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Wonderful Watamu Discover Kenya’s coastal paradise

Walking with Dinosaurs Rhino tracking on foot in Sera

Kilimanjaro’s Kingdom A day in the life of Amboseli


Foreword by Honourable Najib Balala EGH, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism.

Honourable Najib Balala on Mt Kenya’s Lenana Peak - a height of 4,985 m (16,355 ft)

Welcome to the first Why I Love Kenya issue of 2018. Firstly, may I wish our residents, visitors, our potential visitors and all the members of the Kenyan travel industry a very Happy New Year! To those who have visited Kenya in the past – let 2018 be the year you return to the Kenya you love. And to those who have yet to visit us – let 2018 be the year you find out why YOU love Kenya. I’d like to share with you all the fact that my November climb to the summit of Mount Kenya was, personally, a life-changing moment. Not only did it remind me just how much I love Kenya, but also, standing on the summit of our namesake mountain looking out over the beauty that is Kenya, I was filled with a determination to travel to each and every corner of this beautiful land and to PERSONALLY encounter the treasures to be discovered there – and then to share them with the world. What’s more, I and my team will be joining hands with Why I Love Kenya magazine in this task, because it’s our belief that only by working together can we can send out a unified message to the world: a message that’s strong, welcoming and positive – a message that says WELCOME TO KENYA.

In this issue, meanwhile, we go on safari in Amboseli; we explore the fascinations of the idyllic coastal resort of Watamu; we drop into Lake Naivasha for Valentine’s Day; we trek up the sacred mountain of the Samburu; and we go rhino tracking on foot in the Sera Conservancy. There’ll also be time for some safari photography, wild biking, discovery of the Kenyan art and music scene, carbon collecting in the Chyulus, coffee tasting in Nairobi and the chance to meet our Olympic archery heroine. We hope you’ll be enthused and inspired… and we look forward to welcoming you to our home very soon. Karibu!

Honourable Najib Balala EGH, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism.

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018


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Contents MANAGING EDITOR: Jane Barsby EDITORIAL CONSULTANTS: Lyndsey McIntyre, Stuart Butler, Jane Spilsbury MARKETING CONSULTANT: David Stogdale, Chairman of the Marketing Committee, Kenya Tourism Federation CREATIVE TEAM: Pam Kubassu Papa, Moses Ochieng, Sam Ndung’u PHOTOGRAPHIC AND EDITORIAL CREDITS: Alamy Stock Photo, Ann Arbor, Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Blickwinkel, Campi ya Kanzi, GoDown Arts Centre, Greg Armfield, Hammer Design, Hemingways Collection, Jimmy Nelson, Joan Egert / Dreamstime, Joerg Boethling, John C. Avise, John Mwacharo, Joose Digital, Lyndsey McIntyre, Make it Kenya / Stuart Price, Midego Fotography, Paul Mckenzie, Ride Kenya / Max Melesi, Ryan Duly, Saruni, Savage Wilderness, Silverless, Steve Mills Publishing, Stuart Butler, Tribe Watersports, Upepo Gallery,,, ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES: EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: SALES ENQUIRIES: PUBLISHER: MJS Colourspace Ltd. Victoria Towers, Kilimanjaro Road, Upper Hill, Nairobi Tel: +254 (0)20 2738004, 2737883 Mobile: +254 (0)727 794041 Cover photograph: Green turtle, Watamu Copyright © 2018 Why I Love Kenya Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publishers. The publishers do not accept responsibility for the advertising content of the magazine and nor do they promote or endorse products from third-party advertisers. Printed in Kenya.

01 Foreword 04 Zoom Lens 07 Cultural Contact: A Kenyan wizard immortalized 08 Focus On: My love is like a red, red rose 10 Wide Angle Lens: The migration - poetry in motion 13 Moving Image: Amboseli - Kilimanjaro’s kingdom 16 Positive Take: Walking with dinosaurs 18 Cameo Shot: Shehzana Anwar tells us why she loves Kenya 22 Capturing the Coast: Special feature on Watamu 36 Wide Angle Lens: Valentine’s Day for birds 40 Spotlight On: Kenyan coffee - the connoisseur’s cup 42 Wild Action 44 Message from the Kenya Tourism Board 46 In Close Up: Nairobi - around and about 48 Exposed: Why are flamingos pink? 50 Snapped: Retail therapy - Kenyan style 52 Kenya Brief


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© Herbert Menzer

© Joose Digital

Beat this! Live in central Nairobi, a pulsating line-up of musicians from all over East Africa. Three days, 29 bands showcasing everything from jazz to hip hop. And a music trade show and industry discussions. Sound good? It gets better – entry to the gigs is FREE. For further information on the Ongea East African Music Summit, February 15-18 visit

Hats off to Lamu Bewitchingly beautiful, the Swahili island of Lamu is the place to be early 2018 - because it’s Festival Time; and few folks do it better than the folks in Lamu. First up is the gloriously colourful Lamu Arts Festival, February 17-19, a melting pot of local and international artists featuring workshops, exhibitions, dhow races, live music and the utterly surreal Shela Hat Competition. For further information:

© Hemingways Collection

Adopt a dolphin For a rather unusual adoption opportunity, you may like to consider adopting a dolphin. By doing so you’ll not only be assisting with research into dolphin behavior, but also in protecting Kenya’s dolphins. How to do it? First choose your dolphin from a portfolio of Kenyafriendly dolphins, all of which have names and life histories (and which can be identified by their very varied fins). Thereafter you’ll receive your very own adoption certificate and regular e-mail updates on how your protégée is doing. And the cost? Just $40 for a whole year of dolphin-ing. For further information:


WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

‘Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over’ So said Ernest Hemingway, but he hadn’t witnessed the architecture and interior decoration of the reincarnated Hemingways, one of Watamu’s best-known hotels. More than a quarter of a century since it first opened its doors, the hotel has been relaunched and now offers 39 sleek new rooms, 21 extravagantly sized residential suites, new menus, new restaurants, new spa and a new feel. But the old magic, which has lured guests back year after year, is as potent as ever. Book soon or you will most definitely be disappointed. For further information:

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The NAY PALAD Bird Nest at Segera © Jimmy Nelson

The nesting instinct If you’d like to spend the night in your very own nest, with panoramic views across the savanna towards the distant peaks of Mount Kenya, then head to Segera Retreat in Laikipia where the first-ever ‘Birds Nest’ has been built using local tree branches that have been woven into a nest by members of the local community. Don’t for one moment suppose, however, that you will be roughing it – because this particular nest comes complete with luxury bedroom and ensuite bathroom. For further information:

© Silverless / Campi ya Kanzi

The REDD Hills of Africa The battle against global warming is being fought on many fronts in Kenya, but a new project in the Chyulu Hills, backed by Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton, the UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, is going from strength to strength. Some of youngest mountains on earth, the verdant Chyulu Hills lie on the border of Tsavo National Park and were the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s 1935 book, Green Hills of Africa. Now they are at the forefront of a United Nations initiative known as the REDD+ Carbon Project (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). Simply put, the project has enabled an area of over one million acres, the ancestral home of some 70,000 Maasai, to be set aside for conservation. As a result, not only will it remain an oasis of natural forest and provide sanctuary for wildlife and people alike, but it will also store two million tons of CO2, which can be sold as carbon credits on the ‘voluntary’ market. The ultimate win-win conservation model, this enlightened project allows the Maasai community to generate an income for use in the provision of health, sanitation and education for their people; and it allows a raft of global corporations to reduce their carbon footprint, or become carbon neutral. For more information contact the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust:

© Hammer Design

A shot in the park When it comes to capturing WILD images, Kenya is unrivalled. To do the wildlife justice, however, you might benefit from some ultraprofessional training. Join the Great Plains Conservation WILD STUDIO tours, in the Masai Mara region, February 2018, and that’s exactly what you’ll get. All ages, all abilities welcome. For further information, please visit:

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018


@DormansCoffee DormansCoffee

cultural contact

A Kenyan

Wizard Immortalized

© Stuart Butler

The superstitious dread that many Kenyans still hold for the power of the wizard or ‘witch doctor’ has been immortalized in the name of one the nation’s best-known football teams, Gor Maiya, which is named after one of Western Kenya’s most famous wizards. Gor Maiya lived high on a hill in the Lambwe Valley, which is now Ruma National Park and his magic was so powerful that he could see all things; and he controlled all of Western Kenya. People came to him for good spells and bad, knowing that he could read minds, cast spells, bring rain, kill with a look and shape-change from man to dog, or dog to bull in an instant. Husband to 22 wives, Gor Maiya died in 1920 and his many descendants still populate the region around Ruma National Park. As for the football team, they still visit his hill before their most important matches; hopeful that, even from beyond the grave, his formidable powers will score them goals.

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018


My Love is like a red, red rose


f you’d like to get to the heart of the matter of Valentine’s Day, which seems to bloom from strength to strength around the world (and nowhere more brightly than in Kenya), you owe yourself a visit to a rose farm. Kenya is one of the world’s largest exporters of roses supplying 36% of all the blooms that arrive in the major auction houses of Holland. Roses are grown all over Kenya, but most romantically on the shores of Lake Naivasha.

O my love is like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June: Robert Burns, 1794

An alternately storm-tossed and serenely calm lake, which nestles in the Great Rift Valley some 70kms north of Nairobi, Lake Naivasha is towered over by the bulk of a dormant volcano. Known as Mount Longonot, the mountain reputedly shelters an enormous lava tunnel system, so mysteriously labyrinthine that it inspired the Victorian writer, H Rider Haggard, to write his epic adventure story, The Legend of She.

Lake Naivasha itself offers visitors the opportunity to see some unique wildlife and extraordinary birdlife such as the African fish eagle. Expect to see hippo, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, wildebeest and even the occasional eland.


WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

focus on

Hell’s Gate National Park.

An Imperial Airways (which became BOAC) flying boat. © Steve Mills Publishing

It was around the shores of this hauntingly beautiful lake that, in the early 1900s, an exotic band of colonials gathered to dine, shoot, drink gin, dance and wait for the arrival of the Imperial Airways socalled flying boats, which flew from London to Naivasha via Cairo. And the crenelated walls of the palaces they built for the legendary parties, documented in the novel White Mischief, can still be seen on the shores of the lake. Here too, lived Joy Adamson, famous for raising the orphaned lion cub, Elsa, whose story was immortalized in the book and the film Born Free. The extensive grounds of Joy’s house, ‘Elsamere’, hug the shores of the lake and are now a nature conservancy offering guided walks, boat trips, accommodation and some very fine afternoon tea and cakes. On the shores of the Lake you’ll also find one of Kenya’s most dramatic national parks, Hell’s Gate, whose wild volcanic landscape, towering basalt cliffs and belching plumes of geothermal steam

Climbing Longonot is a fun, but tough, hike and the crater rim can be reached in just a few hours.

earned it its name. A place of high drama, patrolled by majestic raptors, the park has provided the backdrop to many a Hollywood movie and still offers one of the most astonishing canyon walks on the African continent. Hell’s Gate is also the only park in which you can walk, or mountain bike, alongside vast herds of buffalo, zebra, eland and hartebeest, and learn to rock climb on a volcanic plug that is said to be a Maasai maiden turned to stone. Finally, for those looking for roses and romance, venues don’t come much more romantic than Lake Naivasha where the choice of hotels ranges from rambling colonial mansions with idyllic gardens stretching down to the shores of the lake to campsites offering, amongst other things, upturned boats as accommodation. For details on rose farm tours, contact any reputable tour operator or visit:

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018


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Poetry in Motion Who trusted God was love indeed And love Creation’s final law– Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw With ravine, shriek’d against his creed– Extract from In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) Photo © Paul Mckenzie

Advertorial: Utalii College

“ K

In Kenya, we are passionate about our hospitality. Utalii College is where this passion is nurtured.

Mr. Hashim D. Mohamed - Principal and Chief Executive Officer

enya’s hospitality industry enjoys a long and rich history. It began in the 1900s with the arrival of a wave of aristocratic visitors who were drawn to Kenya by the abundance of her wildlife. A number of palatial hotels were built to accommodate them, but such was the calibre of the guests that an unprecedented level of excellence, both in cuisine and service, was called for. And it was in rising to the challenge of providing such high-profile accommodation that Kenya’s historic reputation as a world-class destination was founded. Reputations, however, must not only be maintained but also continually perfected. Thus, in 1975, the Kenyan Government established the Kenya Utalii College (KUC). To-date, KUC has trained over 60,000 tourism sector graduates (representing 20 per cent of the industry’s work force) many of whom also hold high-profile positions internationally. KUC is a proud member of the African EUHOFA (International Association of Hotel Schools) and hosted their International Congress in 1996 and 2016. KUC is an affiliate member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and is East and Sub-Saharan Africa’s only Japanese Proficiency Language Test (JPLT) Examination Centre. KUC is the Secretariat for Africa’s only Association of Hospitality and Tourism Schools, whose membership numbers over 27 facilities from over 15 countries. KUC is also an accredited East African Legislative Assembly Centre of Excellence in hospitality and tourism training. KUC collaborates with the University of Nairobi in the provision of Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Management and in Travel and Tourism Management, both of which are aligned to Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic development blueprint. KUC is also poised to commence a range of e-learning courses. With four campuses, located in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, KUC is strategically positioned to offer both three-year Diploma Courses in hotel management and travel and tourism enterprises and a number of shorter customized courses in technical and specialized skills. KUC’s excellence has been recognized by numerous organizations to include the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Young Chef Olympiad competition.

Allied to KUC is the Utalii Hotel which trains college students across the spectrum of hotel disciplines (front office, housekeeping, laundry, food and beverage sales and food production). Showcasing 57 rooms, two internationally-styled restaurants, two bars, and an ultra-modern gym and spa, this highly-regarded luxury hotel, set in serene and verdant grounds, also features a state-of-the-art conference and banqueting suite that attracts a wide range of corporate and social events.

For further information: Main Campus: 0722 205891/2, 0733 410005 Mombasa Campus: 041 2011586, 0772 247605 Utalii House: 020 2180026 Kisumu Campus: 0706 847278 Email:

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ilimanjaro’s ingdom

It’s a mercurial place. One minute Hollywood golden girl, wreathed in improbably blue skies, and patrolled by great herds of elephants that pose, as if on the director’s cue, against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro. The next it’s a set for Game of Thrones: dark, and menacing. And it all depends on the mountain. »

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ilimanjaro, though technically in Tanzania, rules the tiny kingdom of Amboseli National Park. When Kilimanjaro is wrapped in its cloak of clouds, Amboseli shrinks into a pancake-flat land where crooked fingers of dead trees stab the sky. When the mountain emerges, sugar-snowdusted, Amboseli returns to the realm of magic. Encased in the bubble of its own mountain-controlled microclimate, Amboseli deceives. Flat but streaked by swamp and forest, it warps your perspective. What seems distant telescopes close; what seems large shrinks when set against the vast bulk of the mountain. Slung like a belt across the waist of the park is a swamp, the remains of a once vast prehistoric lake. Surreally, half-submerged, some fifty elephants wallow amid its luridly green reeds. They’re truncated, legs out of sight. And they all carry a passenger - a white cattle egret. Small, hunched of posture, and long of leg, egrets are usually

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found in the company of cows, off whose parasites they dine. In Kilimanjaro’s kingdom, however, they ride elephants. A young elephant glides by, trunk aloft. On its back is an egret jockey, eyes directed straight ahead. He’s going places. It’s a place of drama. One minute devoid of life, the next heaving with it. A clump of dull-gold doum palms reorganizes itself to reveal an old bull elephant with only one tusk: minutes earlier he had been invisible. Loping across the plains comes a lone hyena. He’s furtive, casting the odd glance over his shoulder as if in expectation of pursuit. Ahead is the carcass of a buffalo, so sun-bleached as to be a mere rib-shack upturned to dry. He circles it, then sets to work pulling and tugging at the ribs. Finally giving up the ghost, the buffalo’s skull falls off. And the great black boss of horns rocks briefly in the dust.

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Fact File Suddenly, as is Amboseli’s way, the rain streaks diagonally across the landscape and the mood of the wildlife changes. Great chains of wildebeest, hitherto patiently grazing, are now galvanized to caper across the plains, tails swishing, horns lowered. It’s a mini-migration orchestrated by the great showman, Kilimanjaro. In a small hollow, perhaps of his own making, stands a lone bull elephant, his rump turned into the driving rain. Once pale grey he is now black-streaked with rain and his face, half-pale, half-dark, presents an elephantine Phantom of the Opera mask to the world. Trailing his trunk across the ground he steadily kicks dry dust into its open end. Then he lifts it, caterpillar-curled, and blows the dust all over himself: Pouff! In the centre of the park erupts a conical hill encircled by a lake. On its wind-lashed waters rides a flotilla of pinkish-white pelicans, feathers fluffed like galleons in full sail. On the shoreline, rising slowly from the water, is a large hippo, enticed by the rain to contemplate a stroll. But his exit is blocked by a line of sleeping pelicans. He stares accusingly at them. Can they not see that HE wishes to emerge? At first the pelicans preen their feathers, seemingly unimpressed by the glowering presence of several tons of irritated brawn. But, one by one, they waddle away until only one remains: and it’s fast asleep.

Towered over by the magnificent bulk of Mount Kilimanjaro (5,896m), Africa’s highest mountain, Amboseli is one of Kenya’s earliest game sanctuaries; it is also one of her most popular attracting over 200,000 tourists per year. Amboseli means ‘salt dust’ in Maa, the language of the Maasai, and refers to the fact that the area was once a Pleistocene lake. Easily flooded during times of heavy rainfall, the lake is fed by underground streams, which flow from Kilimanjaro to rise in a series of lush papyrus swamps. Altitude: 1,100 - 1,200m above sea level. Area: 392 sq km. Distance from Nairobi: 230 km south of Nairobi. Wildlife: lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant, zebra, hippo, spotted and striped hyena, Maasai giraffe, oryx, wildebeest, gerenuk, impala and Grant’s gazelle. Birds: more than 425 species have been recorded including over 40 species of birds of prey, amongst which are two great rarities, the Taita falcon and the southern banded harrier eagle.

Out comes the hippo, his stubby legs slithering up the bank, his little hooves scrabbling for purchase on the slime, until he stands, affronted, over the sleeping pelican. Which remains, steadfastly, asleep. Incredulous, the hippo lowers his great head until his raspberry-pink snout is inches from the pelican. Stand off. Then, as mercurial as his ecosystem, the hippo slithers slowly backwards down the bank and disappears beneath the water. Defeated by a pelican. The pelican opens one eye, surveys the empty lake, and returns to sleep. As swiftly as it arrived, the rain ceases and a herd of elephants emerges from the swamp and marches off across the plains. Overhead, the sky has turned lilac-pink. Beneath it, sunshine gilded, the zebras frolic. It’s just another day in Kilimanjaro’s Kingdom.

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Walking with

Dinosaurs Words and photos: Stuart Butler

16 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

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ome ideas turn out to be genuinely good. Others sound good, but turn out to be questionable when put into action. As one-and-a-half tonnes of a notoriously bad tempered beast with a sharply pointy front-end stared me down from a few metres away, I wondered if this idea was going to be one of the latter. ‘So, what do we do if he charges us?’ I whispered to Sammy Lemiruni, Head Guide at the new Saruni Rhino Camp. ‘First of all, I’ll assess the situation,’ he said, ‘then I’ll issue the necessary instructions. Then, if need be, we can hide behind something; or climb a tree.’ From the calmly contemplative tone of his response, I could only conclude that moody black rhinos don’t move very quickly. But this one was awfully close. Probably no more than fifteen metres away. ‘How fast can an angry rhino run?’ I said in an attempt to reassure myself that I had all the time in the world to get out of the way of this one should he take offence at our presence. ‘Oh,’ said Sammy, ‘about ten metres a second.’ Great… I was in northern Kenya on the Sera Conservancy. Falling under the umbrella of the Northern Rangelands Trust, it’s a 345,000-hectare slab of sun-dried acacia woodland, criss-crossed by riverbeds flowing more often with sand than water. A twohour drive northeast of the famous Samburu National Reserve; this is an area rich in elephant, gerenuk and oryx. Imbued with a strong Samburu culture, it’s also a true wilderness rarely visited by tourists and, as I was finding out, one of Northern Kenya’s most exciting conservation areas. The excitement stems, not so much from the profusion of elephant and antelope or from the prolific birdlife (though all three constitute major attractions) but, rather, from the presence of a group of very special black rhinoceroses. According to the Samburu elders, rhinos were once common in this region. As a result of decades of poaching, however, they had become a relict of the distant past: the last one having been shot at least fifty years ago. But then things changed. In 2015, a dozen black rhinos were translocated from other parts of Kenya and released into the Sera conservancy: and the project was an immediate success. Two years later, the rhinos have settled in so well that they’ve even started breeding: two calves having already been born. Better still, the conservancy has capitalized on the return of the rhinos to launch a unique safari experience: black rhino tracking on foot. Which was why I found myself staring at a creature straight from the age of the dinosaurs with absolutely nothing between him and me… but a bush. Black rhinos are very shy and nervous. They like to live in scrubby bush with lots of hiding places, which makes locating them tricky. On the Sera Conservancy, however, the rhinos are fitted with radio-tracking devices. So all we needed to do to find them was to wait while a ranger scrambled to the top of a boulderstrewn hill and wave about something that looked suspiciously like a bent coat-hanger… until it beeped.

Fortunately for us, black rhinos have terrible eyesight, which allowed us to use the bushy landscape for cover whilst creeping to within fifteen metres of this particular creature. However, whilst their eyesight is poor, their sense of sense of smell is phenomenal. And their hearing is exceptional. So when somebody inadvertently stood on a twig the rhino swung around, lowered its great head like a bull facing a matador, and stared us down. My heart had been racing during the approach. Now, it seemed likely to leap out of my chest. The stand-off lasted a few seconds, but felt infinitely longer. An uneasy truce was declared. The rhino knew something wasn’t quite right, but since we remained frozen stock-still he couldn’t determine exactly where we were. Tension mounted. Then an ox-pecker (a bird with a predilection for riding the backs of large mammals) let forth a shrill shriek of alarm. And that was the signal for rhino action. He swung heavily to his left and crashed away through the bushes like a steamroller. I let out a long-held breath; and my heart rate slowed. Then, to my amazement, my fear changed to elation. A broad grin swept across my face as I turned to Sammy. ‘That,’ I said reverently, ‘was incredible. That was THE most thrilling animal encounter I’ve ever had. Can we do it again?’

Need to know The Sera Conservancy is an approximate 2-hour drive north of Samburu National Reserve. The nearest airstrips are either Kalama or Samburu both of which are served by Air Kenya ( The Rhino Tracking On Foot Experience can be booked through Saruni ( The author flew to Kenya with Kenya Airways ( who offer daily flights to Nairobi from London, Paris and Amsterdam.

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 17

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Kenya Why I Love

In this issue, we hear from Kenya’s Olympic poster girl, Shehzana Anwar, who tells us why she loves Kenya. ‘Kuki’, as she is better known, is the current women’s titleholder of the Africa Archery Championships and Kenya’s only female entrant to the individual recurve archery competition of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She also flew the Kenyan flag and led the Kenyan delegation at the event.


here is so much to love about Kenya. The people are very warm and welcoming. In fact, complete strangers still come up to me in the street and thank me for representing our country. Their warmth and appreciation humbles me.

Our country is not only stunningly beautiful, but it also has such an abundance of wildlife. I love our wildlife. My favourite animal is the leopard – I’m impressed by the sheer majesty of its beauty. But the baby elephants always melt my heart as well. I love the fact that Kenya is so modern, so industrialized and offers so many world-class attractions (just look at our magnificent shopping malls, for instance) and yet, it has lost none of its natural wilderness. I love getting out into the wilderness – particularly the national parks. Our family has always been adventurous. When we were younger, our parents would take my siblings and I camping in the national parks. I was too young to remember, but I’ve been shown all the pictures… and told all the tales. Nowadays, I’ve also discovered my own wilderness areas, such as Nairobi’s Karura Forest, the Oloolua Nature Trail, Nairobi National Park, the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Giraffe Centre and, of course, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – with its adorable baby elephants. I began my career as an archer in 2002 when I was only 12 years old. My mum has always been my coach. She also runs the Archery Association of Kenya. I experimented with many sporting disciplines before I chose archery, but during my first local competition I beat everyone (including the men) and since then I have never looked back. Archery is my sport, and I want

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to use my skill in it to represent Kenya in an entirely new way – to change the script, if you like. I was so proud to fly the Kenyan flag during the Olympics, literally and figuratively. It was a humbling experience and I have to admit that the flag was surprisingly heavy. But I managed to hold it proudly aloft throughout the entire procession. My father said he had never seen me smile as much as I did then. My profound love of Kenya has shaped who I am. The opportunities that I have been given in Kenya have been utterly amazing. Not only have I been lucky enough to represent my country as an archer, but I have also been privileged enough to help in setting up an archery range in Nairobi. I’m also going to open the first archery equipment shop in East Africa and, eventually I hope, a dedicated archery school. I know that Kenya has not quite achieved global competitive standards in archery, but that’s something I plan on changing. It’s my dream to be able to develop the pursuit of archery in Kenya, and to do all that I can in enabling Kenya to shine on the world stage. Meanwhile, I shall be defending my own title in the 2018 African Archery Championships; and I hope to represent my country in the next Olympics.’

I was so proud to fly the Kenyan flag during the Olympics, literally and figuratively. It was a humbling experience.

Photo by Lyndsey McIntyre

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 19

After a mega makeover, we are back and better than ever. Experience the magic of the Kenya coast whilst staying at the luxury Hemingways Watamu as we re-open our doors in 2018. +254 20 2295 011/012

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Beguiled and bewitched in


22 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

Escapist, enchanting, and with an indefinable air of having timewarped itself back to gentler days, Watamu beguiles. Standing atop a miniature peninsular, sheltered by the nurturing curve of Mida Creek, it abounds in rocky coves backed only by baobab trees; and shimmering lagoons fronted by three great sweeps of silver sand. Protected by Kenya’s barrier reef, the water is sapphire-clear and bathwater-warm all year round. Backed by the cool green vaults of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and the dreaming ruins of Gedi, Kenya’s most enigmatic 13th century Swahili city, Watamu has it all. There’s action if you want it and the Robinson-Crusoe-life if you don’t.

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 23


The Honourable Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism helps to return a rehabilitated turtle to the sea. © Make it Kenya / Stuart Price

Turtle time The beaches of Watamu are a favourite nesting site for green, hawksbill, olive ridley and leatherback turtles, and there’s a vibrant Turtle Watch initiative in place - not only to shepherd the baby turtles down to the beach, but also to rescue large turtles caught in the fishermen’s nets. Best time for turtle hatching is: March-October. For further information: or call +254 713 759627.

Dallying with dolphins Watamu is famous for its dolphins (Indo-Pacific bottlenose, Indo-Pacific humpback and spinner). Returning year after year to the sanctuary of Watamu, mothers arrive with their calves and males arrive to mate. What’s more, the regulars have been carefully catalogued according to their very personalized fin markings, giving dolphin spotting tours an added dimension. You can also enjoy the rare treat of standup paddle boarding with dolphins. For more information: or visit the Tribe Watersports website: © Tribe Watersports

24 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

Having a whale of a time Given that they’re the size of a double-decker bus, a whale-sighting is a perspective-changing experience. And in Watamu, such sightings are commonplace, not least because the whalespotting teams liaise to circulate information as to where the whales are at any given time. Migratory pods of humpback whales pass by from Southern Africa typically July-September, while the prime whale shark season is usually September-December, but whales are often seen at other times of the year too. Nor do you have to go out on a boat to see these gentle giants – they often ‘breach’ right off the headland – so you can see them from your bar stool. For further information: Swimming with a whale shark

Dive deep It’s a tribute to the brilliance of the Watamu dive experience that people come back year after year to experience it. One visitor admitted to having done 750 dives off Watamu with Turtle Bay Dive Centre (www. When asked what made him such an unshakeable devotee of Watamu diving, he said it was a mix of friendly dive-guides, year-round clear, warm water, and a great selection of 20 world-class dive profiles ranging from cliffs, drop-offs, night dives and wreck dives. Also good to know is that, whether you’re a learner or a pro, Watamu abounds with exceptionally professional dive-schools. So… dive in.

Manta Ray

Water world An inspirational water world, Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve showcases the entire water-sports spectrum to perfection: kitesurfing, paddle-boarding, boogie-boarding, snorkelling, sailing – the lot. It also boasts a glorious coral reef with 150 species of coral, 1000 species of reef fish, sea turtle feeding and breeding sites and the additional lure of sightings of manta rays, grouper and barracuda in the deeper waters.

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 25


The Midas Touch Photos © Greg Armfield


ccording to Greek mythology, everything that ancient King Midas touched turned to gold. On the calm stretch of tidal water known as Mida Creek it’s the water that turns liquid gold as one of Kenya’s most stunning sunsets illuminates this secret domain of mangrove swamps and palm trees. For optimum immersion in the gold-painted early evening, take a spin on the creek in a traditional dugout canoe. Pole-propelled, it can nose its way into the mysterious forest of mangrove roots where ghost crabs flash briefly in the shallows, white egrets roost and grey herons stand as motionless as statues. You’ll meet local fishermen - wading in the creek and crab-hunting with bows and arrows. You may even encounter the Mida rush-hour – a flurry of two or three little white boats packed with laughing local ladies and the odd surf board with a stool strapped to it – the paddler, more often than not, with his cell phone crammed to his ear. And as gold gives way to indigo, you can head into the community-run Crab Shack for cold beers and golden-fried crab samosas. The crabs are farmed in the mangrove swamps so they don’t come any fresher; and by sampling the Mida experience you’re supporting the local community. It’s gold-chip eco-tourism. For further information:

Wriggle room Fancy holding a four-foot cobra, and milking it for its venom? Then head for Bio-Ken Snake Farm, just five minutes from the centre of Watamu village. Housing the largest collection of snakes in East Africa, the farm is also a vital source of snake-bite serum. It also makes a great family outing boasting both scare-value and education alike. For further information:

26 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

Haunted cities, forgotten mosques and magical culture Watamu’s history is long and venerable. The vast city of Gedi, now a national monument, was first settled by Arab traders around the 12th century and not abandoned until the 16th century when, as legend has it, everyone left virtually overnight, scattering their treasures as they ran. But Gedi is not the only remainder of a forgotten civilization – on Temple Point, ringed by ancient baobabs, stands a ruined mosque. And there are more ruins on the utterly unspoilt and rarely visited island of Kirepwe, which lies on the far side of Mida Creek. Photos of Gedi Ruins © Greg Armfield

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 27

The ‘blue team’ in action

Whacky-wise On the sandy track that leads from Watamu to Mida Creek is a miracle. It’s called EcoWorld. And it’s deliciously, inspirationally whacky. On one side of the road is an enormous pile of plastic refuse, on the other a stockade made of plastic flip-flop sandals. Venture inside and you enter the utterly surreal world of Watamu’s revolutionary recycling industry. Fuelled by the refuse washed up on the beaches and by the vast amount of plastic and glass bottles generated by the local hotels, the EcoWorld team create everything from construction blocks (plastic bottles filled with sand), bottle-bottom bricks, art made from washed-up toothbrushes – to toys made from recycled flip-flops, charcoal made from crushed coconut shells and cooking gas made from rotting vegetables. But the miracle doesn’t stop there – the EcoWorld ‘blue team’ keep the beaches clean, the local hotels cook on the methane gas generated by their own kitchen waste, and the compost left over from the biogas generators grows luxuriant bunches of basil which fuel the local pizzas. An award-winning, benchmarksetting and superbly-symbiotic relationship between the local community and tourism industry, the EcoWorld model is so successful that it’s being mirrored all over Kenya and the world. Visitors are welcome and the gift shop (itself constructed entirely from bottles) is a treasure trove of ecologically-sound gifts. For further information:

Top & centre: The Sauti ya Wanawake (the voice of women) group manufacture coconut oil at EcoWorld and visitors are welcome to participate as part of the community experience. Above: Methane siphoned from rotting vegetables can be used to make cooking gas (as well as protect the environment). Left and below: Some of the wonderful art and gifts created from recycled waste.

Photos © Greg Armfield

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Village Life In the village, there’s a cheery line-up of stalls displaying brilliantlycoloured fashions, local carvings and vibrant art. Elsewhere there are Italian coffee shops, gelato bars, wine shops, delicatessens and bakeries. Fishermen sell fish fresh from the sea. The restaurants range from gourmet to simple roadside snack bar. The clientele is cosmopolitan fusion. There are Italian and British residents; there are multi-cultural tourists; and there’s the welcoming mélange of the locals. And the happy-go-lucky air of the place is epitomized by the fact that most people get around either by walking along the beach or taking a gailypainted tuk tuk (motorcycle taxi).

And when it comes to accommodation, Watamu has it all: 5 star resorts, family resorts, eco resorts, apartments, simple guest houses and safe and secure camping.

BE INSPIRED BY THE WONDERS OF WATAMU Fishing Kite Surfing Hotels Restaurants Private Villas Health Spas Yoga Ice Cream and Turtles

Getting there It couldn’t be easier. It’s a scenic 95 km drive from Mombasa, or a short flight from Nairobi to nearby Malindi (Air Kenya, Fly 540, Jambo Jet and Kenya Airways). Malindi is just 15km north of Watamu and taxis are easily obtained.

What else do you need? photo courtesy of Watamu Treehouse

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 29

© Greg Armfield

The bird whisperer You have to get up early to spot the famous Sokoke Scops-owl. It’s nocturnal, on the IUCN red-list of endangered species, and traceable only by its whistle. And it’s only six inches high. ‘How early?’ we ask Jonathan, our guide, ‘around 4am,’ he says, ‘but if you want to see it I’ll send someone into the forest overnight. They’ll sit under its tree until you arrive.’ Owl-sitting? Well why not. Arabuko-Sokoke solutions are colourful. Take the solution to the potential problem of encountering the forest elephants. The evidence as to their existence is everywhere. Their droppings litter the track, their tunnels dive off left and right into the dense undergrowth; and from time to time there’s an overturned tree across the track; and its roots have been wrenched off. So what happens if we meet an elephant on a track only broad enough for humans to walk two-abreast? The solution is scholarly.

Sokoke Scops-owl © John Mwacharo

30 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

‘Take a handful of sand and run it through your fingers’, says Jonathan. ‘Why?’ we ask. ‘To determine the wind direction’, he replies. We’re still mystified. ‘Elephants are very shortsighted,’ he explains, ‘so if you run in the opposite direction to the wind they won’t get your scent.’

watamu Yellow-bellied greenbul © John C. Avise

© Joan Egert / Dreamstime

Golden-rumped elephant shrew

Elephant ahead! Simple - just take off your shirt... © Greg Armfield

We remain unconvinced. Is there not a more rapid response mechanism to a two-ton elephant on a tight track? Jonathan pushes his glasses up his nose. ‘Well,’ he says at last, ‘you could take off your shirt.’ Really? Now, why would we do that? ‘To throw at the elephant and so confuse its sense of smell,’ says Jonathan, ever the academic. There’s doubt amongst the female members of the party as to the wisdom of plunging bra-clad into the bush while elephant pursued, but we keep it to ourselves. And we’re rewarded by the assurance that the likelihood of our encountering elephants is zero: they have a marked aversion to human company. ‘You’ve got a much better chance of seeing a goldenrumped elephant shrew,’ says Jonathan. We’re keen. But we’re destined for disappointment because the forest delivers up her treasures slowly, and the shrew isn’t one of them. ‘You have to look for the little things,’ says Jonathan. And so it is that we find ourselves engrossed in the do-or-die drama of a train of Matabele ants and a nest of termites. It’s epic. The ant-scouts scurry ahead; the soldier ants bring up the rear. They’re moving fast; and they mean business. In their mound, the fat white termites lie supine, blithely unaware of their approaching doom. The climax is superb: the nest is breached; the termites are carried off squirming between the shiny black pincers of the ants. What a denouement. And not only for the termites. Looking down at our feet, we realize we’ve been ravished ourselves. Our shoes and socks are covered with tiny Chinese dragons with red, furry, crested tufts: they’re only caterpillars, but all the same... Then, looking up, we find we’re walking amid clouds of dancing butterflies, some as tiny as sugar cubes, others the size of coffee cups. Arabuko-Sokoke is getting into her stride. We follow the track through three distinct forest zones: in the first the branches arch over our heads and the air is heavy with the sultry

camphor scent of mahogany. In the second, huge ferns edge the track. They’re cycads, the last surviving members of a species that flourished when the dinosaurs walked the earth. In the third, the air is filled with birdsong. A fish eagle screams overhead; a pair of tropical boubou sing an endless bubbling duet that ripples through the air like the gurgling of babies. Suddenly Jonathan raises a hand for silence. He’s caught the distinctive call of a yellow-bellied greenbul singing deep in the bush. He mimics its three-note call to perfection. Fooled into thinking there’s a willing female on the track, the greenbul ventures evercloser until he’s in the branches above Jonathan’s head. The man and bird exchange soft endearments. They’re mutually entranced. It’s a rare skill that Jonathan has perfected over many years of guiding. He’s good: very good. He’s a bird whisperer.

Need to know The visitor centre of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve lies 1.5 km south of the Gedi/Watamu junction on the MalindiMombasa road. Here you can engage the services (for a small fee) of an official guide. Alternatively you can meander the tracks alone. The forest hosts 230 species of birds, 263 species of butterflies and such rarities as the Sokoke Scopsowl, Sokoke bushy-tailed mongoose, the Ader’s duiker, the blotched genet cat and the caracal. There are also bushbabies, Sykes’ monkeys, yellow baboons and vervet monkeys. Our guide was Jonathan Baya – to book him email:

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 31



Giriama elder, Watamu Š Greg Armfield


t’s a haunting tale, one that plucks at the harp strings of an ancient race-memory. Many moons ago, like Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden, the nine tribes of the Mijikenda were forced to leave their mythical homeland of Shungwaya (now believed to be in northern Somalia). Nobody knows why they left; only that they set out in search of sanctuary. It was a perilous journey. They were harried down the coast by the cannibalistic Galla tribe to arrive in Kenya exhausted and traumatized. And there, casting up their eyes, they saw the green-cloaked hills rising above the sapphire blue sea. And they decided to put their faith in the shelter of the forest. The forest, however, was the ancient realm of the Watta, the last of the Neolithic hunter-gatherers. And so, no sooner had the Mijikenda crept into the cool green glades, than they were encircled by small men with watchful eyes. And, as the shafts of sunlight glanced off the poisontipped spears, it seemed that the odyssey of the Nine Tribes must end in death. But magic intervened. Smiling in welcome, the bushmen led the Nine Tribes to a hilltop sanctuary where they indicated that homesteads might be built. Then they melted back into the forests as silently as they had come. Deciding

32 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

to build nine separate homesteads, the Mijikenda split up and the largest group, the Giriama, built their homestead, or Kaya, overlooking the rocky coastline now known as Watamu. Surrounding it with sharp staves and great boulders, the Giriama ringed their Kaya with a magical cobweb of spells designed to entrap those bent on entering with illintent. In the forest glades, they erected wooden totems, carved in the rough shape of a man, called Vigango, which they placated (because ancestors can be capricious) with palm wine. In their homesteads they put up wooden Koma, statues in commemoration of venerated family members. And to these they looked for guidance in all things. Based on a foundation of age-sets, the oldest of which, the Kambi, was a council of elders, Giriama society hinged on the belief in two stark opposites: good and evil. Evil was fanned by the flames of envy, greed, anger and jealousy: good resulted from sharing and strong community. To keep evil at bay, secret societies were founded to detect the presence of evil-doers. And the most powerful of these was The Cult of the Fisi (hyena), whose oath was so potent that, when buried in the ground, it could poison the water drunk by one carrying evil in his heart.

Rules were evolved to protect every aspect of society, and those who transgressed against them were easily identified by the nature of the misfortunes that befell them. The death of a child betokened the breaking of the incest taboo; the arrival of malaria meant an entire family had strayed from the path of communal good. Those identified in evil either confessed or were cast out from the tribe. And this, to a people whose faith lay in working for the common good and eating from the communal pot, meant death. Only one more layer of protection was required for the Kaya: the all-powerful drumming dance. Drummers and dancers were born to their role in the dance and each dance had a purpose: one brought rain, another expelled evil spirits. But the mightiest of all was the female-led funeral dance, the Kurunga, a sexually-fuelled celebration that struck awe into all who witnessed it.

© Richard Bradley / Alamy Stock Photo


Sadly, the Giriama’s second Eden was not to last. In the early 1900s, the British colonial administration viewed the Giriama dances as witchcraft, and when they tried to force the Giriama to serve in World War I, the Giriama rebelled by dancing the Kurunga up and down their land. The British responded by banning all dance and dynamiting many of the sacred Kayas. Thereafter, though the elders tried to dispense justice from the deserted Kayas, such was the pace of change, that they lacked an age-set to whom they might bequeath their sacred wisdom. So the totems rotted in the sacred glades, the Koma were discarded, and the once all-powerful drumming dances were performed only for tourists. The age-old Giriama magic was dead. Or was it? To judge for yourself, read the story on page 34.

Local fishermen © Greg Armfield

Sacred totems © Ann Arbor, MI, USA

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 33

Tales from the

Crab Shack We’re sitting in the Crab Shack, a communitybuilt restaurant raised on spindly mangrove stilts above the silky-black waters of Mida Creek. The sun is setting and the water is oiledgold. Crab samosas are being prepared for the tourists who will arrive later. I’m in the company of two young Giriama men. Their cell phones lie on the table before them: the new magic. The men laugh when I ask them about the old beliefs. ‘They don’t exist anymore,’ they say, ‘it’s all been forgotten now.’ ‘So what do you believe in?’ I ask. There’s a silence broken only by the unholy shrieking of a sacred ibis overhead. ‘I believe in good and evil,’ says one man eventually. His friend flashes him a look. They’re clearly uncomfortable with such un-modern talk. But I persevere.

34 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

Photos © Greg Armfield


The sun is sinking fast and the sky alternately streaked with lilac and mango-pink. A cloak of calm seems to have fallen over the creek. It’s very still. Suddenly the barriers drop and the stories begin to flow from my two friends. First, they tell me about their reverence for the Watta bushmen who gave sanctuary to the Giriama so long ago: ‘We can never forget them,’ they say. Then they tell me about the power of the elders, the ancestral Koma statues, and the sacred fingo boulders that still protect the villages. They recount how the ‘old people’ believed illness and bad luck to be the direct result of the breaking of taboos. ‘That’s why we’ve got Global Warming,’ jokes one young man. His friend laughs. So do I. Try telling that to President Trump. Suddenly, we’re no longer alone in our shack. Sitting on a nearby table, head cocked to catch our voices, is a large yellow baboon. We take no notice of him: the young men, it seems, are now inspired by the memories we have evoked; one even brushes the back of his hand across his eyes. Then he says, ‘my father was a famous dancer. He always took the lead in a certain dance. When he died, this dance was performed at his funeral, but the man who danced his role did not dance it correctly. In the middle of the dance, my mother fell down in a coma. People wanted to take her to hospital but the elders forbade it. Instead, they called forward the man who should have danced my father’s role and led him to the graveside to discuss the matter. Fifteen minutes later my mother revived.’ As the story ends, the silence thickens. Frogs plop into the dark water with a sound like fingers popped out of cheeks. On the table, the yellow baboon remains motionless. Then the second young man takes up the narrative: ‘It was the same with my uncle,’ he says, ‘he always said he wanted a traditional funeral but he’d been left alone by his family: his children had married white people and gone to live abroad. When he died, the children returned carrying briefcases and waving important papers. They put their father in a fancy coffin and carried him to church where the pastor prayed over him. In the middle of the service, the glass lid of the coffin shattered and the shards fell down

Yellow baboon © blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo

and pierced the corpse. Nobody knew what to do. Then the elders stepped forward, took my uncle out of the coffin, laid him in the ground, covered him with a white cloth and began to talk to him. The next day, the house where the foreigners had left their luggage burned to the ground.’ At the close of the second tale, I glance up from my notes. The two faces are as golden-calm as the creek – the storytelling has brought release. But the light is fading and the samosas need cooking. Time to wrap up? Not quite. ‘I believe we still have the power for good or evil,’ says the bolder of the two young men. He glances challengingly at his friend, ‘and we can still use it,’ he says. ‘So if I wake up tomorrow and find myself up a baobab tree’ (he jabs an accusing finger at his friend) ‘I’ll know who put me there.’ The baboon has silently dropped down from the table and is swinging his way through the dark thicket of mangrove roots. One of the mobile phones trills: an Italian wants to book a table for six. The spell is broken.

A baobab tree illuminated by the dawn light. The Giriama regard the baobab as a sacred tree. Photo © Stuart Butler

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 35

wide angle lens

Valentine’s Day for


Being a male weaverbird is no push over. To get the girl, you have to make her a love nest she can’t refuse. And it’s not easy. First you have to make a knot with a long blade of grass and attach it to a branch. Then you have to build a circular structure by weaving in other blades of grass using only your beak and your feet. The specification for the nest is precise: it must be globular in shape, have an upside-down tubular predator-proof entrance, be fully-upholstered, entirely waterproof and capable of withstanding high winds. It takes around two days to build. And then once you’ve built your nest – it must be judged. This is the tricky bit. A series of females may inspect your offering – if they like it, they will move in immediately. If they don’t like it you must destroy it immediately. And build another one – immediately: because the girls only like fresh nests (so no use building a number of different models and waiting to see which one tickles her fancy). Consequently, in an average breeding season, you might have to build up to fifty nests. It’s tough at the top of the tree.

36 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

A Golden Palm Weaverbird in Watamu © Greg Armfield

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 37

In Kenya we like breakfast

Sunny side up Start your day with Farmer’s Choice

Mobile: +254 722 331 706/ 735 601 021 Email: Website:


Africa in style

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A first class, completely personalised service with an excellent safety record A fleet of 16 modern aircraft including 11 Cessna Grand Caravans (13 passengers) Available for private charter and used by most established safari companies in the region Also providing freight, photographic flights, aerial surveys, aid, emergency and relief flying services

Z. Boskovic Air Charters Ltd Tel: +254 020 6006364, 6006432, 6001341, 6000741 Mobile: +254 (0) 733 600208, 0722 203 852, +254 (0) 733 555007 / 0724 255 359 Email: Website:

38 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

Where hippo own the night and lions claim vast territories... Here we submit to the supreme power of wild Africa and take our lead from Mother Nature…

We’ve been expecting you.

Tel: +254 204450035/6, +254 702 692648 Email: Website:

Elephant Bedroom Camp - Samburu

Mbweha Camp - Lake Nakuru

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Tipilikwani Mara Camp - Masai Mara


TNB3646_ANGAMA_MagazineAD_WILK2017-FA.indd 3

2017/03/15 1:14 PM

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 39

spotlight tab titleon


Connoisseur’s Cup “Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.” Charles Maurice de Talleyrand


t’s a strange scene. A long room, windows flung open, but the air redolent of the rich, dark, seductive aroma of coffee. The walls are lined with shelves bearing hundreds of shoebox-sized tins, each one neatly labelled. A long bench runs the length of the room – covered from end to end with white cups filled with dark black coffee. A group of people is moving steadily down the line of cups. They are making the most peculiar noise. Like so many white-aproned birds, male and female, tall and short, black and white, they are first sucking, then tweeting, then warbling. And finally - spitting. Noisily. It’s bizarre.

40 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018

This is the cupping room of Dormans Coffee in Nairobi. It’s the heart of the empire; the place where the coffee is tasted and, most important of all, where it is judged according to acidity, body and flavour. Arabica coffee beans flow into this room from all over Kenya. From tiny farms with no more than 50 bushes on the slopes of Mount Kenya to the larger cooperatives that dot the highlands all the way to the Aberdare Range. Here, the samples are roasted, ground and brewed before being lined up for the daily ‘cupping’ or tasting.

tab title

A career in coffee tasting is not for the faint-hearted, you may have to train for anything from 1-3 years to attain the correct qualifications. And you may have to taste around 800 cups of coffee a week. And there’s an art to it. First you pick up your spittoon (a simple mug with a funnel into which you spit the coffee), then your spoon. Then you take a spoonful of coffee and swill it around your mouth so as to create a froth that reaches from the tip of your tongue to the back of your teeth. Then you spit it out. And now comes the difficult bit – interpreting what you have tasted. Some 1000 aromatic compounds go into creating a taste – and when it comes to coffee they can deliver results ranging from ‘cooked beef’, ‘straw’ and ‘smoke’ (bad) to fresh butter, walnuts, dark chocolate, and vanilla (good). Thankfully, however, at Dormans the incidence of ‘cooked beef’ is rare because Kenyan Arabica is rated by the coffee cognoscenti as the finest in the world. The so called ‘connoisseur’s cup’ ranks in the world’s top five coffees and is famous for its fresh, floral aroma and subtle flavour of blackberries, bergamot and lemongrass. Only in Kenya, however, will you taste it at its very best because only here can you experience it (relatively) fresh from the bush. Once picked, the cherry (which houses the bean) must be pulped fermented, sun-dried and conditioned. Then the beans must be milled, auctioned, shipped and finally, bagged and placed on the shelves of a supermarket in, say, America or Europe. And this process can take anything from 8 months to a year. And, with every passing month, the mystical magic of the coffee ebbs away. All the more reason, then, if you are a coffee lover, to not only DRINK your coffee in Kenya, but also to carry it home for your fellow coffee aficionados.

Bean counting Of all the premium gourmet coffees in the world, and there are relatively few at the top, Kenyan coffee is of the most consistently high quality – it also fetches the highest prices on the world market. The highest rated Kenyan coffee is Kenyan AA, which has the largest beans containing the most aromatic oil Kenya is the 16th largest coffee growing country in the world producing 0.5% of the world’s coffee. Around 94% of Kenya’s coffee is exported. Kenyan Arabica coffee is classed as washed green coffee. It grows at an altitude of 1,700 to 1,800 meters. It is thought that coffee was not cultivated in Kenya until 1893 when the French Holy Ghost Fathers introduced coffee trees from Reunion Island. Dormans Coffee was established in 1950 and is one of the world’s most respected gourmet coffee houses. Visit:

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 41

Wild Action

© Stuart Butler

Like to be a wildlife ranger? Come to Kenya and you can. For the second year running, the world renowned Lewa-Borana Wildlife Conservancies of northern Kenya are inviting guests to spend a week as part of a ranger team tasked with tracking, locating and counting rhinos and lions in the annual Big Five Wildlife Census. They’ll also get to work on some unique conservation, health and educational projects. Job opportunities don’t get much better than this. Week commences 24th February 2018. For more information:

A REAL spin around Africa For an utterly unique insight into Africa on wheels, why not join the 2018 African Spokes, a 68-day, 6,520 km cycling trip starting in Nairobi and ending in Cape Town. Divided into a number of stages, which can be taken singly or together, this epic journey begins in Kenya on March 17th and includes a tour of Nairobi before setting off at sunrise for 3 days/280 kms of riding that heads into Tanzania taking in stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro and ending up in the picturesque safari town of Arusha. Thereafter, you can either head off for some ‘R and R’ in Zanzibar or get back in the saddle and prepare for the next legs, which are: Tanzania to Malawi; Malawi to Zambia; Zambia to Namibia; and Namibia to South Africa. Best of all, not only will you be riding in some excellent company, but you will also be contributing towards a range of charities to include Zawadisha and Space for Giants. © Savage Wilderness

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For more information contact:

wild action

Mount Ololokwe © Saruni

Ruppell’s vulture

Cultural climb For a climb that combines wildlife watching, cultural insight and unrivalled photo-ops head for Mount Ololokwe (1,942m), the sacred mountain of the Samburu people. It’s a challenging climb that will take you around 6-8 hours return, but once you’ve achieved the summit the views over the shimmering desert region of the Samburu National Reserve are sublime. The mountain is also home to elephant and buffalo while the skies above are patrolled by vast numbers of raptors (including the largest population of Ruppell’s vultures in Kenya). You won’t be going it alone, though, but rather with your dedicated Samburu guides, who will entertain you along the way with tales regarding the cultural significance of the mountain. What’s more, if you like it so much when you get to the top, you can camp overnight and watch the sunrise. Alternatively, for the non-hikers, why not charter a helicopter to the summit for a romantic sunrise and bush breakfast. Need to know: Managed by the Namunyak Conservancy, climbs of Ololokwe can be arranged through Saruni Samburu ( or Sabache Camp (

Samburu © Stuart Butler

WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018 43

kenya tourism board


Land of Adventure

High-octane sporting activities range from skydiving to rhino tracking; and from camel racing to mountain climbing. And that’s before you trawl through the opportunities for big game fishing, deep sea diving, high altitude running, high-speed rallying or lava cave exploration.

there’s Nairobi National Park with its magnificent safari walk, a gentle boardwalk that skims high above the park showcasing wildlife and ecological habitats alike. Down on the Indian Ocean coastline, meanwhile, lies the enchanted realm of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, sanctuary of the golden-rumped elephant shrew, and an ornithologist’s wonderland.

For those aiming high, Mount Kenya provides the ultimate challenge. At 5,199 metres, this extinct volcano is Africa’s second highest mountain. Straddling the equator, topped in snow and ice, gouged by glaciers, and cloaked in elephant patrolled forests, this iconic mountain promises one of the most challenging technical climbs in Africa; but its lower peaks can be conquered by anyone in reasonable health thanks to the wealth of qualified guides available.

World-famous for the magnificence of her runners, Kenya is also the venue of choice for those who’d like to train alongside the greats. Travel to the little town of Iten in Northern Kenya, and you’ll find yourself running alongside some of the best-known names in longdistance running. Alternatively, you can run alongside some very famous faces through the wildlife and the wilderness of Lewa during the annual Safaricom marathon.

For the trekker, there are guided walks across the shimmering reaches of the savannah, or hikes through the waterfalls and forests of the Aberdares range. On the Uganda border, there’s the challenge of enigmatic Mount Elgon, world-famous for its salt-mining elephants. And for the truly intrepid there are the cloud forests and lakes of magical Mount Marsabit, a remote montane paradise located in the burning reaches of Kenya’s rugged northern region.

Alternatively, you can relax on the beach, take on the personal challenge of the golf course, fly around the peaks of Mount Kenya in a helicopter, or explore the coral gardens of the Indian Ocean equipped only with a mask and snorkel. Because, rising from silver beaches to Alpine peaks, Kenya has an unrivalled ecological diversity. And as the longest established safari venue in the world, she brings literally decades of experience to the creation of sporting challenges and magical moments alike.

In the arena of adventure, Kenya stands tall.

For those preferring a gentler walk, there are the nature trails of Saiwa Swamp, home of the elusive sitatunga, or the winding canyons of Hell’s Gate National Park. And in the centre of Nairobi,

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Come to Kenya… and encounter the magic.

© Midego Fotography




Africa’s Leading Tourist Board

© Ride Kenya / Max Melesi

Kenya Tourism Board, Kenya Re Towers, Ragati Road, Nairobi. Tel: +254 20 2749126. Take a tour:

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Nairobi around and about As well as being the ‘Safari capital of the world’, Nairobi also happens to be one of Africa’s most dynamic cities. So it’s well worth a couple of days’ discovering Kenya’s ‘City in the Sun’ before or after your safari.

Get on down

© GoDown Arts Centre

Warehouses in Kenya are known as ‘go downs’ because back in the colonial days the instruction would be, ‘go down to the warehouse and …’. Today if you want to take the temperature of Nairobi’s pulsing arts scene you have to go down to the GoDown Arts Centre. A converted warehouse in the city’s Industrial Area, this is a multi-functional art gallery and cultural space for the visual and performing arts. Further information:

Something in the wind Rising from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the glacial towers of Mount Kenya, Kenya is the epitome of photogenic. And photographers flock to capture her magic. Some of the finest images, however, are framed by those who live in Kenya. To see them, head to the fascinating Upepo Gallery (Upepo means ‘the wind’ in Swahili), which opened in May 2017 and showcases the works of some of the finest photographers working in Kenya today. Famous ‘names’ include Anup Shah, Carl de Souza, Tony Karumba, Georgina Goodwin, Natalia Mroz, Fredrik Lerneryd, Neil Thomas, Siegfried Modola and Michael Soi. You can also pick up some stunning limited edition prints. The gallery is open Tue-Sun 11am-4pm. For further information visit the website:

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© Upepo Gallery

in close up

© Ryan Duly

If you’d like to find yourself in the midst of an ancient forest, home to 605 species of wildlife and 200 species of birds; a place of plunging waterfalls and mysterious caves where Kenya’s freedom fighters once sheltered - then head for the Karura Forest Reserve on the outskirts of Nairobi. A place where monkeys swing and butterflies flit, this is the ideal place for family walks, cycling and picnics. E-mail: or visit

© Stuart Butler

For the love of meat Kenyans love their meat (Nyama in Swahili). And best of all, they like it choma (literally ‘burned’, but actually barbequed). A classic Kenyan eating experience, nyama choma is best sampled at a nyama choma stand – and they come in all shapes and sizes. Recommended by those that know, however, are the stands in the Kenyatta Market where, reputedly, even the President himself has been known to tuck in.

© Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Alamy Stock Photo

In the magic forest

City Market Once the hangar of a hot air balloon, City Market is smack bang in the center of town and best reached by taxi. Colourful, chaotic and not for the timid (every stall holder vies to sell their wares and bargaining is a must) it is the ideal place to buy wooden carvings, soap stone statues, printed T-shirts, Maasai beadwork and more. Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. Closes at noon on Saturday.

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Why are

f lamingos Pink?

Well, actually, they’re not. Strange but true: flamingos are born grey and their feathers only turn pink as they eat their preferred diet of the blue-green algae, Spirulina, which contains a natural pink dye called canthaxanthin. Consequently, flamingos kept in zoos turn from pink to grey, unless they have synthetic canthaxanthin added to their diets.

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pirulina has a lot to answer for in the life of the flamingo: a periodic low Spirulina count in the waters of their most famous home on Lake Nakuru causes them to migrate north and south to Kenya’s other lakes. If there’s a high Spirulina count, however, then as many as 1.5 million birds might arrive to create what famous ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson called, ‘the most fabulous bird spectacle on earth.’ The spectacle comes, however, at a price because an average population of 300,000 flamingos suck around 180 tonnes of Spirulina out of the lake every day. That’s a lot of algae. And nor is it always available. Sometimes, after a long dry period, the level of the water in the lake will reduce and its alkalinity will increase. This is bad news for the Spirulina, which cannot tolerate too high an alkaline content. Consequently they shrivel up and die leaving the flamingos with a conundrum: they can deviate from their diet, depart for another lake, or die. It’s a tough choice and, though the flamingos try to survive on an alternative algae known as Clamydomonas, it’s considerably smaller than Spirulina and slips through the filtering system of their beaks. So, faced with starvation, they have only one choice – to migrate. Migrating flamingos make for one of nature’s most glorious spectacles. Rising from the lake in choreographed flights of coral pink, they head off in V formation, streaking the blue skies pink, and filling the air with the sound of their honking. Where do they go? Any large expanse of water might attract them, but not before they’ve checked it out for Spirulina. And if the menu isn’t up to scratch, they’ll move on in search of better. Sometimes south, sometimes as far north as up to Lake Turkana, even to Ethiopia and Botswana. The lesser flamingo is one of the world’s six flamingo species, but when it comes to eating Spirulina, it’s a master of the art. Custom-built for the job, it has long legs that allow it to wade and feed in water nearly a meter deep, while its long neck allows it to reach down into the water where it feeds with its

head upside down. Flamingos harvest their algae by ‘grazing’ along the top of the water, skimming only a few centimetres of it into their elegantly curved bills. Inside the bill is a complex filtration system. The upper mandible is triangular and fits tightly into the lower bill when closed, and the inner surfaces of both are covered with fine hair arranged in rows of about four to the centimetre. The thick, fleshy tongue fits neatly into a tubular groove in the lower mandible where it moves back and forth like a piston. As the tongue retracts, water is sucked in over the filter hairs; as it extends the water is forced out causing the algae to be caught in the fine filament hairs of the mandibles. Consequently, if you watch a flamingo feeding, you will notice a pulsing ring of water coming rapidly out of its beak.

Did you know? It’s not only flamingos that thrive on Spirulina – it is also highly beneficial to humans - being rich in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins, iron and calcium. Indeed so nutrientpacked is Spirulina that it has been dubbed ‘the most nutrientdense food on the planet’. The good news is, however, that it doesn’t turn humans pink.

Flamingo Facts Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) Identification: 56 in / 142 cm. Plumage white with a pink wash, wing-coverts and auxillaries bright coral-red; flight feathers black, bill pink with black tip – a much larger and paler bird than the lesser flamingo, easily recognised by its pink bill and ‘S’-shaped neck.

Lesser Flamingo (Pheonicopterus minor) Identification: 40 in / 101 cm. Plumage deep pink, much darker and brighter than the greater flamingo; bill dark carmine-red with black tip.

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Kenyan style Retail therapy

Unquestionably the world’s most famous safari capital, Nairobi is rapidly emerging as one of Africa’s hottest shopping cities boasting ten mega malls, the most recent of which, Two Rivers (, is the largest in East and Central Africa. Hugely popular with locals and visitors alike, the new malls have set a new benchmark for the global shopping experience. Best of all they host weekly handicraft markets where shoppers can browse the kaleidoscope of baskets, beadwork, carvings, artifacts and fabrics that reflect the ancient cultural heritage of the country.

Know your Maasai bead colours While you are in Kenya, you’re bound to see lots of Maasai beadwork. What you may not know, however, is what the colours of the beads symbolize. Here’s the answer: red stands for the blood of a slaughtered animal; white symbolizes the milk that sustains the Maasai people; orange represents milk mixed with blood, which is the drink that the Maasai believe provides them with strength and nourishment; green symbolizes the grass that feeds their cattle; and blue represents the sky above the Maasai lands, which was given to them by Engai, the Sky God.

Photo © Stuart Butler

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Kenya chic As seen on the runways of New York Fashion week, Kenyan designer Deepa Dosaja is the master of the art of combining the exuberance of the Kenyan colour palette with the simplicity of tropical styling. To take some Deepa delights home with you contact:

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Take home some

sunshine If you’d like to take some Kenyan sunshine home with you to combat the rainy days back home, why not invest in a TengeVuli umbrella. Hand made in Nairobi by community groups, all TengeVuli’s products are designed to drive social change by empowering youth and women. They’re also made using African fabric and upcycled plastic bags and scrap. For more information:

Don’t poo poo it! In an increasingly eco-conscious world, elephant dung paper is a ‘must have’ for everything from wedding invitations to gift cards. And there’s no shortage of raw material. An average elephant munches its way through 250kg of food a day producing 50kg of dung, which translates into 125 sheets of A4 paper.

Birdie! Kenya is famous for her ornithological treasures, boasting over 1100 bird species, one of the highest species counts in Africa. And, while you can’t take home a bird, you can take home a collection of these hand carved community-made beauties. Available in all shapes and sizes, from LBJs (little brown jobs) to hornbills, the birds can be hung in the garden, perched on the kitchen window sill or poised on the coffee table. For more information:

The majority of production takes place around the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, a community run sanctuary on the Swahili coast. Visit:

And whilst we’re on the subject of dung…. One of Kenya’s most fascinating insects, the dung beetle is encountered all over the country. This one has been cast in metal by local community workers using recycled material and cleverly captures the manner in which the beetle manoeuvres his ball, which serves as its pantry, wedding bower and nursery alike. For more information:

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kenya brief

Need to know For full information on Kenya visit


Historical sites


The coast is always hot with an average daytime temperature of 27-31 degrees centigrade whilst the average daytime temperature in Nairobi is 21-26 degrees centigrade. Temperatures elsewhere depend on altitude. July and August mark the Kenyan winter. Typically, JanuaryFebruary is dry, March-May is wet, JuneSeptember is dry, October-December is wet.

Kenya has over 400 historical sites ranging from paleolithic remains, 14th century slave trading settlements, Islamic ruins and the 16th century Portuguese Fort Jesus.

220-240 volts, with standard 13-amp square three-pin plugs.

Time GMT +3 all year-round. Kenya maintains an almost constant 12 hours of daylight, sun-up and sun-down being at around 6.30 and 18.45 daily, and varying only by 30 minutes during the year.

National Parks and Reserves Kenya has 56 national parks and reserves covering 44,359 sq km.

Fauna There are 80 major animal species and around 1,137 species of birds. Spotting over 100 bird species in a day is not uncommon.

Currency Kenya shilling. ATMs are available countrywide with 24-hour access. All major international cards are accepted.

Language English (official), Kiswahili (national), multiple ethnic languages (Bantu, Cushitic and Nilotic language groups).

Health A number of vaccinations are recommended (check with your doctor in advance). A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required ONLY if you are arriving from an infected country. Malaria is endemic in tropical Africa and protection against it is necessary.

Telephone International telephone code +254.

Entry To enter Kenya, a valid passport, not expiring for at least six months, is required as well as a valid entry visa (obtainable on arrival for a fee of US$50 or online via

Travelling to Kenya Numerous international carriers serve Kenya, and Nairobi is the hub of the East African region. Kenya has two international airports: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is half an hour’s drive from Nairobi’s city centre, and Mombasa’s Moi International Airport is even closer to the town centre. Taxis are readily available at both airports (officially regulated tariffs should be displayed).

The Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) is the umbrella body representing the interests of the tourism industry’s private sector. Its mission is to provide a single voice for the industry, to enhance standards, and to engage with Government on issues affecting its members. In recent years, KTF has taken an active role in destination marketing and was the driving force behind the Why I Love Kenya campaign. The KTF member associations are: Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC); Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO); Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA); Kenya Association of Air Operators (KAAO); Ecotourism Kenya (EK); Kenya Coast Tourism Association (KCTA) and the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (PERAK). For more information visit:

The Kenya Tourism Federation gratefully acknowledges the support of our Gold Sponsor, Swahili Beach

Why I Love Kenya Issue 5 Jan/Feb 2018  
Why I Love Kenya Issue 5 Jan/Feb 2018