The Silent Thief of Sight

Did you know that Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, after Cataracts?

What is Glaucoma you ask? Well, this is an eye disease that is as a result of progressive damage to the optic nerve. Although irreversible, if detected early through screening it can be treated. In Kenya alone, over 20,000 cases are reported every year.

11th March to 18th March 2018 is World Glaucoma Week. Conversations are being had across the globe in order to create awareness of the disease. Free eye screenings have also been taking place in various parts of Kenya, including Nairobi and Mombasa.

Referred to as the “silent thief of sight”, Glaucoma has no warning signs or symptoms. Anyone above 35 years of age, is short-sighted (myopic), has a family history of Glaucoma, is Diabetic and Hypertensive is at risk of getting Glaucoma.

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A visual acuity test is carried out to determine the smallest letters one can read at a distance.

The treatment procedure begins with an eye pressure test whereby a Tono-pen is used to measure the pressure of one’s eyes. The ideal pressure should be between 10 and 15. Thereafter, if it is noted that one has Glaucoma, laser procedures are recommended and finally surgery. These will prevent any further loss of vision.

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Crystal Asige gets her eye pressures checked by an eye specialist during a free screening session at Aga Khan Hospital on 14th March 2018

Crystal Asige, a visually impaired persons (VIP) Ambassador, knows too well what it is like having had Glaucoma for the past 15 years. She was diagnosed at 14 years at a hospital in Mombasa, Kenya, and has so far undergone 6 surgeries.

Despite losing most of her vision, Crystal continues to live life like any other visually enabled individual. She is a singer, songwriter, producer and motivational speaker.

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Be My Eyes is an app that is used to assist visually impaired persons to get by. Visually enabled people can also offer their services to assist the former. The app can be downloaded from the Play Store or ioS store.

Below is a short film on Crystal Asige’s inspirational story:

Epic Rider of Kibera

I attended a Photo Exhibition and Music Video launch, No Touch Am, on 30th November 2017 at Prokraft Africa, a studio and gallery in Nairobi. The brains behind this phenomenal project were Kenyan creatives Osborne Macharia (photographer), Andrew Mageto (videographer and assistant photographer), Kevo Abbra (stylist), musicians Blinky Bill and Nneka (Nigerian), in partnership with the African Artists’ Foundation (Lagos).

The setup for starters was otherworldly. It was like being in a tropical rainforest. To get you completely immersed in the artwork displayed, we were handed wireless headphones emitting sound effects of trickling water and chirping birds, as one feasted their eyes on some mind-boggling images of men and beasts.

It is here that I got to meet one of the stars of the music video, Baqteria. He has one of those looks that immediately grab your attention. From the get-go, I knew he would make for an interesting subject matter.

We got to talking about how he came to be in the No Touch Am video and in the process I also got to learn that he is a man of many talents. From Electrical Engineering to Motorbike stunting to Construction.

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A reflection of Baqteria from the side mirror of his motorcycle
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A section of Kamkunji Area in Kibera as seen from a broken window at the Kibera Town Centre. This is where Baqteria has called home for all his life.
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Baqteria catches up with his fellow riders as they enjoy a good hearty laugh.
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Curious school children gather around Baqteria and his motorbike
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A mural plastered on a wall in Soweto, Kibera. On top lies the Southern bypass
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The ever-changing Nairobi skyline as seen from Kibera
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Baqteria admires himself on the mirror of a local barbershop where he gets his hair cut
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Baqteria poses inside one of his favorite hangout spots in Kibera. An electronics shop that specializes in sound systems and lighting equipment.
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Baqteria poses outside his neighborhood Kamkunji in Kibera

 

Watch the video here:

The people of Northern Kenya

The Marsabit-Lake Turkana Cultural Festival was finally here with us. I could not wait to meet and learn more about the famous 14 tribes, that had been used to market this annual event, which had taken place since 2008.

The festival was proposed by the local communities living in Marsabit County, in order to promote peace and reconciliation amongst them.

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Galgallo is part of the Konso people, who are originally from Southern Ethiopia, but have also settled in parts of Kenya including Laisames and Ileret. They are farmers, who practice bee-keeping. They are also known to practice Christianity and Islam, and some still adhere to traditional beliefs.

 

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A Burji man plays the drum with so much elation during the start of the Marsabit-Lake Turkana Cultural Festival. The Burji tribesmen left quite the impression on me, mostly because of their lively spirits and their beautifully handcrafted attire, which they wore with much pride.

 

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There were numerous beautiful women from the Somali community but Muna, playing the makeshift drum, stood out the most for me. She exuded so much youth. I absolutely loved the energy the entire community displayed as they danced to traditional Somali songs.

 

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How stunning are Borana women? This was the community I photographed the most. Their notable hairstyles, their ornaments and their photogenic faces were hard to resist.

 

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I had the best black coffee ever thanks to the generous Sidama people who happened to be brewing some when I visited their homestead. Ethiopians truly live up to their reputation of having the best coffee in the world, together with Kenyans of course. So imagine having origin from both worlds. That’s the Sidama tribe for you.

 

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The Gabbra are divided into two sub-tribes. Photographed is a Gabbra woman, Habiba, of the Migo sub-tribe. Malmalo, the headgear, is worn by women with male children.

 

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The Gabbra of the Malbe sub-tribe are easy to differentiate from their Migo counterparts; specifically the men. Unlike the former, the men wear the dhubo (headgear) al throughout and only take it off when going to sleep. And even then, it is placed on top of their shoes because it is considered something sacred.

 

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My people (in my other life), the Samburu people, well represented by Safia. The beadwork on the leather wrap was meticulously done don’t you think?

 

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The famous Turkana community, engrossed in song and dance.

 

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Gabriella Nduruka was the first person I encountered from the El Molo tribe. She resides at El Molo bay, 12 kms from Loiyangalani town. The El Molo people are believed to be going extinct, with only 105 original people, in particular, inhabiting this village.

 

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A Rendille woman. You will find that most Rendille people are able to speak the Samburu language. This is because there is a lot of intermarriage between the two communities, hence the similarities, as they have adapted each other’s cultural practices.

 

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Raphael Roba, was kind enough to give me a brief history of his people, the Wayyu. Formerly known as the Watta, these people are originally from Negele in Ethiopia. They are close relatives of the Gabbra of Malbe, and consider themselves agro-pastoralists. There are only 10,000 of them in Kenya, widely distributed in different parts of the country including North Horr, Garba Tulla (Isiolo), Marsabit, Moyale, Madera, Voi, Kilifi, Malindi and Tana River.

 

 

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Shinde Ibrahim is a proud member of the Garre people. It is very easy to confuse them with the Somali people, especially since they dress alike. Most of them can be found in Moyale.

 

 

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Halima Adan, from the Sakuye tribe, was in the process of getting ready for the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival when I met her. She had traveled all the way from Marsabit town to be part of these festivities. The Sakuye people are closely related to the Somali.

 

Unfortunately, the people of the Daasanach tribe were unable to make it to the festival, after an encounter with flash floods near the Omo River, where they reside.

 

 

 

 

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At the start of 2017, I promised myself that I would finally tick Turkana County off my bucket list; and sure enough, I did. Well, to some extent…

I figured I would pay the place a visit when a major event was taking place, and what better time than during the annual Lake Turkana Cultural Festival. Being predominantly an extrovert, I am very impulsive. I wasted no time and immediately booked a spot with Jambo African Adventures, who seemed to have a great itinerary for the 6-day trip, at a pocket-friendly price.

We would spend our first night at Archer’s Post in Samburu County, drive up to Loyangalani-Marsabit County the following day and, spend 3 nights there. On the 5th day, we would then head to Ngare Ndare Forest for one last camping trip, before finally making our way back to Nairobi. Can you believe that I paid only Kes. 35,500 (roughly $355), inclusive of 3 meals per day and accommodation?

At Sabache Eco Camp, where we spent our first night, you can either choose to camp (you will have to carry your own tent and sleeping bag), if you are feeling adventorus, or stay in the classic safari tents. If you choose the former option, be wary of scorpions and safari ants crawling all over. There are lots of activities to indulge in during the day, including bush walks, guided game drives and hiking Mt. Ololokwe. If you are fortunate enough, you’ll spot an elephant or two while at it. But that should not worry you since you will be in the safe hands of Samburu warriors.

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Mt. Ololokwe at a distance. At the heart of this mountain is where we would camp for the night while at Archer’s Post.

 

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Taking in the view from a ntalet,(Samburu for view-point). Would you believe that somewhere down was there an elephant browsing?

 

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This is Ian. He is a student at Chuka University doing his undergraduate course in Education. Over the holidays, he helps out at Sabache Eco Camp.

 

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Photographed are Lilduata and Lonorkerna, together with their 4 camels. These camels, all male, run up and down Mt. Ololokwe every morning in preparation for the Camel Derby, which takes places every year in Maralal.

 

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Dipa is the proud owner of Sabache Eco Camp. Doesn’t he somewhat resemble our first president, The Late Jomo Kenyatta? I tend to think so.

 

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This was the last we saw of tarmac, before hitting a never-ending murram road.

 

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The Lake Turkana Wind Farm located in Sarima, comprises of 365 wind turbines. Full installation and commissioning of the wind power project is to be done by June, 2017.

 

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I met Alison during my trip. She is a financial consultant who helps start ups here in Kenya. She’s lived in Nakuru, Nanyuki and Nairobi for close to 4 years now.

 

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I met this beautiful Rendille girl, Legoyia Nguta, while I was watching the sunset in Loyangalani.

 

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The colours at twilight were something else. They lingered for a good 45 minutes.

This was only the beginning of what will forever go down as one of my best travel expeditions :-).

 

Ngare Ndare Forest

Thanks to Green Ranger Safaris, my lingering fernweh was cured, as I was able to visit Ngare Ndare Forest in Timau, Meru County. I was pretty excited to finally get to see for myself the famous blue waters from the Google images, and ofcourse a sighting of my all-time-favorite wild animals, elephants, would have been an added bonus.

The day trip as a whole was absolutely fantastic. I knew noone there and honestly that made the trip a whole lot more interesting for me. There’s always that thrill that comes with getting to know people for the very first time.It’s scarey and exciting at the same time :-).

Part of the Nyeri-Nanyuki highway
The beautiful golden wheat of Timau, almost ready for harvest

The forest that sits on 5,500 hectares of land is managed by the community, with some of the trained KWS rangers being locals of that area. It is home to a 450-metres long and 40-ft high Canopy Walk, which was built by the British back in the day.

It is also a natural corridor which links Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to Mount Kenya. If you are lucky enough (though that was not the case for us 😦 ), you can spot some of the big 5 including elephants and buffaloes, drinking water, browsing and grazing down below.

The 40ft high Canopy Walk supports a maximum of 5 people at a go, between two pillars

Some of the trees that form this forest include the Red Cedar trees and the African Olive trees which are considered to be two centuries old, and Yellow wood trees, which are preferred for the construction of boats.

The team doing the 3.5 kms trek to the waterfalls

It is of vital importance to go with an armed guide as you traverse the forest. 

One of our guides for the day, Onyango, leads some of the team members to the waterfalls
Hiking with a stick in hand really makes the hike much more bearable

Something to keep you going as you make the 3.5 kilometres trek would be the thought of seeing the pools of turquoise blue waters that await at the very end. These waters come from Ngare Ndare and Ngare Nything Rivers, which stem from springs within the forest.

However, if you happen to visit the place during the rainy season, you will be thoroughly disappointed as all you will be met by brown waters. (As we did *sigh*)

The waters were brown and not turquoise blue as anticipated thanks to the rain over the past two days

Nevertheless, you can still enjoy the beautiful waterfalls and even swim, if you are brave enough to get into the ice-cold water.

A hand-held shot of the Ngare Ndare waterfalls

Kisumu Ber

Kisumu had been among the top 3 destinations on my bucket-list for local places to visit in Kenya since 2015, so you can imagine my excitement and mental satisfaction when I went there over the just-concluded December holidays.

My first time of course had to be by road because I was very curious to see the beautiful scenery that awaited us. Alternatively, there are daily flights from Nairobi to Kisumu which will only take you 45 minutes.

Nairobi-Naivasha-Nakuru-Londiani-Muhoroni-Ahero-Kisumu was the route we took. What was initially meant to be a 6-hour drive (excluding stops), ended up being an 8 hour drive and 345 kms later, due to the heavy traffic we encountered in Nakuru. (PS, if you want don’t want to live on the road, make sure you travel AFTER the holiday season.)

Some of the perceptions I had always heard and had of Kisumu were that the heat there was unbearable and, the town was still very backward and underdeveloped. Quite the contrary, Kisumu yes was hot, but honestly, I felt no difference with the scorching Nairobi sun. Completely bearable! As for the developments, Kisumu is giving Nairobi a run for her money. From shopping malls to fancy hotels to tourist attraction sites. Even the dress-code there has clearly had plenty of western influence.

Kisumu is home to predominantly the Luo and Asian (Indian) communities.

Most of the public here move around using motorcycles and tuktuks. So if you are used to Ubering your way through life, I suggest you be a bit more open-minded when you visit this port city. Besides, apart from being pocket-friendly, motorcycles are simply the best mode of transportation, especially if you are keen on exploring the villages and the beaches, as some of the roads there are not easily accessible.

Speaking of the beaches (and no I do not mean the white sandy kind you will find in Mombasa, Malindi or Watamu), I found myself spending most of my mornings there watching fishermen bringing in the catch of the day from the previous night’s fishing expeditions. There are those fishermen who set out to fish as early as 4.30 a.m and do not return until sunset, whereas there are those who prefer to fish overnight, from sunset, only to return at sunrise.

Something that I noted was that some of the fishermen were actually boys as young as 13 years old. They were the ones rowing the boats while their fathers directed them on where to place the boats, since the waters were heavily blanketed with water hyacinth. Fishing in these parts of the country, is considered a very important tradition that is passed down from generation to generation.

Traders, men and women alike, would then rush into the waters as the boats came to the shores, so as to get the big fish. They would normally make the purchases from the boats so it was a matter of first come, first serve. Nile Perch, Tilapia, Catfish, Lungfish and Helicopter fish (yes, that is the actual name of the fish because of the two sharp bones that stick out from the sides of its head) are the most common fish caught here.

Whenever I make a trip to a foreign place, my trip is never complete until I have tried their most famous dish. In this case, kuon gi rech (translation, ugali and fish). Let me just start by saying that in all my 26 years on this earth, I had never eaten such good fish as that in Kisumu. My goodness!! My mouth still waters to this day just thinking about it. Mhhhh! Due to its high demand, a meal of this kind ranges from kshs. 700 to kshs. 2,000. But trust me, it is worth every shilling.

As is with every new place, it is important to learn the language that is most spoken there. Knowing the basics like the greetings, please, thank you and how to inquire about the price of anything will work to your advantage. For starters, the people will be caught completely off-guard by your knowledge of their language and as a result that will be a nice ice breaker to getting what you want. In addition, you will get to learn more about a place and the people because you have shown some interest in their language. So please,master a few words and phrases in Luo. Here are a few to get get you going:

Amosi – Hi/Hello      Adhi maber – I am good / I am fine

Erokamano – Thank you

Oriti – Goodbye

Lastly, I would not be doing Kisumu justice if I didn’t mention some places to visit while there.

Kit Mikayi, located 30 kms West of Kisumu town, is a must-go. For kshs. 150, you will get to learn a bit of history about the origin of the rocks from one of the guides there, do a bit of hiking and get free entertainment by the Kangeso Women Group.

Initially I was put off by the name Impala Sanctuary, simply because I did not understand why I was parting with a few shillings to see some impalas. On the contrary though, there are other wild animals such as giraffes, hippos, cheetahs to name a few. It is an ideal place for the little ones. Moreover, if you happen to be there late in the afternoon you can catch the sunset at a designated view point.

If you would like to go on a boat ride or get to see the fishermen conducting business early in the morning at the shores of the lake, then Dunga Beach is the place to be.

I love ending my day right with a beautiful sunset. So if you are like me, Kiboko Bay Resort is perfect for catching the sun go down as you enjoy a sun downer. Literally!

Fishermen returning to shore after a night out fishing in the deep waters
A lady heads to the lake to clean some recently purchased fish, before heading out to the market to sell them
A nile perch fish being cleaned. Unwanted parts of the fish are usually removed before the fish is taken to the market place to be cooked and sold
Storks flock at the shore near some water hyacinth to feed on discarded fish remnants
Due to the scarcity of fish in the lake, fishermen at Lake Victoria have taken it upon themselves to rear fish. These are as many as 7,000 to 14,000 fishlings. After some months of continuous feeding, the fishlings are then harvested and sold as fully grown fish to the locals
A delicious fish and ugali meal enjoyed at a restaurant along Lwang’ni beach, Kisumu 
Mzee Obuyu, our guide, explains the history of Kit Mikayi
Inside the Kit Mikayi caves, some Legio Maria believers are engrossed in prayers
Kongeso Women Group entertain us with some singing and dancing after our Kit Mikayi hike
Beautiful, picturesque rock formations at the top of Kit Mikayi
Fishermen head out to the deep sea for the night

 

Day trip to Mt. Suswa Conservancy

I have always wanted to visit Mt. Suswa, especially after first learning about it through photographs taken by Amunga, back in 2014.

What drew me most to the place was the famous ‘Baboons Parliament’, which I was a bit hesitant of its existence at first, until I actually went to the place, courtesy of an invite extended to me by a friend and my Photography mentor, Mwarv.

Armed with four well-lined stomachs, an undying spirit of adventure and a Land-Rover, we set out for Mt. Suswa Conservancy at 9 a.m on a chilly Wednesday morning.

 

Now, if you love road-trips and are crazy about scenic views like I am, then it is automatic that you will make a thousand and one stops along the way, before you finally get to your intended destination.

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Mt. Suswa in the distance as seen from one of the viewpoints along The Great North Road.
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A soapstone carving with illustrations of some of the mountains, including Mt. Suswa, that one is able to see from the Great Rift Valley viewpoint. These are sold at the curio shops at the viewpoints.

There is this little chapel that I had always seen whenever I drove on this road and I always wondered what the story behind it was. Well, my curiosity was finally put to rest when we made a stop there.

It turns out that the Italian Catholic Church P.O.W (Prisoners of War), as it is called, was built in 1942 by Italians who had been captured by the British, during World War II (WWII). The chapel is where they were held captive during the time of the war, and were made to build the now Escarpment Road, which connects Nairobi and Naivasha towns.

Most of the captives eventually died due to the harsh living conditions they faced such as mistreatment and snake bites. Others ended up committing suicide because they could not stand being alive anymore. Their remains are scattered all over the Rift Valley, with some being buried in places like Limuru and Lari constituency.

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The outside of the Italian Catholic Church P.O.W. The inscriptions at the top are in Latin and translate to “The still cross stands as the world revolves”, in English.

After learning a bit of history, we resumed our 131 km journey, which we discovered upon making the turning from the main road would be a dusty affair.

The conservancy is about 10 kms from the main road so I would advice you to travel in an off-road vehicle, because the road is filled with rocks, ditches and mounds of sand. Also, if you are not in the mood to hike and trek for long distances it would be ideal since it can maneuver all these barricades.

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Inside Mt. Suswa Conservancy. In the background is Mt. Longonot.

It is better to get there early in the a.m, at least by 8 o’clock, so that you can experience all that the place has to offer. The caves, the hot-springs, the crater views and the maasai culture.

It is also advisable to get a guide because it is very easy to lose your way in the conservancy, especially if it is your first time. I doubt it I’d remember the way if I went a second and third time. It’s like driving through a maze, the only difference being that there are no defined pathways to guide you. Every corner you turn to looks the same.

Our first stop was at the lava-tube Suswa caves and boy wasn’t it quite the experience. We had to strap on headlights because we were entering into a zone of pitch darkness.

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One of the entrances to the lava-tube Suswa caves.

I tend to believe that I am one of the strongest people (emotionally) around, but I failed that test miserably on this particular day.

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Janina examines a photo she took while inside the Suswa caves. A headlight is recommended when exploring the caves.
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Maneuvering our way through some rocks and boulders to get to another set of caves.

Total darkness, bats hanging from the ceiling, undiscovered-insects crawling around, recalled scenes from previously watched horror movies, exposed manholes, coming across a leopard’s lair, being stalked by bees and flies that were in search of water and the unabating stench of baboons’ urine was the recipe for my instant death and resurrection all at once.

Squealing , shrieking and yelping really helped me get through it all. PHEW! Those were the longest two (2) hours of my life.

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Kodonyo, our guide for the day, poses at the Baboon Parliament. The baboons are believed to assemble every evening at this point to have secret meetings :-D. (I am so serious)

Next stop was the crater.

Mt. Suswa, now a dormant mountain was once considered to be volcanic.

Fumarolic activity continues to date and the locals have taken advantage of this, by harvesting the steam, which in turn produces water.

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Jeremiah (right) and Kodonyo (left) show us how they harvest steam in order to get water.
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We had to jump over a barbed fence in order to get to the crater.
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Views from the top of Mt. Suswa. There’s a place at the bottom that’s known as The Lost Island.

One of my highlights of this day, captured by Amunga. These maasai children were so friendly and jovial.

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The beauty that results from evening light and clouds of dust.

A few things to note when visiting Mt. Suswa Conservancy:

  1. Conservancy fees of kshs. 500 and Guide’s fees of kshs. 500 per person are paid in order to access the place.
  2. Always call the guide in advance for bookings. Either Kodonyo or Jeremiah will do. Kodonyo’s number is +254702804172.
  3. Carry lots of water and food if you intend to be there all day. There are no neighboring shops in case you run out of supplies. If you have a cooler, the better.
  4. The place is hot and unforgiving so make sure you dress light.
  5. Camping is possible. It will cost you kshs. 500 per person, provided you have your own tent and camping facilities.

Would I visit the place again? Most definitely!!

My Sarova Experience (Taita Hills Edition)

You know that saying, “if something is meant to be, it will be”? Oh don’t I know it too well. Even I couldn’t sabotage it despite coming really close to doing so.

So Friday morning at 8.05 a.m. to be exact, I get a phone call from a friend and fellow photographer, Lyra, asking me to check my spam folder for an email I had been expecting for the past 3 days. You see, Lyra was meant to go on a trip to Taita Hills to experience one of the many Sarova hotels around the country. Unfortunately, she had another commitment during the same period and so she passed the offer down to me. Who am I to say no to an out-of-town-all-expenses-paid-3-day trip?

And may I add that it came at just the right time as I had been meaning to get away for thee longest, because sometimes in life you just need to.

Let me tell you, spam folders are the devil’s doing. That is where the email I had been waiting for all this time was hiding. Smh!

According to the email, the bus was scheduled to depart at 6.30 a.m. God really wanted me on that trip because we ended up leaving at 9 a.m. instead.

Can you believe that I showered, dressed, packed and took a boda-boda to the meeting point, all in a record 20 minutes? Yes, I am ninja like that.

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Directions of Sarova Taita Hills Lodge from Nairobi.

 

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A Nakumatt branch in Emali town. The perfect stopover point if you want to grab some personal effects and even food.

There was so much amazing scenery to see along the way. From the Mua Hills in Machakos County to the 609-km ongoing Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) construction spanning across the country to the sisal farms in Kibwezi, up to the Taita Hills in Taita-Taveta County. Kenya is truly blessed.

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Sisal farms in Kibwezi.

After numerous stops along the way we were finally at the end of our 400 km journey.

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The sign board from the main road directing you to the Sarova Taita Hills Lodge and Sarova Salt Lick which is within the Sanctuary.
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Sarova Taita Hills Lodge. This is where one checks in first upon arrival, if you are staying either at the lodge, or at Sarova Salt Lick.

After checking in at Sarova Taita Hills Lodge, we made our way to Sarova Salt Lick where we would be staying for 1 night. The latter is located within the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, and is about 7 kms from the lodge.

When I tell that I have never been to or seen such a splendorous place, I really mean it. I had checked out the place on the Sarova website and was in awe but seeing it in person just made my mouth drop even further. GAH!!

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A side view of Sarova Salt Lick. Wild animals such as elephants frequent the hotel for water, every evening and early morning. Quite the sight to behold.

By the way, not to brag but this was my view during dinner *pure bliss* :-D.

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An elephant goes in for some water at the foot of Sarova Salt Lick hotel. Elephants drink up to 200 litres of water every day.

I thought I had seen it all… until we accessed the underground tunnel, still within Sarova Salt Lick. Goodness gracious!

There are windows at the end of the tunnel where you can get really close to the wild animals and see them drinking water a stone-throw away. Also, because you are literally on ground level, you can spot snakes slithering by. How cool is that?

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An underground tunnel within Sarova Salt Lick. Here one gets a different perspective of the wild animals while they drink water from the watering holes surrounding the hotel, and even spot a few snakes slithering by.

That was so much to experience in one evening, I could not wait to see what more they had to offer during our stay there.

A trip to a wildlife sanctuary is incomplete if you do not go on several game drives. The best times to go on game drive would have to be early morning and evening hours. That is when the animals are on the move and the light… ooooohh the golden light… is just right.

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A game drive is A MUST when you visit any wildlife sanctuary. And if you do it with one those land rovers mostly driven by the rangers at the parks or sanctuaries the better.

This must have made my top 10 highlights of the entire trip. We had just come from a visit to some of the World War I sites within the sanctuary, i.e. Mile 27 and Mwashoti, and were headed to our evening game drive, which was to be our final game drive *sobs*, when we came across numerous herds of cape buffaloes.

They were slowly making their way across the sanctuary when we appeared. I think they got spooked by the land-rover and bus engines because what was once an orderly movement turned chaotic within seconds, to the point where we witnessed two calves get trampled down by the bigger buffaloes, in an attempt to “run for their lives”. Nonetheless that made for a sight to behold because the clouds of dust that filled the air mixed with the golden light, in turn made the buffaloes appear as silhouettes. I know the photographers can relate :-D.

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Mile 27 is one of the sites within the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, where World War I took place, from 1914 to 1918.

 

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Herds of cape buffaloes crossing to the other side of the sanctuary.
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Rothschild’s giraffes munching away on some leaves from acacia trees near Sarova Salt Lick.

We also managed to spot a couple of lions and lionesses, but they were too lazy to get closer to us. Even the 18-135 mm lens could not come to my rescue.

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A lion relaxes in the distance on a giant ant-hill, behind the fallen massive dried up tree in the foreground.

Can you believe that the only thing separating us and the zebras at the watering hole was a hedge? Mind you the hedge did not go all the way round. No sir! So if they wanted to come say hello they would do it with so much ease.

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Harems of zebras at a watering hole near Sarova Taita Hills Lodge.

I got to experience both Sarova Salt Lick and Sarova Taita Hills Lodge and boy weren’t both places just AMAZING!!

I especially loved the nitty-grity details in  my room at the Sarova Taita Hills Lodge. From the African-mask portraits on the bedding and the curtains to the general ambience. It felt like home because of the personal touch that went into decorating the place.

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Beauty in the details. The colours, the arrangement, the creative thought process behind it all… Simply brilliant.
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For the book lovers, this little corner comes in handy when you just want to get lost in another world altogether.

On the last day, a few of us had planned to go for an early morning swim. I was very much exhausted since I had not gotten much sleep since we arrived. (There was no time for sleep with all those things to experience anyway :-D.)

My alarm rang at exactly 6.30 a.m. I wasn’t feeling like getting up but something told me to step outside my room.

LO AND BEHOLD! The mother of all sunrises awaited me. You should have seen how fast I ran for my camera. There was no way I was not going to capture that beauty. Another one of my highlights right there.

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The golden light as the sun rises makes everything extra beautiful.

After being blessed with all that magnificence, we hit the water.

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Morning time, afternoon time or evening time, every time is swimming time.

As I come to the end of reminiscing on those last amazing 3 days of my life, I am back to reality in Nairobi, wishing I was in the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary right now. *Somebody take me back please?*

PS, there is a great offer running at the moment, up until 21st December, kshs. 5,500 per person sharing. Did I mention that that is full-board?? Yup! You better believe it.

Anybody going down I would be more than happy to accompany you :-).

Kilimambogo hike and Camping at 14 Falls Campsite

Back on the road again with CampYetu, and this time we set out for Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park , otherwise known as Kilimambogo, in Thika, for a hike. We assembled in the Nairobi CBD at our usual meeting point, Bata, next to Hilton Hotel. After exchanging pleasantries and grabbing snacks for the road, we commenced our 85 km journey at 10:15 a.m.

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Le van

One hour later, we arrived at Thika town, and made our first stopover at Ananas Mall. This place has everything you need, especially if you are traveling and you do not want to carry too much luggage from home. There is a Tuskys supermarket where you can shop for household items and foodstuffs. There are boutiques, restaurants such as Galitos, a chemist and ATM machines as well. Very convenient if you ask me.

Soon, we were back in the van and on our way to Kilimambogo. We still had 5 more kilometers to cover from Thika town. The road changed from tarmac to all-weather murram. There were plenty of signs stragetically positioned by the roadside, courtesy of KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service), so it was very easy to locate the park.

On arrival, we were met by a ranger at the gate, who received us warmly and issued us with our tickets to the  park, after which she directed us to our guide. The park entry fees areas follows:

Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

Citizen

Resident

Non – Resident

Adults

KSH

Child

KSH

Adults

KSH

Child

KSH

Adults

USD

Child

USD

350

250

700

350

30

20

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Our guide, Nyakundi

We met yet another group that had come to hike as well. Nyakundi briefed us together, and soon after counted us all just to make sure that nobody would be left behind, on our way up the mountain.

It is necessary to go with a guide for the hike,for safety purposes, since there are buffaloes that roam the park. If you are not a fan of hiking, you can opt to drive instead, using the designated road within the park.

We used some man-made footpaths to make our way to the top. Most of the climb was VERY STEEP! I kid you not.

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Foot Path

Let me just give a disclaimer at this point… EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE!! Make sure you do some running or jogging at home,before you to decide that you want to conquer Kilimambogo. Otherwise, like myself, you will wail, weep ,make a stop after every step, want to give up and detest your life altogether. Trust me, you do not want to experience this.

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Glucose comes in handy when you fill like you have no more energy left.
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Some of the CampYetu guys on the hike

I had lost count of the time we had taken and the distance we had covered by now. All I knew was it seemed like we were not getting to the summit area :-(. But all hope was not lost…

Thank God for view points :-).

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View points are always so rewarding. From the cool breeze that meets you as soon as you get there, to the scenic views which will leave you in awe. All so relaxing.

For some minutes I had forgotten the struggle I had just experienced, until I was back at it again *resumes hating self*.

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Trying to make the best out of the hike on the never ending road

Just as God had promised Jacob and Israel, He too did not forget me :-D. A warden happened to be making his usual daily rounds in the park, in the company of his colleague. He stopped by the road and asked myself and three other friends if we were okay, and if we wanted a lift to the top. At that point, I did not even hesitate for one second and right away jumped into the 4-wheel drive before, he even thought about withdrawing the offer.

PRAISE THE LORD!!!! My struggle was over :-D.

We managed to catch up with the rest of the team who were almost at the top. They were not very amused that we cheated our way to the top. HEHEHEHE. But such is life, every man for himself and God for us all :-D.

The summit area turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, as there was no jaw-dropping view waiting for us. It was all grass and several masts spanning the area. That however, did not stop us from finding our own views :-D. We met Moses, one of the people who mans the area, who was kind enough to take us to greater heights (literally). Coincidence, I think not :-D!

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Moses

Even my fear for heights could not stop me from enjoying the view. Especially not after what we had gone through to get there.

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We climbed
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And climbed some more
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Until we could climb no more
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Needless to say, it was all so worth it 🙂

After exploring the place and re-energizing, we made our way back down (This time without a car :-(, bummer).

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Safiri Salama meaning, Safe Travels

On our way down we passed by the graveyard where Lord William N. MacMillan, who owned all of Kilimambogo back in the colonial era, and his wife, were buried. Legend has it that Lord MacMillan was a quite the hefty man. Before he died, he had asked to be buried at the summit area. On the day of his burial, his servants fulfilled his last wish and made their way to the top with his body. But because of the steep climb and Lord MacMillan being a bit on the heavy side, where they stopped and felt they could no longer go on, is where he was buried, together with his wife and their dog.

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Louise, who used to work for the MacMillan family until she met her death.

After a steep descend we were happy to be back at the van. Fatigued and famished, we were glad to find late lunch waiting for us.

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Ham sandwich, fruit juice and a banana

By the time we were done eating, the sun had already set. We made one more stop in Donyo town ,where we bought some charcoal, and then made our way to 14 Falls Campsite, where we would be spending the night.

We had no choice but to pitch our tents in the dark, otherwise we would have nowhere to rest our heads. Tents are usually provided but you need to carry your own sleeping bags. However, if you do not have one, they are provided as well, together with mattresses, but at an additional cost.

After the tents were up, we began to prepare dinner. Contrary to popular belief, we do eat really well during our camping trips, especially dinner time. Tonight’s menu was nyamachoma, pilau, kachumbari, beef and potato stew, and ugali. Quite the feast if I may say so myself :-D.

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Keeping warm by the camp fire
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Good morning 🙂

We were too exhausted to catch the sunrise the next morning, despite the sun rising at 6:40 a.m.

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Our campsite

We decided to explore the area, to try find some exciting things to do. You can bet we struck gold.

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We found this makeshift swing at our campsite.
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Found this pathway with some gorgeous light <3. The place is also perfect for morning walks or jogs.
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We found this bridge up in a tree. Pretty cool if you ask me and very stable if I may add. If you are lucky you’ll meet some monkeys up in there, swinging by :-D.
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We found a zip line YIPEEEEEEEEE!!!! 😀

There was a bit of everything for everyone. If you were not feeling all that adventurous, there was a wooden bench next to a pond, where you could go and just meditate on life. It was very peaceful.

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Peeeeeerfect for a lovely group shot 🙂
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Or you could just play around with your reflection in the water . Whatever floats your boat (pun intended) ;-).

All in a all, we had such a ball on both days. Great way to spend Valentine’s Day :-D.

Feel free to check out a video I made on the same here —> https://youtu.be/pgZRjB1pS6Y

2015 in review

“Happy 2016 from me and mine.

Thank you for the continued love and support towards my passion.  Cheers to an even greater year of much much more traveling and blogging 🙂 ” – Nimu.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,500 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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