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Many are still concerned about the political situation in Kenya and worried about their security within the country. Rather than use my words of reassurance, I thought it would be better to quote the US Ambassador to Kenya.

In an open letter to US Travelers that was written in April, the US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael E. Ranneberger said:

“But the main reason I am writing to invite you to give Kenya another look is the great partnership we have created between the U.S. and Kenya. During the recent crisis, the Kenyan people demonstrated once again their resolute commitment to representative democracy by exerting pressure on the polarized political leadership to achieve an accord. The U.S. strongly supported the Kenyan people to bring this about. As a result, U.S. stock in Kenya has never been higher (polls over the last year showed an 85 percent approval rating even before U.S. efforts during the crisis). Our friendship is based on the reality of the huge partnership between the United States and Kenya. On the one side, about $2 billion flows to Kenya annually from all sources in the U.S. (U.S. Government assistance, remittances, foundations and NGOs, trade, private sector investment, and tourism), while the U.S. mission here is the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, reflecting the importance of the bilateral relationship (and Kenya’s importance as an anchor of stability in this crucial region). On the other side, the United States hosts the largest Kenyan Diaspora anywhere in the world, and more Kenyan students than from any other sub-Saharan African country.

I urge you to read the U.S. State Department’s Travel Warning for Kenya, available at www.state.gov. It is in place due to ongoing problems of crime and terrorism in Kenya that pre-date January’s civil unrest. It does not recommend against travel to Kenya. It is similar to travel warnings issued for several dozen other countries, many of which are also close friends of the U.S.

I hope you’ll consider visiting Kenya as a tourist or businessperson in 2008. The country is very much back in business and this is an exciting time to be here. There is a tangible spirit of renewed hope and opportunity. You’ll find Kenyans to be welcoming and warm. I hope to see you here soon! I assure you that we will do our utmost to provide appropriate support and assistance for your engagement in Kenya. Karibu Kenya!”

News

For the 2nd year in a row, a number of our guides went on an educational safari to various areas of Kenya. This trip was the brilliant idea of Jackson Looseyia of Rekero Camp and James Robertson of Ker and Downey and it is a wonderful opportunity for our guides to gain exposure to other parts of Kenya and to learn from each other. It is also enables them to give so much more to our guests.

Below you will find Jackson’s diary of the trip – it will give you an insight in to how our guides see things!

Day one - after a delay with the mungiki troubles we all arrived at James Robertson’s (JR) house in Langata, Nairobi between 4pm and 7pm.

The following guides joined us –
Lewa Wilderness - Karmushu
Lewa Safari Camp - Daniel Kasoo
Sarara - Mark, Malakai, John, and Rubben
Ol Malo - Nderi, and Hussein
Manyatta Trails / Bush Homes of East Africa Ltd - Sammy, William, Chui, and Paul
Campi ya Kanzi - Parashi
James Robertson Safaris (Ker and Downey) - Tari
Rekero Camp - John Kaelo, James Sengeny, Jimmy Sengeny, Fred Ronko, Martin Kasaine, Daniel Sopia, Dickson Kereto, Salaash Morompi, and Jackson Looseyia

Also with us were two cooks, Samson Kaelo from Rekero and Mwangi from Lewa. We started at JR’s home around 8pm with a short briefing about the trip and what to expect. It was a good beginning from James’ home with a warm welcome from him and his staff.

Sirata Siruwa, Melepo
We arrived to get the blessing from the senior elders Mike and Judy Rainy, you can imagine Maasai men and the respect they have for senior elders. After a few minutes we all got excited with his saiwal cattle which was good, we then got to the bottom line as to how the communities are getting involved with this project. Mike without wasting any time told us of the community ownership of the cattle and we were all impressed with him. The learning had just begun with notes from our guides.

Amboseli & Ol Kanjau
We left Mike and Judy in peace after they blessed us to go to Amboseli, arriving in the evening with welcome of Kilimanjaro, the white mountain in Maa. We then split into two groups, one to go on drives and the other to join the community meeting with Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) at Olarashi Group Ranch. I was among the few who attended the meeting, it was like us ten years ago when we had to listen to the chairman and his officials telling us what to do, whether we liked it or not! We joined them with the struggle they are undergoing with wildlife and cattle conflicts and we can feel it is just a matter of time before this blows its top as the pressure is tight here.
We had to leave quickly to join the rest of our group at Elephant Research Center where we were lectured by Nora Njiraine, what a star shinning in the shadow of a great mountain! It lasted for 3 hours and we couldn’t get enough of her knowledge about the Amboseli elephants, not only did we like Amboseli and her great elephants , but we also saw a few birds species - Kittlitz's Plover, Double-Banded Courser among many we then returned to our camp at Ol Kanjau.

Mbirikani Group Ranch & ol Donyo Lodge
The next day we "kula fumbi" to ol Donyo Lodge which was very different to Amboseli, this time close to the Chyulu hills with nice forest and great views of the plains, it has its own beauty and the walking was fantastic although we saw few animals. We the spent the evening with the ol Donyo Lodge predator compensation team and the local community managers who were helpful.

Campi ya Kanzi
We then drove through the best country of our trip in the Chyulu hills with the help of Moses Njoroge, a guide at ol Donyo Lodge, without his help we would have been lost many times! This was a stunning drive all the way to Kanzi and we found new types of trees, like the Blue-back Corkwood and we also saw two new birds there; Madagascar (olive) Bee-eater, and Malachite Sunbird. We arrived late after a long day and we couldn't wait to have showers at Kanzi, this was the best you have in an area where water is like gold we had to get “in and out” …,nice and fresh at last! The boma visit was the highlight of our trip, the Kisongo maasai were nice and welcoming, a few sheep were slaughtered for us and 2 more given to us to go with, very kind people! What amazed us all was the water management at Campi Ya Kanzi, it took us 3 hours to complete the camp tour, which we loved and learnt a lot about eco-tourism. Well done guys you deserve the gold rating!!

Tsavo West
Before we got to Mzima springs we stopped at one of the wonders of Tsavo, "Shatani" Lava. This was a surprise, as we did not know that anything like this existed in our own country and how little we know of the geology of this country. Some brave men went into the Shatani caves looking for ‘shatani mwenyewe hakuna kitu ame toroka hakuna mji nchi hii jameni’ (the real satan, but there is no place for satan here). On our drive to heaven (Mzima springs) we saw our first and only cat in the whole trip, a young female leopard. Imagine 23 guides with their eyes competing as to which tree, flower or bird and yet we had not seen any cats until this last hour.

We finally arrived at Mzima springs and we all wished we could have stayed there longer, however this was not our destination "we still have two hours before we get to Ndolwa house" said Tari. Ok guides lets get going, we have to be at the gate before 6.30pm or we’ll pay! The roads are well done by Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), much better than our Mara roads for sure and we just got to Maktau gate on time. We still had 20 more minutes to Ndolwa house, we arrived around 7pm. During the whole trip Tari would be on the radio telling us which turn to take or what animal is that, or trees if he knows, likewise all the guides helped one another to identify most of the trees and flowers.

Ndolwa house
We have been waited on by the staff of this magical place, the fire was lit and we made our food with the help of our cooks that we were traveling with by 9pm, the tents were ready and food too, ‘tumechoka tuende tulala’(we are tired lets go to sleep). At this place Ndolwa, I didn’t want to go any where away from the beauty, vegetation and the best views in Kenya probably. In every place we had been, Mt. Kilimanjaro had been on our view, what a great mountain, from Melepo to Ndolwa we have been seeing this sacred mountain ever since, what a blessing! Tari stood up and said that we were going to Lake Jipe tomorrow, so up at 6:30 out at 7am. This was also another country to see so many new birds, just to list one or two - Golden pipit, Fire fronted bishop, and Red bishop. Since we have been traveling to all these places we have not seen any vehicles, just pure wilderness… so sweet!

Tsavo East
‘Today we had a long trip ahead of us guys’ said Tari and Paul added ‘it will be at least 8 hours if we are to see some game in Tsavo East’. We said goodbye to Ndolwa house staff lead by Aloise, yet another good staff team, we were emotional to say goodbye to them. We then drove through some beautiful country to Voi, did some shopping, and in to the park to be met by friendly KWS staff. They welcomed us to Tsavo East and were pleased that we could send them some business in the future, it was nice to hear some officers say some positive words in the end.

We looked at the map as to which way, I suggested we follow the Galana river, there was no objection from the guides. For one hour we drove through totally different country, it’s so diverse from bush to rocky outcrop, riverine palm forest and some good game on the way. As it was our first time to enter this park we were all surprised how large Tsavo is and how under utilized it is, although we were there at low season in tourism.

I look at the northern side and it looks like no human has been to this part of the park since God created Kenya, I hope I can go to this place again in the near future. We then drove through a heavy storm on our way to the coast, here we saw some men of the Somali origin looking after cattle we were told later they work at Galana ranch. On the safari we went on seeing new faces, short men and women on the side of the road, James Sengeny made a comment that they are the origin of man like the model we saw in Nairobi National Museums. I put my foot on the land cruiser brakes …’we have got to ask’. Jamboni? (hello) we said, our car was surrounded by these small people ‘ninny in Kabila gaini’ (what tribe are you 'sis in wagiriama' (we are Giriama) they said.

Watamu
At the end of the day we saw a sign ‘Welcome to Malindi’, at once some of our guides started to think the ocean is just there, ‘pole ngojeni bando mbali’ (sorry, wait it is still far) we shouted at them. Someone called James Robertson who guided us straight to Oceans Sports where he would meet us. Sure enough there he was waiting for us and took us straight to the ocean for the first time ever for most of our guides. ‘Kueli Mungu ana maajabu hii ni mto kubwa sana’ (God really is unbelievable, this as a very big river) said one of the guides. Some of these guides are not afraid of lions, buffs, or elephants, yet they are afraid of samaki (fish) and crabs! ‘What are this many things on the sand’ said Fred? ‘Crabs’… JR chased one and brought it to the guides , they are very fast and we all tried to chase them. I tell you the fun part of the trip started in the water, and teaching everyone to swim. ‘It’s hard to float’ said many of the guides.

Gerard joined us in the evening and we quickly made a plan for the next few days, to keep these men busy. The group was be divided in to three smaller groups. The first group went out at 6am to the forest (Arabuka Sokoke), Mida Creek and the Turtle Centre the second group to Bio-Ken Snake Park while the last group went to the Malindi Marine park, the Driftwood Beach Club and Malindi Fishing Club. At the end of the day we were exhausted by the day activities, but the pool at Kikapu cottages was still waiting for us. Our new species list at the coast was long, but to name a few; African Golden Oriole, Rufus Chatterer, Eastern Nicator, Red-Tailed Rufus Thrush, Chestnut-Fronted Helmet-Shrike, and one endemic bird to this forest Amani sunbird, along with Golden Rump Elephant Shrew, and Kenya Pygmy-Chameleon.

The previous guide trip was also good, but we learnt even more on this trip. Thank you for giving our guides such a long lasting experience! I still can’t tell which experience is better than the other…. is it Bryn’s speed boat, feeding the fish at the Malindi Marine Park, releasing young Turtles into sea, or having a madavu at Mida creek looking at Crab Plovers and Whimbrels?

Mombassa
The guys were ready by 8am for the last leg on the coast and as we had done all along, we rotated the driving throughout the trip so we each did a section. We booked a hotel outside the city, and sent the Bush Homes guides ahead as they knew more about Mombassa than us. By the evening we were surrounded by hundreds of people who had not seen such a large number of Masai in their suburb. The highlights here were Fort Jesus, the Mombassa ferry, and one bird of prey, the Bat Hawk.

Nairobi
After such a long drive from the coast to Nairobi there is no place like home, back to JR’s house, his staff, and a nice cup of tea. Tents were ready and rooms for our Guides. I must say it’s only God who can reward you for all you have done for the’ Kenyan Bush Home Guides’ - asanti sana Bwana JR!

Final Day (day 14) - We headed to our last trip of the tour; Giraffe Manor / Centre, Ngong House, House of Waine and Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and Cottages. Lastly, we went to the David Sheldrick Trust. This was the icing on the cake for all of us, the baby elephants were so cute we loved them and hugged them, with teary eyes as we imagined what happened to their mothers.

We finished the trip at the Carnivore restaurant for nyama choma and say kwaheri to every one. We all sang and were very happy!!

IF YOU THINK EDUCATION IS EXPENSIVE, TRY IGNORANCE.
THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR EFFORT AND GENEROCITY!

A big thank you to all those who helped make this trip happen, especially James Robertson who has been the catalyst of both the 2007 and 2008 guide trips.

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