DISCOVER - EXPLORE - EXPERIENCE
VOL.6 FREE COPY
ENCHANTED ISLAND DISCOVER TANZANIA’S RUBONDO ISLAND
UGANDA’S RAPIDS UNDER THREAT
MICHELA WRONG ON CHANGE IN AFRICA
WEEKEND AWAY IN GILGIL NOMAD MAGAZINE AUGUST 2017 1
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
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NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
A ROUGH RIDE FOR TOURISTS IN TANZANIA I’m sitting at a bar in a Tanzanian hotel, and the owner is moving onto the subject of John Magufuli, the country’s newish president. “It’s a nightmare,” he says, waving his drink. I wonder initially what he’s talking about - but it quickly becomes clear that he’s referring to an abrupt hike in a tourist tax that has the industry up in arms. Everywhere we go, Magufuli comes up in conversation. When Kenya, perhaps Tanzania’s biggest competitor for the tourist dollar, was stripping away fees, Tanzania was adding to them. Whether it’s last year’s 18 percent VAT on the tourist industry, or the most recent hike in the concession fee to $59 per bed in major game parks, Tanzania is looking expensive. Although still cheap for East African citizens, the Serengeti now costs significantly more than the Maasai Mara in Kenya, or the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Magufuli has said he’d rather see fewer tourists paying more, but in a country where tourism is a major driver of growth, it’s an approach that could backfire if tourism suffers. Kenya, for instance, was forced to backtrack on VAT after it took a hit in tourist arrivals. Despite the challenges, however, Tanzania has so much to offer. Part of its appeal is the astonishing ease in getting there. Arusha is only a four-hour drive from Nairobi and it is an attractive little city with the towering Mt Meru
as its backdrop. And the Serengeti is arguably a superior park to the Maasai Mara - it’s vast, and the scenery is rugged and beautiful. Outside of the parks, the roads are superb - wide, open and almost completely devoid of traffic. Don’t imagine for a moment, though, that you can hare along them - a zealous police force is always present, enforcing the strict speed limits. A Kenyan driver might find that stifling, but nobody can argue that it hasn’t made the roads safer. When my husband, two small children and I set off on a two-week road trip for northern Tanzania last month, we had only the vaguest idea of where the road might take us. We wended our way through small towns to Lake Victoria, exploring Mwanza, a casual little city on the shores of the lake, and Speke Bay, the western gateway to the Serengeti. The drive back through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area remains one of the most dramatic and beautiful drives I have ever taken in East Africa. But the highlight was assuredly Rubondo Island, a densely-forested national park on Lake Victoria, and one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to track wild chimpanzees. In this issue, we barely scratch the surface of Tanzania, for the country is vast, and we need plenty of reasons to go back. Sheila Rabala, a Kenyan for whom Tanzania is practically a second home, gives us the low-down on Arusha
to inspire your next Tanzanian city break. Meanwhile, we scour the town for the perfect hotel to suit your budget. In our interview with Moiz Husein, an award-winning photographer, we explore the life and times of the Hadzabe tribe, still clinging to their traditions in a fastchanging world. Away from Tanzania, Laura Secorun heads to Jinja, East Africa’s premier rafting spot, where Uganda is pushing ahead with a new dam that will flood some of the most dramatic rapids. For the many tour operators, reinvention might be the only way to survive. In our interview, Michela Wrong, journalist and author, recalls a troubling encounter in Rwanda after the genocide, and Kenyan news anchor Victoria Rubadiri talks about the thrill of plunging into the chaos of Nairobi after a stint away. Revellers go wild at Uganda’s Nyege Nyege festival, while we seek out some weekend hideaways in Gilgil, a handy stopping off point for Lake Nakuru national park or the Aberdares. Meanwhile, we hope this issue inspires you - and forewarns you. For all its problems, Tanzania remains a world-class destination right on our doorstep.
Catrina Stewart catstewartuk
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
COVER PHOTO: LAKE VICTORIA BY JOE WERE
10. TOP SHOTS From a magnificent aerial view of Lake Bogoria, our photographers come back to earth with a coastal scene we can all identify with, and a stunning zebra shot. 14. NEWS Should I stay or should I go? Wild dogs ‘sneeze’ to vote, and Kenya Airways gets its closest yet to launching non-stop flights to North America. 16. WHAT’S ON It’s Storymoja time! A host of artists, mainly of the literary variety, converge on Nairobi for this annual fixture, while sports enthusiasts have the Kilifi triathlon to tantalise them, or run their socks off in Nairobi’s annual Standard Chartered marathon. 19. JINJA GOES WILD Revellers flock to Nyege Nyege, Uganda’s coolest music festival on the Nile. We interview a funky Kenyan act on what’s influencing African music now.
21 GLOBETROTTERS 21. INTERVIEW WITH VICTORIA RUBADIRI The NTV news anchor talks about growing up in New Jersey, and introducing her daughter to some of her childhood mainstays. But it’s Nairobi where her heart is, and she is happy to plunge headlong into the madness.
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
59. INTERVIEW WITH MICHELA WRONG The seasoned journalist and author gives us a glimpse into what it was like reporting in 1990s East Africa. For her little piece of paradise, little beats the peace of Crater Lake near Naivasha for writing a novel.
TANZANIA SPECIAL FEATURES 26-41. TANZANIA SPECIAL In our main feature, we go chimpanzee-tracking on Rubondo Island, a little-known national park on Lake Victoria. We also explore the finer (and less refined) pleasures in Arusha, and peer through photographer Moiz Husein’s lens to gain an insight into the lives of the Hadzabe tribe. Meanwhile, our road trip feature takes us through the dramatic scenery of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
42. UGANDA’S ENDANGERED WHITE WATER Uganda’s world-class rapids at Jinja are a mecca for white-water rafters and kayakers. But a new dam is poised to change all that. Can those who make a living from tourists’ dreams successfully reinvent themselves? 44. FROM MANGO TREE TO MANHATTAN In Kuruwitu, the villagers have turned a plundered sea coast into an abundant haven for marine life. They have been recognised internationally for their efforts, and may hold the key to the future of marine conservation. 46. WALK THROUGH WILSON AIRPORT Oh, all right, so it’s not a part of town exactly. But Wilson, one of the world’s quirkiest little airports, holds interest even for those who’d rather run a mile from a plane, whether it’s the aero club, or a drink with a dash of nostalgia in Dambusters. 48. WEEKEND AWAY IN GILGIL This month, we’re up in Gilgil just south of Nakuru. We explore some of the cosier places at which to stay from an upmarket foodies’ country home to quirky little chalets that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
COLUMNS 22. TRAVEL EXPERIENCE OF THE FUTURE Think Kenya, think safari. That’s so old-hat, argues Morris Kiruga. He embraces an alternative travel experience that has you living and breathing the Nairobi you’ve known. But do you really know it? 25. A WEDDING DAY Samantha du Toit likes getting dust on her feet. And that reminds her of another time when it was pretty dusty - her Maasai wedding day. 54. SIEKU GLAMPING No need to pay through the nose for a luxurious glamping experience. Sieku Glamping in Laikipia brings glamping back to basics - although not too basic - with camping in the wild minus the discomfort and the hassle. 56. RETROSPECTIVE The second in our series exploring the work of Mo Amin, Kenya’s renowned late photographer. We get a glimpse of a 1975 car rally where the racers got a little more than they bargained for.
60. THE LAST WORD In Frances Woodham’s latest satirical take, we watch Martin, in the midst of a mid-life crisis, try to regain his youth … and fail miserably.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
Ayushi Ramaiya Writer Time Travel with the Hadzabe Tribe, Page 40 Another side to Tanzania Swimming with the whale sharks in Tanzania is safe and quite magical. These gentle giants visit Mafia Island from October to February. An educational tour of these endangered creatures coupled with an opportunity to swim with them is a pure delight.
Paul Obuna Photographer Top Shots, Page 10 How did you get into photography? I picked up the my old man’s film camera and shot a couple of rolls of film, but they were really, really bad. I took it as a challenge to start learning about photography and slowly improved. I graduated to a DSLR, and got interested in wildlife and wide open spaces.
Sheila Rabala Writer Five Reasons to Visit Arusha, Page 36 My love affair with Tanzania It started over 16 years ago, and it was love at first sight. There’s something about the courteous people, the unique food and music culture and the sensuality of the Swahili language that to this day keeps me going back for more.
My kind of travel I love going solo. Travelling to daring destinations has always been on my bucketlist. I have done road trips with my Dad, bike rides on snowy, slippery roads meandering through endless hills, jeep rides in the wild, and mountain climbing amid strawberry farms and steep tracks.
My kind of travel It usually involves a Land Cruiser with a roof hatch when I can afford it - to any destination where there is wildlife. But in most cases, I travel in an old beat-up Mazda that has the heart of a four wheel drive.
My kind of travel Take me on a road trip and let’s make several stops sampling different foods. When the sun sets, let’s enjoy the nightlife of the places we visit. I basically have three simple pleasures when travelling; beautiful views, delicious flavourful dishes and good company.
BOOKS WE’RE READING
THE HONEY GUIDE
Richard Crompton It’s just a few days to the 2007 Kenyan elections, and a young prostitute is found dead in a Nairobi park. Maasai detective Mollel, suspecting there’s more to her death than first meets the eye, sets out to find her killer. The story explores tribalism and corrupt elites at a precarious moment in Kenya’s recent history. When it came out in 2013, it was described by Khainga O’Okwemba, president of PEN Kenya, as “the story of contemporary Kenya.”
ON BLACK SISTERS STREET
Chika Unigwe The Nigerian author tells the story of four black sex worker sharing an apartment in Antwerp’s red-light district. When Sisi, one of the girls, is murdered, it prompts the housemates to open up about their own brutal and difficult past. It is Sisi’s story that is perhaps the most difficult to bear. A business graduate unable to get a job in her own country, she looks to sex work to make her fortune. Her hopes and ambitions are gradually eroded, signalling the illusion of the Western dream.
Yaa Gyasi Gyasi’s debut novel, and a New York Times bestseller, chronicles the story of two halfsisters in eighteenth-century Ghana and their descendants in a 300-year sweep. The two never know each, and one marries a British slaver, and the other is sold into slavery and shipped off to the American South for a life in bondage. Gyasi spans different countries and generations but somehow manages to weave it all together, and drive home the bitter legacy of slavery.
NOMAD VOL. 6 · SEPTEMBER 2017 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF CATRINA STEWART DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI, RACHEL MWANGI DIGITAL FRED MWITHIGA SALES, MARKETING & OPERATIONS GILBERT CHEGE, YANIV GELNIK, WAHIDA GIDALI, NJERI GATHARA, DANIEL MUTHIANI, SEINA NAIMASIAH, JANE NAITORI, MICHELLE SLATER, DEVNA VADGAMA, JOY WAIRIMU, RUTH WAIRIMU, WINNIE WANGUI, VANESSA WANJIKU CONTRIBUTORS KATY FENTRESS, MUTIO KELI, MORRIS KIRUGA, SHEILA RABALA, AYUSHI RAMAIYA, LAURA SECORUN, REBECCA STONEHILL, SAMANTHA DU TOIT, FRANCES WOODHAMS CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS DES BOWDEN, JOOSE DIGITAL, KHADIJA FARAH, MOIZ HUSEIN, TATIANA KARANJA, KYLE MIJLOF, PAUL OBUNA, JOE WERE SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL INFO@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
PAUL OBUNA Instagram @paulobuna This image was shot in the Maasai Mara after sunset on our way back to camp. We found a herd of zebra and wildebeest. My focus was on the zebra in the middle. By shooting at f/2.8, I was able to blur the foreground and background. I bumped up my ISO to 640, and shutter speed to 1/3200. I used a Nikon D300S 400mm 2.8, and an old Nikkor Prime lens, which weighs a tonne. With wildlife, I am either shooting a closeup or wide-to-show size. I experiment with different lighting conditions - with the sun behind me and the subject in front, or the reverse. Wildlife photography requires a lot of patience.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
KHADIJA FARAH Instagram @farahkhad I shot this with a Fujifilm XT-2 and 23mm f/2 lens at 11 am. My settings were f/9, an ISO of 320 and 1/1000. While sitting outside the Flamboyant Hotel on Diani beach, I spotted this man walking towards me. The light was harsh but I kept my camera on my lap and shot two frames - one with his hand down and this one. I could have shot the same photo from a higher position or even vertically instead of horizontally. At another time of day, with softer light, this image would look totally different.
KYLE MIJLOF Instagram @mijlof I got the shot with my DJI Mavic Pro. My settings were 1/800, f/2.2 and an ISO of 100. I had not seen any images taken with a drone over Lake Bogoria so I jumped at the opportunity to capture a unique and new perspective of the lake. To others, I would say, shoot during the golden hour, one hour before and after sunrise or sunset, for the most even and dramatic light. I took this at 5.20 pm.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
SNEEZE FOR ‘YES’
If you ever wanted proof that sneezing is catching, now you have it. In a recent study on wild dogs, scientists have concluded that the animals decide whether to hunt by sneezing their consensus. The more sneezes, the more likely a group of dogs will get moving. Too few sneezes, and they’re more likely to lie back down and sleep. Many creatures in the animal kingdom have some kind of consensus system, whether grunts, shrieks or other signals, but the sneeze appears to be a first, according to the British and Australian researchers, who wrote up their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It’s a far cry from one person, one vote, however. Wild dogs can sneeze (or vote) as many times as they like, and a dominant dog is likely to win the day with fewer sneezes.
KENYA’S TOURISM MINISTER WINS UN POST
KQ CLEARED TO FLY NON-STOP TO THE US
Kenya’s tourist minister, Najib Balala, has been appointed as Africa Commissioner for the UN World Tourism Organisation, a post he will hold for two years if Uhuru Kenyatta is re-elected president on October 17. The agency is responsible for promoting tourism as a driver of growth. Balala, tourism minister since late 2015, is credited with helping revive tourism after a spate of terror attacks in Nairobi and on the coast in recent years. Among his moves was to slash national park fees. Tourism, he said at a recent forum, has recovered from a dip to 1.2 million foreign visitors in 2015 to 1.38 million last year. Domestic travellers are on the rise, he said, up from 2.8 million in 2013 to 3.3 million last year.
Kenya Airways has finally won clearance to fly non-stop to the United States, providing a welcome boost for the struggling airline. Direct flights will slash the journey time to around nine hours from twice that with passengers currently forced to transit via Europe, the Middle East or South Africa. Don’t go booking your tickets quite yet, though. US officials, who granted KQ a permit to fly passenger and cargo flights earlier this month, still need to conduct final audits on Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Direct flights are not expected to commence until the summer of 2018.
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KILIFI GOLD TRIATHLON September 30, Kilifi
This popular triathlon on the Kenyan coast is suitable for both beginners and pros. The race kicks off with a 750-metre open water swim in the Kilifi Creek, followed by a bike ride of up around 17 kilometres, ending with a five-kilometre run through sisal plantations. Competitors set off in the cool of the afternoon, finishing up just in time for a sundowner at Mnarani Beach Club. Bliss. Registration officially closes on September 15, but late entrants will be allowed if space permits. www.kilifigoldtriathlon.org
STANDARD CHARTERED MARATHON
Now in its 10th year, StoryMoja is back with a strong line-up of writers, poets and musicians. The five-day festival brings together book and culture lovers for live discussions, storytelling, skits, workshops and family events. The theme this year is Black Peace, and participants include Nigerian novelist Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, last year’s winner of the prestigious NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature, and Sudan’s Bushra al-Fadil, short-story winner of this year’s Caine Prize for African writing. www.storymojafestival.co.ke
It’s marathon season again with the return of the Standard Chartered Marathon, Nairobi’s biggest running event, attracting thousands of participants every year. Competitors get the run of central Nairobi for the day, and can choose to join some of Kenya’s top athletes in the big race, or opt for the half-marathon of 10-kilometre race. Among the competitions are a wheelchair race and a 3-km CEO challenge. The winners of both the male and female marathon will take home a Ksh 1.5 million cash prize. www.nairobimarathon.com
September 27 - October 1, Nairobi
October 29, Nairobi
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
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JINJA GOES WILD Earlier this month, revellers gathered on the banks of the Nile for Nyege Nyege, Uganda’s hippest music festival. Amid torrential rain, performers from across the continent played to huge crowds. Nomad caught up with Ukweli and Jinku, two Nairobi-based producers from the collective East African Wave, both rising stars in the ‘Nu Nairobi’ electronic music scene, to hear more about their experience. What brought you to Nyege Nyege? Jinku: Nu Fvnk and I had gone to Uganda [in 2016] to get signed by Universal Music but it didn’t happen. While we were stranded we met Arlen [ Dilsizian, the festival founder] at the villa his company keeps for hosting visiting artists. We asked him to drop us in town and while we were driving, he asked us what we were doing and if we were interested in playing at his festival. We, of course, said “cool!” How did the 2017 festival compare to last year? Ukweli: The first year we loved it; there are not too many festivals where you have a truly out-of-town experience in a big area and for us it was amazing. Jinku: This year was a bit different as we had to fight for a lot of things. We found ourselves chasing for our hotel and struggling with stage managers and sound engineers. Last year felt better planned but we understand that the scale was much bigger. 300 artists this year compared to 150 last year.
PHOTOS TWENTY MOMENTS, JOOSE DIGITAL
Tell us about the performance EA Wave brought to Nyege Nyege this year. Ukweli: Last year we were still so fresh. We had just done our debut semi-live act [back in Nairobi] and so it was great for us, although extremely hectic. Jinku: This year we were fully live and spent most of the festival practising for our sets. All our live music is reverse-engineered from our electronic stuff, so we have really had to fine-tune our musical instrument skills. How would you describe the style of music at Nyege Nyege? Jinku: It’s like the weirdest of African sounds mixed in with all this electronic stuff: like Nyatiti at midnight. The whole point is that every stage you go to sounds different. At other festivals, there is always a core mainstream appeal but here it feels that it just doesn’t matter. Ukweli: We definitely noticed that the white DJs were playing more African-style sets while the Africans were playing more dance or entirely new styles of music. It feels like the same way people from Europe now look to Africa for new music inspiration, we look to Europe and the US for ours. As told to Katy Fentress
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
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VICTORIA RUBADIRI Nomad talks to the NTV news anchor and reporter about taking the chaos of Nairobi head on, introducing her teenage daughter to the simple pleasures of Atlantic City in New Jersey and how drinking gallons of flower tea means that you never have to stop eating.
PHOTO TATIANA KARANJA
Where is home? Home to me is family. I consider myself to have two homes. Nairobi, Kenya, where I was born and raised [until the age of 10], and the US because I lived there for a good 14 years. So home is anywhere where I have blood relatives or people who are so close that I consider them family. I am always homesick. But what I love is that if I touch down in the US, I can just flow [back] into life there. If I touch down here, I can flow into life here. New Jersey is not one of those states that you brag about being from. I grew up in Atlantic City. It was constantly on resort mode, no matter what time of year. Really laid back. Just like Mombasa. I guess any coastal town or city has that feel. My favourite thing [about Atlantic City] was the boardwalk [promenade]. It was great because you had local entertainment. I loved the funnel cakes. The menace of the boardwalk was seagulls. You literally had to cover your food because the seagulls would come and take off with it. As an adult, I am experiencing the boardwalk with my daughter. She loved the beach. She hated the seagulls just like me. Her getting the funnel cake and having the powdered sugar come off on her nose, those are little joys for me. I love the madness of Nairobi. When I touch down in Nairobi, I feel like I am living again. You just get used to the ridiculous traffic. The only way you can get through is driving like a madwoman. You feel that you have control. As much as that may be mundane for some people, that gives me life because there is never a dull moment on the road. How often do you get out of Nairobi? I work weekends so I don’t get to travel outside of Nairobi as much as I would like to. [My weekend is] Monday and Tuesday. Nairobi is working and I am resting. But the problem is [that] when you want to do stuff, people are tired. I am ready to go out on a Monday evening and people are like, ‘Let’s wind down, take it down a notch.’ I make a point of not thinking about news when I leave the
princesses. And the food was great. What was interesting though, we were the only black people in that room. It was hilarious. But we had fun. We had a blast. To be able to give that to her at that age I count as a blessing. Worst trip ever? We were travelling to Atlanta [in the US state of Georgia] to visit a friend who works for CNN. I had just bought my iPhone so I was treating it like a newborn baby. We were at the belt, waiting for our luggage to come out. Then the belt stops. For a good 15 minutes, they have no idea what is going on. So one of the attendants comes and he’s like: “Anyone with a purple bag?” So I am thinking, I have a purple bag. The lock on my bag somehow got stuck in the belt and stopped everything. They had to cut it out. My zip broke. I had some wipes in my bag that were a bit wetter than usual so the liquid got into my phone, my brand new iPhone. I had to turn the phone off, let it sit for 15 minutes. I turned it back on and the moment I did, [my friend] was calling me. I told her, “You have no idea what we’ve been through.” That had to be the worst leg of a trip but not the worst trip.
studio. For us, it’s so hard not to work. Even if you’re home and you turn on the news, you are working. You’re thinking, ‘They could have taken that angle with that story.’ But I make a point to turn the TV off. Best trip ever? I would say in 2015 when my daughter and I went to Disney World. The first time we went she was like one year old. She forgot about everything. [This time] she was a lot older and at the age where she was soaking everything in. We went for lunch at Cinderella’s castle and it was amazing. She met all her favourite
Best food trip? China was amazing. It’s funny you think you know Chinese food because you’ve eaten in all the Chinese restaurants. But Chinese food in China is totally different from the commercialised mess we get in different parts of the world. I really liked how communal it was. It brought people together. Some eating habits of the Chinese were quite different. There was this flower tea that they served throughout the meal. Why? Because you’re going to be eating a lot. It feels like an 18-course meal. Afterwards I was wondering how I was able to eat so much and not feel bloated. The tea. It was the tea. As told to Mutio Keli
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
A KENYAN TRAVELLER
few months ago, a startup called Turnup Travel organised an unusual urban experience. A full 24 hours divided between a city tour and nightlife. Photographers, writers and travel enthusiasts alike were up and about by 5.30 am, exploring Nairobi from her tallest rooftops. You would be surprised how much the business of city life obscures from you, how much of the city changes when you are looking but not really seeing. Urban centres are living, breathing spaces. So why don’t we explore them more? It’s interesting how few people know of Kenya’s first richest man, AM Jeevanjee, whose only remaining legacy is a small park hemmed in by four streets. Or that the park with the Moi Monument is not Uhuru Park, but Central Park. Uhuru is the one on your left as you head up Kenyatta Avenue away from town. The park on your right - the smaller and more serene one behind Serena Hotel - is Central Park. It’s a small detail, but an important one. It’s easy to miss the fact that cities have a pulse. If you listen closely as you walk through, you can feel it breathe. You can also see its scars. You see the beggar on the street and the book vendor separated by only a few feet. You can hear the clatter of footsteps as streams of men and women walk to pay their dues for living in the 21st century. You can hear their laughter, as two grab each other in excitement and then move to the side to catch up, but only for a few minutes. If you sit at the GPO stage in Nairobi on a good day, you will notice a vintage building across the road. That little building is called
Kipande House; when it was built in 1913, its clock tower and curved dome were the marvel of the city. It is now dwarfed by everything around it, but until 1935, it was the tallest building in Nairobi. It was originally a railway depot, then the place where the government issued identification documents, or kipandes, that paper in a small brown metal can that could have meant life or death. Because this city is now a century old, the changes are less obvious. When I was a kid, I would be in awe of how my father knew all the streets and buildings in the city. He was the ultimate tour guide, mainly because when he went to campus, Nairobi was still a city learning to crawl. There was no KICC, no Times Towers, most of the monuments were still colonial relics, and most roads and streets still had their old names. But that changed on steroids between 1970 and 2002, as two different presidents struggled to build a Kenyan identity and become what it is today. The daytime tour ended at another small park in the city, this time downtown. The site of the August 1998 bombing [on the US Embassy by Al Qaeda] is now a tiny green space with an exhibition, a monument, and a screening room. It’s built to commemorate a painful four minutes in Kenyan history when all hell broke loose and hundreds died. When darkness fell, we took an Uber to Four Points by Sheraton to begin a whirlwind of a bar crawl. We moved to Brew Bistro on Ngong Road to see the brewery, then to its other branch across town to make cocktails and have a chicken wing competition. It was then on to Tav, a new space at The Mirage, then down to Utalii House in the city centre to one of the few surviving legends of Nairobi
nightlife, Mwenda’s. The deal, at the end of the night, was that at least one of us had to make it to the most famous fast-food joint in this city, Sonford Fish and Chips, which, ironically, does not sell fish. By this time, waking up early to catch sunrise shots and walking one quadrant of the city had taken its toll. Of 55 people who had begun the trip that morning, there were only two of us left standing, and the other was dozing off in the car. The travel experience of the future can’t work with the idea that safari is enough. If Nairobi is the only capital city in the world with a game park within its limits (it isn’t), then clearly younger travellers can go for a game drive and still be at work before the boss even notices. The experience of even watching the wildebeest migration isn’t enough by itself anymore, because those experiences have always been packaged for rich, older tourists. Imagine a travel experience that makes you stop and actually notice the quirky things that happen in a city through which you walk or drive every day. It’s just one example, and there are many others. Travellers want unique experiences designed for them. We want to explore and learn, we want to feel the rush and have beer on a small cruise ship as we listen to the latest hits and watch the sunset. We want to do it with our friends, or a random collection of equally adventurous travellers. We want to do it with our lovers, and at times our pets. In short, we want to collect experiences, and these are still few and far between. Something needs to change. Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com
PHOTO BRIAN SIAMBI
Safaris are old-hat. Morris Kiruga takes a different kind of tour, and wonders if it isn’t more relevant to Kenyans today.
Entumoto Private Safari Camp stands elevated in the hills of a private and secluded escarpment, commanding breathtaking views and sunsets over the Mara plains. Intimate and exclusive, it is designed to provide for your total comfort in the heart of Africa. On the border of the legendary Maasai Mara reserve, we are privileged to be part of arguably the worldâ€™s most spectacular wildlife sanctuary. Situated in the newly formed Siana Conservancy, the Camp boasts an organic garden that guarantees guests fresh vegetables.They have just opened the Entumoto Toto which mainly caters for drive-in guests.
CONTACTS NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017 23 Tel: 0713400903. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org www.entumoto.com
Escape to paradise in Kenyaâ€™s South coast!! Enjoy sea breezes with breathtaking views from your luxury accommodations. Discover the beauty, wonder and enchantment of this amazing location hideaway. Plan your next Beach Safari with us!
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NOTES FROM THE BUSH
A WEDDING DAY
Samantha du Toit recalls her initiation into a Maasai celebration that blends tradition with a dose of common sense.
y feet are always dusty; and I love it. Dust, and lots of it, is part of life here. I love seeing the happy, dust-streaked faces of my kids after an early morning drive; the dust devils starting up, spinning across the plains, lifting and tossing debris in its path like a cheeky child in a sand pit; the dust thrown up by hooves of the cattle as they walk home in the setting sun. And it reminds me of my Maasai wedding day. It was a dry July, and there had been no rain for many, many months. Maasai women gathered at dawn at the camp to prepare food. After hours of laughter and conversation, none of which I could understand, buckets of chapatis, large thermoses of sweet tea and huge pots of meat stew were ready. My husband-to-be, Johann, a non-Maasai like me, had joined the men in slaughtering a large bull, traditionally a special wedding blessing, which was to be roasted by the men. Throwing himself into the expected role, he had sampled the much sought-after raw fat from the rump of the cow. I set off to the house of my Maasai ‘mother’ to prepare. Had I been a Maasai, my wedding day would have been the last morning in my childhood home and a sad day for my family and, indeed, for me. As it was, my chosen mother took me in and dressed me in a handmade skirt and tunic and decked me out in beads from top to toe in a beautiful blend of western and traditional attire. I declined to be covered from head to foot in ochre as a
traditional Maasai girl would have been. Once ready, I waited in the dark and smoky hut, waiting for my groom and his party to arrive to collect me. When they arrived, bearing gifts of warm beers and sodas, with my actual family alongside as observers of the whole affair, Johann was ushered into the small hut to join me perched on the cowskin bed. Four elders, including my Maasai ‘mother’ and ‘father’ and a translator squeezed in too. The elders started by blessing us and our future, and then embarked on a surprisingly serious lecture, particularly aimed at Johann, it seemed, about the sanctity of marriage. They stressed that marriage was for life, and that nothing should be allowed to change this. Problems were to be talked over, and then taken to the elders if we were not able to resolve them ourselves. The heat in the crowded little hut was intense, as were the lessons of life we were being given. Presently, it was time for us to leave. As I walked out into the sunshine, my ‘father’ placed fresh green grass into my shoes and on the top of the doorway. I was astonished at the sight of the grass since I knew he would have had to walk for hours to find it. I then stepped deliberately onto some fresh cow dung, and had milk sprayed on me as I stood up; these were blessings of wealth and prosperity. A traditional gourd of milk was tucked into my clothing and I lined up behind Johann, head down and sombre as I had been instructed, following him and his party out of the thornfence enclosure and towards my new home. Instead of walking to my husband’s boma,
as was traditional, we jumped into various cars and followed each other in clouds of dust, across the plains. The sight that greeted us is one I will never forget – over 100 Maasai women in brightlycoloured traditional clothing and beads met us and walked us into the camp, singing all the way, welcoming us into our ‘new’ home. More blessings followed from another gathering of elders and then the feasting began. In a traditional wedding, the bride would now be confined to her new home in a dark hut essentially to mourn the day away and show respect as a stranger in her new home. It was accepted that I would behave differently, and I was allowed to stay outside and join in the rest of the day. As the sun was starting to set, the celebrations continued. Hundreds of people had turned up, including some young warriors who were dancing and feasting. Johann and I snuck away unnoticed and sat quietly to reflect on the day. We felt grateful for the gracious welcome into this traditional society and the chance to be a part of a special celebration. But they had also been considerate of our different backgrounds in how the celebration had taken shape. I looked down at my feet. The green grass was gone, but they were dusty. And I was happy. Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
VICTORIA’S ENCHANTED ISLE Rubondo Island is probably one of Tanzania’s best-kept secrets. Yet it’s one of the few places in the world to track wild chimpanzees. Catrina Stewart heads to Lake Victoria in search of the apes. PHOTOS: CATRINA STEWART, ASILIA
otinik looks glum as he fiddles with his radio. The spotters, out since early morning, haven’t heard, yet alone seen, any chimpanzees yet. But everywhere there is evidence of their recent movements - a leafy bed high up in the trees, the stark imprint of a footprint, a slimy dollop of regurgitated forest fruits. We have been walking for nearly an hour now through thick tangled jungle, and we know we’re on their trail. Trouble is, chimps move fast, and they could be miles away. We could be part of a slick military operation - the trackers, several of them, have fanned out since early morning, keeping in regular radio contact as they look and listen for the chimps. Rotinik, an experienced tracker with the Tanzanian Park Authorities, is bedecked with rifle and walkie talkie. We walk on - silently, each immersed in our own thoughts. I wonder if we might not see the chimps at all. The radio crackles to life, and Rotinik flashes us his first real smile of the day. The trackers have heard their chimps - but they’re some distance away still. “Many kilometres,” he says. “Is it ok?” We nod enthusiastically. We haven’t come all this way to Rubondo, a hard-to-reach island in Lake Victoria, to give up so soon. Suddenly, there is a heavy crashing from close by, and I jump fearfully. Elephant. Hemmed in by the forest, we can’t see them, but they trumpet their presence. As Rotinik unslings his rifle, trigger finger at the ready, he tells us we have to find a way around. I half expect a grey pachyderm to plunge out of the undergrowth at any moment. The chimps are plainly terrified, too. The trackers, their voices coming over urgent on the radio, say they are on the move - and fast. ‘JURASSIC PARK WITHOUT THE DINOSAURS’ Rubondo was first described to me as “Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs.” The long stretch of island - densely thicketed, and only vaguely mapped - has emerged as something of a Noah’s Ark for endangered species. Giraffe, elephant, various types of antelope, including the rare Sitatunga, bush pig and rhino (later poached out) were all introduced here, a haven far from the plains of the Serengeti and its predators, where the animals could survive in perfect isolation if the rest of Africa went to pot. But it is the chimpanzees that are arguably the island’s biggest draw. German zoologist Bernhard Grzimek rescued a dozen or so chimpanzees from zoos and circuses across Europe in the 1960s, and dropped them onto Rubondo. The chimps were mostly young orphans when taken into captivity, never learning the basic
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TANZANIA skills of survival out in the wild. The move to reintroduce them into the wild was an experiment in the truest sense of the word. Would they learn how to hunt, how to forage? For the next few decades, the world forgot about them - and the chimps thrived. From a mere dozen of chimps, Rubondo’s dense tangle of jungle is now home to as many as 60. Although one group in the north has grown used to humans, there are two other groups that are rarely seen, yet alone studied. They live a blithe existence, unthreatened and untouched. Remarkably, it remains the only successful reintroduction of captive chimps into the wild. A STORMY CROSSING Situated in the southwestern part of Lake Victoria in Tanzania, Rubondo is not the easiest place to reach. As we drove across Tanzania, we buoyed our children with the prospect of a fairytale island with firebreathing dragons. By the time we reached Nkome, our sailing departure point, the weather was closing in, and the mystique of Rubondo was, for the kids at least, losing some of its appeal. Waves smashed against the jetty, and Emmanuel, the boat’s captain, urged us to hurry up. Within moments of setting off, I could see why. The wind had picked up and rain was falling hard, its slanted needles slashing my face. My three-year-old daughter clutched a poncho with her tiny fists, and stuck her head under, not to re-emerge for the hour-long stormy crossing. As we fought our way through Lake Victoria’s roiling waters, half-baked memories of ferry disasters in these waters flitted across my mind. We might have been in the North Atlantic, not Africa’s largest lake. But as we motored into Rubondo Island, the wind dropped, and we tumbled out, drenched, from the boat onto the a crescent-shaped beach. “It may look like paradise,” Larry, Rubondo Island Camp’s manager, greeted us, “but there are crocodiles and hippos. So no swimming.” It wasn’t a day for swimming in the pool, either, and my children took the news with dismay. Over tea, Rosie, my five-year-old sobbed, “I thought there would be dragons and fairies, and seashells to pick up, and waves to jump over.” MENACING CROCODILES The next morning, however, dawned bright and clear, the previous day’s turmoil forgotten. We led the children through the forest, looking for antelope and monitor lizards, before taking the boat out again, this time to gaze at the dozens of crocodiles perched menacingly on a outcrop a short motor from the camp. But no tourists have ever come to harm on Rubondo, and the proximity of such creatures provided an excitement and thrill at brushing so close to nature. By late afternoon, the children were immersed on the beach, busy collecting snail shells and other washed-up debris. Dragons
The move to introduce chimpanzees into the wild was an experiment in the truest sense of the world. Would they learn how to hunt, to forage? RUBONDO ISLAND CAMP
This is the only top-end place on the island, attractively located on its own beach. Accommodation is in spacious, thatched cottages set a couple of hundred yards back from the beach. For honeymooners, or a spot of romance, try the treehouse for a night, a secluded room perched among the trees with an open-air tub. The lodge has a large lounge and dining area catching the lake breezes, and a pool. Activities include game walks, boat rides, chimp tracking and fishing. Starts at $200 pp a night for East African residents, inclusive of all food and drink. No children five and under. www.asilia.com
Run by the Tanzanian Park Authority (Tanapa), these bandas offer very affordable accommodation on a private beach. Lake-facing bandas, really brick huts, are simple, but offer excellent value. There’s a big kitchen on site for those choosing to self cater, but food can be provided at an additional fee. There’s a comfortable furnished (beached) boat, shaded from the sun, for relaxing on during the day. As at Rubondo Island Camp, chimp tracking can be arranged, but requires some time to set up. Reservations are managed through Tanapa’s office in Arusha. Starts from about $25 pp.
there were none, but there was an island to explore, a pool to splash in, and plenty of sand to feed the imagination. Later, we fell into conversation with our fellow guests. They had returned from tracking chimps, and had watched in amazement as the primates caught and tore apart a bush buck, a rare sighting for a creature that is one of our closest relatives. As we panted in pursuit of Rotinik, now firmly on the trail of the chimps, I pondered the bloodthirstiness of these creatures, who to all appearances seem so gentle. Chimps normally
feast on berries, but when food is scarce, do go for meat. Suddenly, two spotters plunged out of the thicket, their faces glistening with exertion. They were both smiling, and said that the chimps were close. Indeed, soon we could hear the shrill shrieks as the chimps called to each other, and as a group we set off at speed in their direction. For the next hour, we crouched and crawled across the forest floor, peering through the dense undergrowth for a glimpse of the apes. In Gombe park to the south, our guide explained, the chimps are fed, making close-quarters observation a near certainty. On Rubondo, the process of habituation has been much more natural, and several teams of researchers had tried - and failed - before to get close to them. FORGING A BOND When Asilia took over Rubondo Island Camp in 2013, it poured money into the chimps’ habituation, achieved by a large team of very intrepid, very patient guides who have worked painstakingly to forge a bond with the shy primates. This was taking safari to another level. We were more or less alone on this island, tracking our quarry. I fancifully compared myself to the hunters of the last century, who would spend days in pursuit of their prey, to be finally rewarded. For us, though, there was no bloody end. Just the pleasure of glimpsing the chimps in their natural habitat, sitting under a tree scratching or munching on a piece of fruit. Or swinging through the trees, the chimps acutely aware of our presence, but not unduly concerned by it. It was time to head home - and back to our children. As the boat that came to collect us eased past rocks to the stony shore, we spotted a rock python in the water between us and the boat, its massive, coiling body inert, waiting for its prey. I wondered fretfully if roles were about to be reversed, and took a leap of faith to scramble onto the waiting boat. Emmanuel’s hand clutched mine, and I was safely aboard. This was true African jungle - raw, untouched, enchanting. The writer and her family were guests of Rubondo Island Camp.
FEES AND LOGISTICS • East African residents pay $30 per adult in park fees, $15 for children aged 5-15. EA Citizens pay Ksh 230, and Ksh100 for children. • Rubondo Island Camp can arrange boat transfers from Nkome on the southern tip, starting at $200 (for four passengers). Both the camp and bandas can also arrange the shorter boat transfer from Kisenda on the Western shore for $100. • Alternatively, Auric Air flies from Mwanza and Bukoba, and will stop at Rubondo if at least two passengers.
Tracking the chimpanzees
Aerial view of Rubondo
Rubondo Island Camp
Rubondo Island Camp
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
GREAT SPOTS TO SEE CHIMPS IN THE WILD When it comes to primate trekking in East Africa, gorillas remain the go-to choice for many. Viewing these incredible creatures comes at a hefty price tag, however. Why not set out on a chimpanzee experience instead, available at a fraction of the price? They might be harder to find, but little beats observing the human-like habits of these great apes in the wild. Mahale Mountains, Western Tanzania It’s tough to get to, not to mention expensive, but Mahale Mountains, rising over Lake Tanganyika, offer perhaps the most dramatic and scenic setting in which to view chimpanzees in the wild. Visitors can only reach the isolated reserve by boat or plane, and normally spend a few days there, going out each day to track chimps. The great apes here are more habituated to humans than in some places, and sightings are not only pretty much guaranteed, but visitors can enjoy the thrill of observing the chimps at close quarters. Accommodation options range from relatively inexpensive bandas on the shores of the lake to the upmarket lodge, Greystoke Mahale. $80 entrance fee for non-residents; Tsh 5,000 ($2.50) for EAC citizens. $20 per small group for guiding, or Tsh5,000 for EAC citizens. Gombe, Western Tanzania Primatologist Jane Goodall’s work in documenting chimps in Gombe National Park helped bring this reseve to prominence.
Although less dramatic than Mahale, it is easier and cheaper to reach, making it more feasible for independent travellers. Depending on the season (and the food source), trekking for chimps here can be strenuous, involving long hikes through forested hills. Like in Mahale, the chimps are well habituated, offering opportunities for close viewing. Access is again by boat along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. For the adventurous, consider taking the MV Liemba steamer from Kigoma (sailings every two weeks) and a private boat back. $100 entrance fee for non-residents; Tsh 10,000 ($5) for EAC citizens. $20 per small group for guiding, or Tsh 5,000 for EAC citizens. Kibale Forest, Western Uganda This is probably Uganda’s best location for tracking chimpanzees, and it boasts the highest primate density in the world. Its biggest selling point is its chimp habituation experience, which allows visitors to pay an additional fee to spend an entire day tracking and observing chimpanzees. Chimp viewing is arguably
less intimate than in Mahale and Gombe, but there’s a plethora of other primates to see, including the grey-cheeked mangabey, the redtailed monkey, and different types of Colobus monkeys. Chimp trekking costs $150 (including entrance fee) per foreigner resident, 100,000 Ugandan shillings ($27) for EAC citizens. The day-long experience costs an additional $150 per resident, and 70,000 Ugandan shillings ($20) for citizens. There is a range of accommodation options in the park for different budgets. Chimp info • Children under 12 are generally not allowed to track chimpanzees in established parks. • Visitors might be required to don face masks to prevent transmission of disease to the great apes, which share more than 98 percent of our DNA. • For the longer habituation experience in Kibale, visitors must be 15 and over.
Since 2006, Onsea House has been a synonym for charming comfort in a picturesque setting, which is unique in Arusha. With a more personal approach than in a hotel and more privacy than a lodge resort, we aim to be your preferred luxury Bed & Breakfast.
Just next doors and yet almost worlds apart, Machweo offers larger and more luxurious rooms in a tranquil Boutique Hotel environment, while maintaining the same personal approach. Machweo is a refuge for those who enjoy the finer things in life since 2011. CONTACT US Tanzania: 24h Reception Desk: +255 689 103 552 | Reservations +255 784 833 207 NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017 31 The Netherlands: Marketing & Sales +31 622 744 340 Eâ€‘mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.onseahouse.com | www.machweo.com
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A TRIP ON THE WILD SIDE A 1,300 kilometre road trip in northern Tanzania sounded like a good idea. But what with zealous cops, the Serengeti’s atrocious roads and hefty entrance fees, Catrina Stewart starts to wonder if it was all worth it.
sk them what they’re looking at,” I said to my husband. We’ve pulled up alongside several game vehicles, the occupants all peering at something in the long grass a few metres away. “No, you ask them,” he said. “Oh come on,” I wheedled, “you ask.” We were at an impasse, both too embarrassed to ask, and so we reluctantly pulled away. My husband thought he saw a pair of ears, I just saw long grass. It was day seven of our ten-day road trip, and tempers were frayed, the car a crumbstrewn disaster zone, and we still had a long way to go. If we’d thought this through, we might have reconsidered the wisdom of carting two small children and a bootful of camping gear that we’d never use on a 1,300-kilometre road trip around Tanzania.
When we first mooted the idea of a road trip, we imagined we’d drive through western Kenya, and cross the border at Migori. But as protests swept parts of Kenya after the election, the road through Migori was out, and we opted for the well-trodden Namanga route instead. Still, my husband suggested, we could come back through the West, could we not. Except that we couldn’t. All my research on logbooks was for nought as I had foolishly failed to obtain the correct paperwork to exit by a different border. The only plan set in stone was to head for Lake Victoria - and Rubondo Island (see main feature, page 26) - and, frankly, the rest was up to the gods. With two small children, though, it helps to know where you are going to stay, and by the second day of our trip, we were already making slow time.
A SPEEDING FINE Less than a hundred kilometres out of Arusha, a policeman waved us over. I sighed, “Here we go again. That’s five now.” The policeman smiled benignly as he swaggered over to our car. He took my driving licence, turning it this way and that, and thoughtfully eyed the watchful children in the back. Just as I thought he was about to wave us on, he said mildly, “You were driving very, very fast.” “I wasn’t,” I protested, my outrage genuine. “Really, I wasn’t.” His smile didn’t falter, and he simply said, “Go and talk to my colleague then, and he’ll show you.” I reluctantly got out of the car, and went to talk to the policeman sitting under a tree. To my surprise, he handed me his iPad, and I looked in dismay at the photograph of my car sailing past a 50 kph sign at 55 kph a couple of towns back. As I handed
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TANZANIA over 30,000 shillings, I realised my wad of Tanzanian notes was as evaporating as quickly as my hopes of making it to our next stop in good time for the night. It was the fifth time we had been stopped by the police, and before the week was out, we would count 15 stops in all. Most of the time, they would ask us to turn on our lights, show us the fire extinguisher, and rifle through the first-aid kit. A LAKESIDE REVELATION As we pulled up at our hotel in Mwanza, the toll was beginning to tell. Our kids, cooped up for long hours in the car, were getting harder and harder to put down for the night, we were all sharing a bed to cut down on the costs, and we hadn’t had a good meal since Arusha. But Lake Victoria was a revelation, Mwanza more so. The town tumbles down the hillside into the horseshoe bay, and docked at our hotel was a version of the African Quee. It was actually MV Buganda, a steamship that had languished at the bottom of the bay for decades after playing its part as the German steam boat sunk at the end of the film of the same name. Over a couple of cocktails, my husband and I wondered at the lack of passenger ferry plying the lake between Kisumu in Kenya and Mwanza. What passenger transport there is confined to lake crossings to Bukoba on Tanzania’s western shore. We sat there, overlooking Africa’s biggest lake, the city’s lights twinkling in the dusk, and wondered why more people don’t come here. The next day, we continued north up to the lakeshore towards Speke Bay, named after the explorer John Speke Hanning who identified the lake as the source of the Nile. We idled at Speke Bay Lodge, an attractive hotel on the shore, to kill time before entering the Serengeti. MILITARY-STYLE PRECISION A trip into the Serengeti - if you’re watching your cash, at least - requires some militarystyle planning. Enter too early, and you’ll be hard pressed to reach the eastern gate the following morning. Enter too late, and you’ll have too little time to spend at your lodgings. With the daily cost for a family in the Serengeti now upwards of $200, not including the new concession fee, I was determined not to overstay our 24 hours. Within a few moments, we met a car hurtling towards us. “Why are they going so fast?” I asked my husband. “Isn’t the speed limit 50 kph?” But as I wrestled with my car over the most extreme corrugations I’ve ever encountered, I realised through trial and error that the faster I went, the smoother the ride, and the better I could control the car. And so our first day in the Serengeti was a blur of terrain and animals, before pulling into Mbalageti Serengeti, our lodgings for the night. There are many advantages to a spontaneous road trip - a sense of adventure, freedom and promise, to name but a few - but seeing wildlife up close probably isn’t one of them. When we set off the next morning - early enough to build in a game drive - we were
MBAGALETI SERENGETI Top-end lodge situated in the Serengeti’s quieter Western Corridor. Accommodation is in thatched, tented cottages perched on a hillside with extraordinary views over the national park. FB from $250 pp sharing. www.mbalageti.com
SPEKE BAY LODGE Lakeside retreat with rondavelstyle, modern cottages, and a convivial restaurant and bar on the lakeside. One of the few decent places to stay in this area. Starts at $90 pp half-board. The hotel also has cheaper tented accommodation. www.spekebay.com
again forced to drive at speed. At Seronera, where the road forks south towards the exit, we followed several game vehicles off road. But with no guide to show us where to go, and too ashamed to ask when we did see a cluster of vehicles, we kicked ourselves for not planning this better. LUNAR LANDSCAPE We had better luck in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which adjoins the Serengeti, and through which you have to go (and pay for a 24-hour pass) if heading
My wad of Tanzanian shillings was as evaporating as quickly as my hopes of making it to our next stop in good time.
SELF DRIVING? HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW SUGGESTED ROUTE Outward route Inward route Map courtesy of The Africa Adventure Company. www.africa-adventure.com
NDUTU SAFARI LODGE Dutch-run lodge catering more to travellers on a budget, researchers and photographers. Rustic dining and lounge area, and comfortable but small rooms. Rates start from $100 pp per night. www.ndutu.com
for Arusha. We were staying at Ndutu Lodge, a low-key lodge far from the crater and in an area few people visit. As we drove out on a game drive, we came across a solitary cheetah, ambling along the road in front of us. But as our kids tore apart the living area, scattering games, dominoes and playing cards, we reckoned we might soon outstay our welcome. The best scenery of the trip was still to come. We had no plans to enter the crater at $200 a pop, but the three-hour drive to the main gate took us through the most spectacular lunar-like landscape. If we had had a few more days, we
might have considered adding on a trip to Lake Natron, but time was running out, and the kids wanted to get back to CBeebies. The car gave up as we pulled up at the exit. My husband turned the ignition, and nothing happened. All the jolting had unravelled the connections to the battery, but for all that, it had got us this far. With the help of a local mechanic, we got it restarted, and hit the tarmac to Arusha. This time, there were no police to stop us, and for once, I felt brave enough to put my foot down on the open road.
• If you’re taking your own car, and plan to use different border crossings, you will need to lodge your logbook with the Kenya Revenue Authority in Nairobi, which will then give you a letter to present at the border. Obtain notarised copies of your logbook, which at the lesser-used Isebania crossing have sometimes been sufficient instead of the letter from the KRA. If you plan to enter and exit by the same crossing, you leave your original logbook with Kenyan customs. • Allow 90 minutes to cross the border. On the Kenyan side, head to departures to be stamped out, and then to customs in the same building to clear your vehicle. On the Tanzanian side, obtain a stamp or visa, and show the logbook receipt obtained on the Kenyan side. • You will be required to show COMESA insurance for your vehicle, which you can obtain through your local insurer. You will also have to pay a $20 fee on the Tanzanian side if you are planning to drive for more than one week. • Foreigners will require a visa - costing $50 per person, including children - while East African citizens will need their passport stamped. You will also be required to show a valid Yellow Fever certificate. • Be sure to carry the correct gear in your car, such as a working fire extinguisher, accident plates and a first-aid kit, in case you are stopped (very likely) by the Tanzanian police. Failure to carry any of these can result in a fine on the spot. Speed limits of 50 kph in towns, and 80 kph on the main road, are strictly enforced with speed traps sometimes located at the entrance or exit to towns.
SUGGESTED ROUTE Plan it well, and a circular route through Kenya and Tanzania makes for an incredible road trip. We suggest taking driving through Western Kenya - with the route through Narok the most direct - to the border at Isebania. Build in some extra time to spend a few days on the shores of Lake Victoria, with Mwanza well worth the detour. It’s about three hours from Isebania to the Serengeti’s western gate, and give it about seven hours to reach the eastern exit into Ngorongoro. From the entrance into Ngorongoro, where you will be required to pay a 24-hour fee even if only transiting, it takes about 2.5 hours to the exit. The crater entrance is about 90 minutes into the journey. From the exit, it’s roughly 2.5 hours back to Arusha, and another 90 minutes to Namanga border crossing into Kenya.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
REASONS TO VISIT Arusha
1. DRINK SOUP IN THE MORNING
This might sound strange but bear in mind that Tanzanians love their food. A dish that is a staple in the morning in this town is mtori, a savoury soup made from green bananas and meat. It takes hours to prepare but it is full of flavour. Most restaurants and bars like Fifi’s serve this delicacy as early as 7 am. The coffee culture is also quite exquisite with top-class cafés in the city such as Cafe Barrista and Msumbi Coffees. If you are a bonafide coffee lover, then visit the coffee lodges in the outskirts of the city.
By Sheila Rabala 2. VISIT THE VIBRANT FOOD MARKET
The minute you walk into the central market known as ‘Soko Kuu’ in Swahili, the first thing you notice is the lively atmosphere. Rows and rows of stalls stocked with exotic spices, fruits and nuts that are not available in neighbouring countries. Bring your wits with you as traders are keen to make a killing and locals are eager to be your tour guide with, of course, some gratuity expected for their vigilant efforts.
3. VISIT THE MUSEUMS
There’s something for everyone when it comes to exploring the town’s museums. The Natural History Museum, located in a fortified compound, has a section dedicated to the evolution of man. The Arusha Declaration Museum chronicles the political growth of the town, colonial history and development of Tanzania. If you’re after keepsakes, head over to the Cultural Heritage Centre for crafts and artefacts. One for the thrill-seekers is the Meserani Snake Park. Take a guided tour and learn about some of the most dangerous snakes in the world including the black mamba, cobras and pythons. For the fearless, there’s the chance to hold a snake!
4. HAVE SOME NYAMA CHOMA
Many establishments in this town - Milestone is one - have perfected the art of grilling meat, be it chicken, beef, goat or even matumbo (tripe). When you walk into these establishments, don’t expect a menu, as the locals are already familiar with the delicacies on offer. Sip on your favourite drink as you await your meal and enjoy the true hospitality of the friendly people. Music is loved almost as much as the food, if not more. A quiet sundowner will turn into an exciting music scene as the evening progresses.
5. DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY!
Arusha has a number of dancing spots to offer, one of them being the Don Lounge. Judging by how calm and relaxed Arusha can be during the day, you might not expect to find a vibrant nightlife, but as the sun goes down, the town reveals a whole new side. From spacious lounges to sports bars and grills, Arusha’s night clubs offer different theme nights including karaoke nights and live bands. After a great evening of music and dance, cure your hangover first thing in the morning with mtori.
THREE PLACES FOR THREE BUDGETS IN ARUSHA
This relatively new entrant on the scene is one of Arusha’s most mellow properties, and a real foodies’ gem with a Belgian-African twist to the cuisine. Clusters of cottages overlook the pool and valley in the foothills around Mt Meru. The rooms have a homely feel, and are tastefully furnished with antique desks, four-poster beds, and African art. They open out onto their own private terrace to take in the views. Machweo is the more upmarket offering to Onsea House, the neighbouring hotel owned by the same. For East African residents, a double room starts at $195. www.onseahouse.com
Karama is about 4 kilometres from the city centre, and it’s easy to forget you’re in the city at this intriguing hillside lodge. Not one for the less mobile, cabins on stilts are dotted over a steep slope. Each cabin has cleverly-designed bathrooms and showers, tucked into the corners, and a relatively spacious room with veranda (with steep drop, so watch the kids) overlooking the pool and trees below. The selling point is the main bar and lounge area, a very light and airy place to while away a few hours with a good book. The restaurant downstairs serves up decent food. Double from $116. www.karama-lodge.com
This is a good budget option popular with backpackers within walking distance from the city centre. Although everything is pretty closely hemmed in, including the small pool, it’s set in its own leafy gardens, and has a restful feel. Rooms are plain and simple - very spacious, with wrought-iron beds and bunkbeds, and a small patio space outside. The convivial, outdoor restaurant is located next to some of the rooms, so there’s a chance you won’t get much sleep if there is a raucous group on site. Or you could just join the party. Double from $69. www.outpost-lodge.com * Prices based on low-season rates
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
Lodges, Camps & Boutique Beach Hotels In Harmony With Africa Elewana Serengeti Migration Camp
Elewana Kilindi Zanzibar
Elewana Tarangire Treetops
Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge
Elewana Serengeti Pioneer Camp email@example.com
Elewana The Manor at Ngorongoro
lewana Arusha Coffee Lodge exudes a welcome as warm as Africa. Located within the immense Burka Coffee plantation, the Lodge is a sanctuary of cool tranquility. To stay at Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge is to take a small step back in time, with all the trappings of a modern, luxury boutique hotel. Amidst the coffee trees and lovely gardens, vibrant with birdlife, the main lodge building is warm and welcoming, with a quiet understated aura of luxury. Intermingled in a sea of coffee trees, the exteriors of the Lodge’s thirty suites and rooms are reminiscent of traditional plantation houses while the interiors are modern, airy and spacious. Rooms are as indulgent, equipped with rain showers, luxurious bathtubs, private terraces, log fires and butler service. With comfort in mind, guests at Elewana Arusha Coffee are invited to relax and unwind. A foodie’s haven, the Lodge is filled with delicious aromas of gourmet cuisine pervading the air and mingling with the scents from the
gardens and coffee plantation. With a variety of restaurants and settings, Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge satisfies the most discerning palates and has its own vegetable garden, providing daily fresh produce to your table. The grounds at Elewana Arusha Coffee lodge are a welcome retreat. Take your time discovering a lavish spa and refreshing swimming pool, or the restaurant and cafe bistro. For those with a desire to shop, the Trader’s Walk a collection of five boutiques, and gourmet eateries, showcases some of the best creativity and ingenuity of Tanzania Visit Shanga, a social enterprise creating amazing arts and crafts and providing employment to physically disadvantage Tanzanians. Their high-quality, handmade arts, crafts and jewellery, often made from recycled materials such as glass products are sold in Tanzania and all over the world, with profits reinvested into the business. Take a behind-thescenes tour of the workshop and watch beautiful arts, crafts, jewellery and glassware coming to life. For more shopping, the Soko Giftshop stocks everything from safari clothing, to sparkling
@arushacoffeelodge Tel: +254 (0) 730 127 000
jewellery, locally-made crafts and those allimportant keepsakes to carry back home. Other highlights and activities at Arusha Coffee Lodge include: Kahawa Coffee Shop is a delightful gourmet cafe selling freshly brewed coffee and daily home-baked cakes and pastries served on Kahawa’s shady terrace. Alternatively, sample traditional African cuisine at Arusha Coffee Lodge’s African themed restaurant, Jikoni. The Tanzanite Experience showcases authentic, ethically-mined Tanzanite gemstones and stunning jewellery. The beautiful violet-blue Tanzanite stone, mined near Arusha is said to be a thousand times rarer than diamonds The Peaberries Spa offers a refuge of sensory delight. Take time for yourself and indulge in a massage or beauty treatment from an expansive menu. World class Pevonia and Healing Earth products are sure to leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Perfect for coffee enthusiasts, the coffee tour demonstrates the “bean to cup” process and ends with a coffee-tasting of Burka plantation’s own exquisite coffee blends.
@elewanacollection NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HADZABE TRIBE Moiz Husein, an award-winning photographer, is one of the few outsiders to spend long periods of time among Tanzania’s tiny Hadzabe tribe. He talks to Nomad about the community’s unconventional traditions, and a handshake that led to a near-death experience.
How did you first hear about the Hadzabe? I first saw them on a postcard - an almost nude figure barely covered in animal skin and colourful beads, posing with a bow and arrow. My curiosity led me to research them further and I was surprised to find that this tribe exists just the way I saw in the image, hunting for survival in Tanzania. In my photographic journey, I have visited several national parks and encountered various tribes. The Hadzabe, however, are unique. I took a road trip from Karatu in northern Tanzania to Lake Eyasi with my guide, Julius, in search of them. I first stayed with them for three days in 2010 and my curiosity never ceased. I wanted to learn and experience more. My longest stay has been for two weeks when I set up camp among them and moved with them as they searched for food. Take us to back to your time with the Hadzabe. On my third visit, I travelled with Julius for four hours to the Mongola village, and had the option of staying with those more used to outsiders or to go further down and have a more isolated experience. My world for the following days was a self-built tent, a window to the world of the Hadzabe. I rose in the early morning when they began hunting for food. They walked fast, and I followed at a run. Their arrows smeared with poison, the Hadzabe searched for anything edible from squirrels and birds to large animals. Snakes were the only exceptions. The women often stayed back, digging for medicinal roots and making beads and jewellery from porcupine thorns. I would show them books with photographs from my previous visits. Julius, who could speak their language, would interpret for me. Every moment was bewildering. I saw them share women, and fight over special arrows. During a one-day festival when there’s no moon, the men make a sound, and the women have to identify their
men. After the festival - during the night - the men grab one of the women and go into the bushes with them. And the arrows? Each man selects a stick, and they start the arrow-making process, scrubbing off the top layer, and straightening them out by hand. They dry them, and harden them over the fire. Sometimes, another Hadzabe steals their unfinished arrow, provoking a fight. Were they receptive towards you? They did not see me as a threat and were rather friendly. For one thing, they do not have any materialistic wants. Of what use would be my camera or mobile phone? Although I could not communicate with them, they would, however, understand my emotions and facial expressions. When I had a headache, I was healed by a Hadzabe woman in 10 minutes after she gave me roots to chew. Kids would surround me and touch my hair and skin as if I was a friendly alien. There was one bad incident, however. I shook hands with the hunters and was immediately rushed to hospital with a life-threatening emergency. I later learned that by making physical contact with men just back from hunting, with poison still on their hands, the poison got into my body. They, themselves, are immune to these poisons. How do they express themselves? Imagine you are lost in the bush. What would you think about? For the Hadzabe, it is all about survival. What to eat, where to hunt and how to survive each day. They share intimacy during special nights when they try to impress the women, yet there is no daily bonding or any defined relation. They chat in clicks and prefer to interact with the people moving in their group.
Tell us about some more of their traditions. The Hadzabe are unique in multiple ways. I saw a small child smoking weed, and no one stopped him. It was his choice. The Hadzabe never bathe and their bodies are always covered with dust. Water is not considered essential for survival and they do not look for sources to quench their thirst or clean themselves. They can hunt down almost any animal with their poisonous arrows made from tree bark. They sleep on animal skin and cover themselves with the same, sometimes adorned with colourful beads. What kind of challenges do they face? They easily contract tuberculosis with the weed they smoke and are unable to comprehend other health complications. What they do to survive is normal to them. They neither fear wild animals nor seek anything better. They keep moving from one place to another. They have no boundaries and that is how they have lived for ages. Why did you keep going back? Although my chances of surviving among them initially seemed bleak with so many limitations, I went to stay with them almost three times. After my third visit, I stopped feeling stressed about the daily challenges. The Hadzabe are neither worried nor stressed. While I might fret at leaving a charger at home, the Hadzabe are not tempted by materialistic things. Even If they do not find food, they do not get restless. They are patient with nature. I learned to live for each day. I don’t worry as much about materialistic needs. I learned my basic survival skills with the Hadzabe. Live life minus worries about technology or the future. As told to Ayushi Ramaiya
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
UGANDA’S ENDANGERED WHITE WATER
Thrill-seekers flock to Uganda for East Africa’s wildest rapids. But that could soon come to an end when a new dam floods half of them. With Uganda’s future as a rafting Mecca in doubt, Laura Secorun wonders what’s next for Jinja.
Robbie Mingay, a 25-year-old kayaker from Canada. The Nile didn’t disappoint. “These rapids are truly some of the best in the world,” he adds. “It’s hard to believe they will just disappear.” That’s what Juma Via Kalikwani worries about. Juma is the head of expeditions at Nile River Explorers and a local hero for discovering the “Nile Special,” a warm water wave that can be surfed 365 days a year that is now a kayaking mecca. Juma is from a small nearby village and started working as a porter from a young age. Soon, he discovered he had a gift for surfing white water and has been a guide ever since. “The dam will create jobs, yes, but only while it’s being built,” he says. “What happens after?” Still, this will not be the first time the White Nile has been dammed. Only five years ago, this same stretch had 12 rapids. Then the government built the Bujagali Dam upstream and flooded six of them, including the beautiful Bujagali Falls. That time around, many rafting companies were able to relocate downstream but now they have nowhere else to go. For over a year, activists have been trying to stop the construction of the second dam. But time has run out. First flooding is scheduled for next May, with the official opening expected in August 2018. Rafting providers are left with no choice but to adapt as best they can. Some are relocating away from the shores while Jon Dhal, owner of Nile River Explorers, and others have started an alliance to help promote alternative activities in the river. They hope tourists will be happy to exchange top-notch rafting for paddle surfing, jet skiing or taking a romantic sunset cruise. But Dhal fears Uganda will lose its adventurous appeal if the rapids disappear. “People pay to climb Mt Everest
People pay to climb Mt Everest because it’s the tallest. No-one pays as much for the fifthtallest mountain. because it’s the tallest,” he says. ”No-one pays as much for the fifth-tallest mountain.” Still, tourists visiting Bujagali seem oblivious to the dramatic changes looming ahead. Early in the morning, they laugh and tease each other as they try on life jackets and clunky helmets. They have paid $200 to raft some of the world’s best white water but few know what they’re about to experience will soon be priceless. So they giggle as Juma explains what to do if the raft flips over. “I had never been here before the previous dam so I don’t miss how things were before,” says Stefan Whal, a 23-year-old South African on a rafting trip with his brother. Stefan says he’s sad to see the rapids go but thinks most tourists will continue to come regardless. “Maybe ignorance is bliss,” he argues. Behind him, the river flows unfettered and shrouded in mist. Birds play above the water, fishermen retrieve their fish-filled nets and a small red raft takes to the waves. The tourists scream in excitement, their voices drowned out by the loud roar of rapids that will soon be silent.
PHOTOS: NILE RIVER EXPLORERS
t’s a stunning sight. Walls of white water crashing against each other, giving rise to a cloud of mist that floats among the treetops of the greenest equatorial forest. We are in Bujagali, a small Ugandan town 40 kilometres downstream from the original source of the Nile River. Rushing past us are some of the world’s most spectacular rapids. For now, that is. Because come next May, a 25 km-long dam will drown most of this white water and with it, a sizeable chunk of Uganda’s adventure tourism industry. This extreme sports scene is only 20 years old but has grown immensely since a handful of kayaking pioneers decided to settle near the rapids and invite friends over to play in the water. Today, this mythical stretch of the upper Nile has become a must-do for thrillseeking tourists. They come all the way from Australia and Japan to splash around in rapids nicknamed “Bad Place,” which is surprisingly popular, or “Super Hole,” a large standing wave where kayakers can show off their acrobatic tricks. But Uganda is a fast-developing nation and the government has decided that the country needs more hydro-powered electricity, even if it hurts tourism. Experts now believe the flooding will bury at least half of the commercial rapids – leaving only three. It will also drown Itanda Falls, a site of enormous cultural significance for locals who believe it to be home to a powerful river spirit. Kayaking aficionados around the world have already heard about the upcoming development and are flocking to Uganda for a chance to paddle one last time down its endangered white water. “When a friend told me about the dam, I knew I had to come,” says
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
FROM MANGO TREE TO MANHATTAN Seeing its fish stocks deplete, a coastal community in Kenya decided to take matters into its own hands, writes Rebecca Stonehill
Concern existed that the initiative would be taken over by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), any real benefit being channelled out of the area. But over time, it became evident that for Kuruwitu, community was paramount. Through membership fees and outside funding, a growing number of villagers bore the fruits of KCWA’s endeavours, ranging from assistance with hospital fees to supporting small businesses, such as honey production and tailoring. By 2005, community members from an 8 km-stretch of coastline had joined forces and a 30-hectare area was designated as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) to see what would happen if left entirely alone. This was an unprecedented, ground-breaking community project; nothing like this had ever happened before on the Kenyan coast. “It wasn’t too late,” says Katana Ngale Hinzano, Kuruwitu’s vice chairman and a font of knowledge on the local area. “Nature knows what to do. The breeding site is the heart of the project and if we leave areas alone, the marine eco-system balances out naturally.” The spectacular increase of the area’s marine biodiversity means Kuruwitu has become a thriving eco-tourism destination, creating jobs as rangers, guides and boat captains. Since the MPA’s inception and penalties imposed upon those who breach the rules, the results speak for themselves. When fish biomass was measured in 2008, the increase
since closing off the area saw a 500% increase in abundance, size and diversity of marine life. Evidence also exists of a knock-on effect outside the MPAs, with breeding taking place and a significant increase in fish stocks. A snorkelling paradise has re-emerged for visitors, boasting a rich kaleidoscope of coral, sea grasses and shoals of tropical fish navigating secret passageways. Its success has resulted in it now being used as a model for other community-based marine initiatives. KWS rangers are even being brought in to share knowledge for mutual benefit. A non-profit umbrella organisation, Oceans Alive Trust, has also been established to support needs of coastal fishermen. Working alongside government and Beach Management Units, 20 other similar locally managed-marine areas have been established along the Kenyan coast to sustain marine conservation, using Kuruwitu as a showcase. VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES Why not come and be part of Kenya’s first locally managed marine area? KCWA are seeking volunteers to help with research work such as fish counting, coral monitoring, turtle hatcheries and sea urchin density (over-fishing of sea urchin predators has led to increased numbers). Opportunities also exist to take part in various village-based projects. A PADI course can be combined with volunteering. For further information, visit kuruwitukenya.org
PHOTOS: DES BOWDEN
t is 31st January 2003, and beneath the shade of a mango tree, a large group gathers in the Kenyan coastal village of Shariani. Predominantly fishermen, they have witnessed with a growing sense of unease the waters, once rich in marine life, slowly depleting. They sit and debate, wondering what can be done to address this problem amongst a community that depends so heavily upon fishing. And so, from these humble beginnings, a seed is planted: the villagers know that the only way forward is to take matters into their own hands. Fifteen years later, this seed has flourished into the Kuruwitu Conservation & Welfare Association (KCWA), Kenya’s first locallymanaged marine area that is helping to restore the ocean’s natural abundance. Overfishing, population increase, global warming and unchecked fish and coral harvesting for the aquarium trade meant that, by 2003, the crystal waters along this stretch of coastline were virtually barren. And yet, this year, KCWA won the UNDP’s prestigious Equator Prize, an annual search for an outstanding sustainable, nature-based community initiative. The prize, to be awarded in New York, attracted over 800 global entries and, given the challenges faced by KCWA, the achievement is remarkable. Not only did KCWA have to convince the Kenyan government to allow a community marine reserve to be established - no mean feat - but the local community also had to be won over.
KATANA’S STORY “Those who thought these things were impossible, now they believe it’s possible.” Katana Ngala Hinzano was born in Kuruwitu Village in 1974, the eldest of ten children. His father was a fisherman and his mother worked in their home and shamba. His family lived in a house made of poles, mud and soil and a roof thatched from palm leaves. Katana enjoyed studying and worked hard, but school fees were high so he sometimes had to stay home for a couple of months, using this time to learn the tools of the fishing trade. By the end of Standard Eight, his father could no longer afford school fees and he left to become a fulltime fisherman, aged thirteen. Back then, says Katana, fish was abundant and they would catch enough to sell to fish dealers to support their family. The local population was low and fishermen inherently understood the sea’s wisdom and the system of seasonal fishing, leaving an area for a fortnight in order to allow stocks to replenish. But, over time, Katana watched as large numbers of fishermen came from other areas, blocking the fish with huge nets and trawling the ocean floors. Katana has dreams for the future; though KCWA has made great strides towards helping community members, he wants to see even more people benefiting. He would like, for example, a hospital to be built, providing affordable treatment. Something particularly close to his heart is education; recognising its importance, he has funded secondary education for younger siblings and would love to see more bright youngsters supported through school and university. In the meantime, Katana’s usual routine at Kuruwitu is about to change: the community has selected him to receive the Equator Prize in New York. His first trip out of Africa awaits.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
A walk through…
ere’s a tip if you’re flying your own plane into Amboseli. Smear Stasoft, the fabric conditioner, onto every bit of rubber, and it will stop the hyenas from chewing the tyres. Chat up the oldtimers propping up the various bars at Wilson Airport in Nairobi and you’ll find a wealth of practical advice on how to avoid game on remote airstrips, or what to do if a buffalo charges your plane. It’s not only Wilson’s incidents that are colourful, so are the characters - such as Zivota Boskovic, or ‘Bosky,’ the Yugoslav spitfire pilot who escaped the Nazis during World War II, joining British forces in Greece. In Alexandria in Egypt, he was handed a spade and a motorbike and told to dig trenches at El Alamein. Boskovic, who died in 1998, flew for the RAF during the war before settling in Kenya in the late 1940s and founding Boskovic Air Charters, still going strong today. If there’s an airport that has spawned a spirit of glamorous aviation, then Wilson is surely it. In the early days, aviators flew by instinct, following roads and rivers to their destination, hoping for a cloudless day. When Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was deposed, it was here that his family flew to safety. When journalists sought a flight in to report on the latest African coup, their best bet was to flatter the charter pilots at the bar. Modern-day Wilson is named in honour
of Florence Kerr Wilson, who started the first commercial airline in Kenya. Since its beginnings in the late 1920s, Wilson airport has grown from a little aerodrome close to what is now Junction Shopping Mall, to Africa’s busiest hub on Langata Road, where an aircraft is said to take off or land every 55 seconds. From the dozens of miraa flights leaving for Somalia at dawn every morning, the UN flights heading out for Sudan and Somalia, to the little planes packed with tourists heading out on safari, Wilson is constantly on the go. For our walk, we start at the aero club at the furthest point of the airport, a popular aviators’ meeting point. Among its members is Harry Dyer, who recently downed his plane in Tsavo, and, despite suffering severe burns, ran five miles and swam across a crocodileinfested river to safety. In the members’ bar, photographs of late pilots line the walls, at least a few of whom died in air crashes. Now in its 90th year, the aero club is trying to reinvent itself by encouraging young fliers to train up at its affiliated Pegasus Flyers and bringing in experts to help younger aviators hone their skills. There’s a convivial Java Cafe here (with a playground), and a clutch of accommodation - around Ksh 10,000 pp per night - with overnighting guests free to use the members’ bar and pool. Although Wilson attracted all the wrong kind of headlines last year when a group of British planespotters was arrested, it is possible to tour the hangars. The Kenyan Aviation Authority will take school kids round, but for individuals, your best best is to ask one of the
private charter companies clustered on the road leading away from the aero club to the entrance. Tours need to be arranged some time in advance, given enhanced security measures at Wilson, and are very much at the company’s discretion. Close to the entrance is AMREF, known to many as the flying doctors. There is a small visitors centre, open from from 9 am to 5 pm (with a break for lunch), where you can learn more about its work and history. Founded in 1957 by three surgeons, it provided medical services to remote areas of East Africa. A tour of its operations centre indicates just how much it has evolved, whether it’s emergency evacuations across the region, or providing clinical and surgical services. At the entrance to Wilson is the nondescriptlooking Dambusters, once a legendary meeting place for pilots and crew. These days, it’s a dingier remnant of its former self, but still a fun drinking hole with a hint of nostalgia. Although not strictly in Wilson Airport itself, who would pass up a visit to Carnivore, the place for a “beast of a feast,” just around the corner? Granted, it’s a tourist trap, but it’s nevertheless the ultimate nyama choma joint. In its early days, it was common for zebra and giraffe to appear on the menu. That’s no longer allowed, but some of its mainstays still remain, such as crocodile, ostrich and ox balls, roasted over a giant charcoal fire pit. If that still sounds a bit too exotic, there’s plenty of lamb, pork, chicken and beef on offer. Carvers move from table to table, serving up the feast. Topple the white flag of surrender on your table to signal ‘enough is enough.’
PHOTO: BRIAN SIAMBI
This month, Catrina Stewart heads into Africa’s quirkiest little airport, and find that there is much more than first meets the eye.
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Weekend away in
Two hours’ drive from Nairobi is the sleepy little town of Gilgil. Tucked away behind the town are some lovely little homestays, chalets and camping spots. It’s also a good base for exploring the Aberdares, Lake Elmenteita, or for exploring the river walks and gorges in the area, as well as the Gilgil War Cemetery. It is very doable on public transport.
PHOTO: BRIAN SIAMBI
MALEWA BUSH VENTURES
This lush retreat about eight kilometres east of Gilgil offers a host of activities, including team-building activities (such as high wires, and assault course-style obstacles), a peaceful and green camping spot, and two self-catering cottages (catering provided on request). Campers, charged from Ksh 850, can make use of the permanent kitchen and sitting area for a fee, and the site is a great base for gorge walks. Ring ahead, however, as it can get booked up by groups at weekends. A short walk from the campsite is the Canvas cottage, a two-storey structure with downstairs living area, a double and dorm-style room, as well as a self-standing cottage bedroom a few feet away. It can sleep up to 13 at a push. About a kilometre up the river is a quirky thatched rondavel, known as Kanini House, perched above the paddle-friendly river. Itâ€™s pretty compact, and not ideal for small children, given the steep stairs, and the drop to the river below. Both cottages start from Ksh 3,500 for the first person, and Ksh 1,000 pp thereafter; Contact via Airbnb or email@example.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
ESCAPE LAKE ELMENTEITA
This mostly caters to residents of the area, but it’s possible to pay a day membership fee of Ksh 500 to use its facilities, including tennis courts and a golf course (both charged extra). The golf course makes for some lovely walking, and the club holds several club nights, including a pizza night on Thursdays, dinner on Fridays, and a Sunday buffet lunch. There are also some fairly basic cottages available for overnight stays, with breakfast provided. Contact Christine on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange day membership.
It’s tough finding good nosh in Gilgil, but this little cafe as you enter the town does some pretty tasty food and service is pretty quick. It has a slightly dingy indoor eating area, but a pleasant enough, trellised veranda outside. Expect fare such as fish, stew, and fried chicken. Another place worth checking out is the strip of nyama choma joints on the left-hand side of the road as you exit Gilgil towards Nakuru (and also an entry point for going down to the lake).
PHOTOS: BRIAN SIAMBI
You don’t have to stop at a top-end lodge to get close to Lake Elmenteita (although that’s certainly an option). The soda lake is a short drive from Gilgil town, accessible via several dirt roads that bring you right down to the lakeshore. It’s a beautiful and easy spot from which to watch the flamingos, as well as a plethora of other bird life, and we suggest just taking a walk along the shore to get a sense of this serene, and much underrated, lake. If you’ve the time and interest, consider a stop at Kariandusi Prehistoric Site a few kilometres north of Gilgil. Discovered in the 1920s by Louis Leakey, it’s a rich find of prehistoric tools.
Hosted by Nann Barratt, this is a foodiesâ€™ delight. Both Nann and her daughter, Sharon, are Cordon Bleu chefs, and guests are treated to gourmet meals, whipped up in one of the bestequipped kitchens in Kenya. Nann uses vegetables sourced from her enormous vegetable garden, including horseradish and curry leaves. The house itself is a long, colonial-era bungalow with two airy en suite bedrooms in the main house, and a third small cottage. Guests have use of the expansive garden, as well as acres of walking to explore. Ksh 18,000 for a double, full-board. B&B rates available. Call 050 50185 or 0722 376195.
These two studio chalets are situated across the road from River House, and guests are allowed to roam the River House gardens and walks. Both chalets are fairly simple with a sitting room and kitchen, and two upstairsâ€™ bedrooms. Ideal particularly for a couple, or a couple with kids. We preferred the second of the two chalets, described as the Chalet at River House, for its open-plan kitchen and sitting room, and more comfortable living area. Ksh 3,500 for the whole chalet per one person staying, and Ksh 1,000 pp thereafter. Contact via Airbnb.
This newish property is a more luxurious offering for Gilgil. Accommodation is in extremely spacious, partially-canvas structures with wooden flooring, white linen-dressed beds, sparkling bathrooms, and small balconies with hill views. The main reception has a bar, small restaurant, and a large upstairs lounge area equipped with TVs and leather seating. Families or friends can take the adjoining double tent with its own outdoor bath / plunge pool. A pool is under construction, and quad bikes are being purchased. B&B starts from Ksh 6,725 pp sharing. www.kikalodge.co.ke
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
What I pack … for my travels
Susan Wong is the web editor of Capital Lifestyle Magazine at Capital Group in Nairobi. Born in Toronto, Canada, she is a lifestyle photographer and award-winning journalist, a keen traveller and adventurer. Instagram @susanluckywong Twitter @SusanLUCKYWong
Huawei P10 I’m a professional travel and lifestyle journalist who’s fallen in love with Huawei P10’s Leica Dual Camera 2.0, which allows me to use my smartphone to unravel the mysteries of the world. When a fleeting moment requires an accessible smartphone rather than my digital camera to capture it, this is what I pull out. The phone’s four antennae also ensure I always get mobile service when others don’t.
Cotton and Linen Scarf Perfect for when it gets chilly up at 30,000 feet aboard a plane to your next destination, in an office with strong air-conditioning, exploring a religious building, or even as an accessory that adds to your night out. A beautiful scarf is both practical and fashionable. I always bring a neutral scarf to ensure it matches all my packed outfits.
FERI Mastery Timepiece Both for function and as a style statement, I love wearing this rosecoloured, Tungsten watch featuring Sapphire Crystal, Swiss Movement, and 10 ATM Water Resistance. Thanks to its quality Tungsten construction, the watch can never be scratched because it’s even harder than diamonds, which is perfect given my day-to-day hustle. Travel Toiletry Bag and Shoe Bag Being organised is the key to packing light. Women usually have a lot more make-up and beauty products, but with some clever decanting and being realistic about what your make-up essentials really are, you’ll be surprised how everything packs up neatly in this bag.
CONGRATULATIONS! Steve Bob and James Kottonya are the lucky winners of our “What I Like” competition last month. They both win a Sandstorm passport holder and wash bag, worth Ksh 5,000.
PHOTOS TATIANA KARANJA
Large Weekender bag Ksh21,900
Olympus PEN-F I travel with the beautifully-crafted digital PEN-F on adventures. I love this camera because it reflects my love for vintage design and photography. It features sleek lines, precision controls, and the ability to capture amazing street shots.
NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate DAR ES SALAAM: Slipway
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
OVERVIEW Sieku glamping is part of a 33-acre parcel of land that boasts panoramic scenery with views of Mt. Kenya to the south and Borana Conservancy to the north. For over 20 years, the land that is now Sieku had been badly neglected, resulting in many of the original red cedar trees being cut down and the land used for wheat farming, grazing and charcoal. However, since early 2013, the new owners have made efforts to protect the land, slowly and consistently regenerating with an aim of restoring plant and animal life. The site can fit 14 people very comfortably in three bespoke bell tents, one Touareg tent and a recently-added Tipi tent (the first of its kind in the country). The decor in the tents is fresh and tasteful with handmade furniture, kilim carpets, woven mats and sheepskin rugs. The beds are comfortable with feather duvets and pillows. Each tent has a stone-floored porch
and bamboo roof to shade you from the afternoon sun. There’s a large mess tent where you will find a fully-equipped kitchen (bring your own food and ice), cosy living room, dining table and a bedroom with double bed. Sieku has three long-drop loos and one outdoor shower where you can feast on glorious views of Borana as you clean off the dirt. There are a few chill-out areas at the glamp, some with a BBQ and another down at the bottom of the garden with comfy sofas and hammocks. Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful, the glow lighting up the surrounding landscape. Nights are always starry but can get quite chilly so pack warm. WHERE Sieku is 235 km from Nairobi and the drive should take approximately four hours. It’s a 50-minute drive from Nanyuki through Timau town. Take the left turn to Ngare Ndare forest and the site is about 13.5 km on. The host provides full-proof directions once you book. PROS • The views • Unique glamping experience • Great for a large group getaway (14 pax) • Very spacious tents and comfortable beds • Exclusive booking (whether you are two or 14, the glamp will be all yours)
CONS • The long drops can get smelly (you need to throw in handfuls of sawdust after every use to avoid this) • You’ll wish you were there one more night WHAT CAN YOU DO? Plenty! Sieku Glamping has a petanque court so get your game face on. Grab a pair of binoculars and look out for wildlife in the conservancy down below. Do nothing but relax and enjoy the surroundings. Take the plunge into the waterfalls at Ngare Ndare forest right around the corner. Go on a hike or head to the Mukogodo forest for sundowners. HOW TO BOOK Find it on AirBnB as ‘Sieku Glamping’ or email them directly on siekureservations@ gmail.com The Traveldote www.thetraveldote.com Facebook and Instagram @thetraveldote
On weekdays, it’s Ksh 5,000 per couple and Ksh 6,000 per couple at weekends. One-off cleaning cost of Ksh 1,500 charged (whether for one night or more). OVERALL: 9/10
Glamping has become a global trend with gorgeous glamps popping up all around the world. It’s a superb way to experience the great outdoors without having to sacrifice the luxuries to which we’re all so attached. There are no tents to pitch, sleeping bags to roll out, holes to dig and there’s usually a working kitchen, showers, chill out areas and staff. A quirky new addition to the Kenyan glamping experience is Sieku Glamping in Laikipia.
Set on a private 18,000 acre wildlife sanctuary, 90 minutes from Nairobi, you will find Naivashaâ€™s best kept secret.
For reservations call:0722 200 596 or 0707 645 631 email: email@example.com
It’s 1975, and the Safari Rally finds itself in Amboseli national park. Kenyan photographer Mohamed “Mo” Amin snaps Aziz Tejpar and Natu Vadgama, driving the Russian car, the Moskvitch. They get a bit more than they bargained for when they speed past a herd of elephant on the first leg of the race. Photo from the archives. Courtesy of Salim Amin.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
My world, My Kenya, My Home Be part of ’ Finest residences One of Nairobis
Jade Residency - Luxury living within the City Prime Location: Kindaruma Road, Kilimani, Nairobi Boutique Development comprising of 2, 3, and 4 bedrooms units Modern Design. High Quality Finishes Facilities - 4 Lifts. Solar Water Heater, Sky Gym Area, Sky Bridge, Roof Top Social Hall To find out more about this exciting opportunity please contact
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“Particulars Not Warranted” 58 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE This material is condensed for general marketing purposes only and may not be complete or accurate. Jade Homes Limited (including its employees and agents) will not accept any liability suffered or incurred in any way whatsoever (directly or indirectly) by any person arising out of or in connection with any reliance on the content of or information contained herein. Taibjee & Bhalla Advocates, P O Box 10161-00100, Nairobi
Michela Wrong talks to Nomad about her long reporting career, covering the horrors in Rwanda, coming under fire in Sarajevo and discovering a serene retreat in Naivaisha where she penned her latest book. She has worked for Reuters, the BBC and the Financial Times. She is also is the author of three non-fiction books on Africa, In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, I Didn’t Do It for You and It’s Our Turn to Eat, and one novel, Borderlines. She is based in London. What keeps drawing you back to Africa? I’ve been writing about some African countries for so long now that the background is part of my own personal landscape. That makes for a particularly rich writing experience. I can compare the Yoweri Museveni, or Paul Kagame, or Idriss Deby or Isaias Afewerki I interviewed in the early 1990s to the men of today. In my notebooks sit interviews conducted with African ministers who were later assassinated, loyal intelligence officers and army generals who went on to establish opposition parties, intellectuals who confidently expounded their views and now believe something very different. Those are very interesting comparisons to be able to make. Early impressions of East Africa as a reporter here? When I first moved to Nairobi in 1995, I was coming from Kinshasa, in what was then Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire [now Democratic Republic of Congo], which was in a terribly decrepit, ramshackle state, a country locked in a dizzying downwards spiral. Kenya in particular and East Africa in general seemed very modern and sophisticated in comparison. There were malls and skyscrapers! The Yaya Centre had that famous escalator! The lifts worked! Nairobi residents seemed to be rushing around with purpose and drive! I came to the eventual conclusion that under the gloss, the Kenya and Zaire of the mid-1990s had a lot more in common than I’d at first registered: the debilitating corruption, for one thing, but it was an invigorating initial feeling. A memorable incident from your time in Africa? Sadly, the memories that stick tend to be grotesque: our brains retain the gruesome. I remember walking to a hilltop church outside
the Rwandan town of Kibuye, three months after the genocide. It was a Sunday and a service was ending. The path ran between two parallel mounds of fresh earth that had been piled up by a bulldozer and I noticed a naked human foot sticking ludicrously out of it. It was obvious the mounds contained other bodies. The worshippers walked past without a glance. Inside the church I saw that the roof had been perforated by bullets – the sun was streaming through the holes. Many of those praying had probably played their part in killing those carelessly-buried victims, so of course they didn’t want to examine, or tidy up, their handiwork. Rwanda in 1994 was a great illustration of how religious belief and moral decency don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. Hairiest trip? A reporting trip to Sarajevo in the middle of the Bosnian civil war. I’d been in conflict zones before, but there’s something uniquely chilling about lying awake listening to machinegun fire in the distance. You can kid yourself that sporadic shots and explosions are more warning than intent, but with machine-gun fire there’s no kidding yourself: someone is aiming at another human being, with the express intention of killing them. It’s the only time I had to don a flak jacket. The one I’d been given by my newspaper was designed for a man, was far too big and immensely heavy – I needed help just getting it on each morning. An older, wiser, Reuters colleague told me later that he never got one because his plan was never to find himself in a situation where a flak jacket was required. That’s definitely my approach to dangerous assignments now. What do you never travel without? I’m not a superstitious person, but I do own a large old silver coin, a Mexican Morelos peso,
given to me by a boyfriend who noticed that I liked silver things. It sits at the bottom of my handbag and makes me feel safe, as it reminds me of his affection and concern. The great thing about silver is it’s worth so little, it’s not worth stealing. Favourite hotel in the world? Crater Lake Camp, a tented camp an hour’s drive from Naivasha, in the Rift Valley. It’s perched on a spooky, magical little lake which the flamingos fly to when they are bored of Nakuru and the other lakes. The cries of the two families of Colobus monkeys that are usually in residence in the trees fringing the water are bizarre: they sound like motorbikes revving. If you are careless enough to walk beneath them, they’ll douse you in urine. I don’t know what it’s like now but back when I was a regular guest the lodge, which filled up at weekends, went very quiet during the week. The perfect writing spot. I worked on my book on Eritrea there. Favourite view in the world? From the top of Primrose Hill in London. You’re presented with an amazing panorama, from the cranes picking over building sites down in Kings Cross and St Pancras, to the Post Office tower – which once looked cutting edge but now seems quaintly “retro” – to the white nipple that is St Paul’s and the gleaming Shard, dwarfing everything else. Across the sky, a ribbon of planes constantly unspools on the final approach to Heathrow. Beyond it all lie the dark hills of the North Downs. It’s a very Wordsworthian view of a working, everchanging, vibrant city, not the most beautiful, but probably the most diverse.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2017
CRISIS By Frances Woodhams
family emerges from their villa to enjoy a hotel breakfast under swaying palms but Dad, Martin, is missing. He booked a sunrise session of stand up paddle boarding at 7 am but is still nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Dad?” asks little Johnny, “I thought he was going to build a sandcastle with me.” “Sorry love,” says Mum. “He might not have time. he’s got sea kayaking this morning, followed by skydiving this afternoon.” Dad finally appears, hobbling up the pathway looking a little overheated. “How was it?” asks Mum, Lucy, “and what’s wrong with your foot?” “Great,” Martin says with a tight smile. “Loved the paddle boarding. Just slipped and stepped on some coral, that’s all.” “I thought that you were meant to be standing on the board?” “Yes,” Martin mumbles, grabbing a bread roll, “but turns out that it’s trickier than it looks.” Martin’s wife, Lucy, has grown used to the fact that her husband likes to make the most of every minute of his holidays. Martin is approaching 50. She puts it down to a mid-life crisis. Kite surfing yesterday had not been an unqualified success. Martin spent some early sessions mastering how to fly the kite while safely grounded on the beach but yesterday was his first foray into the water. Martin invited the whole family to admire his new-found skills only for them to have to witness him face planting into the sea at painfully regular intervals. Exhausted, but apparently undeterred after his three-hour lesson, he emerged from the sea with a swagger, wearing a helmet and unflattering life vest (which somehow hooked up his T-shirt to reveal a generous midriff). Lucy spotted the young and pretty Australian instructor and understood everything, but when Martin finally reached her, Lucy didn’t hold back in telling him that his swimming shorts had slipped and were showing off a fair share of his bum. When Martin returned to the hotel, he nearly fell asleep into his soup, then passed out at 9 pm. “It’s as if Daddy’s not really on holiday with us,” Martin’s daughter whines as Mum nods resignedly. Skydiving next and Martin’s wife is not happy. Flapping about in shallow water over the reef is one thing, but jumping out of planes could be classed as life threatening.
The children attend the skydiving briefing with Dad. The skydive team comprises of an oldish Scandinavian guy with a young American sidekick, both faces wizened by the sun and brimming with confidence. Johnny thinks that he sees fear in his dad’s eyes as the harness is being fitted. “Are you really going to do this, Dad?” he asks. Martin’s back straightens. “Yeah, sure thing, son,” he says, slapping his son’s back with forced bravado. Mum rolls her eyes then she and the kids wave off Dad as he disappears into the back of a minibus, airport bound. It’s a long wait on the beach spent gazing at a clear blue sky, watching for tiny specks. There’s high excitement at the sight of a plane then a painfully long pause as nothing much happens. Finally, little Johnny shrieks, “I can see Dad! I can see him!” A parachute pops open and then another one. Lucy feels a flood of relief, willing her husband safely back down to earth. The parachute grows larger and soon it’s possible to make out Martin strapped to the chest of the Scandinavian instructor. The family wave
excitedly as the unlikely couple plummet towards the sand to land in a tumbling heap. “Martin, are you okay?” Lucy asks. “Was it wonderful?” Her husband’s sky goggles are askew and he looks decidedly ill. Anders, the instructor, says the flight was 100% fantastic. “Martin here was a superstar.” Martin smiles weakly and tries to stand but staggers as he tries to find his balance. “Just a spot of nausea,” he says. “It’s nothing.” As the sun goes down that evening, Martin has at last regained his usual colour. He and his wife enjoy a cocktail on a terrace overlooking the ocean. “So what’s on the itinerary for tomorrow?” Lucy asks. “I think that I might just stay here,” says Martin. “Spend some time with the kids.” Lucy squeezes his hand. “I think that would be a good idea,” she says. Frances is author of blog www.africanexpatwivesclub.com
Forodhani House, Shella Beach, Lamu, Kenya www.forodhanihouse.com For reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel : +254 718 407 480, +33 612 548 184
Check out this latest for lots of great Tanzanian travel ideas from chimp-tracking on Lake Victoria to a city break in Arusha. Away from Ta...
Published on Sep 14, 2017
Check out this latest for lots of great Tanzanian travel ideas from chimp-tracking on Lake Victoria to a city break in Arusha. Away from Ta...