MARCH-APRIL 2018 ISSUE 6
The Mountain of God Magical Mount Kenya
Be careful what you wish for In search of lions in the Mara
The Vanishing Mountain Bongo
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by Honourable Najib Balala EGH, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife. Karibu, welcome to Why I Love Kenya Magazine. In this issue, I would like to invite you to explore the wonders of Mount Kenya – the highest mountain in Kenya and the secondhighest mountain in Africa. The ‘Mountain of Shining Whiteness,’ as it is known by the local people, is utterly unique. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a wildlife stronghold, a national watershed of immeasurable value and the namesake of our nation. Some three-million years old, it straddles the Equator and yet is crowned with glittering spires of ice. Lapped by the glorious savannah plains of Laikipia, its primordial forests shelter vast herds of elephants, while in its lush bamboo groves countless monkeys swing. In its crystal streams, rainbow trout leap; while in its many and diverse habitats you will find black rhino, leopards, giant forest hog, buffalo, genet cat, spotted hyena and an entire cast of antelopes.
Honourable Balala and his team descending Mount Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife
little or no mountaineering experience whatsoever. So why not give it a try? For those who prefer to climb the mountain in virtual reality, however, this is the magazine for you. Flip through the pages and you will meet a herd of particularly adventurous migrating elephants – they have decided to use their very own underpass to traverse a busy road. You will also encounter a band of transatlantic mountain bongos that have defied extinction. Strolling through the rest of the magazine, you can learn more about the culture of the people who live on the slopes of the mountain, take in some roaming retail-therapy and indulge in some truly futuristic family ‘edutainment.’ Or you can plan your very own ‘royal’ wedding. Come to Kenya… and discover a thousand reasons to fall in love with Magical Kenya.
Recently, I climbed the mountain myself. And I found it to be a life-changing experience in so many ways. I forged ties with my guides and fellow-climbers so strong as to last a lifetime. I plumbed new depths of personal strength and determination. I discovered wild moorlands, giant plants and shady forests, such as I had never dreamt existed here in Kenya. And, when I finally reached Point Lenana, almost 5,000 meters above the plains below, I felt both humbled and elated by the glory of my achievement. Conquering Mount Kenya is an experience that has been enjoyed by many thousands of climbers. Yet most of them, just like me, had
Honourable Najib Balala EGH, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife.
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
Flying you to 17 Bush, Beach & Business destinations scross Kenya and Tanzania
WHY I LOVE KENYA669 March-April 2018 +254 (0)20 0000
PUBLISHER: Mike Jones 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: Alexi Lubomirski, Angama Mara, Anna Trzebinski, Bush Tops Camps, Elewana Collection, Hirola Conservation Programme, Jeremy Goss, Kenya Airways, Michael Poliza, Mills Publishing Ltd, Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, Niels Van Gijin / Asilia Encounter Mara, Nigel Pavitt, Offbeat Safaris, Patrick Tillard, Paul Mckenzie, Philip J Briggs, Ragati Conservancy, Ride Kenya, Stuart Butler, Shaun Mousley, Stuart Price, Tanja Kibogo, Tropic Air, United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo, William Holden Wildlife Foundation, www.jacquesmarais.co.za/PENTAX EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: email@example.com ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES: firstname.lastname@example.org Published by MJS Colourspace Ltd. Victoria Towers, Kilimanjaro Road, Upper Hill, Nairobi Tel: +254 (0)20 2738004, 2737883, +254 (0)727 794041 IN ASSOCIATION WITH:
01 Foreword 04 Zoom Lens 06 Moving image: The Out of Africa effect 08 Cameo Shot: Stefanie Powers - ‘Why I Love Kenya’ 10 Spotlight On: The Vanishing Mountain Bongo 13 In the Frame: Josephine’s babies 16 Depth of Field: Symbiosis 18 Wide Angle Lens: The Cathedral of the Flamingoes 20 Giving Back: Holding hands for tomorrow 22 In Portrait: Mountain Magic 24 Climbing the Mountain of God 26 Sunset on Mount Kenya 28 Cultural Connection: The Legend of Mount Kenya 30 Exposed: Be careful what you wish for 34 Wide Angle Lens: Grumpy 38 Portfolio: ‘Put a ring on it’ in Kenya 40 Positive Take: Why did the Elephant cross the road? 42 Wild Action 44 Message from the Kenya Tourism Board 46 In Close Up: Nairobi - Gateway to Africa 48 Focus On: The Samburu Legend of the Hyena 50 Snapped: Safari souvenirs 50 Kenya Brief
Cover photograph: Paul Mckenzie 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.
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
Ad astra In our far distant past, man spent a great deal of time looking up at the stars. Latterly it has become more difficult due to the light pollution of our great cities. Happily, however, Astro-tourism is trending as people rediscover the glow of star shine. For the ultimate star-spotting experience, however, ‘dark sky’ is required. Fortunately, this is something that Kenya is rich in. Famous for the star-spangled banner of the Southern Cross, which though 180 million light years away, seems almost close enough to touch in Kenya’s wilderness areas, Kenya also offers 56 national parks and reserves, all of which promise great arcs of star-filled ‘dark sky.’ Photo © Shaun Mousley
The Lion Guardians In the last 50 years, an estimated 50% of Africa’s lions have disappeared. Today, it is likely that there are less free-roaming lions than rhinos. But there are pockets of hope and Lion Guardians is a shining example of successful community-based conservation. Since 2007, Lion Guardians have trained and supported hundreds of local conservationists at different sites protecting lions across the continent. Their approach involves recruiting young Maasai and other pastoralist warriors to monitor lion movements and mitigate conflicts between people and wildlife. By engaging in conservation, people who once killed lions are transformed into lion protectors. In Maasai culture young warriors (morans) have always sought to kill lions - both to prove their bravery and as an initiation rite into manhood. Now these young men are becoming Lion Guardians who are tasked to protect their communities and the lions from each other. Each guardian patrols a certain stretch of territory where he keeps track of the lions and warns the herders if there is a lion in the vicinity. Hugely successful, this initiative, which empowers the young men and protects the lions, has resulted in a dramatic downturn in the numbers of lion-killings and livestock lost to lions. For further information: www.lionguardians.org © Philip J Briggs © www.jacquesmarais.co.za / PENTAX
Ride for Lions The Great Plains Foundation Ride For Lions is one of the greatest bike-rides you’ll ever take, cycling from the lee of Kilimanjaro to the mesmeric Chyulu Hills. A series of small teams are already being put together and will make the journey in May of this year. Funds raised will go towards lion conservation as well as creating predator-protected corridors between Amboseli, Tsavo and the Chyulu Hills. For further information: www.rideforlions.com
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
The whale sharks have come... The Pride of Africa takes off for the USA Flagship carrier Kenya Airways will be launching daily non-stop flights between Nairobi and New York. This will be the first direct flight between East Africa and the USA and will dramatically reduce journey times for US bound customers who currently have to transit Europe. Tickets are now on sale for a 28th October launch. Visit www.kenya-airways.com
© Kenya Airways
Forget white elephants, we’ve got white giraffes
2018 got off to a phenomenal start down on Diani Beach this year with the arrival of 14 whale sharks and 200 dolphins in the first three days of the year. And they’re still coming. So if you’d like a close encounter of the HUGE kind – get down to Diani. For more information: www.whalesharkadventures.org
© Bush Tops Camps
For an utterly unique wilderness experience, you need to check out the magical Kakiya Cave, which was recently discovered on the Bushtops Conservancy, immediately adjacent to the famous Masai Mara National Reserve. According to Robin Stuart, the Marketing Director of Mara Bush Tops Camp, there had always been vague rumours as to the cave’s existence, but only recently has it re-emerged into the light of day. © Hirola Conservation Programme It was said that the Indian Rajas used to give a white elephant to the courtiers they hated most (white elephants being notoriously difficult and expensive to keep alive). Here in Kenya, however, we have a pair of white giraffes. Mother and baby reticulated giraffes, these unique creatures have been spotted on the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy in Northern Kenya. An entirely different and quite exquisite take on the typical reticulated giraffe, which has a brown and white jigsaw-patterned coat, this pair have a genetic condition called leucism, a partial loss of skin pigmentation. Visit: www.hirolaconservation.org
And it’s quite a treasure trove. On the walls are evocative images of wild animals and warriors – some of which are thought to date to the 1950s, others that may date back infinitely longer. When asked about the cave, the local Maasai elders displayed their habitual enigmatic calm, saying that, of course, they had always known about the cave, which has long been used for traditional rituals such as ancestor worship and the periodic sacrifice of pure white or black bulls. They also recounted how the cave was used for two-week-long feasts, and how the young boys of the village would traditionally use the cave as a retreat prior to their circumcision ceremonies. It seems that the cave first came to light in the 1950s when the legendary Mau Mau freedom fighters, who were engaged in conducting a very successful guerilla war against the British colonial authorities, used it as a hide out. Today, the cave still plays a vital role in traditional Maasai life, it can also be visited by the guests of Mara Bush Tops. The visit involves a guided walk and a demonstration of Maasai fire-making rituals. For further information: bushtopscamps.com
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
Robert Redford and Meryl Streep’s picnic spot is perfect for sundowners © Angama Mara
The Out of Africa effect
t was the film that launched a thousand safaris. The 1985 film, Out of Africa catapulted Kenya to tourism fame. A Hollywood blockbuster, it portrayed Robert Redford as the game hunter, Denys Finch Hatton, and Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, his lover. Both were wildly miscast: Karen was no beauty and Denys was almost bald. But what did that matter? The story was so compelling and the scenery so stunning that the film received 28 film awards (including seven Academy Awards). Beguiled and bewitched by Kenya, millions of filmgoers headed for the nearest travel agency and Kenya, once the exclusive destination of royalty and millionaires, entered the world of mass tourism. Behind Out of Africa, the film was the book of the same name. Written in 1937 by the Danish author, Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke (née Karen Dinesen and pen name Isak Dinesen), it tells the tale of Karen’s sojourn in Kenya (1913-31) during which she ran a failed coffee farm in the suburb of Nairobi now known as Karen. It was a delicately and intuitively written story, which delivered a valuable insight the impact of World War I on colonial Kenya. The prose, meanwhile, was so lyrical as to be almost poetry, as evidenced by the following extract:
Top: Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton © Make it Kenya / Stuart Price Bottom: G-AAMY, the yellow bi-plane used in the film, still soars over Kenya’s scenic landscapes © Segera - visit www.segera.com/out-of-africa/
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
‘Out on the Safaris, I had seen a herd of Buffalo, one hundred and twenty-nine of them, come out of the morning mist under a copper sky, one by one, as if the dark and massive, iron-like animals with the mighty horizontally swung horns, were not approaching, but were being created before my eyes and sent out as they were finished. I had seen the royal lion, before sunrise, below a waning moon, crossing the grey plain on his way home from the kill, drawing a dark wake in the silvery grass, his face still red up to the ears…’
© Make it Kenya / Stuart Price
© Joy’s Camp / Elewana Collection
© United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Top: The Karen Blixen Museum. Bottom left: Shaba National Reserve where many of the scenes were filmed. Bottom right: Robert Redford washes Meryl Streep’s hair while reciting The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Centre: Deny’s gravestone is inscribed with lines from the same poem: “He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man and bird and beast.”
Remarkably, modern day Kenya is still influenced by the Out of Africa effect: countless hotels and restaurants are named after Karen and Denys, and numerous businesses incorporate ‘Out of Africa’ into their names. Few recall that the phrase is lifted from the Greek proverb, ‘there is always something new out of Africa,’ which was first coined by Pliny the Elder (23-79AD). Meanwhile, for all those who’d like to visit the scenes from Out of Africa for themselves, here’s a truly epic selection of backdrops. Choose from: Karen Blixen’s house Karen’s house, now a national museum, stands in the lee of the famous Ngong Hills. Wander through the rooms, furnished as she would have known them, or sit on the verandah and you’ll get a powerful whiff of Out of Africa.
The Mara River It was on the banks of the Mara River that the iconic shampoo scene took place. The Mara National Reserve is world renowned for ‘the greatest wildlife show on earth’, the annual migration of the wildebeest. The waterfalls of the Aberdares The rugged montane scenery and tumbling waterfalls of the Aberdares National Park feature in the flying scenes when Denys and Karen take to the skies.
The Ngong Hills The film opens with the line, ‘I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills,’ and ends with the burial of Finch Hatton on the slopes of these hills, which provide the backdrop to Nairobi. The grave now lies on private land, but the Ngongs are open for walks or drives. Tsavo National Park Denys Finch Hatton died when his plane crashed in Tsavo West National Park, just outside the town of Voi. One of Kenya’s largest and most dramatic parks, Tsavo West offers a mesmeric safari destination featuring volcanoes, lava caves, hippo pools and more. Shaba National Game Reserve Many of the film’s scenes were shot in the aridly beautiful wilderness of Shaba National Reserve, one of Kenya’s more northerly reserves.
The Karen Blixen Museum © Make it Kenya / Stuart Price
For further information on Kenya’s national parks and reserves: www.kws.go.ke or www.magicalkenya.com For further information on the Karen Blixen Museum: www.museums.or.ke
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
© William Holden Wildlife Foundation
In this issue we are proud to feature Hollywood actress, Stefanie Powers, telling us why she loves Kenya.
first came to Kenya in 1973 with the actor, William Holden. He wanted to show me ‘his’ Africa; and I wanted to love everything that he loved. My initial response to Kenya was a feeling of familiarity. I felt immediately at home. The scenery was similar to that I had known in Southern California and, having grown up surrounded by exotic animals on my stepfather’s stud farm I was already committed towards the preservation and celebration of all wildlife. But when I saw the Kenyan game dashing across the savannah in such great numbers – I fell immediately in love with Kenya. And I have remained so ever since. At that time, Bill had established the Mount Kenya Game Ranch along with his partner, Don Hunt, and our visit was timed to coincide with the inauguration of a project dedicated towards capturing and relocating significant numbers of endangered Grevy’s zebra
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
from northern Kenya to Tsavo National Park, where they could be protected. I was captivated, and thereafter I began to spend more and more time in Kenya: I learned the language and the customs and, as I did so, my affection grew both for the Kenyan people and the Kenyan ecosystem, both of which continue to captivate me some 45 years later. Eventually I became a partner in the Ranch and was proud to be able to harness my celebrity in raising funds to support its work. After Bill’s untimely death in 1981, I wanted to create a living memorial to him. Bill had often told me that, despite the celebrity he had attained in his life, he had always felt that his greatest life’s work had been the creation, in 1960, of the Mount Kenya Game Ranch. His dream, however, had always been to build an educational centre that would enhance and expand the Ranch’s conservational work.
Bill did not live to see the establishment of such a facility but, in 1983, The William Holden Wildlife Foundation (WHWF) was established and dedicated to wildlife conservation and environmental studies for local people. Since that time, over 11,000 young Kenyans have benefitted by having first hand experience of their national wildlife legacy and, thanks to the generosity of our global donors, we have established numerous satellite educational facilities in the rural communities that surround Mount Kenya. As an initiative, WHWF has surpassed all expectations. It has also proved a fitting memorial to the life and work of Bill Holden, whose dearest wish was to provide a sound foundation for the invaluable work he had began in the protection of earthâ€™s species for the generations to come.
Stefanie Powers is an American actress best known for her role as Jennifer Hart in the American mystery television series Hart to Hart alongside Robert Wagner, which ran from 1979 to 1984 and was translated into 8 movies in the 1990s. She is a twotime Emmy Award nominee and five-time Golden Globe nominee; the recipient of a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the holder of the Sarah Siddons and Steiger Awards. She is the founder and president of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation (www.whwf.org).
William Holden on safari ÂŠ William Holden Wildlife Foundation
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
he mountain bongo is one of the most elusive creatures on earth. Critically endangered, until very recently, it was thought to be extinct in the forests of Mount Kenya. And it might just as well have been because sightings of bongos on the mountain have been about as regular as sightings of yetis in the Himalayas.
At the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, nerve centre of the ‘Bongo Taskforce’, warden, Donald Bunge, tells the tale of a colleague who studied the bongo for 15 years. In all that time, Donald recounts, the man never saw a single bongo. And as for the 20-man team of professional trackers who spend their entire lives looking for signs of bongos on the mountain, only two very elderly trackers have so much as glimpsed a bongo: and then only fleetingly. Bongos are shyness incarnate. Rarely seen, rarely tracked, rarely caught on camera, they are believed to live high on the flanks of Kenya’s mystical mountain, deep within its most impenetrable forest groves. But like their habitat, the bongos are shrouded in mist and wreathed in shape-shifting shadows. And over the last century their numbers have shrunk so radically that today they’re as mythical as unicorns. Strange then, to find one staring at you, mildly curious, over an ice-bucket. But then it’s a strange situation. The morning sky is cloudless-blue and the jagged peaks of Mount Kenya sparkle with tropical ice. We’re sitting on hay bales. In front of us, meticulously laid out, is a picnic breakfast. To one side stands a waiter, starched napkin over arm, champagne bottle in hand. To the other stands a man with a bucket of pellets. In front of us, their unusually large eyes glued to the bucket, is a herd of bongos. We’re all waiting for kick-off. The cork pops, the pellets are shaken on to the grass, and as the bongos make a headlong, if somewhat skittish, rush towards them, we make a start on the fruit. There’s a lot of crunching, snorting and blowing. By the time we’re on to the bacon and eggs, the pellets have disappeared and the herd is looking enquiringly towards the man with the bucket. But he’s under strict orders, as are we. They’re to have no more pellets than have been carefully calibrated to ensure that they remain in peak, sleek condition. And, certainly, no croissants. These creatures are as rare as fairy dust. It has taken many years, several million dollars and vast swathes of commitment to create a breeding herd of bongos. It’s the only herd in Africa; and the bongo’s last hope of survival. It’s been a brisk gallop to near-extinction for the bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci). Until the early 1900s, bongos thrived on the higher slopes of Kenya’s various mountain ranges. No wedding was complete amid the Kikuyu people without a haunch of bongo for the feast and the gift of a bongo hide wood-carrying strap for the bride. But then came hunting, rinderpestinfection, lion-predation, habitat shrinkage, poaching and the steady destruction of Mount Kenya’s forests. And by 1970 the bongo looked set to follow the dodo into extinction.
10 WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
© Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy
Mvua, photographed at two days old, was born in February this year. Mvua brings the total number Bongos to 72 - a testament to the work done by the Conservancy to sustain this critically endangered species. Photo © Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy
But then a minor miracle intervened. The Mount Kenya Game Ranch, which had retained a small herd of bongos in captivity, decided to send a few carefully chosen animals to the United States of America where it was hoped they might survive. They did, and in 2004 a brave band of 18 ‘American cousin’ bongos was shipped back to the Conservancy under the auspices of a group of globally renowned conservationists. Settled into their specially fenced bongo protection area, the incoming Americans intermingled with the local Kenyans and thereafter the great work of breeding a herd of super bongos, strong enough to return to the wild, was begun. It was not easy. Desirable traits, such as sleek coats, elegant horns and good body shape were encouraged; crossed horns and pink noses were not. And, even today when the herd numbers 72 individuals, Donald Bunge can still look at any one of his precious charges and reel off a list of its forebears. The goal of the initiative is to expand the herd to 250 individuals, which constitutes a herd with the genetic strength to survive. Thereafter, certain bongos will be placed in a larger sanctuary, presently being located on the wilder forested slopes of the mountain. Eventually, pioneer herds will be sent back, suitably protected, to re-establish themselves in the areas where once they thrived. Donald reckons it will take about 20 years and he is intent on seeing the mission accomplished. Why is he so zealous about the bongo? Donald’s eye rests fondly on the herd, ‘because they’re ours,’ he says. ‘They live only here in Kenya. So we Kenyans must own them and keep them safe’.
Back at the picnic site breakfast is over and the bongos have vanished. One by one, they have stepped delicately back into the dense-dark undergrowth where, thanks to the brilliance of their camouflage, they have instantly disappeared. Peering deep into the dark leafy tunnels, we can just discern a bib of white below a long russet-brown face: then just a black mask around a pair of very bright eyes. Then, in utter silence, the largest forest antelope on earth completely fades away. But this time… it’s not forever.
The Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC) was established in 1967 by the Hollywood actor, William Holden, Julian McKeand and Iris and Don Hunt. It began life as the Mount Kenya Game Ranch. The Conservancy also hosts a herd of rare white zebras, shelters orphaned or wounded animals and provides a widereaching educational programme for young Kenyans. The Conservancy lies in the grounds of the world famous Mount Kenya Safari Club, which was also founded as one of the world’s most famous hotels by William Holden and a group of friends in 1959. Once known as ‘millionaires’ row’ due to the superlative excellence of its facilities and the glittering array of famous faces that passed through its doors, today the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club promises uninterrupted views of Mount Kenya, exquisite accommodation, gourmet cuisine and an unprecedented range of activities. For further information www.fairmont.com. For information on how to support the Nanyuki-based non-profit charitable trust of the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy contact: info@mountkenyawildlifeconservancy or visit their website: www.animalorphanagekenya.org
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 11
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in the frame
Josephine’s Words and photos: Stuart Butler
‘My human family is at home,’ says the young Samburu mother, ‘but I’m also mother to another set of babies.’ She points to a herd of around a dozen young elephants. Some are tiny tots; others stand as high as a man. A softly probing elephant trunk wraps itself around Josephine’s waist. She laughs as it explores deep into her pocket in search of treats. I’m in northern Kenya spending a day at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. And it’s not far off feeding time. »
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 13
in the frame
Anticipation mounts as the baby elephants career across the landscape, causing plumes of red dust to dance off into the bush. Now they’re chasing each other around a clump of trees – trunk to tail. There’s a splishing and splashing of water as they career through a muddy pool. They’re like any other children on earth – only larger. A place of sun-baked earth, rust-red dust, scrubby thorn and vast, theatrical skies, Northern Kenya lies far from the well-beaten tourist track. Its empty vastness rolls away, unchecked, all the way to Lake Turkana and glances only fleetingly off the boundaries of the much more famous Samburu National Reserve. Not many visitors make it out here. At first glance, you could be forgiven for wondering why they come at all. The landscape appears inhospitable in the extreme. But for all this, Northern Kenya shelters a rare and magnificent wildlife cast. Here, in this desiccated region, roams the rare reticulated giraffe and the critically endangered Grevy’s zebra. Here too patrols the rare blue-shanked Somali ostrich and the bizarrely long-necked gerenuk. This is also an increasingly popular hideaway for the dangerously threatened wild dog or ‘painted wolf’. And finally, the wild reaches of the land once known romantically as ‘the Northern Frontier District’ provides sanctuary for one of the largest and most nomadic elephant populations in Kenya.
Top: Samburu warriors enjoy the spectacle of feeding time at the sanctuary Above: The conservancy wardens stand ready with milk bottles in hand Right page center: Reteti is also home to an orphaned baby rhino
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Due to the paucity of food and water, the elephants are always on the move. Their ceaseless wanderings take them from the chilly moorlands bordering Mount Kenya to the volcanic uplands of Marsabit. Along the way, they pass through parchment-dry acacia scrub and bone-dry river gullies before eventually reaching the dripping-wet, mist-wreathed forests of the mountain ranges. It’s a journey of hundreds of kilometres, and it forces them to encounter hazards ranging from humans to fences, and from wells to roads. Inevitably there are mishaps along the way, and numerous baby elephants are left orphaned every year. These are the denizens of Reteti Elephant Sanctuary.
They’re like any other children on earth – only larger.
It was in 2016 that the Sanctuary, the first of its kind to be entirely community owned and managed, was established in the forested foothills of the little-known Matthew’s Range of mountains, which lie a couple of hours’ drive north of the Samburu National Reserve. Here, the formation of numerous community conservancies has done much to reduce both the poaching of wildlife and the incidence of humanversus-wildlife conflict. Indeed, since 2012 an impressive 53% fall has been registered in the number of elephants killed by poachers in northern Kenya. This is a triumph of conservation. Eying her surrogate babies at play, Josephine tells me that it was the sad plight of the orphans that initially spurred her community into action. ‘Many babies came to us as a result of accidents,’ she says. ‘Quite a few fall down wells and have to be rescued. We bring them here to recover though our aim is to return them to the wild if we can.’ As she speaks, her babies are becoming increasingly boisterous in their demands for attention. ‘They’re getting excited,’ she says, ‘they know it’s nearly time for their afternoon milk.’ At the mention of the word ‘milk’ five or six men in khaki military fatigues march into our midst. Each burly man carries an over-sized baby’s milk bottle with a large pink teat. It’s a surreal scene. The bright eyes of the baby elephants lock on to the bottles and sudden pandemonium breaks out. They rush en masse towards their feeders. Amid the gulping and sucking that ensues, two Samburu warriors arrive to watch. They’re gorgeous in extravagant feathered headdresses and festooned in multiple strings of rainbow-coloured beads. At first their aquiline faces remain inscrutable. Then they register mild curiosity. Finally their faces split into broad grins. And yet, just a few short years ago, such warriors would have regarded even these enchanting baby elephants as potential threats. And, rather than smiling upon them, they might have been more inclined to drive them away: or kill them. Happily, times have changed. Now the northern communities have banded together in defence of the elephants that share their impossibly arid environment. And the future looks bright for community and elephants alike.
Need to know Visits to the Sanctuary can be easily arranged by most of the camps and lodges in the vicinity. The author flew in to Nairobi from Europe with Kenyan flagcarrier, Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com) and the sanctuary can be reached via airstrips at Kalama or Samburu, both of which are served by Airkenya (www.airkenya.com). For further information www.retetielephants.org.
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 15
depth of field
Symbiosis ‘This is my land,’ he says simply. It’s a figure of speech – the land belongs to his community – as does he. Photo © Shaun Mousley
16 WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
depth of field
he length of stride of a Maasai warrior is twice that of anyone else. Dixon lopes across the boulder-strewn landscape into which, despite the fact that he is clad in a scarlet plaid shuka, knotted at the shoulder and crisscrossed by bandoliers of brightly-coloured beads, he unquestionably belongs. This is harsh, arid bush country where the heat shimmers, the hornbills swoop, and the ground underfoot is strewn with the volcanic outpourings of Mount Kilimanjaro. Bounding up a rocky outcrop, sure-footed as a goat in his ‘thousand miler’ tyre-tread sandals, Dixon looks out over the flatlands that roll away from the prehistoric dustbowl of Amboseli National Park. Vibrant streaks of young-leaf green are woven into the lilac-grey of the dense acacia bush, which clings low to the ground like morning mist. ‘In just two week’s time,’ says Dixon, ‘you won’t recognize this place. Everything will be bright green, and the elephants will leave the park and come to our waterhole.’ The waterhole, a dust-red indentation, is empty of all but a pair of dik-dik. Antelopes in miniature with doe-black eyes and elfin horns, they pick their way delicately amongst the dry-gaping cracks until our scent, shower-fresh and alien, drifts downwind. They freeze before springing in unison into the khaki-camouflage. ‘We used to live here,’ says Dixon, ‘but not anymore. Now we have made it into a conservancy. We have three tented camps and a team of game rangers. We work in cooperation with the tourism industry to preserve the ecosystem.’ His warrior-like appearance belies the modernity of his words. Dixon is a fixture at the tented camp in which we are staying. He arrives promptly at 9am, striding through the bush resplendent in traditional Maasai dress. There’s a knife, a knobkerrie and a cellphone in his belt. At 5pm, having cast a rather haughty eye over preparations for supper, he leaves on the back of a passing motorbike. His job-spec, if he has one, is vague. He is the representative of the owners of the land. He’s young, handsome, impeccably mannered, impish of humour and a font of knowledge on his ecosystem. For a small fee he will lead
a guided walk. ‘This is my land,’ he says simply. It’s a figure of speech – the land belongs to his community – as does he. Spiritually, however, he is correct: the Maasai are the embodiment of ecological symbiosis; they live off the land, for the land and with the land. Latterly, however, times have changed. ‘We’ve moved to a new village over there,’ says Dixon. He points beyond the grey haze of the bush to where a great black snake of tarmac winds. ‘We’ve got electricity, satellite TV and houses not huts,’ he says, ‘we live much better now than we did before.’ We ask him to explain. ‘We still own our land,’ he says, ‘the camps are temporary: at the end of the lease they will disappear and leave nothing behind. Meanwhile, each one pays us rent, their guests pay us conservancy fees and we can still graze our herds. Our elders made a good deal.’ In a single bound, Dixon descends from his lookout point and strides away through what’s known as the ‘wait-a-bit thorn’. It snags our clothing but he doesn’t look around to see if we’re following. He doesn’t need to. He is the lord of this kingdom. A lone kudu breaks cover and bolts across our path. It’s bone-white striped flanks flare briefly: a stylized skeleton in motion. Ahead, the impossible bulk of Mount Kilimanjaro rears like a monstrous Christmas pudding, rose-pink against a blue sky. We ask Dixon how his community spends their tourism earnings. ‘Our elders decide,’ he says, ‘we sink wells, build schools, or health centres. And we can afford to pay vets to attend our herds.’ He pauses to point out a stocky little tree whose bark, he says, when boiled, cures pneumonia and dulls the pain of childbirth. ‘Our people also work in the camps,’ he says. He hesitates, perhaps unwilling to admit that he too has something so un-Maasai like as a job. Ancient and modern prides collide. Modernity wins. ‘I have earned enough to marry a beautiful bride,’ he informs us, ‘and next month I shall buy a Chinese gazelle.’ We gaze at him enquiringly. ‘A motorbike,’ he explains.
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 17
wide angle lens
18 WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
wide angle lens
The cathedral of the
Flamingoes Photo ÂŠ Michael Poliza
The majestic Naperito, also known as Cathedral Rock, lies in the middle of Lake Logipi, a saline, alkaline lake at the northern end of the arid Suguta Valley in northern Kenya. It is separated from Lake Turkana by the Barrier volcanic complex, a group of young volcanoes that last erupted during the late 19th Century or early 20th Century. Flamingoes flock to the saline lake to feed on cyanobacteria (or spirulina) as well as other plankton.
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 19
Holding hands for tomorrow There’s a relatively new beast patrolling the plains of Kenyan business. It’s handsome, it’s powerful and when it roars, the economy listens. It’s called CSR. There was a time when Corporate Social Responsibility was seen to merely promote public goodwill but have no impact on profitability. But times have changed. Today Kenya’s corporate ‘big beasts’ accord CSR all the respect it deserves. They know that a sound CSR programme builds Kenya and strengthens Kenyans. It enriches local economic development and improves the quality of life of employees and community alike. It also strengthens brand equity, raises profitability, promotes client loyalty and attracts investment. Put simply, CSR has clout. Consequently Kenyan corporate CSR spend is skyrocketing and Kenya’s CSR departments, once lowly, are now king. Luckily there are plenty of CSR initiatives to go round. Projects range from the provision of education to the enhancement of vocational skills. There’s a drive to combat communicable disease and enhance maternal health, to care for underprivileged children, create jobs and strengthen food security. And, increasingly, there’s a tsunami of environmental programmes ranging from tree-planting to carbon-exchange. All over the country wells are being dug, schools are being built and people are pulling together to create a better tomorrow. Some might argue, however, that CSR was born in Kenya. Here the age-old concept of pooling communal resources in response to a specific need, known as ‘Harambee’, lies central to the national psyche; and life revolves around the symbiotic relationship between business and community. In rural and urban communities alike you’ll find a colourful array of self-help and cooperative groups, each dedicated towards mutual assistance, joint effort and community self-reliance. There’s also an ancient Swahili proverb, which says that ‘Mtu ni utu si kitu’ – or ‘value is in humans not in wealth’. But whatever its origins, Kenya’s version of CSR is as broad as her horizons.
Photo © Niels Van Gijin / Asilia Encounter Mara
20 WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
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WATA M U THE PLACE TO VISIT
You have to get up early to see the sparkling spires of Mount Kenya. As day dawns, so she appears. A few hours later, cobwebs of cloud drift in to create a coronet around her ice-glinting towers and, within minutes, she’s disappeared leaving only the outline of her massive khaki-coloured shoulders. One of the world’s highest national parks, Mount Kenya is the ultimate contradiction: she straddles the equator and yet is crowned with ice.
Main photo © Michael Poliza
erhaps it’s her very elusiveness that gives Mount Kenya her aura of magic. Perhaps it’s her mist-wreathed forests or the giant giant water-holding cabbages that dot her slopes. Perhaps it’s that fact that she offers sanctuary to over 2,600 elephants, or that she harbours a mysterious ‘golden cat’. Whatever the reason, Mount Kenya has always been shrouded in mystique. Reputedly the home of the Mountain God, Ngai, who lives among her peaks, Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano some three-and-a-half million years old. She is also Kenya’s highest mountain, a national icon, a climbers’ Mecca, the nation’s namesake, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site and a wildlife stronghold. Striated with glaciers, she offers a unique mosaic of forest, moorland, rock and ice crowned by the glittering twin peaks of Batian (5,199 m) and Nelion (5,188 m).
Once the highest mountain in Africa Like most of East Africa’s mountains, Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano with a massive volcanic cone, circular in shape and around 70 km in diameter. Born between 2.6 and 3.1 million years ago, this cone formed as successive layers of volcanic lava erupted with massive force from a central vent. Now the second highest mountain in Africa (after Mount Kilimanjaro), experts believe that at her birth, Mount Kenya may have towered at least one thousand meters higher than Kiliimanjaro.
Namesake of a nation The Kikuyu people call the mountain Kirinyaga, which roughly translated means, the ‘white’ or ‘bright’ mountain. The Embu people call it Kirenia (the mountain of whiteness), and the Maasai call it both Ol Donyo Eibor (the white mountain) and Ol Donyo Egere (the speckled mountain). Anthropologists believe that Kenya gets her name from the Akamba people, who call the mountain Kiinyaa, meaning the ‘Mountain of the Ostrich’, because in their opinion the dark rock and speckled ice fields looked like the tail feathers of the male.
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Lake Michaelson, Mount Kenya. Â© Jeremy Goss
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 23
Climbing the Mountain
of God All photos Â© Jeremy Goss
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housands of people climb Mount Kenya every year, most reach only Point Lenana (4,985 m) because to go higher requires a different level of experience. Some people make the climb in 3 days, others in 4-5 days: it all depends on the route and the degree of altitude acclimatization required. All agree, however, that for variety of landscape, views and the sheer exhilaration – it’s one of the world’s most stunning climbs. For advice on acclimatization, guides, costs and equipment contact the Mountain Club of Kenya www.mck.or.ke
Point Lenana - 4,985 m
Fact file Climate: At points over 4,000 m the mountain is usually freezing cold, misty and windy. During sunshine, daytime temperatures may rise to over 15˚C (over 4,000 m) and during periods of cloud cover they may drop to nearly 0˚C. Nocturnal temperatures habitually drop to around -10˚C. Vegetation: alpine and sub-alpine flora with montane and bamboo forest, moorland and tundra. Wildlife: includes giant forest hog, tree hyrax, white-tailed mongoose, elephant, black rhino, suni, black-fronted duiker, bongo, leopard, Mount Kenya mouse shrew, hyrax, duiker and the endemic mole-rat. Birds: 130 recorded species. Getting there: the mountain can be accessed by road (175 km north-east of Nairobi) or air. Nanyuki offers the nearest commercial airstrip. Where to stay: accommodation choices range from Kenya Wildlife Service campsites and self-catering accommodation to picturesque home-stays and five-star hotels.
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 25
Sunset on Mount Kenya Photo Â© Jeremy Goss
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This description is given of sunset on Mount Kenya by E. Dutton, one of the earliest Europeans to climb the mountain between 1910 and 1930. And at the end of the day, when the sun drops behind the peaks, the sky becomes a miracle of colour… When it is all over, I have felt as though I have listened to the beautiful voice of a fine singer. There is a point in the sun’s setting which is the highest, a poignant note before the voice dies away into an enchanted silence. Everything for one moment is still; it is a stillness made the deeper by the desolate and void surroundings. For some reason, sunset in Africa always brings a momentary silence, a pause - a silence ‘when you may hear the shadows of the leaves as they fall on the ground’ – and then, in less empty surroundings, there is the happy chorus from frogs and grasshoppers and night birds and the hyrax, and the many prowlers of the night. Sometimes you may hear the deep note of the lion, or the bark of the leopard, or the inhuman cackle of the hyena. But here on the mountain the silence is complete. When that still moment has passed, when the sun’s reflection no longer lights up the sky, perfect silence begins her reign and the peaks stand out, strongly silhouetted against the cold blue of the western sky. Kenya Mountain E.A.T. Dutton
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 27
cultural tabconnection title
The Legend of Mount Kenya
he peaks of Mount Kenya were named by Halford Mackinder, the first European to climb the mountain (in 1899). He named them after the great Maasai laibon (medicine man), Mbatian and his brother, Nelieng (now known as Nelion); and Mbatian’s sons, Lenana and Sendeyo. Mbatian died around 1890 when an outbreak of rinderpest swept through East Africa. The legend of his death lives on, and is given below: When he was on the point of death, the great Mbatian called together the elders of his clan and said, ‘I wish my successor to be the son to whom I give the insignia of the laibon. Obey him. And do not move from this country for I am about to die and I will send you cattle from heaven. If you move you will die of smallpox and your cattle will perish. You will also have to fight with a powerful enemy and you will be beaten.’ When the elders had left, Mbatian called his eldest son, Sendeyo, and said to him, ‘come tomorrow morning for I wish to give you my laibon’s insignia.’ Unbeknownst to Mbatian, however, his other son, Lenana, was hiding in the cowshed next to his father’s hut, and he overheard the entire conversation. Next morning, Lenana rose very early and went to his father’s hut. ‘Father, I have come,’ he said. But Mbatian, who was very old and had only one eye, could not see which of his sons stood before him so he reached out to Lenana and said, ‘thou shall be great amongst they brothers and amongst all people,’ and blessing him he gave Lenana the iron club, medicine horn, gourd and the stones in the bag, which are the sacred insignia of the laibon. Some time later, Sendeyo came to his father’s hut. But he was refused admission and told by the old man’s attendants that Lenana had already been given the insignia of the laibon. This made Sendeyo very angry and he said, ‘I will not be subject to my brother; I will fight with him until I kill him.’
© Mills Publishing Ltd
The Maasai ‘laibon’ (wise man), Chief Lenana (centre) after whom Point Lenana (4,985m), the third highest peak on Mount Kenya, was named by Sir Halford Mackinder. Mackinder made the first recorded ascent of the mountain in 1899.
A few days later Mbatian died but confusion arose as to who was to succeed him. Some proclaimed Lenana as the laibon saying, ‘Mbatian told us he would give his insignia to the son he wished to succeed him: and that is Lenana.’ Others said, ‘we will not acknowledge Lenana for he is a cheat.’ So it was that the tribe split into two groups and Sendeyo’s tribe left the area. Soon, disease broke out amongst Sendeyo’s people. Then their cattle perished. And finally they were defeated in battle by the white men. Those who had remained with Lenana, however, did not fall ill and they obtained cattle just as Mbatian had predicted. The two rival brothers waged war for many years, but eventually Sendeyo was beaten and, in 1902, he came to beg his brother to forgive him and allow him to live together with him. And peace was concluded between the two parties.
Adapted from The Masai: Their Language and Folklore by A.C Hollis
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Â© Stuart Butler
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 29
Be careful what you wish for The fascination lies in the unpredictability of a game drive. You have no control over what you’ll see. If you’re wise, you’ll set out without expectation and accept whatever the wilderness delivers. If you presume to order an animal off the safari menu, such as a lion, then you’re doomed to disappointment. But there are exceptions.
e’re in an open-sided vehicle with a wrap-around panorama that extends all the way to the blue-grey shoulder of the Oloololo Escarpment. We’re driving through one of the dozen or so conservancies that border the famous Masai Mara National Reserve. Here, where the rolling plains are known as the Maasai steppe, the land still belongs to their ancient guardians, the Maasai, and a 360-degree scan reveals not a single other vehicle in sight. And herein lies the magic, because where the conservancies score over the national parks is by being able to control the number of vehicles allowed on to their land. And this delivers two great advantages – firstly the wildlife itself is less harassed and therefore more relaxed, and secondly, we have it to ourselves.
© Stuart Butler
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© Stuart Butler
© Ride Kenya
It’s our third game drive and we’ve already ticked some of the ‘big five’ boxes. But the lion is proving elusive. No matter: there are other sights to see. ‘Hippos!’ says the driver suddenly. He points to the river, which has been snaking alongside us for the past few minutes. Its banks, steep and muddy, are hard to see over. So we draw up close. The water is chocolate brown and flecked with creamy foam. There are whirling eddies in the water, but no sign of hippos. Until, that is, you look more closely. Then you see the round raspberry-pink ears. As we watch, an enormous head emerges from the water and splits open into a pink-lined yawn set with huge, ivory-yellow teeth. Following their leader, the rest of the hippos rise from the water to survey us. Amazingly, the river has concealed around twenty of the huge beasts. One has a coronet of weeds on its head.
Top: Hippos in the Mara River Above Left: a lone topi keeps a lookout from a termite mound Above Right: a beautiful cheetah and her cub
Letting in the clutch, the driver eases the heavy safari vehicle back on to the track, which winds it way back on to the savannah. The light is fading now and the activity on the plains is picking up pace. There are great herds of wildebeest that cavort and skitter as we pass. Zebras stand tail to nose and stamp their feet. Plum-coloured topi perch atop termite mounds and survey their territory. Antelope flick their striped tales and emit their warning ‘zick zick’ as we pass. And a pair of ostriches are having a flouncing mud-bath. We’re traversing a small valley. A couple of old buffalo bulls, their great bossed-horns lowered, are meandering through the low, shrub. We halt for a photograph. And then we see it. »
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 31
© Make it Kenya / Stuart Price
Something very large and golden is lying in the bottom of the little glade. It’s very still. So still that someone suggests it’s dead. The driver laughs. ‘Better not investigate,’ he says, ‘you’ll regret it.’ The lion is lying on his back, his great paws clutched around his snout and his head pillowed on a clump of bush. He’s fast asleep with his back legs splayed and his creamy-white underbelly exposed. He seems beguilingly defenceless: a huge, almost tickle-able kitten. The tip of a pink tongue protrudes from his muzzle. ‘The pride must be near,’ says the driver. ‘He is digesting. But the lionesses and cubs may still be eating.’ These driver-guides know their wilderness. And they know their lions. We don’t have far to go: a few hundred meters away, on a stretch of khaki-coloured ground above the river, there are two lionesses. One is suckling her three cubs. The other is sleeping: or trying to. A pair of older cubs scramble over her rib cage. They’re mock fighting, batting each other with tiny paws and snarling to show miniature teeth. The lioness raises an idle paw to swat them away and they roll away fused into a furry ball of paws, claws and tails. In the foreground is the half-devoured carcass of a zebra. Its ribs, chewed clean, are stark white and its yellow teeth are bared. Lionesses and cubs alike ignore us. ‘Can you see the other lion?’ the driver asks casually. The other lion?
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You’d think a lion would be hard to miss, but such is the camouflage of pale yellow fur against dense thickets of long dry grass, that it takes a while to locate him. It’s only the motion of his mane moving slightly in the breeze that reveals his position. And it appears we have disturbed him. Languidly, he rises to his feet, yawns, swings his dark-brown tasselled tail to and fro and emerges from the thicket. Fully revealed, he’s twice the size of the lionesses. And he’s walking very deliberately in our direction. There’s a communal intake of breath. The vehicle is open-sided. Now the lion is a couple of meters away: less. There’s a swagger and swing to his walk. But we’re too awed to reach for our cameras and record it. For a split second he looks our way. The amber stare is chilling. Then he changes direction, pads away into the long grass, and disappears from view. But he has made his point. It’s not until you see a lion in the wild that you appreciate its sheer, glorious majesty. And it’s not until you engage that imperious yellow gaze that the ancient race memories resurface. And then the fear kicks in. And it kicks in HARD.
“Very softly down the glade runs a waiting, watching shade, And the whisper spreads and widens far and near; And the sweat is on thy brow, for he passes even nowIt is Fear, O little hunter, it is Fear!” Rudyard Kipling
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 33
widetab angle titlelens
Grumpy If all you did was sleep 18 hours a day, had plenty of sex and did very little by way of chores (i.e. hunting), life shouldn’t seem too bad. So why are male lions so grumpy? I watched as this cub from the male’s pride inched up nervously to him on the unlikely chance that he might be willing to engage in a little play fighting. Instead he was greeted with a loud growl with the message clear: do not disturb. However, so stunning was the male in appearance that it was easy to forgive his faults with the blowing wind emphasising his magnificent mane. Photo and caption © Paul Mckenzie
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WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 35
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‘Put a ring on it’
Photo © Shaun Mousley
Some very high profile couples have ‘put a ring on it’ lately, and if, like Meghan Markle, you’ve got a wedding to plan, you might appreciate some ideas. Here in Kenya, we can’t promise you a royal castle as a backdrop, but we can magic you away to a fairytale venue. Picture this: a flowered bower overlooking a sweep of silver beach. The deep blue of the Indian Ocean beyond. A smiling celebrant waiting to tie the knot, a sumptuous banquet laid out for your guests beneath the palms. And wedding photos with a difference – a barefoot bride dancing on the sand. Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline abounds in superlative hotels, all of which pride themselves on their event capability. We can arrange all the paperwork, provide wedding planners of note, design a tropical bouquet, deliver hair and make-up professionals to rival Hollywood…. and put together a line-up of honeymoon options that’ll send you, literally, over the moon.
Your own personal honey-moon might rise over a classic Kenyan safari, or over the minarets of enchanting Lamu. It might shine on nights of romance in the shimmering wilderness of Samburu, or it might give way to sundrenched days of high adventure – climbing Mount Kenya, ballooning over the world famous Masai Mara, horse-riding in the lyrical Chyulu Hills, or sky-diving over world-famous Diani Beach. Come to Kenya, and let us make you princess for a day... and the queen of your honeymoon.
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 39
Why did the
Elephant? cross the road
Question: Why did the chicken cross the road? Answer: To get to the other side. Seems reasonable enough. Until you substitute an elephant for the chicken – and then things get complicated. And the complication escalates when you consider that the road is a busy arterial route linking the northern Kenyan towns of Nanyuki and Meru, and that the elephant is on a mission. Like generations before him, he is migrating from the dense forests of Mount Kenya to the plains of Laikipia in search of fresh leaves and much-need minerals. And he’s not inclined to be diverted. The fact that his ancestral migration route is now littered with villages, farmland and ROADS is neither here nor there. When an elephant has to go. He has to GO. Nor is this elephant alone, some 2,900 elephants live on the Mount Kenya National Reserve while a further 1,800 meander between the
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Aberdares and Laikipia region. Which means that nearly six thousand elephants might decide to cross the road at any given time. Not ideal, but what to do? This was a question that caused a lot of head scratching amongst the local landowners. Incidences of elephants wandering into villages, marauding crops and causing mayhem were escalating. So were incidences of elephants being killed by villagers, and of villagers being killed by elephants: action was required. It was also much easier said than done. Photo © Shaun Mousley
“Me first” © Shaun Mousley
“Ele-fence” © Mount Kenya Trust
Tusker ‘mission impossible’. On the front line in the ‘elephant-and-road’ debate was the Mount Kenya Trust, a charitable trust that was first established in 1999 with a mandate to protect the forests, wildlife and people who live around Kenya’s iconic Mount Kenya. A dedicated band, not easily flapped, they put their thinking caps on. The idea for an elephant underpass, which was first mooted in 2003 was radical to say the least – but it wasn’t thrown out of court. Such a feat of conservation construction had never been undertaken before. And nobody knew how it could be done, or if the elephants would use it. But they decided to forge ahead regardless. Extensive research was carried out and even more extensive cooperation conducted with like-minded elephant conservation bodies. Even the elephants themselves were consulted. A wise old bull elephant called Mountain Bull was radio collared, as were a number of his colleagues, and their preferred routes of perambulation were carefully studied. Eventually a suitable valley (a particular favourite of Mountain Bull’s) was identified as being suitable for the construction of a 14km elephant corridor complete with under-road tunnel and, in 2009, construction began. Building an elephant motorway is not easy, nor does it come cheap. Some seven years in the making, the corridor is estimated to have cost over one-million US dollars. One third of this sum was expended on building the underpass and the rest went towards constructing the 27km of solar-powered, elephant-proof fencing required to keep the elephants on the proverbial straight and narrow. More funds were required to put together a team of guards and maintenance workers whose job it was to keep the elephants on track. In 2010, however,
Elephant underpass © Mount Kenya Trust
the underpass was declared open and the barriers went up on the world’s first elephantine motorway. At first, nothing happened. Then, on the 1st of January 2011, an elephant called Tony took the plunge. Heading down the valley with an air of quiet determination, he approached the underpass, eyed it askance, tossed his trunk, waved his ears, and then passed serenely through it to emerge, triumphant, on the other side of the busy A2. Tusker ‘mission accomplished’. Today, such is the success of the underpass that it is estimated that around a thousand elephants pass through it annually. Some pass through alone, others wander through in matriarchal groups, mothers gently pushing the young ones along with their trunks. Nor are the elephants the only creatures to decide to cross the road. According to the cameras that record the action in the underpass, just about every member of the wildlife cast passes this way at some time or another. Swift adopters of new technology, lions and leopards pad through the tunnel with aplomb. Buffalos bolt through it, gazelles skitter through it; hyenas lope through it. Some go north, others go south and, no doubt, plenty meet in the middle. So far, however, no instances of elephant gridlock or road rage have been reported. On the contrary, a conservation success story of mammoth proportions, the Mount Kenya Elephant Corridor has set a global precedent for elephant migration management. It has also dramatically reduced human-elephant conflict in the region and made everyone, elephants and people alike, extraordinarily HAPPY. For further information: www.mountkenyatrust.org
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WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 41
Fly-fishing on Mount Kenya © Patrick Tillard
Catching rainbow trout in Ragati Conservancy © www.ragati.com
As gourmet experiences go, it’s hard to beat a freshly-caught river trout, especially if the trout was caught by your own hand. And, with its clear tumbling streams, shaded river bends, mossy overhangs and meandering reaches, the Aberdare National Park offers some of the finest brown and rainbow trout fishing in the world. The best fishing areas are generally found above the 2,000 m level where the sparkling rivers drop down through mountain forests and open glades. You will also generally find that the higher the altitude, the smaller the fish. Recommendation: Three rivers offering especially easy access and fine fishing within the Park are: the Amboni, the Chania and the Gura. For further information: kws.go.ke
Tight lines ‘Tight lines’, they say, when you set off big-game fishing from Hemingways Resort in Watamu, on Kenya’s idyllic Indian Ocean coast. And on the end of those lines you can expect everything from a 200lb tuna to a jumping blue marlin – the ultimate catch. Watamu is the fisherman’s Nirvana virtually all year round, though the main billfish (marlin and sailfish) season runs from November to April. Generally the fishing is ’Tag and Release’, but if you want to have your fish and eat it - Hemingways will be delighted to oblige. For further information - www.hemingways-collection.com/watamu/fishing/
42 WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
© Offbeat Safaris
Four legs better than two Safari horses are bred for the job. They know their territory and they know their game. And the game knows them. Consequently you’ll get much closer to the wildlife on four legs than you’ll ever get on two. Riding in the early-morning wilderness also promises a quite unique experience. The air is fresh, the birdsong captivating and the chance to ride alongside zebra, wildebeest, antelope and giraffe - utterly magical. Horse riding is offered in the famous Masai Mara National Reserve, on the flanks of Mount Kenya or in the rolling Chyulu Hills. Or for a very different take, you can ride along the silver beaches of the Indian Ocean. Alternatively you might like to take a 5-10 day professionally managed riding safari through the wilderness. For further information: offbeatsafaris.com or greatplainsconservation.com/ride-kenya or safarisunlimited.com
Running © Tropic Air
Take off Take to the skies in Kenya and you get an entirely different interpretation of the safari. Watch a lion kill from the basket of a hotair balloon, take a private helicopter safari around Laikipia, the Chalbi Desert or the Mathews Range, or fly around the snowy peaks of Mount Kenya in an executive jet. And for those who’d like to add some spice to their flight, there’s hang-gliding, paragliding, micro-light flying, kite surfing and abseiling. Meanwhile for those with ambitions of becoming a private pilot, Kenya happens to be one of the cheapest and most pleasurable places in the world to train.
Kenya breeds some of the most famous runners in the world. It’s also the venue for the famous Safaricom Marathon, which allows you to run through the pristine wilderness of Lewa, a glorious private conservancy that abounds in wildlife and is set against the show-stopping backdrop of Mount Kenya. The Safaricom Marathon is held in June - to register, visit: www.safaricommarathon.co.ke/register. For more information on the marathon, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org And if you’d like to run alongside the greats of Kenya, then head for the little town of Iten, some 300 kms north of Nairobi where, on a very simple track, all the great names run, often side-by-side. Alternatively sign up for the High Altitude Training Centre, and find out what makes the Kenyan runner tick. For further information: www.hatc-iten.com
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 43
kenya tourism board
Calling all lovers of Kenya –
diarize this! Kenya is famous for many things: but paramount is that fact that we expect our visitors to fall in love. Some fall in love with the scintillating range of experiences; some are enchanted by the warmth and welcome of the 56 ethnic groups of Kenya’s quite extraordinary people. But most simply fall in love with Magical Kenya herself. So our forthcoming Magical Kenya Tourism Exhibition, 3-5 October, 2018 promises to be quite a heartthrob.
Colour, culture and cuisine
Who you’ll meet Magical Kenya delivers! You’ll meet the marketeers of hotels, lodges, camps and resorts. You can also network with tourism authorities, county governments, technology providers, tour operators, safari providers and ground handlers, airlines and all manner of affiliated services – from media to insurance. As for our attendees, they come from our key tourism source markets - North America, UK, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Australia and Africa.
This is a show that will delight industry buffs, would-be visitors, locals and travel professionals alike. And there’s so much to see and do. A colourful array of exhibition stands, a fascinating line up of seminars, some show-stopping cultural performances, an authentic Maasai handicrafts market and an invitation to sample the ‘Nyama Choma’ delights of the world-famous Carnivore restaurant.
Join the party
Need to know
For those with business in mind there is a carefully calibrated schedule of pre-booked appointments backed up by a scintillating schedule of tourism familiarization (FAM) trips that showcase 14 especially gorgeous areas of Kenya. This is networking at its most effective.
Kenya’s tourism flagship in full sail Now in its 8th edition, Magical Kenya is THE Kenyan travel event. It’s the largest travel expo in East Africa, and the proud flagship of Kenya’s national tourism week. A kaleidoscope of tourism events commence with World Tourism Day and roll on into a cavalcade of celebrations designed to captivate the tourism trade, media and hosted buyers alike.
44 WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
Whether you join Magical Kenya as an exhibitor, hosted buyer, media representative or trade visitor – we guarantee that you’ll meet your objectives and more. Join us in our mission – we’re taking Kenya onwards and upwards … to ever greater heights of success and celebration.
The dates: Magical Kenya Exhibition runs 3-5 October The Magical Kenya Fam trips begin 28th September and run through to 2nd October.
What’s the deal? We’ve got it all covered: we’ll reimburse 50% of your international air fares, provide three nights of superb accommodation in Nairobi during the expo and we’ll provide hosted pre-show FAM trips inclusive of transfers, accommodation and meals.
Word of mouth Don’t take our word for it – here’s what some of our participants had to say: “I totally fell in love with Kenya and its people. MKTE was a great opportunity to meet a wide range of suppliers.” Native Escapes (Australia) “Fantastic meetings with hosted buyers, they were extremely productive. All buyers arrived for meetings.” Ibis Styles Hotel “A wonderful visit - really was great to be able to experience Kenya and now able to do more qualified comparison with South Africa.” The Travel & Cruise Company (Australia) “After an amazing time in Kenya, plenty of new contacts and very interesting meetings and after work time, only a couple of words to say: Thank you.” Descubre Viajes (Spain) “I had an amazing trip to Kenya and appreciate all the efforts made by the On Show team to make it so productive for the buyers.” SITA Tours (USA) “The quality of exhibitors were superb, I had very productive meetings. Thank you!” Air Tours Club (Poland) “The show was well organised, the broad variety of suppliers was excellent. The event exceeded my expectations. Thank you for a job well done.” Professional Travel Consultants (USA) “Amazing fam trips! I did not expect that Kenya will leave so many experiences in me. I have arranged with more than 20 hotels to cooperate. Firo-tour (Czech Republic) Book your participation NOW – space is limited, demand is high and all applications must be vetted in advance. Please contact us immediately email@example.com
Africa’s Leading Tourist Board
Kenya Tourism Board, Kenya Re Towers, Ragati Road, Nairobi. Tel: +254 20 2749126. Take a tour: www.magicalkenya.com
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 45
in close up
Gateway to Africa
46 WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
Nairobi is one of the world’s top ‘Destinations on the Rise’ according to international travellers. TripAdvisor has recently announced the Travelers’ Choice® awards for Destinations on the Rise. Third on the list is Nairobi. The awards recognise 44 destinations around the world selected by measuring year-over-year increase in positive TripAdvisor traveler review ratings for accommodation, restaurants and attractions, as well as increase in search and booking interest. This is the sixth year of the awards. Travelers’ Choice Destinations on the Rise lists were also revealed for Europe, Asia and South America. “The Travelers’ Choice Destinations on the Rise award winners are a great source of inspiration for travelers interested in going somewhere exciting that’s emerging in popularity,” said Brooke Ferencsik, senior director of communications for TripAdvisor. “These winners were based on destination feedback and interest from the TripAdvisor community, and a common thread is that they all have outstanding accommodations, wonderful restaurants and exceptional attractions for everyone.”
© Nigel Pavitt
Enjoy a free transit visa and a bush breakfast in the park courtesy of KQ. Kenya Airways are now offering customers transiting Nairobi for a second, international destination within their route network a free morning safari and bush breakfast in the outstanding Nairobi National Park. No visa fees will be charged and on arrival in Nairobi customers will be given access to one of the lounges to freshen up before the safari starts. Of course, you will return to the airport with enough time to make your connecting flight. For now the offer applies only to people (in all flight classes) arriving on the early morning flight from London Heathrow, but the offer will soon be extended to customers arriving on all Kenya Airways flights from Europe arriving early morning with a confirmed onward KQ flight. At the moment the safari is totally free but by March 2018 it’s likely that a token fee will be charged. The idea is to free up space on the early morning flights from Nairobi to other African destinations and to allow Kenya Airways passengers to see just what Kenya offers as a safari destination.
© Stuart Price / Make it Kenya
To find out more, call +254 711024747/ +254 734104747 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 47
legend of the
Main photo © Paul Mckenzie
The following tale was told by a Samburu warrior called Ngatini Leboryare to Simon Hook in Maralal in 1979. Later it was printed in Nine Faces of Kenya by Elspeth Huxley
ood was in short supply in Samburu land; and the hyenas were hungry. Day after day, they hunted and scavenged but the dry plains, the rocky outcrops and even the muddy riverbanks remained bare. One day a hyena, known as Pilli Pilli, slipped away from the rest of the pack to forage on her own. And she came across a dead elephant. ‘What luck!’ she thought, ‘but why should I share it?’ So she returned to the pack and, since she was one of its leaders, led her fellows in the opposite direction to that in which the elephant carcass lay. As evening fell, the hungry hyenas gathered in a cave where they lay exhausted and dispirited. ‘I have news,’ announced Pilli Pilli, and she told them that she knew of a place where there was so much food that the entire pack might gorge forever. Initially, she was not believed, but when she explained that the witch doctor had told her about the magic larder, the pack was convinced. The next morning, very early, they set off with Pilli Pilli in the lead. The sun was rising, turning the landscape blood-red. They ran towards it. At a certain point, Pilli Pilli sank down as if exhausted ‘I can go no further,’ she said, ‘but do you see that cloud glowing red in the distance?’ The pack squinted into the sun and nodded. ‘That’s the mountain of meat the witch doctor told me about,’ said Pilli Pilli, ‘you go on, I’ll catch you later.’ So the pack sped off towards the distant prize. Pilli Pilli, however, returned to the elephant carcass. And there she ate. And ate, and ate - because she was one of those who believed that meat gives strength. After she had gorged, she thought she’d judge her strength by seeing if she could jump over the dead elephant. But there was so much meat inside her that she couldn’t even get off the ground. ‘More meat required,’ she thought, and gorged again. A few moments later, she tried the jump again but there was still no improvement. So she went back to eating. And she went on eating until she burst: and that was the end of Pilli Pilli. Far away, the pack ran on, but seemed to draw no closer to the red cloud, which now appeared to be rising and floating into the sky. Panicking, they climbed one on top of another, in a desperate attempt to reach the cloud. But, as the weight of the pile of hyenas grew, so those at the bottom collapsed. And finally they all came crashing down. And that is why, even today, hyenas often appear to be limping.
48 WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018
© Stuart Butler
You won’t have to spend long on safari before you encounter a spotted hyena: it’s the most abundant large carnivore on the savannah, and especially prevalent where antelopes and zebras abound. The largest of the four hyena species (spotted, brown, striped and aardwolf), a mature spotted hyena weighs 40-86 kg and has a top speed of 60kph. A formidable predator, it’s capable of running down and killing a bull wildebeest three times its own weight; and such is its eating ability that it can consume 90% of a carcass, digesting horns, hooves, hides and even teeth in 24 hours (other predators typically eat only 60% of their kills). Principally carnivores, hyenas eat wildebeest, antelopes, hippos, birds, jackals, lizards, fish, snakes, foxes, porcupines, eggs and even insects. They’re also opportunistic scavengers adept in finishing off what other predators, such as lions, leave behind (their hearing is so acute that they can hear predators hunting or feeding on a carcass from a distance of up to 10 kilometers). Social by nature, hyenas live in clans with up to 80 members where all females, even the younger ones, dominate the males. Females lead the hunt and eat first at a kill. More closely related to the cat family than that of the dog, hyenas are known as ‘Fisi’ in Kenya, where they are universally feared, not least because the Maasai traditionally leave out their dead to be devoured by them.
“Fisi, the hyena, hermaphroditic self-eating devourer of the dead, trailer of calving cows, ham-stringer, potential biter-off of your face at night while you slept, sad yowler, camp-follower, stinking, foul, with jaws that crack the bones the lion leaves, belly dragging, loping away on the brown plain …” Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 49
snapped tab title
Kenya is so much more than beach and bush – it’s a WILD shopping destination. Our artisans excel in metalwork, carving, leather and beadwork. Our young designers are fearless in their melding of local fabrics and cultural talismans into global glamour. Our artists draw on a heritage glowing with colour and innovation. And there are so many different ways to shop: while visiting the national parks and conservancies, for instance, you’ll find impromptu handicraft markets popping up all over the place. On the coast you’ll be enchanted by the colourful stalls that embroider the beaches. In Nairobi the line up shopping malls fizzes with glitz and glam while countless authentic handicraft markets promise a unique cocktail of cultural interaction and retail discovery. So… why not take a bit of Kenya home with you?
Fringe event ©Anna Trzebinski
For a look that blends the unpredictability and boho-chic of the fringe with the accomplished glamour of mainstream theatre – consider a creation from the studio of local artiste Anna Trzebinski. A virtuoso performer in leather, feathers, and beadwork, Anna’s portfolio of hand-made pieces is drama incarnate. For further information www.annatrzebinski.com
Rock it Hand-made in Kenya using indigenous rocks and recycled materials ranging from cow bone to brass, this inspirational jewellery collection has already received global acclaim. For further information: www.pennywinter.com
50 WHY I LOVE KENYA January-February 2018
Light it up When it comes to ingenuity, Kenya’s artisans enlighten us all. This lantern is a perfect example of their ability to transform everyday into never-seen-before: a kerosene lantern available in any Kenyan supermarket cleverly adapted into a garden candleholder. These and many other such rustic treasures can be found at the Purdy Arms craft market, which takes place in the Nairobi suburb of Karen. For further information: www.purdyarms.com
Changing lives one bead at a time
Purchase a piece from Zinj Designs and you’ll be contributing to the support of a coastal community that now numbers 80 trained artisans amongst its people. The company motto is ‘Changing Lives One Bead at a Time’ and their hand-crafted range blends butter-soft Kenyan leather, 100% Kenya cotton kikois and hand-cast recycled brass fittings into a style-changing range of bags, belts and dog collars. For further information: www.zinjdesign.com
If you’re fond of jam, you’ll find none more delicious that the homemade range offered by Kenyan cottage industry, Daims. And as an added bonus, the jars come with authentic Kenyan kanga bottle tops. For further information: email@example.com
Write home about it Simple yet delivering full-on ethnic impact. Cosmopolitan but indisputably African, this range of earrings, bracelets and fingerrings takes the classic ‘little black dress’ into a whole new stratosphere.
Photo: Tanja Kibogo www.tanjakibogo.com Model: Olivia Sang // @olivia_sang_ Dress: Deepa Dosaja // www.deepadosaja.com Jewellery: Adèle Dejak // www.adeledejak.com Stationary Designer: Sonja Buehrke
WHY I LOVE KENYA March-April 2018 51
Need to know For full information on Kenya visit www.magicalkenya.com
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.
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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 evisa.go.ke)
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 industryâ€™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: www.ktf.co.ke
The Kenya Tourism Federation gratefully acknowledges the support of our Gold Sponsor, Swahili Beach