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RETURN OF THE LAKES
A TRAVELLING LIFE PAUL THEROUX
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
BAKE Good Things Come To Those Who
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EMBRACING THE UNFAMILIAR Getting back on the road inspires some new resolutions
The tourism sector has always played an important role in the economic prosperity of Kenya. Every year, thousands of overseas visitors flock to the country to experience a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip. Kenya is not, however, just a travel destination for overseas visitors. We Kenyans should be proud of the diverse treasures on our doorstep, whether it’s the majestic wildlife, beautiful beaches, or breathtaking landscapes. Domestic travel is on the rise, but there lingers a common misconception that travel within this region is expensive. It is actually much more accessible and affordable than many may realise. We welcome the timely arrival of Nomad, East Africa’s new, independent, travel magazine, on the scene. We applaud its efforts to celebrate domestic travel, and are proud to be associated with its inaugural edition. Finally, let me take this opportunity to welcome you all to Magical Kenya for an unforgettable experience. Karibuni! Dr. Betty Radier CEO Kenya Tourism Board
To quote John Julius Norwich: “The easier it becomes to travel, the harder it is to be a traveller.” These days, we can reach the other side of the world in a matter of hours, and we grumble if our plane is delayed by an hour. We expect good service, and place unreasonably high expectations on a destination to leave us sufficiently rested to face life afresh. When children come along, it becomes even harder to travel in the old-fashioned sense. Despite promising myself I wouldn’t do it, I often chose comfort over adventure, familiarity over the unfamiliar. But recently I found myself unexpectedly on the road and, dare I say it, travelling. My parents were coming to Kenya for the third time, and casually suggested we skip the game parks. My husband proposed a five-day road trip instead. I contemplated the prospect of long hours in the car with a two-year-old only partially potty-trained with a certain horror. But off we went, and so began an enthralling journey through Western Kenya. Time ceased to have its stranglehold over me, and we took each day as it came, seeing a part of the country that receives only a tiny fraction of the visitors who flock to Kenya every year. It would be crass to suggest our trip was any great feat of travel, but it was a reminder that kids needn’t signal the end of adventure. With our new magazine, we hope to bring out the adventurous side to travel in this region. By adventure, I refer not just to adrenaline-fuelled excitement, although we will be covering that as well; but to exposing oneself to the unknown and uncomfortable in the hope of testing ourselves.
From the first issue, we kick off our adventurous travel theme with a road trip across northern Kenya. This will be a regular feature of the magazine. In the main feature, I return after a long absence to Lakes Baringo and Bogoria, devastated by flooding in recent years, but now recovering their reputations for beauty and tranquillity. We bring you Kampala through the eyes of fashion blogger Lamic Kirabo. Closer to home, our writer unravels the secrets of downtown Nairobi, and we scout out the best weekend escapes, starting with stunning Limuru. We talk to Paul Theroux, author of the Great Railway Bazaar and Dark Star Safari, and someone who knows a thing or two about eschewing comfort for adventure. We also sit down with the guys from Unscrambling Africa, who set off on their own road trip of discovery through southern Africa. Looking ahead, we welcome inspiration from our readers as we plot our next trips. Turkana is on our radar, as are Lamu and Kiwayu on the coast. We’ll also bring you sporting adventures from climbing to cycling to family adventures in our themed issues. And it’s not just Kenya. We’ll be heading off to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda for starters. Every month, we will bring you exciting new itineraries to suit all appetites. Look out for our great giveaways – we have so much stuff to offload that we hardly know what to do with it – and please don’t forget to tell us what makes you tick (and what doesn’t). Here’s to travelling outside our comfort zone.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
FROM THE EDITOR TOP SHOTS
14. NEWS We meet the guys at Unscrambling Africa, and bring you the latest in travel. 16.
COMING UP Whatsâ€™s on in the region this month.
FAMILY TRAVELLER Frances Woodham recalls a terrifying encounter on Lake Naivasha.
A YEAR OF ADVENTURE We pick eight exciting trips for you to try in 2017.
44 30. INTERVIEW We talk to celebrated travel writer Paul Theroux about hope and danger in East Africa. 31.
A KENYAN ABROAD Magunga Williams has a very Kenyan take on Rwanda.
GOING LOCAL A taste of Yemen in Djibouti.
RETURN OF THE LAKES The northern Rift Valley lakes, Bogoria and Baringo, are recovering after some difficult years.
THE LOW-DOWN We do the hard work on where to stay, eat and play.
GIRAFFES GO HOME The inspiring story of the reintroduction of the Baringo giraffe after a decades-long absence. ON THE COVER: Flamingos on Lake Nakuru - Anna Om
RESIDENT INSIGHT Perrie Hennessy, legendary hotelier, talks about life on the lake.
40. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED From Lake Baringo, we drive the long way home to Nairobi. 43. INTERVIEW Kenyan singer Eric Wainaina on Boston winters and eating caterpillars. 44.
LAST CALL FOR THE LUNATIC EXPRESS Our writer enjoys a trip through yesteryear on Kenya’s classic railway.
24 HOURS Lamic Kirabo, Ugandan fashion blogger, gives us the inside track on Kampala.
WALK THROUGH...THE CBD Uncovering central Nairobi’s best-kept secrets.
50. WEEKEND Get away from it all in Limuru’s tea plantations. 54. PROFILE A glimpse into the eccentricities of Emerson Spice, a boutique hotel in Zanzibar. 55.
NOTES FROM THE BUSH Samantha Russell-du Toit on raw encounters with nature.
56. CONSERVATION Rescuing owls and birds of prey in Naivasha. 58. SPOTLIGHT Chebet Mutai of WaziWazi on road tripping with her kids.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
Harriet Constable, Writer Last Call for the Lunatic Express, p.44
Quentin Ameka, Photographer The Road Less Travelled, p.40
Wanjiku Mungai, Writer A Walk Through Nairobi CBD, p.48 and an interview with Eric Wainaina, p.43
Preconceptions busted: The train both met and exceeded my expectations: Grubby, tiring adventure? Tick. Amazing throwback to Kenya’s past? Tick. Wonderfully-outdated décor? Tick. Constant delays and a horribly long journey? No! The train was perfectly on time. It’s a ‘do it once’ experience, but it’s not to be missed.
Boys with guns: The most startling part of the trip was when we were driving up to Wamba and we saw all these guys with AK-47s either waving us down or waving at us. The road to Wamba was fascinating and beautiful, like a painting stuck on the landscape.
Through different eyes: The CBD tends to feel like a means to an end rather than a destination in itself. Having to look at it through a different set of eyes, to ask: what would you do if you had a day to spare in the CBD, was a refreshing experience. City Market and Haria’s Stamp Shop were especially exciting discoveries to make!
How do you like to travel? My boyfriend and I have a rickety little 4x4 which I like to drive around the country on adventures. It has revved its way through the sandy river beds of Samburu National Reserve and crept up the steep slopes of Mt Suswa. I’d only swap it for a pick-up truck, so that we could convert the back into a star bed, then camp out in the open every evening.
My kind of travel: Getting out on foot. I love expeditions and going on long treks because I feel like I’m connecting with all that’s around me.
On meeting a childhood superstar: I was in primary school when Eric Wainaina’s Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo [The land of petty corruption] came out. Even though my classmates and I had no idea what NSSF or NHIF or Pay as You Earn meant, we had the entire song memorised. Getting to meet Eric and hearing his thoughts on travel (and discovering we both share a horror of Boston winters!) was an unexpected and lovely way to end my 2016.
MEANWHILE... DROPPED IN KENYA!
Blindfolded contestants in a French reality TV show are dropped in the middle of nowhere, and must race another team back to civilisation – or at least a place they can use and charge a mobile phone.
Photo courtesy of Tropic Air.
ARE YOU A NOMAD? Fancy writing for us? We are looking for writers and photographers to join our team. We’d also love to receive your photographs and travel stories from around the region for possible inclusion in the magazine. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOMAD VOL. 1 · MARCH 2017 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF CATRINA STEWART DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI, RACHEL MWANGI IT KELVIN JAYANORIS DIGITAL CHRISTINE MONBERG, BENJAMIN WAFULA SALES, MARKETING & OPERATIONS GILBERT CHEGE, KUNALI DODHIA, YANIV GELNIK, DANIEL MUTHIANI, FRED MWITHIGA, SEINA NAIMASIAH, HADDY MAX NJIE, MICHELLE SLATER, NAFISA THOBANI, DEVNA VADGAMA, JOY WAIRIMU, WINNIE WANGUI, VANESSA WANJIKU CONTRIBUTORS TAMARA BRITTEN, HARRIET CONSTABLE, WANJIKU MUNGAI, SAMANTHA RUSSELL-DU TOIT, LAURA SECORUN, MAGUNGA WILLIAMS, FRANCES WOODHAMS CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS QUENTIN AMEKA, PARAS CHANDARIA, STEVE CURRY, TATIANA KARANJA, MIKE MCCAFFREY, GEORGE MUTHONI, SALLY STEVENS, KEVIN TOSH, SARAH WAISWA, JOE WERE SALES INQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL INFO@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO
“The best kind of therapy is beach therapy, with a hint of yoga!” This Easter, take part in our sunrise and sunset yoga sessions everyday for gentle wake up and gentle wind down in a “beach zen” kind of way. Finish off your sessions with a complimentary healthy smoothie from our bar!
Lantana Galu Beach | Diani Beach | Kenya MAGAZINE MARCH 2017 Phone+254 (0) 714 315 151, +254 (0) 711 767 272, +254 (0) 714 315 151 | +254 (0)NOMAD 711 767 272 email@example.com | www.lantana-galu-beach.co.ke
PARAS CHANDARIA Instagram @paraschandaria This picture was shot in Nairobi National Park. I took it to show the importance of the park towards the city and how â€˜every single life counts.â€™ I shot this using my Canon 5d MK3 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I positioned my vehicle and myself in order to get the giraffe taller than buildings to emphasise the point.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
MIKE MCCAFFREY Instagram @nomadic_travels Hot springs, Dallol, Ethiopia. I shot this with a Canon 7D Mark II. The lens used was a Sigma ART 18-35mm, f/9, 1/400. In 2016, Mike McCaffrey packed up his home in Nairobi to embark on a 30,000 kilometre road trip through 16 countries in East and Southern Africa. Check out Mikeâ€™s blog, www.nomadic-by-nature.com, for images and stories from some of the most wild and remote destinations along the way.
SARAH WAISWA @lafrohemien The photo was taken in a field near my house in Nairobi. I was beginning work on a royalty series, and Nadia, the woman pictured, to me embodies royalty. I like to use friends and everyday people in my work. Shot taken with a Canon 5D Mark III with 50mm lens, f/2.2 1/200. It was about 5pm.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
WALKING WITH RHINOS
ETHIOPIAN FLIES TO VIC FALLS
If the idea of edging close to an endangered black rhino sounds appealing, Saruni Rhino’s new rhino-tracking experience could be right up your alley. Saruni Rhino is now offering its guests the chance to track rhino on foot at the 133,000-acre Sera Conservancy after 11 of these beasts were translocated to the fenced sanctuary in 2015. Rangers use transmitters to pick up signals from a chip implanted in the rhino’s horn, and guests can get out of the vehicle and creep to within a few metres of the animal. The steep price tag goes towards the protection of the rhino, coveted by poachers for its horn. www.sarunisamburu.com
Ethiopia Airlines introduces two exciting new routes this year from its hub in Addis Ababa. From March, it will start flying four times a week from Addis to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Described by CNN as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the waterfall, considered the largest in the world, is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls. The airline is also adding Jakarta, Indonesia, to its routes from the middle of 2017.
KWS PARKS GO CASHLESS
ZIPLINING IN THE FOREST
Kenya Wildlife Service is attempting to phase out cash payments again at all of its parks. In theory, visitors must now pay to enter via card, Mpesa or bank transfer, but at the time of going to press, some parks were still accepting cash.
Head to The Forest, an hour out of Nairobi, for an exhilarating experience on East Africa’s longest zip-line. The newly-opened centre offers six lines that will send you hurtling up to 60 km/h through the Kereita forest. A bunch of other activities are on offer too, including mountain biking, fly- fishing, archery and paint-balling. www.theforest.co.ke
The recently-opened Arijiju on the Borana reserve is one of Kenya’s more beguiling properties. The owners describe the five-bedroom house as having an “an air of monastic calm.” Muted colours, vaulted doorways and stone corridors inspired by Ethiopian monasteries greatly add to that impression. It’s pretty luxurious, however, and has its own 66-foot infinity pool, Turkish hammam and clay tennis court. www.arijiju.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
LAMU YOGA FESTIVAL
ONE STAR HOUSE PARTY
Centered in the charming village of Shela, the Lamu Yoga Festival is the perfect excuse to escape the city and master your tree pose. Now acclaimed as one of the top five yoga festivals in the world, the event features a variety of yoga and meditation classes at a range of unique venues and studios, including early-bird yoga on the beach and meditation under the moon. Also on offer are dhow sailing trips and a closing beach party featuring local drummers and acrobats. Namaste!
Kenya is next for a team of world-renowned chefs travelling to 20 countries over 20 months. In locations as extreme as Mt Everest base camp, they have created their own pop-up restaurants and gourmet taster menus inspired by local cuisine and experiences. Tickets cost $65 and are available through EatOut (eatout.co.ke). For further information visit www.onestarhouseparty.com
Lamu, March 8-12
Tigoni, March 23-26
SHOMPOLE WILDLIFE MARATHON
Salama Hills, March 25-26
Shompole, March 17
Get in the saddle for a thrilling two-day cycling trip through Stanley Ranch at the base of Salama Hill, a 90-minute drive from Nairobi. Thanks to its fairly smooth terrain, organisers Rift Valley Odyssey describe it as a good introduction for newbies to its popular adventure races. Riders take part in two-man teams, and must carry their own GPS unit for navigation, with only the start and finish points fixed. www.riftvalleyodyssey.com
Definitely not one for beginners, this race takes runners on a tough, hot and dusty route through undulating terrain. But itâ€™s country that most people rarely see. The 30 km route skirts Lake Magadi and takes runners up some punishing hills, rewarding them with views of Lake Natron on the KenyanTanzanian border. Itâ€™s just about worth the effort. www. shompolewildlifemarathon.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
Rural home building in Naivasha proves a popular alternative for families in pursuit of the suburban dream. With land prices in Nairobi increasing more than five fold in the last seven years, reaching in some places as much as KSH 470 million an acre, it is no surprise that the 10 acre plots available on MALU RANCH, NAIVASHA, from just KSH 3 million an acre are selling like hot cakes. Near enough to Nairobi for those who need regular access to the capital but far enough to offer space, views and wildlife that city dwellers can only dream of, Malu’s home building scheme is unique in making genuine country living both accessible and affordable. Ask any long-term resident of Nairobi’s affluent suburbs about the impact of soaring land prices and they will tell you: smaller plot sizes with eye watering price tags and large shopping malls fed by noisy and overcrowded roads. In other words, the natural beauty, relative peace and unspoiled views that made suburbs like Karen so attractive survive only in dusty old photograph albums. These once semi-rural communities on the edge of Nairobi are now just as urban – and almost as expensive - as the city itself. Yet the demand for a bit of countryside, a decent view and a safe community has not abated. Finding it in Nairobi, however, is a tall order. So it is no wonder that many families are looking for affordable and viable alternatives elsewhere.
Of these, the home-building scheme recently launched by Malu Ranch in Naivasha is one of the most compelling. Malu, a stunning 1800acre private reserve has put up for sale a limited number of exceptional plots of 10 acres or more, each in its own spectacular setting, for buyers to build their dream country home. The scheme has generated a lot of interest, with several buyers already taking advantage of the early bird discount offer. Even after this offer expires, interest is likely to remain high due to Malu’s unique location. Perched on the edge of The Great Rift Valley with unhindered views over Lake Naivasha, its position is both special and accessible. Plot owners not only enjoy their own 10 acres or more, they can also roam 750 acres of retained land with 40 km of tracks, trails and bridle paths - only a 20-minute flight or just over an hour’s drive away from Nairobi. With Naivasha envisaged as a resort town
in the Kenyan government’s strategic growth and development plan, ‘Vision 2030’, Malu will become even more accessible: a planned new six-lane superhighway linking Nairobi to Nakuru will pass within 11km of the ranch. But it is not just Malu’s location that is making it popular. The vision behind the scheme is also proving attractive because it offers buyers something much more than a plot in Naivasha. “Buying a plot on Malu is not simply a commercial transaction,” explains Malu Ranch owner and entrepreneur. Kim McKenzie, “It’s an opportunity to acquire your very own parcel of African wilderness, to build your dream home and to become part of a like-minded community passionate about conservation.” Plots are selling fast. Prospective buyers should visit the website to find out more and to take advantage of the early bird discount before it expires: www.malu-ranch.com.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
Ten countries, 13 cities, 15,000 km in three months. That’s the challenge for four Kenyans, who want to change the way Africans see their own continent. In an epic road trip dubbed Unscrambling Africa, Mutua Matheka, Lulu Kitololo, Joe Were and Josh Kisamwa set out to capture the urban vibrancy of southern Africa. We caught up with them before they left.
But that’s not all of it, is it? Mutua: Information about Africa comes mostly from a Western perspective. When the majority of news you get is from a Western eye, it influences the way you see yourselves. Africans should tell their own stories. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about the lens through which you see things. I know people are not trying to push a view but it’s so ingrained. It’s always ‘this place is so beautiful despite…’, or ‘how knowledgeable they are despite…’. It’s never: ‘I went to the school and they were so bright.’ Period. The kid walking to school doesn’t know it’s a disadvantage. That’s his life.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
What about African perceptions of their own continent? Lulu: My parents are really anxious because of how they imagine what these other countries look like. They imagine it will be rough. I keep explaining that we’re going to the urban areas, where it’s more developed. Josh: Some get it straight away. Others say: ‘Are you getting paid?’ No, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting on the road. Travelling gets rid of misconceptions. Has it been challenging to prepare for the trip? Mutua: Most blogs [written by foreigners] don’t have enough information about getting a car across a border. It’s about if the car is equipped, or if there are rebellions along the way. They’re learning how to duck and roll when you should be learning how many papers to sign. [Laughs] Lulu: All this bureaucracy is because it doesn’t happen often. The more people who do it will make it easier.
All those countries.. Any worries? Joe: Running out of money. It’s happened before. Sometimes we turned back, sometimes we called home. Mutua: Before, it was funding. Now I’m afraid I won’t get the content necessary to make a cognitive story. I get overwhelmed with new places, which is why I don’t like travelling in a rush. What kind of stories are you looking for? Josh: I want to see how people live, hear their take on their country, show Africans in a different light. Of course we know about the savannahs and the wildlife, but I want to look for beauty in urban spaces. One thing is clear: the four of us are just trying to discover Africa for Africans as Africans.
The four will visit Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Follow the trip on Instagram @UnscramblingAfrica, Twitter @UnscramblAfrica
PHOTO: TATIANA KARANJA
Unscrambling Africa: what does it mean? Lulu: It’s a reference to the Scramble for Africa [the colonial partition of the continent]. We want to look at the commonalities across borders, change people’s perception that we are so different, and that it’s so difficult to travel. We want to erase those boundaries. Joe: Scrambling was about separation, unscrambling is about uniting.
“It’s taken us two weeks to reach South Africa. We’ve experienced the vastness of Tanzania; the hills of Malawi and its magical Lake (pictured); the grand Victoria Falls in Zambia; the hot plains of Botswana and now, the vibrance of Johannesburg.” -- Mutua Matheka
PHOTO: JOE WERE
The journey now begins in earnest from South Africa.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
LAMU HOLIDAY WINNER Congratulations to Geoffrey Ndegwa from Nairobi, who wins a two-night all-inclusive stay for two at Majlis Resort in Lamu with his travel confession. “During Easter of last year, my family and I took a trip to the Maasai Mara. As soon as we checked into the hotel, a porter took my luggage my room. I misheard my room number and went to what I assumed was the correct room. Because the door was unlocked and contained what looked like my suitcase, I kicked off my shoes and my shirt and began relaxing on the bed. Here I was minding my own business when a bewildered woman came out of the bathroom half-dressed. I was so confused and embarrassed that I walked out of that room without my shirt and shoes, I did not even bother explaining myself. Too embarrassed to share the awkward incident, I spent the holiday silently hoping never to bump into her, and praying her husband didn’t come looking for me. I was always on the lookout.”
Follow us on Instagram @NomadMagazineAfrica for more great giveaways!
BOOKS WE’RE READING
IN ETHIOPIA WITH A MULE Dervla Murphy
The retelling of a 1953 journey from Kenya to England via the Sahara that went tragically wrong. Two men and two women, brought together by an advertisement in the local paper, set off from Kenya in a Morris Traveller. With an overloaded car yet lacking sufficient water and equipment, they attempt the Sahara desert and lurch from one crisis to the next. A poignantly- told tale.
The gripping journey of a doughty Irish woman who sets off across the Ethiopian highlands with just a mule for company in the late 1960s. She chronicles the joys of simple travel, sharing morsels with impoverished villagers, and outwitting bandits. A travel account at its most thrilling and raw.
The author charts the history of the world’s most mighty river in this entertaining account, leaping from the excesses of the Pharoahs to Victorian sex cruises to the sometimes inglorious escapades of explorers. Twigger calls the river red for a variety of reasons, not least because of the amount of blood spilled for it. “The Nile,” he writes, “is the river of death.”
Ras Kitau Bay, Manda Island For reservations contact us on +254 20 712 3300/1/2 Email firstname.lastname@example.org www.majlisresorts.com NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
My fickle friend
The children screamed in delight as waves broke over the prow of the boat and I clung to their ankles in rain-lashed terror.
Underestimate this popular boating spot at your peril, warns Frances Woodhams. Some years ago, I found myself bobbing on my back in dark brown water, a pair of unwieldy skis attached to my feet, nursing the faintest of hangovers. I couldn’t see what lay below the surface and was feeling distinctly nervous about hippos. “Oh, we ski in the middle of the lake, there are no hippos there. They prefer to hang about at the edge,” our host assured me. It was our first family trip to Lake Naivasha. We were staying with friends on the shores of South Lake, where we were told waterskiing was perfectly “safe.” I gamely said I would give it a go. After repeated attempts at getting up, I found my feet, and and the boat skirted perilously close to the lake’s edge. “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall.” I repeated in my head. Fifteen minutes later, having hauled myself shakily back into the boat with an overwhelming sense of relief at escaping the hippos, it was the turn of our host. He skied like a pro, criss-crossing the wake and showing us all how it’s done. At one point though, he wobbled. As he climbed back into the boat, he told us he’d skied right over a hippo’s back. “Bugger started surfacing just as I was skiing over. Nearly lost my balance but kept standing, thank goodness.” Years later, we rented a house north of the lake with friends and hatched a brilliant plan. We would take a picnic lunch with us to the sailing club at the south of the lake. Lake Naivasha is huge, however, and Juma, our boatman was not happy. He mumbled about unpredictable weather and the size of our party but did not refuse. The outbound trip went well. Crossing the lake took longer than anticipated but, at the club, we had our picnic. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I saw Juma pacing the lake banks, casting fretful glances at the sky. As we set off, the sky clouded over ominously. Halfway across the lake and with no option but to keep going, we found ourselves in the midst of a terrifying afternoon squall. The sky was dark, there were rolls of thunder, the wind blew and the water had turned choppy. The boat rocked from side to side. I suddenly saw the the situation with painful clarity. We were in the middle of the lake in an underpowered and overloaded boat designed to carry eight, not eleven, people. For the kids, this was the greatest adventure ever. The six children screamed in delight as waves broke over the prow of the boat and I clung on to their ankles in rain-lashed terror. We made it back, docking as night fell. Juma’s relief was palpable. “I didn’t think we were going to make it,” he said. Since then, I have enjoyed many incident-free boat trips on Lake Naivasha. But much as I love getting out onto the water, I will never underestimate the lake’s perils. LESSONS LEARNED 1. The name Naivasha derives from the local Maasai name Nai’posha, meaning “rough water” because of the sudden storms which can arise. 2. Ideally, take your boat trip in the morning. 3. At 140km², Lake Naivasha is way bigger than you think. 4. Water ski at your own risk. 5. Oh, and #bringyourownkiddielifejacket.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
2017: NOMAD’S YEAR OF TRAVEL Eight exciting travel experiences to try this year Words: Harriet Constable
CLIMB MOUNT NYIRAGONGO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO Towering above Goma, a city in eastern DRC, is Mount Nyiragongo. Every evening as darkness descends, this active volcano emits an eerie red glow that can be seen from miles around. Hiking to the summit is no mean feat – it’s a six-hour ascent starting in a warm tropical forest before climbing over smooth lava rock and crumbling scree at the peak. Reaching the top of the volcano brings you face to face with the smouldering orange lava lake, the largest of its kind in the world.
PHOTO: MIKE MCCAFFREY
SAMPLE STREET FOOD IN STONE TOWN, ZANZIBAR At sunset every evening in ancient, crumbling Stone Town, Forodhani Gardens fills with local streetfood vendors selling Swahili seafood cuisine. Delicacies include freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice, deep-fried balls of sweet potato called kachori, and fresh coconut curries. The Gardens are situated at the edge of Stone Town overlooking the water. From here, the lights from night fishermen’s boats can be seen twinkling in the darkness. PHOTO: ISTOCK
4 PHOTO: BIGSTOCK
TAKE THE LUNATIC EXPRESS, KENYA So called because of the monstrous cost of building the line (not to mention the man-eating lions that picked off a number of workers building it), this rickety old train connecting Nairobi to Mombasa is soon to be consigned to history. Kenya’s new Standard Gauge Railway will take its place in December 2017, the estimated date of completion. This may be the last year to take this legendary journey to the coast. While you can expect long delays and grubby tablecloths, there’s a shabby-chic charm to this journey that has to be experienced. Read our dispatch on page 44.
TREK THE SIMIEN MOUNTAINS, ETHIOPIA Part of the Ethiopian Highlands, the Simien Mountains are a World Heritage Site that were formed by a series of volcanic eruptions some 30 million years ago. Famed for the dramatic scenery, here you’ll see steep cliffs, gentle grass-covered ridges, waterfalls, canyons, gorges and wisps of cloud gently settling on mountain tops. The best views come from the observation points at Gidir Got and Imet Gogo in the centre of the park, and a number of trekking routes are available, taking between 4-10 days.
DRIVE TO KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, UGANDA Kidepo, straddling the Ugandan-South Sudanese border, has to be among the most remote of East Africa’s game parks. Years of conflict and heavy poaching have left the elephant and buffalo herds scarred and wary, and poor infrastructure means that only a handful of visitors make the rough 12-hour journey by road from Kampala. Half the fun is in getting there (although you can fly in), and the park itself is a place of wild and spectacular beauty. Its almost mythical seclusion means that you are likely to have the place more or less to yourself.
CHILL IN GISENYI, RWANDA A three-hour drive west from Kigali through the land of a thousand hills brings you to Gisenyi, a tranquil little spot on the shores of Lake Kivu. There’s a golden lakeside beach to lounge on, as well as a couple of decent eateries. Try Calafia Café, a quirky coffee shop with colourful patterned cushions and a lovely garden in which to read and relax. A number of the lakeside hotels have kayaks to hire if you fancy an outing on the lake, or you can stay at Paradis Malahide and swim over to the nearby island for lunch during the day.
PHOTO: GEORGE MUTHONI
DANCE ON THE SHORES OF THE JADE SEA, KENYA In May every year, tourists and locals gather on the shores of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya to celebrate at the Lake Turkana Festival. A colourful cultural event, it is here that the 10 local ethnic groups - El Molo, Rendille, Samburu, Turkana, Dassanach, Ghabra, Borana, Konso, Wata and Burji - meet to perform their unique song and dance traditions for the crowds, and to promote peace in the region. The festival takes place from 4th to 6th May 2017, but take a few days either side to make the most of the journey, travelling up through the dramatic Matthews Range.
RAFT THE WATERS IN JINJA, UGANDA Thrill-seekers need look no further than Jinja, East Africa’s adventure heartland and home to some of the finest white water rafting in the world. Both river rafting and kayaking are available in this city at the source of the Nile (which is also famed for its party scene, and as the producer of Nile Special beer – go figure). Although the city itself is a little worse for wear, with crumbling architecture, the banks of the Nile are luscious and green, making for a picturesque day out on the water.
PHOTO: ADRIFT UGANDA
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
SAROVA SHABA GAME LODGE Located in a natural oasis in the heart of the Shaba Game Reserve best described as “Land of the Born Free” a place that was home for many years to Joy and George Adamson. Set within Shaba’s dramatic scenery of dry grasslands, woodlands and volcanic desert and overlooking Ewaso Nyiro River, Sarova Shaba Game Lodge boasts 85 Chalet-style rooms all of which have various modern conveniences including en-suite bathrooms as well a private balconies which offer excellent views of the river.
Sarova Shaba Game Lodge gives you a perfect setting for an exclusive safari getaway, offering you nature’s best from: bird watching, nature walks and Gorge excursions. Coupled with impeccable hospitality, we certainly guarantee you an unforgettable authentic Kenyan Safari Experience, at the award winning lodge.
Sarova Stanley • Sarova Panafric • Sarova Woodlands Hotel & Spa • Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa • Sarova Mara Game Camp Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge • Sarova Shaba Game Lodge • Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge • Sarova Taita Hills Game LodgeMARCH 2017 NOMAD MAGAZINE SAROVA HOTELS KENYA
PAUL THEROUX The celebrated travel author talks to Nomad about bandits, boys with guns and overrated luxury hotels.
First, or early, impressions of Kenya? On my way to Nyasaland (as it was known), I landed at Nairobi Airport (as it was known) in late December, 1963, and stayed at the New Stanley Hotel. Nairobi was a small, tidy town, like a market town in England, easily walkable and very pretty. I had a curry at the Three Bells Indian restaurant and spent some time at the small library, which was a bungalow in a little park, staffed by two English wazungu ladies. They told me they had seen Jomo Kenyatta on TV the night before, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, “and he seemed a little tipsy.” The long bar at the hotel was filled with white hunters, and the streets had very little motor traffic - most people [were] on bicycles. I was surprised by the cool weather - I had expected heat - and I was greatly encouraged by the mingling of whites and Africans, because I had just come from the USA where activists in the Civil Rights movement were being beaten and killed. I felt hopeful and happy. I was 22 years old. Joseph Conrad said, “I was a mere animal before I went to Africa.” If you could pick out one travel anecdote from your time in East Africa, which would it be? I was on a lorry, travelling south from Moyale towards Marsabit. Clinging to the top of the lorry, that is, because the lorry was carrying cattle to the market in Nairobi. At one point
I must have seemed terrified, because the man beside me steadied me. He said, “Bwana. That man doesn’t want your life. He wants your shoes. at a narrow place in the desert road, lined by large boulders, a shifta [bandit] stepped into the road and began firing. I crouched, as the lorry sped up, leaving the shifta in the dust. and I must have seemed terrified, because the man beside me steadied me. “Hapana taka kufa,” I said. The man said, “Bwana. That man doesn’t want your life. He wants your shoes.” What do you never travel without? A book to read.
Hairiest trip? There is only one factor that determines the hairy-ness of a trip and that is an encounter with a young person aiming a gun at you. One memorable night in Malawi at a roadblock - a boy, with a very old rifle, his hand on the trigger, the muzzle pointed at my face. He did not want my shoes. He wanted to intimidate me - and he succeeded. Favourite hotel in the world, and why? The Marshall Motel, in Marshall (pop. 1300), Arkansas. I was driving down Rte 65 on a rainy night and had no idea where I would stay. I was tired and hungry. I saw the sign “Marshall Motel” and pulled in. I asked the clerk, a Chinese woman, if she had a room. She said, “Yes forty dollars.” And I said I was hungry. She said, “I’m the cook, too. I just made some gumbo (okra stew).” You could not ask for more. In my experience, all luxury hotels - I have stayed at many - are overpriced and overrated. Favourite view in the world Going north, along the Great Rift Valley, the view from the road - the year would be 1966 - the enormous emptiness and beauty of the valley, for miles. Not a soul in sight, just some browsing animals. It looked to me like a world that had just been made, the dawn of the planet. As told to Catrina Stewart
PHOTO: STEVE CURRY
A KENYAN ABROAD AN RW D A 18 .0 5.1
PLAYING BY THE RULES IN KIGALI Magunga Williams heads to Rwanda. He’s not too impressed by the beers, but he has a grudging respect for the rules.
s a rule, I seldom look up the places I travel to. I want a place to tell me its stories in its own way without the prejudice inflicted by preknowledge. That is why when I decided to hit Kigali, I didn’t bother Googling it, I just went. Living the Rwanda experience is far better than reading about it on Facebook. Go listen to her. Let her tell you her story and understand why she is different from Nairobi. Be sure to speak to her in French though, because English stumbles off her tongue in inaudible jerks and pauses, while her Swahili ain’t much good either. Rwanda is a country with as many hills as there are goosebumps on a cold patch of skin. People in Kigali drive on the right side of the road, which is the wrong side. Meaning you will get a mini heart attack every time you are going down a hill and a lorry appears. The local beers aren’t bad, but they don’t hold a candle to the ones we brew. But they have the most magnificent thing that any Nairobian has ever seen; a mzinga of beer. A mzinga is what we Kenyans call a 750ml bottle of hard drinks. That much alcohol is the reserve of vodka, tequila, rum and whiskey. Most brewers don’t go past 500ml when packaging beer, but the Rwandese are not normal people. Their Mützig beer comes in a proud mzinga that is quite heavy on the swig so you have to drink it from a glass. However,
if you are in Kigali and you are craving Kenyan drinks, ask the cab driver to take you to Car Wash, a watering hole owned by a Kenyan called Wahome.
They have the most magnificent thing that any Nairobian has ever seen; a mzinga of beer. A mzinga is what we Kenyans call a 750ml bottle of hard drinks. If there’s one thing I envied about Rwanda, it’s the squareness of its people. We Kenyans are a rowdy lot. We’re like a bunch of teenagers whose parents are away during the weekend and we have the house to ourselves. But Rwanda is more collected. You question whether you’re in an African country. For instance, they follow traffic rules. Even in the
middle of the night. Speaking of night, you can walk around Kigali at any time without fear of being mugged. Nobody would dare rob another person in Kigali because it is peppered with cops. And that right there is the reason for all this good behaviour: control. The big man has a strong grip on this country. You can feel his squeeze wherever you go. President Paul Kagame is more than a leader, he is a supreme figure. When he said there should be a national cleaning day every month, there was one. When he declared a car-free day in Kigali, his order was followed. God help you if you try smuggling in a plastic bag. Being in Kigali, I appreciated that kind of control. It gets things done. It ensures order. It’s a far cry from Nairobi, where you can almost taste the stench of garbage. Rwandans, of course, trade some liberties in return. I ask myself whether it is worth the cost. To many Rwandans, it probably is. If you find yourself in Kigali, pay attention to her at night. The conference centre comes alive, with running neon lights flashing the national colours. Find a spot on top of a hill - a place as quiet and breathtaking as Papyrus on KG 674 Street. Sit on the balcony that overlooks the whole city. Kigali and her one thousand hills light up like an assembly of Christmas trees. You might agree with me when I say that there must be times when the gods of order look down on present-day Kigali and feel almost guilty for being so good.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
Going local in
DJIBOUTI No one goes to Djibouti for the food. Yet this small nation in the Horn of Africa has a culinary scene worthy of the pickiest foodies, courtesy of years of exchange with neighbouring Yemen. Words: Laura Secorun ‘Djibouti-ville,’ the country’s slow-moving capital, is home to dozens of excellent Yemeni restaurants from the traditional Sanaa, which deceptively resembles a hole in the wall, but affords diners a balcony view of the bustling streets below, to Happy Yemen, a new refugeeowned joint where diners can sit on the floor and enjoy the house speciality of meat stew.
FISH Yemenis are renowned for their fishing skills, especially in the southern part of the country. So it’s no surprise that Yemeni restaurants often have the freshest fish in Djibouti. You can order mashwi (grilled fish) and trust the waiter. Alternatively, ask to pick your own. Yemeni fish is most often grilled whole and served simply with lemon.
Sabab is a favourite with the international UN crowd for its fish and seafood dishes, while Moukbasa offers a more upscale dining experience.
MEAT Stews are also a staple of Yemeni food. Goat, lamb, chicken... they are all chopped up and slowly cooked on a base of onion, green pepper and hawaij (a traditional mix of spices with cumin, cardamom, turmeric and cloves). Salta, a mouth-watering brown-meat stew made with fenugreek, chillies and tomatoes, is considered the national dish.
Few of them have menus so here’s everything you need to know to make the most out of your Yemeni feast. BREAD Yemeni food is largely eaten by hand with the help of freshly-baked bread placed directly on the table over a newspaper. There are literally hundreds of Yemeni bread varieties - from the flatbread, khobz al-tawa, the focaccialike kidem. Malawach is the most popular in Djibouti and is particularly tasty because it is kneaded into layers with generous amounts of butter. EGGS Ready for a Yemeni breakfast? Try some delicious scrambled eggs with vegetables. Shakshuka is a popular egg and tomato dish in North Africa, where it is usually eaten with poached eggs. But the Yemeni version usually consists of scrambled eggs and green chillies. A perfect way to start the day with a kick of protein and spice.
SAUCES Sauces are the lifeblood of Yemeni cuisine. Zahawiq is a spicy chutney similar to the Mexican salsa, which accompanies almost everything from rice to fish and meat. Yoghurt sauces are also common. If you encounter a strange taste you can’t seem to place, it’s probably hulba (fenugreek in English). This gold-brown seed is a crucial ingredient of Yemeni food and has a bittersweet taste, like burnt sugar. AND FINALLY... For best results, pair your Yemeni feast with a strong cup of coffee, sweet tea or freshly-squeezed juice. Order extra bread to take home with you but know it probably won’t make it.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
RETURN OF THE LAKES They offer remote beauty and tranquillity, yet Bogoria and Baringo are among Kenyaâ€™s least-visited lakes. Catrina Stewart heads north to find out why.
FEATURE HOW I GOT THAT SHOT: Lake Bogoria by Joe Were I used a DJI Phantom 4 drone to shoot. I was in a boat right behind them and it was early morning around 6am (just as the sun was coming up). I wanted to show the fishermen's hustle deep in the water and the mood of destiny and resilience they show as they forge their way through the dark morning.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
s the boat putters to the shore, my pre-dawn start is catching up on me. The full English breakfast occupies my thoughts, and I feel sleepily content. At the tiller, Louis, too, seems to be drifting off. Suddenly there is a great revving of the engine, and our boat heads towards the landing site at an alarming speed. Behind us, an ungainly hippo lurches out of the water and gives futile chase. Louis gives me a wry smile and says, “I didn’t see that.” It’s an abrupt ending to our slow meanderings along Lake Baringo’s western shore. For more than an hour, we’ve quietly observed the diverse bird life – canny hamerkops which build nests of several rooms with a tiny entrance to evade predators, seven or eight different types of kingfisher, longnecked cormorants which perch on branches in crucifix pose, their wings outspread to dry. But there’s an eerie quality to the morning; forlorn and dying trees rise from the water, and waves gently lap around ravaged buildings that once stood on dry land. Baringo and Bogoria, two of Kenya’s most northerly Rift Valley lakes, have endured troubled times in recent years; rapidly-rising waters engulfed pastures and homesteads, and threatened the survival of tourist lodges. Now the water levels are now receding, and visitors who shunned the lakes are trickling back. And there are ample reasons to do so. Baringo has some of the most varied birdlife in the country with more than 450 species, while flocks of flamingos are again gracing Bogoria’s alkaline waters after an absence of several years. Back in 2008, my boyfriend and I took a road trip through northern Kenya, an arduous drive that resulted in two punctures, the theft of our wheel nuts and a mechanical breakdown. We stopped at the lakes for some respite. We arrived late to Bogoria and were, the wardens told us, the only people in the park that night. We set up camp in the darkness, and awoke to hundreds of thousands of flamingos grunting and honking just feet from our tent. Time was short, and we reluctantly moved on. Our next stop was Roberts’ Camp on Lake Baringo, and we stayed in one of their signature tree houses, a charming wooden cabin on stilts set back a few hundred yards from the shore. Near the water, a crocodile basked in the sunlight, its jaws agape. A group of us gathered in a semi-circle to gawk at the creature; I wonder now why we were so bold. Within a few years of that trip, the waters at both lakes (and at Lake Nakuru, to the south) started to rise. On my return, nothing prepared me for the sight of our tree house, now a shattered husk. Its frame remains, the stilts sticking out of the water, showing just how far the water advanced. From the boat, Louis points out the Baringo Country Club, a oncepopular lakeside retreat that is now a bleak, hollowed-out row of concrete structures. Bogoria suffered, too. It lost its circular lakeside road, and a new, much rougher track guides one above the eastern shore to
bubbling hot springs, where scalding plumes of water jet up high into the air. Somewhere on the other side of the lake, the camp that I recall so fondly lies under metres of water. Nevertheless, this lesser-known lake is seeing a regeneration of sorts. I had long wanted to return, but was discouraged by reports that the flamingos had left (because the alkalised content had become too diluted to sustain the Spirulina algae on which they fed). Many had gone to Lake Natron in Tanzania. As we pulled up outside Bogoria’s main gate, Kenya Wildlife Service rangers warmly greeted us, and I suspected we were the first visitors that day. We drove across the lunar-like landscape and I saw little that I remembered. Then we saw the first flamingos. I had expected a few, but there were thousands, and as we drove along the cliffs overlooking the lake, we looked down on long stretches of pink-fringed shoreline. In spite of everything this national park has endured, I believe it still remains the most spectacular setting in Kenya for these birds.
We kept thinking, ‘It can’t get any higher,’ but it kept on coming,” said Perrie Hennessy. “Everyone thought we were flooded and had closed down. But we never did. Baringo, too, is enjoying a return of the good times. The evening I arrived in early December, Roberts’ Camp was brimming with guests, and kitchen staff frantically fielded dinner orders. It felt as if the last few years might never have been. Some changes are arguably for the better. Samatian Island, a high-end lodge on the lake that closed down for a while after extensive water damage, has reinvented itself as a more affordable, self-catering property that is proving highly popular. Yet, these are simply busy interludes, and the relatively remote location of these lakes is one reason few come here. It is also what makes them so beguiling. Bobbing along in a small motorboat on Baringo, we have the lake more or less to ourselves. Our only human encounter is with a lone fisherman, his legs dangling off either side of a flimsy-looking boat made out of lightweight balsa wood. It is immensely peaceful. Later, I scrabble in the cliffs to the west of the lake, wandering at dusk through small shambas as bleating goats are herded into
their pens for the night. My guide lifts up rocks and pokes a carpet viper, a disarmingly tiny snake with a venomous bite, while the scout we sent ahead rushes towards us, grinning, and gingerly holding aloft a fearsome-looking scorpion. As I relax over a pre-lunch drink at the secluded Island Camp, Perrie Hennessy, my ebullient host, juggles bookings for the New Year period in between snatches of conversation about life on the lake. “We kept thinking, ‘it can’t get any higher’, but it kept on coming,” Hennessy, a long-time hotelier who bought Island Camp in the middle of the lake in the 1990s, recalls of the recent deluge. “Everyone thought we were flooded and had closed down.” Months after the waters had started to recede, guests would call up, asking if the camp had reopened. “But we never closed,” he says. Nevertheless, the property lost its beach, its reception and four of its bedrooms. Over at Roberts’ on the mainland, they had to line the Thirsty Goat, its popular bar and restaurant, with sandbags. That didn’t deter its most determined patrons, who moored their boats alongside the bar. “It was a much larger place,” says Murray Roberts, who took over the running of the camp in 2013. “We had seven more buildings, and they are all gone. It’s been pretty hard.” Roberts grew up on Baringo, and a childhood game was to dare each other to jump over the backs of basking crocodiles. With overfishing, few would do that now. By the sixties, he recalls, the waters had risen so high that his mother, Betty, had to move to the upper storey of her lakeside home. Theories for the most recent rise in the water levels are as varied as they are underresearched. They include the suggestion that tectonic plates shifted after a small earthquake, or that cyclical siltation from rivers has pushed up the water level, to the view that steady precipitation over the past few decades has caused the underground water table to rise, creating a swell of pressure that has turned outlets into inlets. “Nobody really knows,” admits Roberts, who puts it down to siltation. “But I’d lay bets on the 50-year cycle.” A decade ago, researchers were talking about the lake drying up. It was possible to walk from Roberts over to Island Camp, and parts of the lake were just a couple of feet deep. New islands appeared in the north of the lake, exposing an elephant carcass, complete with tusks, dating, it’s thought, to the turn of the 20th century. It’s hard to imagine that now. Back at Roberts, I take myself off for a walk along the shoreline, weaving my way through the reeds and occasional debris left by the floods. In some respect, something precious has been lost at these lakes, but I don’t feel as downbeat as I might have expected. Coming here again has reminded me that some changes are superficial. The essence of these lakes is the peace, the beauty, the wildlife. All that still remains. The writer was a guest of Roberts’ Camp.
PHOTO: ISTOCK, SAMATIAN ISLAND, SALLY STEVENS
THINGS TO DO BOAT RIDE: Take a dawn boat ride for an hour or two to see the amazing array of birdlife, and learn more about their extraordinary habits. Small crocodiles swim around the boat, while hippos bask close to shore. Your guide may call one of the many fish eagles, a thrilling spectacle. Ksh3,000 for one hour from Roberts. It is possible to negotiate cheaper rates in Kampi Ya Samaki. WALK WITH GIRAFFES: Head to the tiny island within Ruko Conservancy to take an hour-long amble with rangers to observe this small colony of Rothschild giraffes at close quarters. There is insufficient vegetation on the island to sustain them, so rangers supplement their diet with pellets. It’s an enjoyable experience to watch them feeding at the troughs. If you’re lucky, you may also get to stroke an ostrich. Ksh500 per person, not including boat transfers.
ISLAND CAMP BARINGO Allow Perrie Hennessy, legendary hotelier, to regale you with salacious stories as you sip your pre-dinner dawa. Island Camp is the most luxurious of Lake Baringo’s offerings, intimacy and seclusion the main draw. The chef serves up delicious and simple food, and visitors from outside can drop in for lunch and a day by the pool [see Things to Do]. Guests stay in in elegantlyfurnished safari tents, varying in size and cost. All offer beautiful and private views of the lake. The property boasts a large pool and bar area. Local rates for rooms start at Ksh28,000 for two, fullboard, going up to Ksh40,000. islandcamp.com
LUNCH AT ISLAND CAMP: Head to the middle of the lake for a relaxing day at the poolside with a simple but delicious lunch. The trip is by prior arrangement only, and the lodge is not always able to accommodate lunch requests. The cost is Ksh3,000 per person, including boat transfers. DAY TRIP TO LAKE BOGORIA: Although it is possible to stay just outside Lake Bogoria national park, it is also an easy day trip from Baringo, taking about one hour to the main gate. The chief draws are the vast flocks of flamingos and the hot springs, about an hour from the gate. The drive offers fabulous views, but it can be difficult for anything less than a 4WD to undertake. Entrance: Ksh1,000 (residents) and Ksh300 (citizens).
SOI SAFARI LODGE This sprawling, mid-range place was badly damaged in the flooding, but has been largely restored to how it was. It is a more recent addition to the area than some, and with 86 rooms, it’s pretty easy to get a room here. Lacking the charm of some of the other lakeside options, it is nevertheless a comfortable and clean hotel with a swimming pool and ringside views of the lake. It’s also popular with business travellers, and boasts its own conference centre. Rates start at Ksh10,800 for a double room, bed and breakfast, up to Ksh14,200 full-board. soisafarilodge-lkbaringo.com
NATURE WALK: Take a walk in the cliffs to the west of the lake, passing through traditional bomas, and search for scorpions and snakes lurking under rocks. Your guide may send a spotter ahead to identify the hiding spots of these creatures.
Practicalities: From Nairobi, take the A104 to Nakuru. Heading out of Nakuru, take the B4 all the way to Lake Baringo. The journey takes around five hours.
ROBERTS CAMP This low-key camp is a Baringo institution, weathering dramatic climate changes and somehow making it out the other end. It attracts all sorts: old-timers, seasoned travellers, families and those on a budget. Its bar, the Thirsty Goat, serves up drinks and meals and is a convivial place in which to catch up with fellow guests, or simply sit with a drink overlooking the lake. Guests can choose from safari tents, bandas and a three-bedroom cottage, or pitch their own tent. Prices start at Ksh2,500 for two in a basic tent; The cottage, one of the original buildings that survived the flooding, starts at Ksh12,000. robertscamp.com
SAMATIAN ISLAND Set on its own island, Samatian offers a wonderfully-secluded getaway. Once a high-end catered lodge, it has retained its gorgeous furnishings and character, but is now selfcatering and a whole lot more affordable. It’s a perfect spot for families and groups looking for a spot of privacy. Accommodation is made up of huge en-suite thatched rooms overlooking the lake. Guests can choose between two dining areas, one of them a raised verandah with great views. Next to the main reception area is a freshwater pool. Transfers from Roberts. Starts at Ksh18,000 a night. samatianisland.com
Perrie Hennessy bought Island Camp Baringo in 1996 after leaving Lonrho, where he had headed up their hotel division in Kenya, building up some of the country’s most iconic properties, including the Norfolk Hotel, Sweetwaters in Ol Pejeta, the Mount Kenya Safari Club and the Mara Safari Club. As Lonrho underwent a restructuring of its business, it sold the lodge to Hennessy. Why this property? I always liked it. When we were buying it [for Lonrho], I said to my wife: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to own a place like this?’ And then it happened. Every time we go out on a boat, Bonnie [Dunbar, who along with Michael Beamish is a partner in Island Camp], says: ‘Can you believe this place? In the US, it’d be wall to wall with condos.’ It’s unbelievable that we have it to ourselves pretty well. What’s so special? It’s just an amazing place. It’s very rarely anything other than warm. The rain tends to come in the evening and nighttime. My house is totally open at the front. I don’t like leaving the island. The thought of going to Nakuru or Nairobi is terrifying. The people, the noise, the traffic. How do you pass the time? I quite like talking to guests, but I also like going out on the lake. We had a huge influx of birds a couple of years ago. I’ve never seen that before. When you go right up to the north of the lake, it takes a long time to get there. The rock formation looks like the rocks are falling into the lake. It’s the same way it has been for thousands of years.
PHOTO: QUENTIN AMEKA
Don’t you miss your creature comforts? I don’t miss anything. I don’t have a television, but I don’t feel the need. I don’t have a car but I don’t need one. We pump our own water and produce our own electricity. It’s all plus here.
BRINGING HOME THE GIRAFFES How do you get a giraffe on a boat? With some ingenuity, it turns out. It was four years in the planning, but finally, in early 2011, conservationists moved eight Rothschild giraffes in a contraption reminiscent of Noah’s Ark from a Kenyan reserve over to an island in Lake Baringo. Eight young giraffes – six females and two males – were captured in Soysambu Conservancy near Nakuru before beginning the difficult move to the Ruko Community Conservancy site. They began their journey by truck before they were transferred onto a high-sided barge, propelled by two fibreglass boats, for the 90-minute ride to the island.
along with a few warthogs and ostriches, were stranded. The idea behind the move, says Caroline Withey, one of the project’s founders, was to bring together warring Njemps and Pokot communities. An elected board drawn from both settlements would run the conservancy, and the profits generated from tourists would go towards projects dear to both.
The endangered Rothschild giraffe, also known as the Baringo giraffe, was last spotted in the lake’s vicinity area around 70 years ago.
At the time of the move, the Longicharu island was separated by swamps from the mainland, and it was imagined the waters would drain further, allowing the giraffes to roam 19,000 acres of new wildlife conservancy. But as the lake’s waters rose some 40 feet, the giraffes,
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
The road less
o Lake Baring
Catrina Stewart takes the road from Lake Baringo to Isiolo, a rough traverse across a beautiful and remote part of northern Kenya PHOTOS: QUENTIN AMEKA
everal years ago, my boyfriend and I were driving along the road to Isiolo from Lake Baringo when our clutch went. It was a bad place to break down. Wamba, the nearest town, was some miles back, and all around us was arid scrub, not a settlement in sight. Seemingly out of nowhere, a wizened old Samburu lady appeared. She looked at us, sucked her teeth, and said, “There’s nobody here but you and God.” As she melted away, we hardly felt in a position to disagree. We hadn’t seen a single car in a couple of hours, and our mobile phones had lost reception. At some point, a pick-up stopped, and the driver agreed to radio for help from Archer’s Post, an hour or so away. Four hours later, we saw a speck of a landcruiser roaring towards us. The car slithered to a halt, and the occupants jumped out and handed us damp flannels and chilled orange juices in real glasses. We were bundled into the vehicle, and whisked off to start our safari. While that surreal incident remains etched in my memory, of the scenery I remember little. And so I planned to make the trip again. The road is, if anything, even more rutted and difficult than it was during our first attempt, but as it wends through tiny villages - and through the occasional roadblock of cattle and goats - it hardly seems to matter. My focus is on the journey, and not the road. The road skirts the lake for the first hour before eventually bringing us out at Mugie, a vast cattle ranch and tourist lodge [see box]. Leaving Mugie, we head north in the direction of Maralal along some treacherous dirt – I rarely get out of second gear – before we hit smooth dirt just before Kisima. We turn towards the east, the beginning of the some of the most dramatic scenery of the drive, with plunging forested ravines and mountains to the south. The views are breathtaking. At Wamba, we make an unnecessary detour into the town, a chaotic and edgy
place built into the lee of a hill, to buy drinks. Solomon, a philosophy student who arrived that morning from Maralal, asks us for a lift to Archer’s Post. With only one matatu a day plying the Wamba-Isiolo route, he had been facing an overnight stay. A short while into the drive, I ask him why so few matatus make the relatively short hop to Isiolo, and he puts it down to worsening security. Six years ago, he says suddenly, his parents were murdered by bandits on this stretch of road. “It’s just coming up,” he says. “It’s a good place for an ambush because you can’t go faster than 40 km/h,” he says. My eyes flicker nervously to the dashboard - we’ve barely accelerated beyond that over the dirt in the past 20 minutes. Security has been a constant worry on this road. When a couple of decades ago, some tourists were robbed and badly beaten near here, it effectively closed a once-popular circuit off. Although the road is said to be safer than a few years ago, seven people were killed in an ambush between Wamba and Isiolo 18 months ago. Security usually takes a hit during times of drought,but ranchers in the area are now also facing increasingly violent land invasions with a political dimension. The steady inflow of arms from Ethiopia and Somalia to tribes has raised the stakes, with local police ill-equipped to act. Although possible to arrange a police escort in Isiolo if travelling westwards along what may be one of Kenya’s most beautiful roads, it will probably be some time before this route reopens to mainstream travel as long as the government maintains a lax attitude towards security in this remote region. Just under an hour from Wamba, the new tarmac road to Marsabit comes into view, and we breathe a sigh of relief. From here, it is just a short hop south to Archer’s Post and Isiolo. No breakdowns this time - just a few hundred kilometres on the clock, and some very weary travellers.
MUGIE RANCH, LAIKIPIA A three-hour drive from Lake Baringo is Mugie, a sprawling 49,000-acre cattle ranch in northwest Laikipia on the edge of Kenya’s remote and untouched northern frontier district. It offers a stunning setting for wildlife viewing of elephant, lion, and hartebeest, and much more. It also offers some less usual activities including tracking with bloodhounds and camel trekking. The property has two accommodation options: Ekorian’s Mugie Camp, an intimate tented lodging run by Josh and Donna Perrett, and Mutamaiyu house, a hilltop home comprising four imaginatively-designed cottages perched above rolling plains. From Nairobi, the more usual route goes via Nyeri or Gilgil, both taking about six hours. Contact www.mugie.org and www.ekorian.com for more information.
PLEASE NOTE: Shortly before going to press, Mugie had, along with other ranches in the area, faced a wave of violent land incursions by cattle herders. The herders have now moved on but we would recommend you contact the ranch for up-to-date guidance before travelling to the area.
The C78 road from Lake Baringo to Isiolo takes approximately nine hours. There are several good lodges at which to stay in the Matthews Range, Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs. We stayed at Bomen, a cheap and convivial hotel in Isiolo. From Isiolo, it is a five-hour drive to Nairobi.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
LOUNGES Executive lounges with premium satellite TV channels and pipes music. Themed on International cities to include New York, Paris, Washington DC and London. 24 hour services of continental and local traditional dishes which include a blend of tastes from across the world.
ACCOMMODATION The executive rooms have king or twin beds, air conditioning, complimentary hair dryer on request, a work desk, wireless internet connectivity and private luxurious bathrooms with showers. Also 24 hour room service and 32 inch high definition digital Tvs.
OUTDOORS Our temperature-controlled swimming pool has state of the art pool lounges, cocktail bar and sun beds which are comfortable with a classy feel. Thereâ€™s a fully equipped gym by the pool and a state of the art spa and sauna . A state of the art PlayStation for children, swings and an artificial football pitch.
HOSPITALITY We have a friendly customer service team lead by our hospitable hostesses at your service from the minute you arrive untill you leave. CONFERERENCING Executive conference venue consisting state of art conference halls with fitted sound and projections.
The Villa International Palace Hotel P.O. BOX 233-40605, Sidindi Located at Madeya center, 50km from Kisumu along Kisumu-Busia Road Tel: +254 702 690 371 DISCOVERThevillainternationalpalace@gmail.com, EXPLORE EXPERIENCE Email: Facebook: The VIP Hotel Madeya-Siaya County Website: www.viphotel.co.ke
PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC WAINAINA
ERIC WAINAINA The Kenyan superstar has been busy: performing, hosting live music gigs and running a driving school for women. He shares with us some anecdotes from his travels.
Everyone was running around in shorts and vests and I was thinking, “It’s so cold!” I wasn’t ready for Boston’s cold. I’d been in London a year, where even in the dead of winter it didn’t snow. And then there I was, freshly arrived in Boston in mid-May. The temperature was 50 Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and everyone was in shorts and vests and I was thinking, “It’s so cold!” The other big surprise was ordering a sandwich at Subway and discovering you’d have to say the kind of bread or cheese you wanted. I just wanted a sandwich! But Boston was also very nurturing, unlike New York, which was intimidating. I fell into a nice community in Boston with my church and the Kenyans, and at the college: it was wonderful to be with all these people who were just as motivated as you and as mad as you were about the thing you’d come to study. You’d be lying on your bed with the plains of the Maasai Mara right in front of you. There are two contenders for “most romantic trip.” The first: my wife Sheba and I went to this tented camp in the Mara run by &Beyond. You think it’s going to be threadbare, but the tents are safari chic and quite luxurious; they even took us on a balloon safari with champagne and you’d be lying on your bed
with the plains of the Maasai Mara right in front of you. The other? Sheba and I didn’t go for our honeymoon until three years after we were married, when we went to Paris. It was cold, but nothing beats Boston (other than Toronto, or Alaska). We’re both art lovers so we did a lot of museums and got to see the Louvre and the Mona Lisa [painting]. We spent so much time to get to the Mona Lisa because the line was so long and then as soon as you got to the front, people behind were trying to get you to move and you’re like “I wanna see it some more!” She was like: “Shillings, c’est quoi?” I never forget my passport when I am travelling, or my yellow fever certificate. Oh, and cash! My wife and I have landed in West Africa without cash. Even if the ATM is right there, you need cash to get your visa. We were stuck in Abidjan [in Ivory Coast] for 36 hours, and they only let us out of the airport after we agreed to take the immigration officer, her superior and the lieutenant to an ATM, take out money and give them [some] individually. Essentially a bribe. West Africa, you gotta carry cash. And not shillings: she was like, “Shillings, c’est quoi?” You need dollars, euros, pounds…
Like a crunchy cracker with a bit of ash I had my first prawn in Mombasa as a sevenyear-old. I was eating it and then my brother said, “Remember the thing you saw on the beach today? That’s what you’re eating.” I was a little horrified. I’ve learnt to experiment a lot more with food and will eat just about anything. I’ve eaten those little hairy caterpillars that are green and black. Sheba’s best friend comes from Botswana and they sun-dry them. It’s crunchy and you get over it. They taste like a crunchy cracker with a bit of ash, maybe? He’s never seen black people I showed up in London on my first day in the UK and I wanted to buy this jacket so I walked into a store and asked about it, and this salesperson starts to make fun of my accent. My friend who was with me burst out laughting and at that point, I was asked by a student whether we lived in trees. That was a bit shocking. You get a bit of that, but it’s not pervasive, at least not in the circles I’ve been in. The first day in this mountain village in Switzerland, a man approached me and asked in French whether he could touch my hair. I’m like, “Well, he’s never seen black people.” As told to Wanjiku Mungai
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
Last call for
THE LUNATIC EXPRESS
repare for long, long delays. This is what people kept telling us in the days leading up to our departure on the train from Nairobi to Mombasa. Although supposedly a 13-hour journey, I’d heard the horror stories – arriving at the station 5pm Friday afternoon for the scheduled departure, waiting until 3am for the carriages to finally pull away, arriving in Mombasa two days’ later. We accepted we were in this for the long haul, and packed accordingly: wet wipes to keep clean, flip flops for sticky toilet floors, soup in a thermos and plenty of sandwiches. Imagine our surprise, then, when we arrived at the run-down old station on the edge of Nairobi’s Central Business District to learn it was on schedule. “The train is perfectly on time,” the ticket officer announced as he stamped our ticket and waved us in the direction of the platforms with a grin. The British began construction of the line, nicknamed the Lunatic Express, in 1896, to cement their control over the source of the Nile: Lake Victoria. With a price tag of £5 million, it was roundly denounced by one British parliamentarian as “naught but a lunatic line.” Over a five-year period, the British brought in 32,000 Indian labourers who had to contend with malaria, hostile tribes, and the famed man-eating lions of Tsavo, who snatched victims while they slept. The two lions held up construction for nearly a year as they picked off their prey, which included a British engineer, a police superintendent, and at least 28 Indian labourers. After long nights lying in wait for the lions, Colonel John Patterson shot the first one dead in late
1898, and the second was killed a few weeks later. When it was completed, it offered colonialstyle comfort for the white elite making their way to the coast. The train today retains a merest hint of its former style, and we settled into our cabin with its split leather seats, and faded advertisement for a Gametrackers safari. Before departure, we joined the other passengers hanging their heads out of the windows in the corridor to watch the last few stragglers arrive. We watched as passengers ignored the underpass, climbing down onto the tracks, lugging suitcases behind them. At 5:05pm, the train grumbled into life and off we went, clicking along the track to the coast. As we snaked through the outskirts of Nairobi, grinning passengers ran between the corridor and cabin windows, faces catching the breeze as they leaned out to see the view. Taking the train, we mused, felt like stepping into a time capsule: a moving museum. We were transported into early 1900s Kenya, when travelling on this line would have felt like the height of sophistication. What an adventure! The country expanded out either side of us as we settled in to the rhythmic chugging of the train, playing cards and drinking beer. Meanwhile, life on the train had erupted. In our cabin, a group of party girls played R&B on a speaker. An elderly German couple stood to watch the sunset, smudged with cloud cover, ripple shades of peach and gold. After an hour or so, we discovered the kitsch dining carriage with maroon leather seats, faded floral wallpaper and cracked crockery that clattered as the train rocked from side to side. It was packed, and having brought our own food, we soon retreated to
our cabin to eat our picnic in peace. We returned to made-up beds. Sleepy from the rocking of the train, my partner nodded off. I lay awake, acutely aware of every noise, and snuck out into the corridor to catch the evening breeze. As we clattered through the night, the soft glow of the lights settled on the surrounding grasslands, and stars scattered the sky. At the front of the train, a bright beam of light cut through the darkness, guiding us all the way to the coast. As the sun rose, it grew progressively warmer, the sand redder, and the scenery more arid. The cabins began to bake in the heat of the sun; a hot breeze filed in through the windows. We passed old signalling stations, crumbling outhouses and thorn trees. Children chased us through the countryside as fast as their legs would carry them. Nearing the coast, the soil turned to sand. We spotted our first palm trees and the smoking rubbish piles – a sure sign we are now on the outskirts of Mombasa. The last hour of the trip was the worst: hot and muggy, the wet wipes used up and our water run dry, our skin sticking unpleasantly to the leather seats. All the way, we chased the new Standard Gauge Railway: an obnoxious juxtaposition of old versus new. It towers high; built on an embankment and tall pillars, with new stations along the way that are white, stark and empty. Construction of this new railway, which will cut the journey time to just a few hours, is scheduled for completion in December 2017, and the Lunatic Express will be decommissioned. As we clanked and clattered into Mombasa this thought stayed with me. Adventure complete, I felt glad to have experienced this charming, grubby, extraordinary rail journey before it is relegated to the history books.
PHOTOS: HARRIET CONSTABLE
Harriet Constable travels on Nairobi’s historic line from capital to coast
MORE GREAT AFRICAN TRAIN TRIPS: If money is no object, take the nine day Namibia safari on the uberluxurious Rovos Rail, which traverses though the arid wilderness of the Kalahari Desert and on to Namibiaâ€™s lively capital, Windhoek. Journey from Johannesburg on the deluxe Shosholoza Meyl Premier Classe train, travelling through the mining towns of central SA before arriving in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town.
PHOTOS: HARRIET CONSTABLE
Explore Morocco on the Marrakech Express. Travel between the terracotta capital, Marrakech, and the ancient walled city, Fez, on this modern, air-conditioned train.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
If I have to be out of the house early, I take the opportunity to get a great coffee at one of Kampala’s many coffee houses. Uganda is coffee country and a lot of cafés have a locally-made house blend. The blend at Prunes is, without a doubt, my favourite. It was made for people like me who tend to make cafés their offices, and has a great coffee menu and quiet corners in which to do some work.
UG AN D
Nº 15 A 0990
From dawn to dusk in
KAMPALA Lamic Kirabo is a fashion and lifestyle writer from Kampala, Uganda. She blogs under www.thirdlocal.com
Get out of the city. One perk of living in Kampala is that I can get into a car and drive an hour from a bustling shopping mall in the city centre to bungee jump over the longest river in the world, or drive a few more hours to spend time with silverback gorillas. There aren’t too many cities in the world where you can do that. So, get out of town. I’m a huge adrenaline junkie. Adrift Uganda in Jinja is a great place to go a little crazy.
I love thrifting, and I’m also a huge fan of Ugandan clothing brands. I love to mix it up to create a personal style. Stop by Bold Africa at Acacia Mall and pick up some edgy pieces from their selection of amazing Ugandan and African designers, and then head downtown and thrift yourself silly. The prices of clothes downtown are ridiculously cheap, and you will find the most amazing second-hand and upcycled items at the thrift market at Port Bell. The vendors are also not as aggressive as they are in the Central Business District so you can really take your time and find some great pieces.
Every first Friday and Saturday of the month, we all head to cool popup event Goat and Kachumbari, which has a great crowd at Yasigi’s Beer Gardens. It’s a conversational party where you’re introduced to new, interesting people and brands over the best craft beer and some badass clay-oven pizzas. A Ka Dope also throws great First Friday parties. That’s where we get to dance. It’s all local music, and you’re dancing to live performances by a line-up of Uganda’s best.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF LAMIC KIRABO, ADRIFT UGANDA, BIGSTOCK
Indulge in pork and kachumbari at one of the many pork joints, and when you are done getting accustomed to Uganda’s finest in street food, discover the many hip restaurants and cafés that combine great food with a good vibe. Yujo Izakaya has the best sushi and throws great parties. Holy Crêpe serves gourmet crêpes over the best view in the city. Kampala has so many cuisines to choose from, and you can discover the entire world within this little African city through food.
Nomad Magazine March 2017
A walk through…
A few things to do in Nairobi’s Central Business District that don’t involve waiting in a stuffy government office. Words: Wanjiku Mungai
Still in a shopping mood? Bargain for anything from children’s clothes to batik to curtains on Biashara Street. This street, literally meaning the street of business, is crammed with quirky, family-run shops. It started out life as an Indian trading street, and many of the stores remain in the hands of their original owners. If you’re lucky, a friendly shopkeeper might give you a rundown of some local history.
Haria’s Stamp Shop is a familyowned business on Biashara Street that was started unofficially in 1944 by the first Mr Haria, a passionate stamp collector. In 1958, he registered it as an business, and in 1982, with the decline of mail and the rise of the computer, his children expanded it to sell souvenirs, postcards, magnets and branded merchandise. If you walk to the back of the shop, a small corner
remains as a tribute to this past era, with stamps for sale from colonial East Africa.
The National Archives is situated in one of the busier parts of Nairobi and can sometimes get a little overwhelming. Once you’re in the door, enjoy the silence. The building hosts a collection of historical artefacts, and homes Kenyan public and private historical documents. On the ground floor is the Murumbi African Heritage Collections, where you’ll find jewellery from West Africa, oil paintings by contemporary Kenyan artists, pottery by artist Magdalene Odundo and all manner of African art pieces. Point Zero Café, an open-air coffee house on the premises, serves up good coffee.
McMillan Memorial Library opened its doors in 1931, and retains much of its early 19th century character. That said, a bit of attention wouldn’t go astray. Bits of tiling are missing, books on rugby rub shoulders with art history tomes, while the wooden flooring looks like it could do with a good polish. The library has a large Africana section, and many valuable first editions. Members, who pay a Ksh1,000 yearly fee, can come here to borrow books, or simply to find a quiet corner in which to work or read in peace.
Sno Cream: If you’re looking for delicious ice cream served with a dollop of Kenyan history then this is the place for you. The walls of Nairobi’s oldest ice cream shop are covered in old photographs and it probably looks much the same as when it started in 1950: formica counters, Coca Cola ads and faded posters from decades back adorn this space. Every Nairobian (and their parent) has a story about this place.
Head to Trattoria on a lazy Sunday evening and enjoy are grandstand views of Nairobi streets over a glass of wine and made-from-scratch pasta from this bustling, family-run Italian restaurant that was established in 1981. During the 1982 attempted coup against thenPresident Daniel Arap Moi, this central Nairobi haunt didn’t close its doors once, even when the restaurant got caught in the cross-fire.
The Railway Museum brings joy to history buffs and playful children alike. Explore the inside of the main building for a rundown of the history of the railway in East Africa, with walls featuring photographs and maps of East Africa as it changed over the century since the railway was constructed. Explore your inner child in and out of the old trains and locomotives parked out in the yard.
PHOTOS: NOMAD, KEVIN TOSH, PEPERUKA.CO.KE
Visit City Market for curios and freshly-cut flowers, and for your weekly meat shop. The curios section is situated in a large and airy hall with interesting architecture and lofty ceilings. Vendors sell jewellery, colourful fabric, carvings and other traditional mementoes. Right next door, the scene is that of a bustling meat market; white-coated butchers selling an abundance of seafood and meat cuts.
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NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
LIMURU PHOTO: COURTESY OF BRACKENHURST
The weekend is here, and you’ve nothing planned. Sound familiar? You don’t have to go far to get that countryside experience. Less than 45 minutes from central Nairobi is Limuru, a hilly area replete with sprawling tea plantations, quirky lunch spots and diverse walking and cycling trails. ACTIVITIES Walking
The tea plantations around Tigoni make for scenic and enjoyable walks. Undulating trails wind through the tea, small settlements, and past dams and reservoirs. If tea pickers are out, it’s even more picturesque. It’s possible to park up on a verge and start walking, but for those who prefer a bit more structure (or a secure place to leave their car), park at Brackenhurst Conference Centre, and either take their marked 1km-2.5km woodland trails, or head to the right of the retreat into the tea for a longer and more taxing hike. Parking is also available for customers at the Kentmere Club, a one-time farmers’ club that makes a good spot for lunch.
Bring your own, or hire bicycles from Brackenhurst, and ride through the nearby tea estates. If you’re not sure where to go, you can join a guided cycling tour every Tuesday from Brackenhurst. Otherwise, just set off from the same, and see where the trail leads you. Give yourself a pat on the back when you crest the top of one of Tigoni’s many hills. Some of the tea estates restrict access, but may respond to a polite request to pass through.
It’s horsey country around here, and that’s no surprise, given the seemingly endless trails. At Kawamwaki Farm, there’s a small and slightly dilapidated cross-country course for fearless eventers - and a pretty waterfall if you come on foot. For the less intrepid, head out for a leisurely hack into the surrounding tea and forested trails. Ksh1,500 per hour, riders with some experience preferred. For bookings and directions, call Gabriel on 0725 968 215 or visit www.kawamwaki.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
KIAMBETHU TEA FARM Set on a hill overlooking stunning tea plantations, Fiona Vernon’s house is the relaxed setting for this unique tea tour. Fiona, whose grandfather was the first to grow tea commercially in Kenya, invites guests into her sitting room to give a fascinating lecture on how the tea bud ends up in your cup. Guests are then taken on a short walk through the small farmyard and indigenous woods nearby before finishing up with a sherry and a leisurely buffet lunch in the garden. Tours begin at 11am. Ksh3,300 per adult, bookings essential. www.kiambethufarm.com
BROWN’S CHEESE FARM Brown’s cheese farm, started by David and Sue Brown, has been churning out cheese of all varieties for nearly four decades. Delia, a secondgeneration Brown, opens up her family home to cheese tours from Thursday to Saturday every week. The experience begins with a short tour of the factory, and is followed by a tasting of their wide-ranging selection of specialty cheeses paired with seasonal chutneys. Be sure to keep some room for the three-course lunch that follows. From noon. Ksh3,000 per adult without wine; Ksh4,000 with wine. This place is popular, so book ahead.Contact reservations@brownscheese. com or call 0727 103350.
MLANGO FARM It takes a bit of getting to, but the journey down a rutted village track is half the fun. This small but busy farm, run by Els, a Dutch native, and her husband, Kamande, makes for a rewarding day out. Get up close to guinea fowl, pot-bellied pigs, donkeys, ponies and rabbits before taking a tour of the terraces to understand how the array of fresh produce - from chard to pak choi to fennel - arrives on your plate. The tour finishes with lunch made from food grown on the farm. Groups of eight or more preferred, but smaller groups possible. For those wishing to linger, the couple hosts guests in their house, crammed with African artwork, during quieter periods. Ksh2,000 per person. www.mlango.org
BANANA FARMHOUSE Banana Farmhouse, situated on the edge of the tea, is the perfect spot to recharge after a busy week in Nairobi. The garden – a gorgeous expanse of lawn, colourful flowerbeds and mature trees leading down to an old English ha-ha – is the real selling point. It lends itself to lazy afternoons, whether it’s lounging on a swing under a tree with a book, playing Frisbee with friends, or feasting your eyes on one of the clearest views of the Ngong Hills for miles around. Swimming pool. B&B costs Ksh 6,5007,500 per double room. Dinner on request. www.bananafarmhouse.com
BRACKENHURST CONFERENCE CENTRE This Baptist-owned hotel is a popular spot for religious retreats, but this historic hotel is well worth a visit even if not part of a group. Its Muna Tree Cafe serves up tasty food and the centre offers attractive cottages for overnight stays. Spread over 100 acres, the hotel has plentiful walking, and pleasant gardens in which to relax. It’s a favoured starting point for bike tours, and the hotel offers birdwatching tours, too. Alcohol and smoking are both prohibited on the grounds. B&B starts at Ksh6,100, and self-catering cottages from Ksh4,400. www.brackenhurst.com
THE LAKEHOUSE New on the scene is The Lakehouse, a lovely four-bedroom property bordering the Tigoni dam. Guests have the run of the eightacre estate, which includes a rolling lawn leading down to the dam, a tranquil spot for swimming and boating. Breakfast is included, other meals by arrangement. Sleeps 11. Nightly rates start at $250 during the week, $500 at the weekend. Facebook.com/TigoniLakeHouse
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
SPICE OF LIFE We take a peek inside East Africa’s most recherché boutique hotel Words: Catrina Stewart
n Zanzibar, legend has it that Popo Bawa, a one-eyed demon with the body, ears and talons of a bat, swoops down on unbelieving males and rapes them, usually in times of upheaval. The myth, which persists even now, tickled hotelier Emerson Skeens, and he placed a giant Japanese samurai kimono in the shape of the feared creature above one of the guest
feminine icon, such as Aida, or the actress Katherine Hepburn, and is designed in its own unique style, but the stain-glassed windows, recherché fittings and Zanzibari antiques are a feature of all. Skeens, a New Yorker and psychologist, relocated to Zanzibar in the late 1980s, and with his American partner, Thomas Green, a dancer, opened the famed Emerson and Green in 1994, converting a towering old
house that Skeens bought in 2006 and converted into a luxury boutique hotel over five years. The original hotel was, Skeens would say, the more masculine of the two. Emerson Spice was, by contrast, “more feminine, smaller and more beautiful - as he put it,” says Bridgewood, a long-time friend of the hotelier, who died in 2014 from cancer. “His motto was: if you’re going to pay to stay somewhere, you should have fun by just staying there,” he says. “So every room has a lot of fun, whether it be hammocks on the balcony, or an outdoor shower, or a swing within a pagoda. It was always a bit quirky.” “The bathtubs were very much his signature – the bathtubs always had room for two.”
The Zanzibar archipelago is in the Indian Ocean about 16 miles off the Tanzanian coast. Once an important Arab trading post, it is famous for its rich history, spice-laden bazaars, and white beaches. Tourism has taken a hit in recent years, but as the security and political situation starts to settle down, there’s little reason we can think of not to visit.
Russell Bridgewood, manager of the Emerson Spice, gives us the two-minute lowdown: What’s the first thing you do when you return to Zanzibar? I go to the centre of Stone Town to meet up with local friends in Jaws Corner [coffee shop] for coffee, catching up on the news.
beds in his Stone Town hotel. “It was a jokey thing for Emerson to do,” laughs Russell Bridgewood, the English manager of Emerson Spice, one of Africa’s most romantic and eccentric hotels. “We don’t tell guests when they arrive, we tell them when they leave.” It is a tantalising glimpse into the character of the man behind Emerson Spice, which has built its reputation on sumptuous and sensual interiors. Every room is a tribute to a great
Arab Sultan’s palace into a hotel with 20foot ceilings and marble flooring, the décor reminiscent of something out of the Arabian Nights. The two men parted company in 2003, and under Green’s stewardship, the hotel faded. It would later be bought and refurbished by a consortium of partners, friends of Skeens’. Known now as Emerson on Hurumzi, it is located a few minutes’ walk from Emerson Spice, the crumbling merchant
Where do you eat? I really like The Silk Route, an Indian restaurant. The Hyatt has a fantastic terrace for sundowners, and the food there is excellent. What do you take home? Spices, dried hibiscus flowers. I take whole suitcases of those back. You soak them in hot water and they become dried hibiscus flower juice. That’s our welcome drink. It’s full of anti-oxidants and Vitamin B. They sell them in bags in the market for about 50 pence ($0.75).
NOTES FROM THE BUSH
A RAW ENCOUNTER In the wild, death is an everyday occurrence. Samantha Russell-du Toit’s children experience it first hand.
t is the silence that awakes you. It’s the silence that follows the distant grunts of the lioness, or the frightened chatter of baboons in response. It’s the silence when the noises of the night fade, and the day is yet to begin. As the first glimmers of light appear, the creatures stir into life. The songbirds burst into joyous harmony as the males mark out their turf, and the Hadada Ibis lets out its distinctive screech as it flies overhead. In moments, I know, the children will wake, clamouring for their favourite starts to the day: our five year old daughter her gamedrive, and our two-year-old son his bottle of warm Kenyan tea. Awake and dressed, Seyia bounds off on a game drive with her ‘baba’ to look for the lioness we heard roar during the night. A week earlier, the big cat had killed a small zebra and feasted on it yards from our small cottage. Excited by the rarity of viewing a kill so close to home, our Maasai staff had led us to where the lioness had stashed the zebra. As we stalked through the bushes with the two children, we wondered if this was altogether a good idea. Seyia had looked on, fascinated. It wasn’t her first brush with death. When she was just three years old, the kitchen staff at the camp had brought in a goat for slaughter. She petted it and murmured quietly to it, before its throat was slit in front of her. She remained
while the meat was butchered and chucked into a stew. Later, she ate it happily enough. From a distance, I worried that the experience would prove unsettling, but she seemed less emotional about it than her elders. Perhaps at that age the concept of death is still unclear, or perhaps it is clearer for them than it is for many of us. As we peered at the mauled catch, we explained to Seyia that the lioness needed to eat, just like we do, and that was why she had killed the zebra. She nodded her head, and we turned back for the cottage. This morning, I wave off Seyia, brimming with excitement at the prospect of seeing the lioness, and her father, and put the kettle on the stove to boil. Settling down on our veranda, my son Taru and I watch as our resident troop of baboons make their morning commute along the riverbank. Some of the older babies like to chase each other, daring each other to run along the steep banks and not to fall in. I can hear the kettle boiling. Leaving Taru to watch the ‘baabooons’, I go to make us some tea. A vervet monkey peeks in through the gap between the wall and the thatched roof, trying to learn where we keep the sugar and our resident fruit bats try to get comfortable upside down on the thatch. A teacup and bottle of tea in hand, I return to the veranda. The baboons have moved on and Taru is now watching two kingfishers chirping and displaying to each other on a
She petted it and murmured quietly to it, before its throat was slit in front of her. She remained while the meat was butchered and chucked into a stew. Later, she ate it happily enough. branch above the river. We sit and drink our tea in silence, waiting for our explorers to return.
Samantha du Toit-Russell is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai Land Trust. She lives with her husband, Johann du Toit, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy. NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
The Naivasha Owl Centre is one of the two arms of The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust. The centreâ€™s clinic is currently in need of medical equipment and the centre would also like to build improved accommodation for the birds. If you would like to donate, please do so through the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, PO Box 358, Naivasha 20117 or you can email email@example.com for more information.
RESCUING RAPTORS Saving owls in a country that believes them to be harbingers of death was never going to be easy. But the Naivasha Owl Centre, founded in 2014, not only rescues and rehabilitates owls but Kenya’s biggest and most bellicose birds of prey, too. Tamara Britten visited the centre in Naivasha and asked Shiv Kapila what it’s like to rescue raptors. How did you start? It all began in 1996 with a little Barn Owl called Fulstop. He was brought to Sarah Higgins’ house in Naivasha with a badlydamaged wing. When the vet said he could mend the bones but the bird would never fly properly again, Sarah built an owlery. From then, people started bringing in injured, sick and orphaned owls. And from there we branched into treating raptors like eagles, kites and vultures, and other large birds such as pelicans and storks. In 2014, Sarah, Simon Thomsett and myself got together and formalised the centre under a trust now known as the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust.
spot and catch their prey, and to return to the centre each night. Only when they are fully capable of supporting themselves do we release them.
How do you treat the birds in your care? Our aim is to rehabilitate all birds into the wild. The vet treats them, operates if necessary, and they stay with us until they fully recover. There are a series of stages that birds pass through while they’re in our care, starting with treatment in the clinic and progressing to larger cages in which they can fly. They end up being trained in the rehabilitation area using falconry techniques.
How do you collect an angry and injured predator? It’s challenging! The trick is to mind their very powerful feet, keep them calm and comfortable, and get the bird to the centre as quickly as possible.
Then you release them? It’s not that simple. You have to do due diligence before release, otherwise it can be considered abandonment and neglect. These birds need to hunt and defend their territory to survive. During their time with us, they often lose the knack and, if we released them, they might not be able to feed themselves. Our falconers work with them, training them to hunt with the skill they’ll need to make a life for themselves. How do you train a bird to hunt? Alongside Simon and me, we have four highlyexperienced falconers, one of whom is a young woman: I think she’s the only Kenyan woman falconer in history. They fly the birds awaiting release every day, training them to
Do you release them around Naivasha? Again, it’s not that simple. Raptors are highly territorial. If we released a raptor into the territory of another bird of the same species, the original resident would attack the newcomer and they would fight -- possibly to the death of one or both of them. We work with the Kenya Wildlife Service to find suitable areas in which there isn’t a resident bird of the same species.
You say that you release all birds that have made a full recovery. What happens to those that don’t? If a bird’s wings, legs or eyes don’t fully recover, and it is unable to fly or walk, it won’t survive in the wild. We keep such birds at the centre, and breed them in captivity, or use them in our educational programmes. The jewels of the centre are our Crowned Eagles. Simon has a pair, both now over 40, that has produced 12 chicks in the last 35 years, all of which have been released. Captive breeding of rare species such as this is extremely valuable; only about 200 pairs of Crowned Eagles are left in Kenya. We also have some imprinted birds: those that have been raised by people from an early age and therefore think they’re humans. We currently have four imprinted Marsh Owls that like steam; every time Sarah has a shower, they fly through her bathroom window and bask in the steam while she showers.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
CHEBET MUTAI Chebet Mutai of luxury leather brand WazaWazi shares tales of road tripping with her family, dream destinations and her passion for all things African.
PHOTO: TATIANA KARANJA
This year, my family and I started going on road trips every month: to Naivasha, to Amboseli, Mombasa, Nanyuki. The best part of travelling with my kids is that I get to hang out with them, because I’m hardly ever home. They have a lot of stories but they keep asking if we’ve arrived: “tumefika? tumefika? tumefika?” My husband is a great driver. He packs the boot so well: nothing falls over, nothing does anything it’s not supposed to. The last time I was out of the country, I visited Europe and travelled to Germany. My husband was born there, in Hanover. Hanover was boring as hell but I liked Hamburg: it’s modern and has a different vibe, a cultural awareness that seems to embrace foreigners. I don’t speak German but I’ll learn when I go to live in Berlin for a while. I’d go to fashion school, but I have young kids. Unless they’re coming with me, I’m not going. I would go to Italy for the fashion. I like good food, no matter where it’s from: Morocco, South Africa, India, Japan. If I was going to Japan I’d be like, “I can’t wait to see the food.” But if I’m going to Italy I can’t wait to see the fashion. Other than that, Berlin, New York and Tokyo are my holy trilogy of dream destinations. I used to be a last-minute packer but now I’m forgetful so I pack in advance - slowly slowly. I’ll leave my toiletry bag open and keep adding things. I don’t check in my luggage so I
pack light: I can buy tops for cheap on the other side. If I wasn’t in Nairobi, I’d live in Lagos. It’s alive, one of those places that influenced me so much that I wanted to do something. You see all these Africans who have no apologies for who they are: very vibrant, rooted in their culture.
I think my Auma bag - the big tote - is perfect for the intrepid traveller. It’s beautiful and interesting and an obvious statement about a certain part of the world. It really is representative - all of my bags I think are - but this one represents the strength of us as Africans, and it seems to appeal to people from all over the world.
NOMAD MAGAZINE MARCH 2017
Published on Mar 3, 2017
Nomad is East Africa's newest travel magazine, packed with exciting trip ideas, interviews, weekend escapes and much more. In this first iss...