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.
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.
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.
Below is a short film on Crystal Asige’s inspirational story:
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was only the beginning of what will forever go down as one of my best travel expeditions :-).
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 :-).
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.
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.
It is of vital importance to go with an armed guide as you traverse the forest.
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*)
Nevertheless, you can still enjoy the beautiful waterfalls and even swim, if you are brave enough to get into the ice-cold water.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I tend to believe that I am one of the strongest people (emotionally) around, but I failed that test miserably on this particular day.
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.
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.
One of my highlights of this day, captured by Amunga. These maasai children were so friendly and jovial.
A few things to note when visiting Mt. Suswa Conservancy:
Conservancy fees of kshs. 500 and Guide’s fees of kshs. 500 per person are paid in order to access the place.
Always call the guide in advance for bookings. Either Kodonyo or Jeremiah will do. Kodonyo’s number is +254702804172.
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.
The place is hot and unforgiving so make sure you dress light.
Camping is possible. It will cost you kshs. 500 per person, provided you have your own tent and camping facilities.
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.
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.
After numerous stops along the way we were finally at the end of our 400 km journey.
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!!
By the way, not to brag but this was my view during dinner *pure bliss* :-D.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After being blessed with all that magnificence, we hit the water.
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 :-).
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.
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
Non – Resident
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.
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.
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 :-).
For some minutes I had forgotten the struggle I had just experienced, until I was back at it again *resumes hating self*.
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!
Even my fear for heights could not stop me from enjoying the view. Especially not after what we had gone through to get there.
After exploring the place and re-energizing, we made our way back down (This time without a car :-(, bummer).
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.
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.
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.
We were too exhausted to catch the sunrise the next morning, despite the sun rising at 6:40 a.m.
We decided to explore the area, to try find some exciting things to do. You can bet we struck gold.
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.
All in a all, we had such a ball on both days. Great way to spend Valentine’s Day :-D.