Well here we are at the end of our two week Conservation Science and Policy field trip to Kenya. I mentioned in my pre-trip blog that we were excited to see the iconic wildlife, but also crucially to understand how people interact with it and utilise natural resources. We have experienced exactly that. Below is an ABC of our two weeks under Kenyan skies.
First, a quick catch up on our last couple of days. They were spent in the Maasai Mara and it was ‘ready, steady, safari’; squeezing in two lengthy game drives in the national park with aims of sighting some of the big cats. And it didn’t disappoint – in fact it was ‘raining cats and dogs’ as Dave described it! In one morning game drive we saw lion, hyena, bat-eared fox, jackal, leopard, cheetah, and African wild cat! The African wildcat left us completely bemused, we were unaware that they were in the park. The two leopards seen (mother and offspring we thought) had hauled a kill up high in a tree, which was an incredible sight. This was then closely followed by spotting a female cheetah and cub hidden among the long grass. We could not, and still cannot, believe it!
A = Ants
All kinds, they bite. Run away from safari ants at all costs!
B = Baboons, and other cheeky monkeys
Do not let them catch on you have food, else you’ll suffer the consequences. Beware of raining fruit from monkeys in the canopy above.
C = Camera traps
We took the opportunity to set up camera traps to see what was lurking nearby our various camps. Hyena was the most exciting find.
D = Drivers
We became close friends with our matatu drivers who ferried us all over Kenya the past two weeks. They were brilliant and we’ll miss them!
E = Enoch
Our man on the ground in Kenya who organised our Kenyan stay. Honest, humble, and a hero!
F = Flower power
We spent time looking at the impacts of the extensive floriculture around Lake Naivasha, investigating issues centred on water use, economy, and the environment.
G = Game drives
Coming into the end of our trip the game drive at Nakuru was the one to beat; we had seen black and white rhino and lion. But the Maasai Mara (described above) blasted it out the water! We also enjoyed a night game drive early on in the trip near Kitengela where we found buffalo just outside the camp.
H = Hadada ibis (and other birds)
‘Haaadaadaaa’! This is the noise of the Hadada ibis, and one of our favourite animal impressions to shout out at random intervals. Having a few keen birders in our midst meant that we were lucky to see lots, and lots, and lots, of birds.
I = Invertebrates
Aside from the magical megafauna there were some weird and wonderful invertebrates around too, including a deadly spider hanging out in the darkness a couple of metres from our tents.
J = Jambo!
Jambo! In classic tourist fashion we greeted anyone we met with this trusty phrase.
K = Kakamega rainforest
A firm favourite of mine, where the butterfly magic happened. It opened our minds to how diverse Kenya is ecologically, a contrast from the savannah.
L = Livestock
Cows, sheep, goats everywhere. We learned about the importance of livestock herding to the Maasai people and the conflicts they face with wild predators.
M = Maasai
We met with many Maasai people over the course of the trip, learning about their culture as well as the conservation of wildlife, tourism, and conflicts they face. We joined in with their song, dance, and jumping competition too.
N = National parks
We visited several national parks with contrasting features – some were fenced, others heavily developed for tourism, or isolated in human-dominated landscapes. They form a core part of Kenya’s conservation strategy.
O = Orange skies
Sunrise is a beautiful time of day in Kenya. Several times we awoke very early to see the sunrise, with the best being perched up high on a rock with stretching views over the Mara.
P = Peak
Mount Elgon was a fantastic place, a mountainous region where we climbed a peak up to around 3700m. Needless to say the views were stunning.
Q = Quiz night
The annual Kenya field trip pub quiz took place in Kisumu on a rooftop bar. Testing not only our knowledge of Kenya, its wildlife, and Swahili, we also got to know much more about our lecturers..
R = Roads
A limited infrastructure means that most roads are bumpy dirt tracks. So you are in for an uncomfortable off-roading experience if travelling far!
S = Symbiosis
‘And that is what? Symbiosis.’ Our guide at Kakamega explained the many, many, symbiotic relationships in the forest.
T = Time
We grew accustomed to ‘Kenya time’. This means things happen as and when they do. Expect a 3 hour drive to take 7 hours, and maybe add on a couple more for good measure.
U = Urban sprawl
We drove through several towns in proximity to Nairobi which had grown and developed unbelievably over the past couple of years. It threatens important migratory routes and dispersal corridors for wide-ranging wildlife.
V = Voices
We met many different groups of people within Kenya and conducted several focus groups allowing them to voice opinion on wildlife conservation, development, and culture.
W = Walking safaris
We walked with lions during the first 10 minutes of a dawn walk on the first day! At the time it seemed like business as usual, but it certainly was not. Such an amazing experience.
X = Xploding skies
At Kakamega and the edge of the Mara we experienced proper African thunderstorms whilst camping.. It was crazy!
Y = Yawn
Our packed schedule led to some very sleepy students by the end of the trip.
Z = Zebra
What else! They were one of our most frequent wildlife encounters. It turns out they are better than other species at passing through fenced areas which have arisen with land subdivision.
aan204 January 20th, 2016 Kenya archive