TUMAREN…ANOTHER OF LAIKIPIA NORTH’S HIDDEN TREASURES

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Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.

Dalai Lama

I have been to Laikipia North so many times now I have lost count. I assumed by now I would know all the corners but my recent participation in the great grevys rally reminded me there is a lot I am yet to see. I was privileged to attend the inaugural rally in another beautiful space in Laikipia North in 2016 and wrote about it here . When I was informed my team was going to Tumaren camp, I was a bit hesitant since I had no idea where that was and rumor had it that it was too close to Nanyuki town but then again I am always open to adventure and one can never turn down a trip to Laikipia North because as long as you stick to your lane you are in for a free game drive, amazing landscapes and rock formations. (Note to self write a book on Laikipia north someday).

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The rocks…

 

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Our journey to Tumaren started at around 7 AM from Nanyuki. The drive was generally pleasant as we were lucky to find a herd of elephants with lots of calves at a watering hole near Laikipia wilderness camp. If you know me well then you would understand how excited I get around elephants (People give me funny looks ).

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The eles

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We also found beer cans on the road which most likely came from another #ggr team that went ahead of us. I get really annoyed by people who litter. I can not understand how you can make a conscious choice to spend a lot of money and time in a conservation event as big as this and at the same time be a part of the litter problem by trashing a conservation area. We stopped to collect the trash which is insignificant if you think about the problem from a broader perspective.

At some point we had a flat but luckily we got help from a well wisher who happened to be driving a vehicle as our jack malfunctioned. We took a few photos and had a great time getting to know each other.

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The team and the rangers

For the rest of the drive to Tumaren, I was in worlds unknown since I had never been past Mpala research center. I was able to recognize a small town, Ilmotiok, and the familiar landscape of the North. We got to Tumaren at around 11 AM where we were welcomed with a cup of tea in classic Kenyan style despite the scorching sun. We then set up camp and headed out for a drive.

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We couldn’t find any grevys or giraffes for a while but interestingly when we found a lone grevy and got all excited ready with our cameras to shoot, we were accused of trespass by a local. Most of the conversation was in Maasai so I didn’t understand much but we sorted it in the most diplomatic way possible. Our ranger assured us that we were within the borders of Tumaren… okay we were at the border.

We moved on and found a dazzle of about 15 grevys and two plain zebras, our spotter Machira can confirm this figure since his estimations were annoyingly accurate.

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Spot the trouble maker?

I loved  Tumaren’s walking safaris concept. They major on walking /camel safaris unlike most of the parks I have visited in this region. Of course the rules still apply that you must be accompanied by an armed ranger for protection since they understand the terrain as well as wildlife behavior, keep a reasonable distance from the wildlife and whatever you do DO NOT disturb them.

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The transport…

Before I digress further, we went tracking on foot and despite the heat I was super excited. We tried our best to single out the grevys so that we could get clear photos but the plain zebras kept creating chaos. Eventually we got a few shots which I hope will help in the analysis.

at the end of day one we were treated to a spectacular sunset and I spotted a spotted hyena on top of a rock on our way back to camp (see what I did there)?

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In the evening, We told stories by the fire, some of us ( read me) almost sat on the fire because I was afraid of the cold…in my defense I almost froze while camping at Naibor and am still hang up on that. (cameras were charging so no photos)

The next morning, we set out before sunrise. The animals were out to play. We found a hyena and her cubs playing on top of a rock, there were quite a number of gerenuks (giraffe necked gazelles) which were extremely shy and a few giraffes which we were happy to track on foot.

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Spot the gerenuk?
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Patterns (reticulated giraffes)
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Another gerenuk
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Nothing beats the view from the top.

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Sunrise Day 2

We had a great experience at Tumaren apart from a few hiccups here and there the major one being that our driver was not conversant with the area and was afraid to go off-road despite having a 4WD. If we were in another park that doesn’t allow tracking on foot,we would not have gotten anything done since we would have been restricted to the designated paths away from the zebras and giraffes. Generally though he was a great guy with a great sense of humor. I guess the wilderness especially as extreme as Laikipia north was just not his cup of coffee.

Snapshot

1. Tumaren is a beautiful place that offer a amazing walking and driving safari. You can get a tailor made package depending on your preference. Check out their official website for more information and prices.

2. You can access Tumaren by driving on the Nanyuki Doldol road , take a left towards Juakali and proceed straight through Mpala research center, Elkarama ranch etc etc. You can also follow Nanyuki Ilpolei route via musul. From our campsite we could see Musul from a distance. Tumaren also has an airstrip for those who would prefer flying there.

3. Get all your supplies in Nanyuki if you are camping. If you stay at the lodge you will be sorted.

4. Network coverage is non existent so be ready to leave the tech world behind.

5. This area can get extremely hot during the day and cold at night… Pack appropriately.

 

And finally…

A big shout out to the county government of Laikipia (tourism department), Sema Laikipia and the rangers who took care of us at Tumaren.

To the grevy zebra trust… Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this event.

Until the next one

Plant a tree this rainy season

Do not litter or make excuses for people who do

Take care of your environment

Love, respect and conserve wildlife in your own small way

Go out and have an adventure!

leave a comment…

Love & love.

Mukuhi.

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THE GREAT GREVYS RALLY- MY STORY

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Hey guys,

Would you like to go on an adventure of a lifetime? Are you a conservation/ wildlife enthusiast? Would like an opportunity to get involved as a citizen scientist? The great grevys rally 2018 is coming up at the end of this month 27th -28th to be specific. I had an opportunity to participate in the rally in 2016 which turned out to be the most epic weekend.  If you ask my friends they will tell you I have been talking about it for two years!!

Overview (over-simplified )

 The great grevys rally  was originally designed to estimate the population of the grevy zebras through photographing the right side of the zebra and later using IBEIS (Image based Ecological Information system) to analyze the data. According to the last census the estimated figure stands at 2350. Grevy Zebras are  classified as one  of the most endangered mammals and  are only found in parts of northern Kenya and Ethiopia.

In this years great grevys rally teams will be photographing both the endangered grevy zebra and reticulated giraffes.

In my post today, I would like to give you guys  a guideline on what to expect as a citizen scientist based on my experience in 2016.

How to identify a grevy zebra

  • It is slightly bigger than the plain zebra
  • It has a white belly
  • It has narrow stripes
  • It has a broader neck and larger ears.

This is not a comprehensive list but I hope it is a good start before you come up with your own observations once you take part in this event.

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A plain zebra photographed at  Nairobi national park
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A grevy zebra photographed at Mpala research center

There are three species of giraffes in Kenya ( the reticulated giraffe, Rothschild giraffe and Maasai giraffe) since the grevys rally will be taking place in five counties in northern Kenya, Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo, Meru and Marsabit, you will most likely only see the reticulated giraffes here so you will not have a challenge identifying them.

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Reticulated giraffes photographed at Mpala research center

   The rally organizers will provide one  GPS enabled camera per team which you will use to photograph the right side of both the grevy zebras and reticulated giraffes. You are supposed to get as close as possible to the animals to take photos but please please do not harass them.  You will need a lot of patience since you will find them in groups but the rules of the game dictate that you have to single them out to get good individual photos. This is going to be a challenge but trust me you will enjoy the hide and seek.

PS you are allowed to carry other cameras.

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A dazzle of grevy zebras ( Mpala research center)

Some will hide in the bush while others will play in the sand in classic donkey style. You will look at your photos at the end of the day and wonder what you were doing but do not worry it is part of the process. The side shows made the experience worthwhile in 2016.

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Play time ( Mpala research center)

But eventually you will get good photos

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The type of photo you should take (right side of a grevy)
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or this one

The plain zebras will come out to play as well… do not let them confuse you

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Common zebra ( Mpala research center)

Now that this time we will be photographing reticulated giraffes as well, I can already foresee a challenge if they behave like the one in the photos below but you have to admit they are pretty amazing photos.

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  You will find a lot of other animals… photograph them as well, you will appreciate the photos later trust me. Before ggr2016, I had never seen so many elephants in one day and at such close proximity. There was a scary moment though when an elephant charged at our vehicle. We later found out it had a calf…classic protective mother.

Remember to keep a respectful distance.

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You will meet amazing people. I met more than half my team on the first day of the rally and they turned out to be amazing people. I also met some cool photographers and reporters from CNN, ran into my high school classmate Beryl Wambani (then working for NTV),  the US ambassador to Kenya Bob Godec and the amazing professor Dan Rubenstein popularly known as Zebra Dan for his outstanding research on Zebras.

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Kids from Mpala primary school
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My team + 2 guy in the  fro Amref

 

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Professor Dan explaining something to Robin Kriel (CNN) and Bob Godec (US ambassador to Kenya)

     You will come across amazing landscapes in the five participating counties. If you haven’t chosen a destination yet, allow me to be biased because I am after all #proudly_laikipian… Choose Laikipia. Come and experience Laikipias finest. It may give you a new perspective of Laikipia different from what has dominated the media since late 2016.

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The bow (Mpala research center)
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Beauty in motion
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A Mpala research center sunrise
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Views from below and top
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Sunrise

 Finally, you will have an amazing adventure to jump start your 2018 and you will have contributed towards the conservation efforts for two endangered species.

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My squad and amazing driver/guide (He knew all the right places to go)

 

 My question is…What are you waiting for? Register your squad here today!  I hope to see you all in Laikipia or read your stories from other participating counties.

Adventure awaits!!

Leave a comment or question and I will be happy to answer.

Yours truly,

Mukuhi.

2.0.1.7

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere

Vincent Van Gogh.

Hello everyone & happy new year!

I hope you all are having a great start to the new year. After having a super amazing 2017 I couldn’t think of a better way to start the blog this year than taking a photographic journey through my year.
I had a chance to visit quite a number of places that I had never been to, had the most amazing road trips to Marsabit, Kisumu, Homabay and Mbita, sat at the shores of Lake Victoria where I was treated to amazing views and  witnessed the most gorgeous sunset in Kericho (Sadly I didn’t take a photo)… I could go on and on. 

Below is a sneak peek. I hope the photos inspire you to go out more, appreciate nature, conserve your environment and  live your purpose.

Cheers to an amazing and adventurous 2018!

Leave a comment.

Love and blessings

 Mukuhi.

A view of Mt. Kenya from Oljogi conservancy
A buffalo bachelor herd (Olpejeta conservancy)
Sunset in Naromoru
A Mt Kenya Sunrise
The great north road
Interior Decor (Jambo Mutara Camp).
Elephant view point (Samburu Simba lodge)
A Southern white rhino at sunset (Olpejeta conservancy)
A Lewa Wildlife conservancy  sunrise
Jackson’s horn bill (Lewa wildlife conservancy)
Beautiful landscapes at Lewa Wildlife conservancy at sunrise
more of Lewa
Betty is her name…you can meet her at the giraffe center Nairobi
My sister Njoki and Betty ( Girrafe center).
my favorite rock formation (Laikipia North)
Magical views from Musul (Laikipia North)
Sunset shot from Homabay Market
A sunset boat ride at Homabay
A view from the top (fourteen falls)
Road tripping through the North… I hope to camp on this mountain in 2018
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Close encounters (Oljogi Conservancy) PS I hope to see a wild Leopard in 2018
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More close encounters ( Best moment 2017)
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Natural very cold pool (Ngarendare forest)

 

ADVENTURE AT THE FALLS

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Hey there my good people,

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for a weekend plan. It had been a while since I had gone for an adventure. I had seen a post on Instagram from a local travel company about an adventure in the forest trip so I reached out to the travel company and paid for the trip.  I then worked to get a day off from my boss which is usually harder than going to the moon but I succeeded. On the eve of the forest adventure, I got a call from the travel company to say that they had a ‘transport hitch’ so the trip had to be postponed to a later date. I now suspect that was a lie because almost a month later, I still have not gotten any communication on the new date for the trip. This incident reminded me why I do not like organized group activities because they almost always backfire.

I was very disappointed but I had to look for a plan B. I called my cousin in Nakuru, my friend in Maralal and another friend in Kajiado (Okay I was desperate).  Nothing positive came out of my phone calls until I called my friend Terry in Nairobi and asked her if she would go to the fourteen falls with me. I had always wanted to go there so I was super excited when she said she was in.

As I embarked on my little adventure the next day, I read about the destination on Lucia Musau’s blog so I had an idea of what to expect… beautiful scenery, the sound of water and foul smell.  I met my friend at Roysambu, boarded a matatu to Thika another one to Kilimambogo and a bodaboda to the falls.  I should mention here that to get to some destinations, public transport will serve you just fine so never limit your travel to when you get your own car/ hire a car / fuel a friend’s car. Of course having private car is more comfortable and convenient… I digress.

On reaching the fourteen falls, we were welcomed by a very charming ‘Kanju’ guy  who literally dropped the barrier like he would for a car and made me walk through confessing that when I go there again I would be driving my own car to which I said Amen (I know God heard that). There was a lot of activity around the falls with different vendors, school children on a school trip and guys offering to take us on tour around the falls at a cost. The first guy charged us 300 shillings, the second 400 and the third 500. We found a good spot to take in the scenery and get my camera settings right before deciding whether to take the guide’s offer or not.

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Of the many tour guides, one, Jose, was very persistent. He charged us 300 shillings (3$) per person and told us that we would decide if it was worth it at the end of the adventure.

We started off with the scariest boat ride ever. The boat was wooden and there was some dirty water on the floor. I could paint a picture of how scared I was while Terry laughed at me but in my panic mode I still managed to capture a few beautiful shots from the boat.

 

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We then walked through some very hot rocks with our guide gracefully carrying my pink bag and shoes until we got as close the cliff as we could.

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I mentioned earlier that I had read about the foul smell but I guess this was my lucky day because it wasn’t there. The first thing I noticed however when we got close to the falls was the heaps of litter (plastic bags, plastic bottles and beer cans). I tried not to let it ruin my day but just when I thought it could not get any worse, I saw a bunch of young kids taking their sodas and beers then throwing the cans in the river! It is very unfortunate though that the county government of Kiambu has not put up any dustbin / waste disposal point. I believe this, together with   DO NOT LITTER signs would make a significant difference.   I also hope with the plastic ban, there will be a bit of change.

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Part of the litter gang and a result of their work below

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A close up of the falls

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Jose was very patient with us as we posed for the best photos. We then crossed over to Machakos County through a wobbly bridge. Ps you have to pay 20 shilling to use this bridge if you do not have a guide.

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View from the bridge

We walked through the rocks, jumped over puddles and sometimes had to slide through very strong currents under Jose’s excellent guidance. At some point I was afraid the water would carry me over the cliff and was screaming my lungs out. My adrenaline was pumping but the view from the top was worth every struggle.  I took some of my best photos here… landscape, trees, people and young love. This would be a good spot for a date on a budget while connecting with nature.

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View from the top
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Young love

I could go on and on. My verdict, this was a great day but you need a very open mind so as to not get lost in everything that is wrong with the management of the fourteen falls. From some of the comments I read on trip advisor, the area needs a serious make over.  One review says the place stinks, is full of rubbish and has very expensive guides…apparently this person was charged KES. 4500.  Another review notes that the place needs a sitting area, restaurant, washrooms and safety equipment.

We left just before Sunset with a promise to be back hoping to find a better place driving my awesome car.

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Snapshot

  • The entrance fee is KES. 100.00. If you decide to use a guide you will pay extra depending on your negotiation skills.
  • This place is not child friendly
  • The location’s review on magical Kenya page is a joke I know your target is the international tourist but please let us be real! Check it out
  • The fourteen falls are part of Athi River (second longest river in Kenya 390 km) which drains into the Indian Ocean as river Sabaki/Galana river.
  • If you ever go here and need an excellent guide call Jose 0796541283

 

Thank you for reading . Please leave a comment and until next time… Do not litter, avoid disposable plastics but if you must use them dispose them properly.

Love always

Mukuhi

A WILD SUNDOWNER

Sunset

Pour me a sunset, kill the night and I promise to drink with you forever.

     William G. Herman

 

Hello my people,

Have you ever had an experience so surreal you cannot put it in words? Well that is how I feel as I post this about my recent game drive at sundown at my favorite park. You guessed right… Olpejeta! I have written about it before on All hail the marsh, our cheeky relatives and what we lost along the way.

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:

  1. Unlike many parks in this region, Olpejeta is open to the locals anytime…no appointment needed.
  2. It is the only place in Kenya with Chimpanzees
  3. It is home to all the big five
  4. The paths are clearly marked so with or without a guide, you can figure your way around
  5. It is the biggest black rhino sanctuary in East africa
  6. 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. 

Until the next one,

leave a comment

Love & love

Mukuhi

 

 

Egyptian goose with her brood
An Egyptian goose & her brood
Lioness 2
A lioness by the road

Lioness 1

Sacred ibis
The sacred Ibis
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Southern white rhinos

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S white rhinos 1

S white rhino portrait

 

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A giraffe silhouette

Giraffe silhoutte 2

Giraffe silhoutte 3
A giraffe silhouette at a watering point
side eye hyena
The spotted hyena giving me the side eye

Spotted hyena bonding 2

Spotted hyena at sunset
Colors of nature!

spotted hyena bondingSpotted hyenas

giraffe and hyena portrait
#thehyena #thegiraffe one shot

 

Me silhoette 2
sunset dance because why not?

 

 

NEW FRIENDS AND HAPPY PLACES

Landscape view

We don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason.

Hello there,

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.

Grevy Zebra

 

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.

The pool

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.

ELes and baboons

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Elephants vs baboons

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.

the oryx with a viewOryx potrait

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.

Snapshot

  1. Buffalo springs national reserve is located between Isiolo and Archers post and  is managed by the county government of Samburu
  2. Entrance fee is Kes. 500.00 for Kenyan citizens
  3. You can also access Samburu national reserve from here without having to pay park entrance fee again
  4. There is a variety of lodges to choose from for meals and swimming… we were at the Samburu Simba lodge
  5. 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!

 

Leave a comment.

Love always

Mukuhi

ON TO THE NORTH

WELCOME 2

 

The earth has music for those who listen

William Shakespeare.

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.

  1. Carry a lot of water. It is very hot on the road.
  2. Do not be fooled, Marsabit is a cold cold town…pack your sweaters people.
  3. Lots of people asking for water on the road but since you can’t be sure if they are genuine or not… keep driving
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

John Burroughs

Until the next one

Love and more love

leave a comment

Mukuhi Wanjohi

SCENIC VIEWS 2
Beauty in motion

BEAUTY IN MOTION 2MATTHEWS RANGES 2

WELCOME TO MARSABIT 2
Drive way to Marsabit town

THE FINAL STRETCH 2THE FOREST

SUNSET TREE 2
The sunset…
TRAFIC 2
The traffic
THE STERLING 2
Only in Northern Kenya

OPEN ROADS 2

RAINBOW SUNSET 2
My rainbow sunset
PROJECTS
projects projects
DRY RIVER BEDS 2
One of the dry rivers-Serollivi
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Mount Ololokwe

SCENES