My name is Mukuhi Wanjohi. I am an optimist, child of nature, wildlife & conservation enthusiast and a travel /adventure junkie here to bring you the best of Laikipia, Kenya and someday soon the world...
Live. Love. Travel. not in that order
On this game drive, I only covered a small radius of the 90,000 acre conservancy and below a few photos that best summarize my experience. I hope you like them and if you would like to visit the conservancy, which I believe you should, here is a summary of what to expect:
Unlike many parks in this region, Olpejeta is open to the locals anytime…no appointment needed.
It is the only place in Kenya with Chimpanzees
It is home to all the big five
The paths are clearly marked so with or without a guide, you can figure your way around
It is the biggest black rhino sanctuary in East africa
It is home to the world’s last three northern white rhinos (1 male &2 females)
For more information on more activities, accommodation and park fees check out their website.
We don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason.
It has been a minute but not too long I hope. I don’t wan t to make excuses today so lets get right into it. In 2015 I made a terrible mistake ( story for another day) but in all that mess I met a great girl who was to become my friend (also story for another day). Through this friend, I met another friend who was super excited about running the LEWA marathon 2017. We had only met virtually but we agreed that we would hang out after the marathon. So I found myself on the road to Isiolo very early Sunday morning ready for an adventure to unknown destinations with a person I had never met.
Isiolo is the last town you would expect to find a traffic jam but on this day, a Sunday, the traffic was probably worse than that of the great Nairobi. The same happened when I was going to Marsabit ( read about that here). Maybe Isiolo doesn’t want me to drive through too fast. So here I was with two complete strangers headed to destination unknown in the great Samburu county. We made our way to Buffalo springs national reserve and went straight to the swimming pool at Samburu Simba lodge.
I don’t know about you but this is a perfect spot to spend a day, say on a blind date and have conversations with even more strangers who are on vacation from different parts of the world. What made it even better is that we did not have to take a game drive to look for the wildlife… wildlife came to us.
Those who know me know I love elephants so having a herd of elephants grazing by the pool must have been the highlight of my day. I witnessed an elephant bullying a grevy zebra and I thought it was being mean but turns out it had a little calf probably less that two months. I am no expert in estimating wildlife’s age but it was really tiny.
On the way out, I was lucky to see a number of oryx (by the way what is the proper name for it?) It is one of the species that are only found in arid parts of Africa above the equator.
we also made a stop at the springs which are weirdly clean despite the fact that there is no visible outlet. Unfortunately I was too focused on taking photos of me and my now friends (no longer blind dates) that I forgot to take a picture of the springs.
Buffalo springs national reserve is located between Isiolo and Archers post and is managed by the county government of Samburu
Entrance fee is Kes. 500.00 for Kenyan citizens
You can also access Samburu national reserve from here without having to pay park entrance fee again
There is a variety of lodges to choose from for meals and swimming… we were at the Samburu Simba lodge
You will need a 4WD… the roads are quite rough.
We had an amazing experience there and I would totally recommend it. Samburu is waiting for you.
Until next time, go find your adventure, tembea Kenya and don’t be afraid to go on adventurous blind dates… It could turn out to be your best day.
A big thank you to Maryanne, Tom and Christine. you made my day!
When I started this blog about a year and a half ago, I was looking for a platform that would allow me to share my love for nature, wildlife and photography and hopefully use the three to promote conservation education and a general appreciation for the world’s beauty. Taking stock a year and a half later, I have to admit I haven’t posted as much as I originally planned. Sometimes I write in my head but it never translates to an actual published post…blame it on trying to balance a full time job and using every spare moment of my life travelling somewhere in this country (Excuses excuses). I sure hope the few posts I have managed to publish have in a small way fulfilled my goal.
Going through my photos made me realize I am a chronic hoarder. Most of my space is taken up by photos from all the places I have been but never shared. Taking photos is all fun and games until it gets to the sorting and editing part… then I switch off. So I have decided to get back on the writing/ sharing bandwagon and hopefully keep doing it on reasonably regular basis by sharing one of my most epic trip this year to Marsabit. I have always wanted to go there but I guess the uncertainty of what lies ahead has always held me back until I read the Kenyan campers series on Northern Kenya. Unlike him, my trip was rather spontaneous since the plan was hatched 2 days before it happened. One day to the trip, my friend was chickening out but I gave him my positive vibes speech that nothing bad happens to me; which means nothing bad would happen to him as we ventured into this strange land.
On a Saturday afternoon after winding up in the office, the adventure began at 2.30 PM. We cruised through familiar territories from Nanyuki, through the beautiful farms in Timau all the way to Archer’s post. That is as far as any of us had ever been before so after Archer’s, we were all in the dark as to what lay ahead. That road is not referred to as the great north road for nothing. It is in my opinion the best piece of tarmac in this country…well done President Kibaki, well done. We had our first stop over near Mount Ololokwe also known as Ol Donyo Sabache in Samburu county. The traffic on this road is non existent so you can take pretty good photos from here without the fear of some car ruining your shot. In the words of #Thekenyancamper ” This road has so few cars that when you come across one you just take a photo…It is an event!”. You can also do cat wheels if you wish. As for getting the camera settings right for harsh day light photography depending on what time you travel is a story for another day.
Before I digress further, the drive was quite scenic thanks to the amazing Matthews ranges, Mount Ololokwe and the Nkadoru Murto (Cat and mouse rock formation). You may have come across some amazing aerial shots of this online. We got to Marsabit at around 6.30. Can you believe that? Truth is we were driving at a constant speed of 160/170 km/h ( Don’t tell NTSA).
I really wanted to visit Marsabit National park but we were turned away at Ahmed gate because apparently the rains were coming and we would get stuck even if we had a 4WD. Thank you KWS ranger for breaking my heart like that and giving me a reason to come back.
Here are a few highlights on the trip to Marsabit and then I will let some of the photos I took tell the rest of the story for me.
Carry a lot of water. It is very hot on the road.
Do not be fooled, Marsabit is a cold cold town…pack your sweaters people.
Lots of people asking for water on the road but since you can’t be sure if they are genuine or not… keep driving
Apparently the roads in Marsabit National park are not well maintained so if that is on your list of places to visit plan your trip during the dry season.
There are strong winds crossing the road as you approach Marsabit…watch out for that and be careful
I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order.
Nature always wears the color of the spirit and nature comes in different forms…trees, animals, sky etc etc… Over the last couple of months I have been out and about in Laikipia North which in my opinion holds some of the most beautiful and unexplored landscapes in this country.
I say this because lately, there has been a lot of negative buzz on Laikipia because of the illegal land invasions and general lawlessness in the area. I have read most commentaries and opinions on the matter which are Unfortunately biased because some of these writers have either never ventured into these parts of Laikipia or have lived here long enough to have a one sided opinion.
Any who, I don’t want to get into the politics surrounding the whole issue, what I can do is share the beauty that awaits you in this remote part of Kenya once the dust has settled. Trust me if you are a nature/ wildlife lover you will want to put this in your Kenyan adventure bucket list
Here are a few photos from Oljogi conservancy in Laikipia North from a few weeks back.
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.
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.
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.
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.