It has been a moment since I posted because lately my day job has been a little more demanding than usual. Despite that, I must say that 2016 has been a great year since it started on such a high with the great Grevy’s Rally, a two day action filled adventure and my cameras first serious gig.
I have embraced the quote “Every year visit a place you have not visited before.” I attended the Lewa Marathon for the first time (as a spectator), I went to Archers post (first time in samburu County) and the most memorable visit was to Loisaba conservancy which is tucked away in the ‘middle of no where’ in Laikipia North. I can bet not many people know this place exists.
In my two part post, I would like to share a few photos from my few trips around Laikipia in the hope that they will awaken your spirit of adventure and a desire to conserve these amazing gifts of nature in Laikipia and the rest of Kenya.
Here is todays installment of beautiful Laikipia.
Until the next one,
Lots of love
How much do I love Kenya’s bit of the Great North Road? I can count the ways for days. Out of the entire 7000+ kms all the way from Cape Town (South Africa) – Cairo (Egypt) Kenya’s infamous 500km section of lunar surface from Isiolo – Moyale put us in the unenviable position of ‘number last’ but that is now all behind us. Who do we give props for this? Was it ex-president Kibaki? Wherever you are mzee please pokea a fist bump. The soon to be completed stretch of the Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale road has created massive potential in the previously marginalized Northern Kenya counties and has already created better tourism opportunities and brought enhanced security to this previously ‘unknown’ region.
As we’ve seen before Kenya is full of surprises so of course there’s a little conservancy just off this highway that’s just begging to be visited.
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Photography: Mukuhi Wanjohi
Location: Sweetwaters chimpanzee sanctuary (Ol pejeta conservancy)
Have you ever been to the chimpanzee sanctuary at Ol pejeta conservancy? If not let me tell you what you have been missing. Anyone who went through the Kenyan 8-4-4 education system must have been told that primates are our closest relatives based on the evolution theory and the general appearance of apes (whichever kind). At that time none of us set out to understand that statement because truth is we were just trying to pass our exams and move on to the next level. This place will not only elaborate the statement but also answer all the questions you were afraid to ask your history teacher.
Interacting with chimpanzees and listening to Yego (my favorite guide at the sanctuary) has made understand just how close we are. I was a little girl during my first visit here and my most memorable chimpanzee was Bahati who came out as quite the show off as he jumped from one branch to the other. Back in those days one could go on a boat ride in the Ewaso Ngiro river and so we huddled into a boat and off we went. One of the chimpanzees (most likely Max) ran after the boat and threw as many stones as he could at our boat. Lets just say 95% of that boat ride was spent crouching inside the boat praying that the stones would not make it inside. Yego told me the boat rides have since been abolished because a chimp once jumped into a boat and beat up a tourist injuring her seriously
Occasionally Max still throws stones at people but I cant blame him considering his traumatic past and that of the other chimps in the sanctuary. Most of them are refugees of war from Central Africa while others like Mary were kept in captivity in South Sudan. Others were transported across international borders in inhumane conditions before they found a home at Sweetwaters.
These creatures are very intelligent and have an amazing memory. A few weeks back, I found Max really agitated throwing stones at everything and everyone. My guide that day told me it was because a certain politician came to visit bringing along his gun bearing security detail. Did I mention chimps have a good memory and they still remember the guns and the war in the Congo? Those security guys tried to hide behind view tower but Max was determined to show them who was the boss in that territory. On that note I think America needs chimps like Max who have zero tolerance for guns.
Chimpanzees walk on their fours but some can stand or move on their twos. No one does it better that Poco. Last week he was lying in the bushes but the moment a bunch of school kids showed up he got up and gave them a show to remember. I don’t think they will ever forget it the same way I have never forgotten Bahati.
Unfortunately Chimpanzees in captivity do not have the opportunities to exploit their full potential like their counterparts in the wild. Remember how in Madagascar ( the animation) Marty was fascinated by the thought of going out to the wild, am sure some of these chimps feel the same way. Lucky for them Ol pejeta engages them in a number of activities to keep them active and creative. According to Yego and maybe science the females are more intelligent than the males. There have been incidents where they have orchestrated a ‘prison break’ by tampering with the electric fence but not to worry if this ever happens when you are there because there is a visitors safety cage where one can run for safety .
Judy has the saddest eyes I have ever seen. Makes you want to breach the electric fence and go give her a hug. She uses her forearms for movement since polio affected her hind legs. She is however a lovely chimps who makes funny faces and nods when you speak to her.
This one (Cant remember his name) grew up in ‘shags’ because he knows that when you have a thorn in your flesh, you use another thorn to remove it. If that is not being brilliant, I don’t know what is.
I could go on and on about these amazing creatures but I will leave with a few facts about chimpanzees
- They are humans closest relatives with 98% of our genetic makeup
- Their main habitat is rain forests and sometimes open Savannah and woodlands
- They live in families with usually with one dominant male who has the mating rights (according to Yego there are clande manenos in chimpanzee world)
- They are endangered due to habitat loss, hunting for bush meat and commercial trade.
- They can walk on fours but can stand upright and move on their twos
You can become part of the Chimpanzee story by visiting the sweetwaters chimpanzee sanctuary especially the adoption center. Here you can adopt as many chimpanzees as you want from rates as low as 10$. Every dollar counts so go to the adoption center here and make your contribution.
Until next time, thank you for reading…
I AM DARAJA
A couple of months back I wrote about my experience at Daraja Academy during their fundraising cycling challenge and gala night here. My post was more on my connection with the scenic views that make up the surrounding of the campus because generally I focus on nature, the environment and wildlife conservation on this platform. Allow me to deviate a bit today to girl empowerment and education because I believe education is the bottom line to everything.
At the gala night, we sat in the freezing cold Laikipian night and watched the girls showcase their talents ranging from sports, fashion show ,music and spoken word. When I say Daraja girls are talented I mean exactly that. Two girls moved me to tears with their remix of John Legends ‘one man can change the world’ to ‘One girl can change the world’. My friend and MC for the event Ndunge did a stellar job before and during the event. She managed to organize the girls during their rehearsals through to the final presentation. If you need an event planner/MC she is your girl. Check her out on Facebook, Hadithi. She is also a director at Dyrah Group Limited, a company that deals with marketing, branding, events and supplies.
A lot of promises were made by most of the guests at the gala but sadly not all promises have been fulfilled to date. Last week, Quix’s sports gear in partnership with the Daraja Academy management delivered sports uniform to the girls which they can use for both their rugby team and football. Quix’s sports gear is a Kenyan clothing line that specializes in developing new uniform designs for teams participating in different sports activities. The photos are a clear indication of the great work Quix’s is doing and the look on the girls faces is clearly one of satisfaction for a job well done.
To partner with Daraja academy please visit their website and partner with them in shaping the future of these young women in whichever capacity you can.
Also take a look at quix sports gear website for all your sports gear needs whether personal or for an organization.
Safaricom LEWA marathon 2016 took place on 25th June. This is one of the most hyped runing experience in Kenya because of its unique setting (Running in the wild) . This marathon takes place in one of the most beautiful landscape in this country. Lewa wildlife conservancy is a UNESCO world heritage site and a sanctuary for all wildlife especially endangered species. I don’t want to make my post about the marathon you can read all about it on the Lewa and Safaricom websites. My focus is on my personal experience, the friends I made and my appreciation of such events.
On ‘Race day’ my friend Caro and I were on the road by 7.00 AM. I was super excited as it was my first time to attend the Lewa marathon but for my friend it was her first trip ever to Isiolo county and to the Lewa wildlife conservancy. I have been on that road severally and the drive was as beautiful as I remembered especially in the morning light. I was eager to show Caro the ‘mowhawk’ hill in Timau, the view of Mount Kenya from Kisima and of course the beautiful live fences that characterize most of the large farms in Timau.
My other friend, our host at Lewa had warned us not to expect to meet any elephants as they had been moved away to make room for the runners. I am an elephant person so you can imagine how excited I was when just a few meters into the conservancy I spotted a herd of elephants . In my excitement I may have shouted a bit louder than l intended because I remember Caro was ready to take off in fear. We took a few photos including an elephant calf which was half hiding in the bushes. This bull however stood out for me as it strutted across the grass land in the morning light.
Another few meters ahead we found some grevy zebras and impalas grazing by the road side. There was a fight of some sort, possibly a male impala trying to take its position as the dominant male in the herd. We didnt stay long enough to find out how it ended.
Lewa is home to quite a number of grevys. This particular species is a resident of northern Kenya and is classified as one of the endangered species. here are a few facts about this species
- It is physically larger than the plain zebra
- It has thinner stripes, a white belly and larger ears
- It’s main habitat is northern Kenya and Ethiopia
- Its main threat is habitat loss, competition with livestock and predation.
In January this year citizen scientists took part in the first great grevys rally to carry out a census to determine the population of these animals using IBEIS technology. The results will be released later this year as scientists are still analyzing over 45000 images submitted by the citizen scientists.
Back to the Lewa marathon, this year I was the spectator, the sight seer and the cheer leader. If I start now I believe I can survive the 21 km race in 2017.
If you would like to participate keep checking the Lewa conservancy website as well as safaricom. Every contribution whether monetary or information will go a long way to supporting this organization in its quest to care for all wildlife and save the endangered species from extinction. Go to a conservation area near you get inspired and make your contribution.
I will leave you with a few images which I managed to capture during my two days at the conservancy.
photography: Mukuhi Wanjohi
Location: Daraja Academy (Laikipia North)
Two weeks ago I attended the Daraja Academy cycling challenge/ gala night followed by camping on one of the coldest nights of my life. I think my brain froze at some point I could no longer feel the cold. It was a magical night. Those girls inspired me, made me laugh and at some point moved me to tears. This school is raising a generation of strong women who have overcome a lot of challenges in their short lives to become young role models. If you ever meet them, trust me they will have the same effect on you…
As much as this event was about raising money for girl education, I had to go looking for some inspiration in nature.. I read in a blog once that if you are a photographer and you are not sure if it is okay for you to take photo or not you just keep snapping until someone stops you. That is exactly what happened in this case… We took a walk just a little outside Daraja academy to take a few photos of the landscape. A few minutes out, there was a herd of camels and my friend and I were more than happy to shoot away. My friends exact words were that this was as close to a wild animal as we would see right before a very angry man came from the bushes shouting at us.
“Usipige ngamia picha! Hio sio mali yako. Ukipiga picha utaniona!” (Don,t take photos of the camels! that is not your property. If you take photos I will deal with you!) We silently backed off but not without a few shots of these beautiful creatures of the dry Laikipia North. I was later informed by a source that the local politicians have told the locals not to allow people to take photos unless they get some money from it. I guess that is a valid point but then again how do you determine the cost?
The flora and fauna at Daraja did not disappoint either. I was treated to some of the scenic views below and one of the most amazing sunsets I have seen in a while. I don’t t think there is a day that goes by that I do not see the blue sterling bird… It never dissapoint and its curiosity is always welcome
Sometimes I wanna lose faith in humanity but I still believe people will have sense enough to do what is right. Allow me to go on a bit of a rant. I have mentioned earlier that the Daraja girls inspired me and I feel like am the one who should be looking up to them and not the other way round. I took the first photo of the camp site when we arrived and the second one on the morning after, after almost everybody had left. We were there to support these girls and set a good example but instead this is what we did. we found a perfectly clean campsite but left our litter for the same girls we went to support to clean up. I have no respect for people who drop litter without even flinching, especially those that say if they don’t litter the county council guys wont have work to do. If you are such a person, shame on you and I hope you change. Remember to always leave a place better than you found it otherwise what example did we set for these girls?
Finally, as you drive into to Laikipia, there is a welcome to Laikipia County the Oasis of opportunities sign which only has wildlife photos and I wonder why because as much as I love elephants, check Ivory to ashes and Falling for Elephants , there is so much more in this vast county; the landscapes, livestock and the communities. This is the place to be. I am yet to explore most of Laikipia but thanks to a little inspiration from The Kenyan Camper and an invitation from Dr. Josephine Kulea (The founder of Samburu Girls Foundation Mukuhi is heading to the north starting with Samburu. I can’t t wait to meet Kulea’s girls, experience the Samburu culture, eat a Samburu goat and meet the Samburu elephants!
This was my last photo on the road from Daraja Academy . The car was moving at 60km/h but the cows were generous enough to let me steal this shot.
Until next time, be a responsible citizen, do not litter & alway set a good example. You never know who is watching. Above all else connect with Nature wherever you go.
Get more information about the school on daraja-academy.org and if you can please send your donation. It will go along way in educating the girl child.
Photography: Mukuhi Wanjohi
Location : Mpala Research Center & Olpejeta conservancy
Two weeks ago, Kenya led by its president burned its entire ivory stockpile in a highly publicized event. Kenyans love a good story and the Kenyan media never disappointed as they made the ivory burn the talk of town for the two weeks preceding the burn. As the debate on whether Kenya should have burned the ivory or not continues, I would like to add my voice as an elephant loving Kenyan who grew up near a national park.
Several times elephants have come to our home and destroyed our fences and crops. During their last visit, they scared the daylights out of my mother. she peeped outside to check what the commotion was about and there was an elephant in all its majesty standing outside her bedroom window. Me being me, I don’t mind having a jumbo standing outside my bedroom but for my mother, she wasn’t very happy because besides scaring her in the middle of the night, she had to rebuild the fences and although she is not a large scale farmer count her losses on her few crops. The spectacular Ivory burn meant nothing to people like my mother who consider elephants a nuisance and a threat to their livelihood.
Ivory only has value when it is attached to a living elephant. Many have argued about the economics of biodiversity and felt that the ivory should have been sold and the funds channeled to conserving the remaining elephants. The implications of this would be devastating to the existing elephant herds because the moment we open up the ivory trade we will open Pandora’s box. we will open up the market and there will be no way to tell which ivory is legally in the market and which one is not. On the day of the burn, I overheard someone say that they could not sit and watch all that money burn… IVORY IS NOT MONEY. Kenya can get that money and much more through promoting tourism. Tourist do not travel from their side of the world to see dead elephants or buy meaningless ivory tusks. I remember watching an episode of the Amazing race and there was a moment in the race where the teams forgot they were in a competition to marvel at the majesty of the elephants in Botswana. On that note I want to go to the Okavango Delta… it is absolute perfection.
Back to the ivory burn again, the ban on ivory trade has been in place since 1990 but elephants are still dying. Communities living next to elephants still do not see the value in conservation because to them elephants are a bother that benefits the tourism sector but destroy their farms and homes. To these people the ivory burn means nothing. In my opinion it was turned into a celebrity affair . The person in the village does not care which Hollywood star was at the giants summit or the ivory burn site. Therefore, the government must give them a reason to peacefully coexist with the gentle giants. My colleague once told me if i went to his village to tell people about the importance of elephant conservation they would beat me up because for years they have raided their farms and no one has given them a solution. Those are the issues the government need to address because poachers come from these very communities. The government must empower the community economically by channeling some of the tourism funds to benefit the local communities that way, they will understand the value of a live elephant as opposed to just its tusks.
David Attenborough once said, people are not going to care about wildlife conservation unless they think it is important to them. The authorities need to address all aspects of the poaching menace. It is a cartel that goes beyond the lowly paid poacher in the African bushes.
Tristan McConnell (photographer/ foreign correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP ) wrote that real killers of African elephants are criminal enterprises with ability to establish and maintain supply chains stretching from the African jungle to the markets of Asia. there are corrupt officials every step of the way therefore if we are to stop poaching we need to aim at the right target (corruption, criminals and buyers of illegal ivory). I agree with these sentiment and hope that as the dust settles on this event, we will channel our efforts towards mitigating human wildlife conflict and uplifting the communities that live with the wildlife because at the end of the day all wildlife is
Location: Olpejeta conservancy
Just yesterday, an iconic Kenyan lion was gunned down in Nairobi by the same people entrusted to protect it. Later, it emerged that the lion was Nairobi national parks beloved Mohawk. The #justiceformowhawk has been trending since then. The general feel of Kenyans is that KWS should have handled the situation better and of course there have been conspiracy theories here and there about private developers releasing lions so they can grab the park. That remains to be seen. I never met mowhawk because I have never gone for a game drive in Nairobi national park but I met Morani when I was younger. He was as stated in his grave stone A RHINO LIKE NO OTHER.
I also met Simotua the little brave elephant whose face had been hacked by humans and legs almost cut off by a poachers snare at the David Sheldricks wildlife trust. He died a couple of days ago but he fought a really good fight. Mowhawk, Simotua, Morani and all names on the gravestones below represent what we have lost along the way. Whatever the circumstances behind these deaths, the wild is in crisis. We must therefore not lose focus of the bigger picture which is saving our wildlife especially the endangered species. This is Kenyan pride. In fact when one mentions magical Kenya, the Kenyan wildlife comes to mind.
Let us learn from these losses so that we do not repeat the same mistakes again.
And for my two cents…
Dear Nairobians, please keep your distance from these stray lions. Don’t compell KWS to kill the lion because at the end of the day human life is more important.
Dear parents who take your children to Karura forest, teach your children not to throw sticks at monkeys and as the rule states DO NOT FEED THEM!!! When they grow up they will be the same people going to surround a lion instead of running in the opposite direction.
Remember just because a lion is sleeping doesn’t mean it is no longer a lion and as I always say everything is connected to everything else and we all have to coexist peacefully.
Checkout causeanuproar.org to see the current state of lions and the big cats on planet earth. There are more statues of lions than living lions….
Enjoy the photos from the rhino memorial site at Olpejeta and as always