you won’t find an imposing reception desk, but rather a framed view and balmy breeze of the Indian Ocean. The communal spaces are occupied with artefacts that the couple have collected and curated from their travels from beaded Yoruba chairs to Afghani kilims. It’s an eclectic and elegant cornucopia of style that translates to all 15 bedrooms of the
property, each with a different aesthetic fingerprint. One of the most refreshing aspects of this establishment is the lack of its European style of dining etiquette. You can eat when and where you wish, so if a midnight snack catches your fancy, a deep dive into the minibar isn’t your only option to quell the munchies. An extraordinary amount of effort has been put in so that The Maji is not the type of hotel where you go to ‘be seen’. Details of its famous (or infamous) client list remain a closely-guarded secret. It is a place where guests relax or escape to quiet nooks and crannies, reading novels, knocking back a few dawas or just allowing themselves to be mesmerised by the hypnotic rhythm of the sea. Privacy perhaps to a sublime fault. From plane crashes to near collapsed regimes and economies, I asked Sansone and Caterina what drew them back to the continent and Kenya specifically. “The answer may seem clichéd, but there was a feeling that Africa was calling and it still is,” answered Sansone. I got the sense that The Maji, is an enduring love letter to a lifelong career striving to create the ‘ideal’ travel experience. If that’s true, they’re not far off the mark.
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What I pack … for my travels Lulu Kitololo is an artist and designer, who is inspired by Africa and nature. Much of her work is hand-drawn, and she makes and sells stationery products, as well as home and gift items. Instagram @lulukitololo www.afri-love.com
Moleskine Journal Writing and reflecting is very important to me. I try to write every day about what I’m grateful for. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what I achieve in the day and what I could do better. Homeopathy first-aid kit My homeopath put this together for me. Whatever ailment someone should suffer on the road, there is something here to help. There are remedies for colds, stomach upsets, injuries.
Kanga from ChiChia London It’s quite old now but I usually take it everywhere. It works as a headscarf, as a scarf, or if I’m on the beach or the grass, it’s something to sit on. It’s very versatile and I love the colours.
Large Weekender bag Ksh21,900 Home-made personal care products I make my own body butter and deodorant. I mix shea butter, coconut oil for the butter. For the deodorant, I use arrow-root powder, and essential oils for fragrance. I started reading the ingredients of things … and I knew that I didn’t want to have that in my system.
PHOTOGRAPHS: PETER NDUNG’U
Bracelets and earrings The bracelets are from Burkino Faso, but I got them in the UK. The earrings are by Adele Dejak. I like dramatic jewellery. When you’re travelling, you can be really simple in your clothing, and have some dramatic jewellery to jazz it up.
Sketchbooks by Lulu Kitololo Studio I have this “plant something daily” challenge, where the idea is to draw something plantinspired. Sometimes, I’ll draw actual plants, or sometimes I’ll make up my own. Some have now inspired my designs for actual products.
NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate DAR ES SALAAM: Slipway
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
GARDEN LODGE AT TANDALA RANCH OVERVIEW I could spend the rest of my life rocking in a chair to the music of chirping birds at the back of Garden Lodge and looking at the Timau riverbed below. Garden Lodge is a gorgeous, rustic cabin located in Nanyuki’s Tandala Ranch, where owners Susan and Marcel have created a new space with a range of accommodation types, restaurant, artificial lakes and art gallery. Other places to stay within the ranch include Rock Lodge and River Lodge, but I have a soft spot for Garden Lodge’s cosy ambiance. AMENITIES Garden Lodge comprises one large bedroom with a queen-sized bed and ensuite living room. The decor is simple but eccentric. For instance, the windows are shaped like flowers and flanking either side of the bed are some DIY-style lampshades. Bird paintings adorn the walls, which seem appropriate considering the colourful birds that flit about the ranch. As an ode to the breathtaking views around it, Garden Lodge boasts both both a front and back terrace. From the front, you get a
clear view of Mt. Kenya, almost daunting in its sheer size. Throughout the ranch, outdoor setups of chairs and tables allow you to take in the view of Mt. Kenya and beautiful surrounding hills. Sectioned off from the main section, is a spacious bathroom, with a dressing area and cloakroom. Away from your room, you can also visit the art gallery which loosely doubles up as a library and game-room area. The ranch has a restaurant called Nyumbu Grill on site, with decent, but not spectacular, food. There is also an open-sided communal area with comfy seating if you want to get away from your room. WHERE The ranch is a thirty-minute drive away from Nanyuki. If you travel by public transport, inform the hostess in advance and she will be more than happy to pick you up from town. Note that there are no Uber options in Nanyuki and taking a matatu from Nanyuki to the ranch can be a bit hectic. PROS • Very helpful hostess • A great place to get away from it all, with a minimum of distractions.
• Lots of good walks in and around the ranch. CONS • Shower was tepid at best • At the time of my visit, Garden Lodge did not have plug sockets, but there are plans to install them. • If you are scared of dogs, there are quite a few that roam the ranch, but they seemed friendly. WHAT CAN YOU DO? There are some nice hikes on the ranch, and in the dry season, you can get across to the other side of the property, through which a river runs. If you’re lucky, you might spot some wildlife on the ranch. Otherwise, come here just to get away from it all, chill with a beer at sunset in front of Mt Kenya. HOW TO BOOK Garden Lodge is listed under “Garden Lodge at Tandala Ranch” on Airbnb or call Susan directly on 0711955431.
Garden Lodge can be booked for $60 (or Ksh 6,000) a night, and sleeps two people. Overall Rating: 7/10
PHOTOGRAPHS IVY NYAYIEKA
BY IVY NYAYIEKA
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WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY MWANGI KIRUBI Instagram @mwarv At 3,470 metres high on the eastern slopes of Mt Kenya, Lake Ellis is the last accessible point by vehicle. In this photo essay, Mwarv shares his experience of a recent camping trip there.
Pack well. You’ll need to be entirely self-sufficient when camping at Lake Ellis. Embu is the last place you can buy supplies from if coming from Nairobi, or Meru if you’re coming from north of Mt Kenya.
During the day, you can take a hike around the lake on the clear foot path, or just sit at camp and enjoy the unspoilt beauty that will have engulfed you. Clouds may cover your night sky in the early evening. But as the night progresses, they will most likely clear for amazing views of the Milky Way. The little heat the day might have held quickly gives way to temperatures that will call for extra firewood at the campfire. 48
The road from Chogoria to Mt Kenya National Park’s Marania / Chogoria Gate is murram and can be driven on by any car. Past the Gate, the road turns into a 4WD-only track up the mountain. You’ll need a 4x4 with good ground clearance to navigate the 7 km stretch to Lake Ellis, and a skilled driver to scale the last very rocky ascent to the campsite. The road isn’t well marked so get directions from any KWS Ranger at Chogoria Gate.
This is as far up as one can drive on Mt Kenya. The views and crisp air at Lake Ellis make the tough journey there well worth it.
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RETROSPECTIVE The Safari Route on the notorious southern leg is often little better than a ploughed field. This section of the 1966 East African Safari Rally route occurred near Korogwe, Tanzania. This photo forms part of a retrospective series celebrating the work of renowned Kenyan photographer Mohamed “Mo” Amin, who died in 1996 when his Ethiopian Airlines flight was hijacked and crashed into the Indian Ocean. Photograph courtesy of Salim Amin.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH/APRIL 2018
THE EXTENDED FAMILY By Frances Woodhams
*** Now on holiday, Dad and Timmy are heading back from playing mini golf when they pass Granny pushing baby Rosie around in her pram. “I won, I won!” Timmy exclaims. “Shush,” says Shosho, “I’ve just got Rosie off to sleep.” “Where’s Mum?” Dad asks. “She’s resting. Please don’t disturb her.
She’s in the room. She deserves some peace,” Granny says. Dad, who was hoping for a rest himself, does a reluctant about turn at the bedroom door. “Come on then Tim, let’s head down to the pool.” Once there, they find Baba Mike has made himself comfortable on a sunbed and is sipping away at his fourth cocktail. Timmy dips his toe in the water. “I don’t advise that you swim,” says Mike, shaking a finger. “You’ll get sick. It’s too cold. Even Shadrack over there agrees with me.” A man with a long-handled brush nods from across the pool. “I think I’m going to go for a run,” Dad says. “You don’t mind watching young Timmy do you, Mike?” “Of course not,” says Mike, tapping the edge of his sunbed. “I’ve got some great stories to tell Timmy … about when I was a boy.” “But Daaad,” squeals Tim. “Sorry, son,” says Dad with genuine regret but also mindful of his own sanity. A little later, Dad returns to the pool area having sweated away some frustration. He’s concerned to see Timmy in the water while Baba Mike snoozes. Fortunately Shadrack, the pool attendant, still has half an eye on the boy. Dad just puts his feet up when he notices Granny hove into view with Rosie over her shoulder. “I’ve woken her up as it’s time for her milk.” Rosie’s furious screaming causes fellow hotel residents to look over with concern. “You’ll need to run up to the room to get her bottle.” “But if she was sleeping?” Dad’s question
trails off when he realises that there’s no point in arguing. “Take Rosie with you, I’m exhausted with all of this babysitting,” says Gran, passing over the baby. She smoothes down her cardigan, takes Dad’s place on the sunbed then throws a disapproving look in Mike’s direction. “Now Timmy. Show me your best swimming,” she says. Tim disappears under the water, pretending not to hear. *** It’s dinner time. Granny piles extra chips onto Tim’s plate from the buffet. Mike has ordered a second bottle of wine and they haven’t even started on the main course. Mum looks well rested (when did she manage to get to the salon and is that a new outfit?) but the rest of the family is frazzled. “Here’s to a great holiday!” exclaims Mike, glass of red wine in hand. Mum flinches to ensure no stray drop lands on her white dress. “Good boy, that’s right, eat up,” says Granny. Timmy and his Dad exchange a glance as Tim wades into the pile of food on his plate. “Cheers!” says Mum. “What a lovely rest it’s been.” Rosie starts wailing. The family looks at one another. “Whose turn is it?” asks Mum. Frances Woodhams is author of the blog: www.africaexpatwivesclub.com
SKETCH: MOVIN WERE
e really should invite Shosho on holiday this time,” Mum states over the dinner table, spooning food into baby Rosie’s mouth, avoiding eye contact with the rest of the family. It’s not a question. “Ngai!” exclaims 10-year- old Timmy with a shake of his head, before receiving a parental scolding. “But Mama, she’s so slow and she always complains,” he wails. “Enough,” Mum says with authority. “She’s coming and that’s final.” Dad’s jaw stiffens as he stares into his soup. “And Baba Mike will come too,” Mum adds, for good measure. Tim throws his hands into the air while Dad’s chair scrapes back loudly as he moves to clear the plates. “It will be nice to have them with us. And they can help with little Rosie here,” Mum adds. “Yes, Mike and Shosho’s advice on how best to raise our kids is always welcome,” mutters Dad in the kitchen, safely out of earshot.
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