Nomad Cabin Fever

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DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE

ISSUE 20| JULY/AUGUST | FREE COPY

CABIN FEVER

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

A MOUNTAINEER'S

JOURNEY

THE RHINOS FLYING

TO BOTSWANA

KAYAKING THE

NILE RIVER


OUT OF OFFICE REPLY: GONE OUTDOORS!

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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 1


Close Earrings in Brass, Ebony & Leather

Closure Collection

@amidoshishah

www.amidoshishah.com

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EDITOR’S NOTE

GO BACK AND PACK YOUR GUMBOOTS!

Iam hopeless when it comes to packing. I always

forget to bring the most basic of things. A toothbrush.

The other part in a pair of socks. Body lotion. My

phone charger. I even rocked up to an airport once

having forgotten to bring my passport. When it came

to packing for Mt Kenya, therefore, I packed light,

and to an onlooker, I might as well have been heading to the

gym.

Brian (photographer) and Peter (videographer) came to

pick me up from my apartment block on the morning of the

trip, and when I walked out in converse and a small duffel

bag (which was mostly filled with my photography gear), they

looked at me in bewilderment. Compared to me, they were so

bundled-up that Peter was in fact wearing wellies.

“Are you sure you’re not just being dramatic?” I asked

pointing to his boots, and shortly after, seeing all the bags

they had stuffed into the back of the car.

“You do realize that we’ll be going up to 3,500m above

sea level, right?” they asked in near perfect unison, as though

they had rehearsed their lines before I came downstairs. And

so, after having some sense talked into me, I rushed back to

the house and packed every piece of warm clothing I had in

my closet.

Wellies, though, were another matter altogether. In fact,

I don’t think I have ever owned a pair. A stop in Thika town

had me running around in search of a pair ‘just to be on

the safe side’, and at Bata, I got lucky. Later on during the

trip, while trudging almost knee-deep through a swamp at

Ragati Conservancy immediately after crossing a river for the

umpteenth time, the boys were unabashedly quick to remind

me how much they had practically saved my life.

As you do your own packing, don’t forget your mittens,

scarves, fleece jackets, torches and cooler boxes as you come

up to the mountains with us. We set off to the eastern and

southern slopes of Mt Kenya, go caving at Mt Elgon, kayak

down the Nile and take part in an array of outdoor activities

which you’re welcome to try. Most of all, remember to go

back and pack your gumboots!

wattaonthego

Wendy Watta

NOMAD ISSUE. 20 · JUNE/JULY 2019 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR WENDY WATTA DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI SALES VANESSA WANJIKU

CONTRIBUTORS SAMANTHA DU TOIT, SOPHIE IBBOTSON, MAURICE SCHUTGENS, MARTYN POLLOCK, WANJIKU KINUTHIA, KARANJA NZISA,

ROBBIE MINGAY, FAITH KANJA, JOSEPH MURIITHI, HANNAH SIMPSON

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS BRIAN SIAMBI, DANIEL MSIRIKALE, KAELO JONATHAN, PETER NDUNG'U

DIGITAL FAITH KANJA MARKETING & OPERATIONS DANIEL MUTHIANI, ANGELA OMONDI

SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL EDITOR@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO

NomadMagazineAfrica @NomadMagAfrica @NomadMagazineAfrica

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 7


CONTENTS

ON THE COVER

RAGATI HOUSE IN RAGATI

CONSERVANCY. SHOT BY BRIAN SIAMBI

In this issue

12. TOP SHOTS

This month’s featured photographers

capture a waterfall in Tanzania, and a

mother cheetah with grown cubs in the

Mara.

17. WHATS ON

From the Nyege Nyege festival in Jinja

to Paint the Run and a mountain biking

challenge, find a roundup of must-attend

events this season.

18. NEWS

The Lamu coal project gets brought to

a halt, Great Plains Mara Nyika is set

to open this August and Hell's Gate

national park inspires the new Lion king

film.

22. GLOBETROTTERS

A skydiver, hiker, adventure biker and a

scuba diver share what draws them to

the great outdoors.

50. WHAT I PACK FOR MY TRAVELS

Music publicist & journalist Anyiko

Owoko gives us a peek inside her travel

bag.

28

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32

52

22

FEATURES

28. A MOUNTAINEER’S JOURNEY

With his dad being a mountaineer,

growing up, Mt Kenya was always a key

fixture in Joseph Muriithi’s life. Today,

having climbed it 90 times in five years,

he recounts what makes this place so

special.

32. THE GREAT OUTDOORS

With no electricity for the weekend and

miles of beautiful landscape to wander,

Wendy Watta discovers the joy of fly

fishing, hiking and a cozy cabin at Ragati

Conservancy.

36. DID SOMEONE SAY LAKE ELLIS?

The Nomad team’s highly anticipated

drive up to the scenic Lake Ellis at 3,500m

up Mt Kenya doesn’t exactly kick off as

planned.

40. HIKING THE UNDERDOG

Mt Elgon may get far less visitors than its

more popular counterparts in Kenya and

Uganda, but its charm is certainly not lost

on Martyn Pollock.

44. ROW ROW ROW YOUR KAYAK

Whitewater kayaking is one of those

experiences that seems to be on

everyone’s bucket list but it’s one of the

more difficult adventure sports to actually

get out and try. For kayaking guide Robbie

Mingay, it’s just another day in Jinja.

42. THE RHINOS FLYING TO BOTSWANA

Sophie Ibbotson writes about Rhinos

Without Borders, a project which aims to

move 100 rhinos from poaching hotspots

in South Africa to new safe homelands in

Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

REGULARS

24. AGE OF THE CONSCIOUS TRAVELER

When people travel, it’s easy to engage

in what may seem to be great ‘photo op’

moments without thinking of the real life

consequences. Conversations around

sustainable travel have therefore never

been more vital.

26. THE ELEPHANT AND THE BEE

Samantha Du Toit’s children listen wideeyed

to an ancient African folktale about

the largest of land animals being afraid of

a tiny honey bee, and how this is presently

being used to help farmers protect their

crops.

46

46. COMOROS: AFRICA’S FORGOTTEN

ARCHIPELAGO

Floating between Mozambique and

Madagascar lies the Comoros, the

romantically named Islands of the Moon.

Maurice Schutgens paints a perfect picture

with five activities that should be on your

bucket list.

56. LAGOS WOES

A series of catastrophes lead to Karanja

Nzisa almost being stuck at an airport in

Nigeria in this month’s Last Word column.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 9


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CONTRIBUTORS

FANCY A CUPPA?

ROBBIE MINGAY

Adventures in Jinja, Page 44

Usually I'm out on the river, either for work

or for fun. After a big day of paddling, my

favourite spot to refuel in Jinja is either Moti

Mahal's for Indian cuisine or a local bar for

fried pork and cold beers with friends.

FAITH KANJA

Globetrotters, Page 22

The cold season reminds me of a road trip to

Nanyuki. I can vividly recall how warming

the hot chocolate at Barney's Restaurant

was. Looking forward to another sumptuous

breakfast there on my next trip north! Trout

Tree nestled along the Buruget River is also a

great go-to.

KARANJA NZISA

Lagos Woes, Page 56

Largely due to its proximity to my office, Le

Grenier à Pain has become a favourite haunt

of mine. Though not a big coffee person,

I relish their macchiato, especially when

accompanied by the poulet curry sandwich

which feels a lot like home.

PROTECTING

OLOOLUA FOREST

Let’s talk about conservation; let’s have a

conversation about it. This is what we did

with the team at the Oloolua Community

Forest Association (CFA) who are passionate

about creating awareness regarding

Nairobi’s green space.

Oloolua Forest, as CFA reveals, is an

important wildlife refuge and biodiversity

hotspot. Considered a lung for Nairobi,

it covers 618 hectares and is home to a

significant acreage of indigenous trees. The

forest is part of the larger Ngong Forest

block which also comprises Ngong Hills

and Kibiko Forest. It provides a habitat to a

variety of wildlife (including small antelopes

and other mammals such as hyena and the

occasional leopard).

Like most forests, Oloolua is under

threat from human activities. Quarrying,

encroachment as well as development

of major roads and the SGR through the

heart of the forest put it at the brink of

deforestation. This has sparked the need to

have the forest fenced in a bid to prevent

further fragmentation and loss of green

space.

Statistics reveal that we are losing 5,000

hectares of forest cover per year in Kenya.

This translates to an economic loss of over

USD 90 million.

The CFA has taken up the initiative

to protect and conserve the remaining

Oloolua Forest by fencing it in two phases.

This initiative is informed by the successful

example of the Karura Forest Environmental

Management Plan. They plan to involve all

surrounding communities including Gataka,

Embulbul, Karen and Olkeri. Employing

forest scouts will provide livelihoods for

members of this community. Moreover,

it aligns the forest’s interests with theirs

through a sense of ownership. A great deal

of training will be done to ensure sufficient

empowerment in safeguarding the forest.

If you haven’t visited the Oloolua Nature

Trail, here are some unique features about

the forest:

• 33-foot Maumau cave

• Picnic sites

• Bicycle riding trails

• Waterfalls

• Walking trails also suitable for pets

• Hiking and running trails for nature

lovers and fitness enthusiasts

As CFA strives to create a green, safe,

versatile and recreational space for Nairobi,

we hope that you are also playing a role

in ensuring the sustainability of our green

spaces for future generations. You can

support them via www.gofundme.com/

oloolua.

For more information, contact:

olooluaforest@gmail.com

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 11


KAELO JONATHAN

Instagram: @kaelophotography

This shot was taken late afternoon in

the Maasai Mara. I was following a

mother cheetah with her grown cubs.

Cheetahs like climbing to higher look-out

points to be able to scan the area for

potential prey or predators. When I saw

the dead tree, I knew this would be a

perfect opportunity as the group would

be tempted to climb it, and with the sun

setting in the background, they did. My

settings were ISO 200, F/ 6.3 and a

shutter speed of 1/8000 using a Canon

1DX Mark II with a 500mm lens.

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TOP SHOTS

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 13


TOP SHOTS

DANIEL MSIRIKALE

@that_tanzanianguy

I took this shot of Malamba Falls about

15km from Tukuyu town in Tanzania, at

around 1:00pm on an overcast day. I used

a Canon 5D Mark IV with a 50mm lens

using the settings: ISO 100, F/3.5 and

shutter speed of 1/400 sec.

Tip: shoot the same subject at different times

of the day. How the light hits it at different

times will greatly affect the final image.

14 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 15


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WHAT’S ON

NYEGE NYEGE FESTIVAL

Located on the banks of the Nile in Jinja, Nyege

Nyege is more than a festival; it’s a real East

African gathering that brings some of the most

exciting new acts from the region together with

exciting musicians from all over the continent

and beyond (this year especially from Asia,

South America and the US). Nyege Nyege is

now considered the most important four-day

international music festival in East Africa for both

its one-of-a-kind curation and its unique East

African party vibe. This year’s event takes place

from 5th-8th September. For more information and

tickets, visit www.nyegenyege.com

PHOTOGRAPH: Make It Kenya Photo / Stuart Price

KARI CHALLENGE

This is a one day mountain bike event

hosted by Mt. Kenya Epik. The challenge,

which covers approximately 60km, will

take place on July 27 at KALRO, Muguga.

Teams are made up of two people and

categories accommodate men, women,

mixed teams and juniors. The route takes

participants through undulating hills set in

agricultural land and forest areas offering

a challenging combination of technical and

endurance riding. Entry and registration

cost is Ksh 1,500 for adults and Ksh 1,000

for kids www.mtkenyaepik.co.ke.

PHOTOGRAPH: Courtesy Paint The Run

PAINT THE RUN

The third edition of Paint The Run is finally here.

Set to take place at the Ngong Forest Sanctuary

on Saturday July 20th from 11am, get ready for

their most fun run yet. There will be an exciting

obstacle run, a glow festival and much more.

Last year’s theme was well-being, with the aim

of encouraging mental and physical health using

fun activities. Get your advance tickets for Ksh

1500 for one and a Ksh 3500 for a group of

four via www.cloud9xp.com

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 17


NEWS

LAMU COAL PROJECT HALTED

A momentous win for Lamu and environmentalists as tribunal halts

plans to construct the country’s first ever coal-powered plant near

the coastal town of Lamu, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The license

previously granted to Amu Power, the developer of the controversial

Lamu Coal Plant, has been cancelled. The National Environment

Tribunal (NET) ruled that the National Environment Management

Authority (Nema) issued the environmental impact assessment license

to Amu Power without following the law. The Ksh 200 billion project

was Kenya’s first coal-fired power plant. The tribunal faulted the

project for omitting engineering plans and details of the plant from

public participation. Moreover, the project was not consistent with

the Climate Change Act.

GREAT PLAINS MARA NYIKA SET

TO OPEN THIS AUGUST

The Great Plains Conservation will be adding to its collection

another luxurious glamping property in the Mara, after Mara Plains.

Set in the Mara Naibosho Conservancy, it is set to open its doors

to the public in early August. The camp is set in a valley, straddling

a small stream. The light-coloured canvas tents are designed to sit

under the canopy of umbrella thorn trees while still offering guests

views out over the bush. Walkways from tents to the main area evoke

the feeling of a treehouse under canvas, and the camp’s ethic and

inspiration is one of exploration and adventure.

LION KING FILM INSPIRED

BY HELL’S GATE NATIONAL PARK

The London premiere of the new Lion King Movie saw Magical

Kenya’s logo being displayed on the film’s back-drop banner. Kenya

sponsored the movie premiere and the partnership between Walt

Disney and the Kenya Tourism Board is meant to generate huge

visibility for the country as a destination.

Hells Gate National Park inspired the Lion King Film as it is

considered the home of the Pride Rock. The dramatic and scenic

landscapes, abundance of wildlife, rock climbing and cycling make

the park a favourite for many. The 2019 Lion King remake premieres

on 19th July 2019.

KENYA LAUNCHES MOUNTAIN BONGO

RECOVERY PLAN

The Kenya Forest Service has allocated 776 acres within the

Mt Kenya Forest ecosystem for conservation of the endangered

mountain bongo. The land will be used for expansion of the current

bongo sanctuary and also will be fenced and paddocked to allow

for breeding. The mountain bongo is a chestnut-red forest-dwelling

antelope with 12-14 white stripes traversing its shoulders, flanks

and hindquarters. The country’s population is 77 out of 96 total

in the world and is under the custody of Mount Kenya Wildlife

Conservancy in Laikipia. Their population has been shrinking

considerably due to human activities like poaching and logging, as

well as diseases and loss of habitat.

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GLOBETROTTERS

THRILL

SEEKERS

A sky diver, hiker, adventure

rider and a scuba diver share

what draws them to the

outdoors.

TALISA LANOE

THE SKYDIVER

@talisalanoe

You are an Olympian, what does that entail?

As an Olympian, swimming becomes more

of a lifestyle than a sport. I moved away

from home at a young age to attend a sports

boarding school. This was characterised by

long training hours, numerous competitions

around the world and many sacrifices.

However, looking back, I wouldn’t change

a thing. The journey to the Olympics taught

me so many lessons and helped shape the

person I am today.

How did you get into skydiving?

I believe in living life to the fullest and as

such, skydiving was on my bucket list. After

my first (and only) tandem skydive, I didn’t

get much fulfilment. I therefore decided to

take the AFF course and get my license. I

wanted to see the world from a different

perspective and have the freedom to fly.

Since then, I have completely fallen in love

with this sport, and it reminds me that you

are capable of doing anything you set your

mind to. Getting my license was one of the

best decisions I’ve ever made.

ROOP SINGH KHALSA

THE ADVENTURE RIDER

@adventureriders254

What’s been your most memorable ride thus

far?

I went to Addis Ababa with friends, and

it took us three days. From searching for

fuel in unexpected places to celebrating

the Ethiopian New Year upon arrival, this

is one of my favourite adventures to date.

Immersing myself in the country’s rich culture

was one of my highlights. The traditional

food, coffee and hospitality will have me

returning. Another memorable ride was

to Garissa, Lamu and thereafter Malindi.

We however had to park the bikes at a

local’s home for two days then take a

boat to Manda Island and Shela. Feeling

the breeze came as a relief after a long,

adventurous ride.

What satisfaction do you get in being

outdoors, especially with your bike?

The experience is priceless. There is so

much satisfaction when the sun hits your

face in the morning, when relaxing to a

magical sunset or being soothed by the

sound of a river and chirping birds. Getting

around by bike will definitely take you

farther and deeper within a short time while

being in contact with all the elements of

nature. The sense of self-sufficiency and

independence is unmatched. All you need

is a great playlist to listen to inside your

helmet and you’re set.

PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY

Aside from Skydiving, what other adrenaline

driven activities have you immersed yourself

in?

I love anything that makes me feel alive.

I free dive and rock climb. I also love to

wakeboard, kite surf and scuba dive.

Sometimes I fear I will give my mother a

heart attack because I am always either

jumping out of planes or high edges, or

swimming with big fish!

What do you love about the outdoors?

The fresh air, and the feeling of being such

a small thing amidst this vast and incredible

world. I don’t like being confined within four

walls. When I immerse myself in nature, the

sky or even under water, I feel grounded,

humbled and so inspired.

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What’s your dream trip?

To travel the world on my motorcycle. I

believe life is short and riding to as many

destinations as possible makes every second

count. Meeting new people, capturing

moments, happily accepting surprises on the

road and enjoying every kilometer of the

journey- this to me is the true adventure.

Would you trade your bike for a car?

No...any person who owns a car should

make an effort to learn how to ride a

motorcycle. The thrill is riveting.

AZIM ASGER

THE SCUBA DIVER

@wind_obsession

What draws you to the ocean?

My love for the ocean dates back to my

childhood...it may sound corny but my first

memory is that of the ocean. It gives me a

sense of freedom and I am inspired by its

colours, especially during sunrise and sunset.

The variety of marine life is beyond beautiful.

I have equally met amazing people in my life

because of getting myself out there.

How did you get to be a diving and

windsurfing instructor?

I was five when I first went diving with my

father who used to be an instructor. My

love for the sport had me enrolling for

PADI (Professional Association of Diving

Instructors) and from there, I became

certified. As for surfing, I would go to the

beach, rent a cracked board for Ksh 40 or

simply find a plank of wood and try balance

whilst pretending to be surfing. After a great

deal of practice and learning, I am now a

windsurfing instructor. I now also advocate

for marine life and coral reef conservation as

well as plastic free oceans.

What have been some of your best or even

scary moments under water?

I remember swimming with two giant

whale sharks, which was an unbelievable

experience. It’s always pleasant

encountering a pod of dolphins during

dives and joining them for a swim. Another

best moment was seeing a shark while

undergoing my PADI training. The excitement

was comparative to seeing a lion while on

safari. Scary moments are when my student

divers get too excited upon seeing something

interesting and they tend to swim away to

explore. This is always a risk and I can only

hope I am fast enough to stop them.

MIRIAM AMIANI

THE HIKER

@just.mimie

How did you get into hiking?

I started off in January 2016 after making

the ceremonial New Year’s resolutions.

I had decided to indulge in two new

activities that would challenge me: hiking

and riding motorcycles. One day I signed

up for a hike up Mt Longonot. I got rained

on and was soaking wet from my head

to my shoes, but I actually enjoyed that. I

knew it was something I would continue

doing whenever I got the chance.

What do you love most about hiking?

Being in the mountains is a great break

from the chaotic city life that I live. Aside

from reconnecting with myself, I have

met amazing people and most of my

valuable friendships have been made in

the mountains. Hiking has been a constant

reminder that nothing good comes easy.

The hike may be treacherous but once

at the summit, you see the beauty of the

universe beneath you and say to yourself it

that it was all worth it.

What draws you to the outdoors?

It’s the best way to spend time alone or

with friends. The solitude gives you time to

think about life, get new ideas and reduce

stress levels while keeping fit. Once in a

while, it’s good to actually stop and smell

the flowers...talk about free aromatherapy!

Creating great memories and bonding

with friends is something I have come to

value about being outdoors.

Any advice to readers who want to take

it up?

Hiking starts with your mental state; if

you perceive it, then summiting is as easy

as ABC. All you need is a good pair of

hiking shoes and a good attitude. Every

mountain has its own experience and it

always brings out something new about

ourselves.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 23


SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL

AGE OF THE

CONSCIOUS

TRAVELER

When people travel, it’s easy to engage in what may

seem to be great ‘photo op’ moments without thinking of

the real life consequences on things like the environment.

Conversations around sustainable travel have therefore

never been more vital, writes Wanjiku Kinuthia.

Many were appalled

when Kim Kardashian

recently shared a

throwback photograph

of herself posing next

to an elephant, with

a rider straddling it,

in Indonesia. Kardashian insisted that the

elephant was photographed in a ‘sanctuary’,

but many were quick to point out that

elephant sanctuaries do not share in some of

the practices visible in the photograph. All

over the world, when people travel, it’s easy

to engage in what may seem to be great

‘photo op’ moments without thinking of the

real life consequences.

I'm certainly not an expert in sustainability

models across tourism industries, however

I have learned lessons from working on a

conservation landscape for over seven years

where sustainable practices are key, and

interactions with highly conscious travellers

and friends have ignited conversations over

many sundowners as to how we can all see

the world and not ruin it while at it.

MINIMISE YOUR TRAVEL FOOTPRINT

One of my dearest friends, Abagi, is a

vegetarian. When I first found out about

this, I automatically thought that it was

for the benefit of animal welfare. But she

said, "Ciku, I fly too much for work. I'm a

vegetarian to minimise my negative impacts

on this world." This brief conversation ignited

my thinking around how we travel, what

we do during these trips, how we can take

ownership of our impacts and try to do

better.

According to a study published by

Nature Climate Change in 2018, the carbon

footprint of global tourism is four times

more than previously estimated, accounting

for about 8% of global greenhouse gas

emissions. Transport, shopping and food

are significant contributors. While travelling,

how often do you consider, alongside cost

and convenience, the most sustainable

form of transportation to get to your

destination? In many cases, aeroplane

travel is unavoidable. But with regional and

in-country travel, choosing a train, bus or

car over an aeroplane is a better option.

According to a study on green travel by the

Union of Concerned Scientists, this can mean

55% to 75% fewer emissions than flying.

PICK DESTINATIONS THAT ARE

GENUINELY DOING GOOD

I often joke, working in conservation in

Kenya, that most tourism properties are

quick to declare how their models promote

development and livelihoods in local

communities. Usually, there are claims of

sustainable practices, but the reality on

the ground is different. Greenwashing, as

it is called, is the practice of making an

unsubstantiated or misleading claim about

the environmental benefits.

Another dear friend, Kasmira, only travels

to places where she can effectively research

and substantiate their green practices and

social impact. "I usually choose to stay

on properties that are locally owned or

managed. Popular tourism sites become

less impactful for the country and residents

because they become commercialised and

focus less on an authentic product. This

means that they offer little or no real benefit

to local people."

One of the quickest ways we check

for this is to look at the management of

24 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


a property, and then ask ourselves, if we

stay here for a few days, who does it truly

benefit? Does it benefit endangered species

or forests and ecosystems? Does it improve

livelihoods with direct and clear benefits to

people? Do they have practical and visible

sustainable practices?

FIND WAYS TO GET INVOLVED

Incorporate activities that involve supporting

the ecosystem. If you wish to run a marathon,

run it on Lewa where funds raised directly

support conservation and development

work across Kenya. While in Watamu, visit

the Local Ocean Trust, volunteer for beach

clean up activities and learn more about

the marine environment. Every two years

in January, make a point to visit northern

Kenya, go glamping and become a citizen

scientist by photographing and collecting

data on the endangered Grevy’s zebra.

Around the world, find similar activities

that not only enrich your experiences but

also contribute to creating an improved

environment.

EMBRACING SUSTAINABLE LIVING

We all know the negative effects of single

use plastic. But beyond plastic, there are

other products that we use in our day-to-day

lives, and mostly while travelling, that are

harmful to the environment. Two examples

are sunscreen and fast fashion. I only

discovered recently from The London Chatter,

a Kenyan lifestyle blogger based in London,

that there’s more to think about than just

SPF when it comes to responsibly choosing

your go-to sunscreen. Most have an active

ingredient, Oxybenzone, that can be toxic

to ocean life by damaging coral reefs.

According to some reports, between 6,000

and 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen end up in

reef areas each year.

The fashion industry is also one of the

major polluting industries in the world. To

make better choices, buy less. Buy second

hand (yay to mtumba!), swap clothes with

your friends and buy good quality items

that last longer. Buy clothes from sustainable

brands while being aware of ‘fake’

sustainable ones. While at your destination,

wear clothes and accessories made using

locally sourced, sustainable materials to

promote industries and boost income for the

people.

BECOME A SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL

CHAMPION

Sustainable travel needs allies, now more

than ever. Behaviour change is key and we

all have the power to influence our friends

and family. Travel influencers and travel

platforms have already established platforms

to impart sustainability messages. It’s cool to

care.

Do you have a story you would like

featured in this column? Email a detailed

pitch to editor@nomadmagazine.co

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 25


NOTES FROM THE BUSH

THE ELEPHANT

AND THE BEE

Cornflakes forgotten, Samantha Du Toit’s children listen

wide-eyed to an ancient African folktale about the largest of

land animals being afraid of a tiny honey bee, and how this is

presently being used to help farmers protect their crops.

The elephant and the bee. It

sounds like the start of one

of Aesop’s fables; a story of

the largest of land animals

being afraid of a tiny honey

bee. Instead it is an ancient

African folktale, and it turns

out to be true. The children listened wideeyed

over breakfast one morning to the story

of how elephants all over Africa hate even

the sound of buzzing bees, turning tail and

fleeing from the noise. Cornflakes forgotten,

they listened to Lucy King, who works with

‘Save the Elephants’, explain how she had

taken the folktale, tried and tested it, and

then turned it into a means to help farmers

protect their crops from raiding elephants.

‘So, the farmers get a fence made of bee

hives which stops elephants coming in. They

then get honey to sell and the bees may in

turn help pollinate more of their crops. This

sounds like a good idea all round!’ Seyia,

our daughter, concludes.

Elephants have returned to this area after

perhaps a couple of decades of absence.

Where once simply to see their tracks was

exciting, they are now a very common

feature of the landscape. Maasai people of

my age tell me that all their children have

seen elephants now and know what they

are, where as when they were children

themselves elephants were merely mentioned

in stories of the past. This, from a wildlife

conservation perspective, is a source of

pride for the local communities who believe

that elephants feel this is a safe place to be.

But there is a cost too. Elephants have found

their way to the local farming area, and can

devastate a farmer’s crop in mere minutes.

And regularly do so.

Fast forward a few months; the children

and I joined the team from Save the

Elephants, together with the local farmers

and other community members, to build

some beehive fences for three farmers up

in the fields. The children got straight in,

helping to dig holes, hold up bee hives

(empty as yet), clip wire and of course have

sweet, milky tea during the break. At the end

of the day, we all feasted on fresh goat stew

provided by the farmer as gratitude for the

team effort.

The sun was setting behind the

escarpment by the time we were driving into

camp, the children tired, dirty and ready for

bed. They looked up sleepily as we passed

a herd of six bull elephants making their

way out of the thickets and into the plains for

the night. We whispered to the elephants as

we went by that they were welcome to stay

here on the plains and away from the farms,

while we all hoped the bee hives would fill

quickly with bees, so as to dissuade these

majestic animals from eating where they

were not welcome. I remembered the saying

‘one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure’

which applied so well to this story. It made

me realise more clearly than ever that if

conservation is to succeed, we must do all

that we can to turn more peoples’ pain into

pleasure.

Samantha du Toit is a wildlife

conservationist, working with SORALO, a

Maasai land trust. She lives with her

husband, Johann, and their two children at

Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the

Shompole Conservancy.

26 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


air charter flights

east africa

info@tropicairkenya.com | www.tropicairkenya.com

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 27


A MOUNTAINEER’S

JOURNEY

With his dad being a mountaineer, growing up, Mt Kenya was always

a key fixture in Joseph Muriithi’s life. Today, having climbed it 90

times in a span of five years, the 24 year old certified guide recounts

what makes this place so special.

PHOTOGRAPHS: JOSEPH MURIITHI

28 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


GREAT OUTDOORS

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 29


Long before my arrival, my father

was busy climbing mountains for

a living. My fascination started

pretty early. I remember walking to

primary school and each morning,

the glorious ice-capped peak of

Mt Kenya would stare back in all

her majesty. Back then, the slopes

of Mt Kenya were a complete snowfield,

the white glare ever present from January

to December. Whenever my dad was away

on expeditions, I would look up to the peaks

and hope to see him. I swear if I squinted

really hard, I could spot him.

FIRST HIKE

During my gap year after high school, I

asked my dad to take me up the mountain

for the first time, and he agreed. I had no

clue what I was getting myself into and was

mentally and physically unprepared, but this

experience changed my life. We spent a

total of four days climbing and descending

the Sirimon route. Everyday I carried a 5kg

daypack and each time, my lungs, legs and

virtually every muscle in my body cried out

for help.

“Dad, how far do we have left to the next

camp?” I asked, panting heavily from the

heavy exercise.

“We have three more hours to go,” he

responded, grinning. “We are done with

the hardest part of the day,” he added

reassuringly.

Spoiler alert: we were not done with

the hardest part of the day. Getting to base

camp Shipton’s at 4,200m above sea

level was so challenging that I started reevaluating

my existence as a human being

or why I had even asked to do this. What

I didn’t realize during the self-reflection,

however, was that this was the mountain

asserting its authority and challenging my

mental endurance.

The summit, Point Lenana (4,985m) was

normally attempted at 3:00am, and my dad

and his clients were to do it the following

morning.

“Are you ready to go? Do you think you’ll

wake up tomorrow and attempt Lenana?” He

asked me over dinner.

“Yes, of course. How hard can it possibly

be?”I responded.

Early morning came, we had some tea,

pointed our flashlights in the guide’s (my

father’s) direction and trekked towards the

top of the world. This goes on record as the

toughest three hours of my life. In the eerie

silence of the mountains, even breathing

becomes so loud. I started re-evaluating

my life choices and cursing myself for

even agreeing to all of this. Still, I trudged

onwards and upwards.

After three solid hours of traipsing in total

darkness, our group finally reached the Via

Ferrata (metal stairs to the summit). Upon

climbing these stairs and actually standing

on the summit, I was suddenly flooded with

emotions. It felt like a veil had been lifted

and for split-second, I forgot about all the

tough trek to get here. Then an orange sun

rose in the distance and tears of joy rolled

down my cheeks. A landscape that had been

engulfed in darkness came to life, and it

was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

There was also an overwhelming sense of

accomplishment which I am still unable to

articulate.

Right there, on that summit, I promised

myself I would return, and I did, over again

for four and a half years now.

LIFE AS A MOUNTAIN GUIDE

As I gradually racked up the number of hikes,

I got interested in guiding. Dad had all the

tools I needed for that. At home, I read his

collection of books about the animals and

birds of East Africa, studied plants, animal

behaviour and the mountain ecosystem and

finally passed my assessment test to become

a Mount Kenya Guide. With this knowledge

came the privilege and opportunity to share

the experience with travelers from all over the

globe. My favorite overall is climbing via the

Chogoria Route and camping by Lakes Ellis

and Michaelson.

The greatest honour as a guide is

witnessing visitors shed tears of joy after

reaching the summit while uttering words like,

“Thank you so much Joe. Thank you so much

for showing us your beautiful mountain”.

Experiencing that feeling of accomplishment

after pushing through all that the mountain

threw at them, just like I did on that first

climb, and seeing that grand sun take to the

skies in all its glory.

BYE BYE GLACIERS

In the early 2000s and prior, the mountain

was always decked in permanent ice with

snow falling every year. Statistics indicate

that snow fell up to the 3,000m altitude

zone. This is seconded by my colleagues

who have been climbing the mountain for

more than 20 years

This is now a thing of the past. If there’s

snowfall, it can only occur at altitudes of

4,500m and higher. Even if it falls, it melts

as fast as it hits the rocks. Weather patterns

have changed drastically. Glaciers, once

commonplace, are no more. 16 glaciers

were recorded to rule over the slopes of the

mountain, and the first to diminish was the

Krapf Glacier in 1926.

There are six glaciers left and the biggest

of them are the Lewis Glacier, Darwin

Glacier and the Diamond Couloir. All these

are however shrinking at an alarming rate

due to climate change. Rivers that once were

shall dry up. Communities depending on this

water will suffer and be forced to relocate.

Dry seasons are already becoming longer

while the wet seasons get shorter and more

destructive. The dry spells echo tough times

for wild animals that call the mountain home.

It’s not all doom and gloom however.

30 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


GREAT OUTDOORS

My favorite overall

is climbing via the

Chogoria Route

and camping by

Lakes Ellis and

Michaelson.

Organizations like Mount Kenya Trust and

Rhino Ark play a crucial role in ensuring that

the locals are well educated on the important

issues to be addressed regarding Mt Kenya

as well as what we can do to remedy this.

LESSONS FROM MOUNTAINEERING

Nature is beautiful and magnificent, but

it can also be ruthless and unforgiving.

Approach it with respect and finesse.

Kenya is a breathtaking country and its

natural resources must be protected.

Mount Kenya has some of the biggest

buffalos in Africa.

Wild animals will show you respect as

long as you respect them first by sticking to

your guide’s instructions and not diverting

from footpaths.

Always bring extra warm gear. Mount

Kenya may be at the equator but the nights

are bitterly cold.

When ascending to higher altitudes, tone

down the pace to a slow-and-steady in order

to acclimatize.

Always stay hydrated.

Altitude sickness can be very dangerous.

If you experience the signs and symptoms,

DON’T hike to higher altitudes. Rest on

the same elevation. If symptoms get worse,

descend immediately to a lower elevation.

WHERE TO STAY

SIRIMON ROUTE:

Old Moses Camp (3,300m)

Shipton’s Camp (4,200m)

CHOGORIA ROUTE:

Meru Mount Kenya Bandas (2,900m)

Rutundu Log Cabins (3,100m)

The Road Head (3,300m) – campsite

Lake Ellis (3,470m) – campsite

Lake Michelson (4,000m) – campsite

Mintos Hut (4,200m)

Naromoru Route:

Met Station (3,000m)

Mackinder’s Camp (4,300m)

The list could go on, but to sum it up,

climbing Mount Kenya 90 times in a span

of five years has shaped me into the man

I hoped I’d become. When I thought I

was punishing myself by carrying heavy

backpacks, I was being taught perseverance.

When I thought my body couldn’t take it

anymore, it taught me endurance. When

I thought the wilderness and nature were

dangerous and I didn’t belong there, I

realized that they are as much a part of me

as I am of them. Carrying my camera with

me always, it is my hope to inspire more

adventurers people from all over the world

to have the Mount Kenya experience. And

to those who can’t physically make it to the

mountain, I pray that my images take them

along my journey into the Mountain of God.

Joseph Muriithi (@andreyjosephs) works

as a guide for his dad’s company, Polemark

Tours (www.polemarktours.com).

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 31


A CABIN,

A MYTHICAL FOREST,

A WHITE MONKEY

With no electricity for the weekend and miles of beautiful

landscape to wander, Wendy Watta discovers the joy of fly

fishing, hiking and a cozy cabin at Ragati Conservancy.

PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI

32 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


GREAT OUTDOORS

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 33


Ithought I had developed some

semblance of pain resistance to

the stinging nettle, but as my hand

brushes against yet another low leaf

along the trail we have been hiking

through, I instantly feel the intensity

and wince in spite of myself. Ever

resourceful, our lead guide Jimmy reaches

above his head with a machete and cuts off

the leaf of a plant from the stem. He rubs

the juice over the already swelling area and

almost instantly, the pain ebbs. Just in time,

as I can now focus on admiring the bomb

crater we have just walked up to; a gaping

hole in the ground that was once used to test

bombs in the 1982 coup d'état.

Shortly after, we come across the Ragati

River which snakes across the trail with its

numerous tributaries, and have to cross it, yet

again. The measured journey across begins.

I gingerly feel my way around the ground for

solid footing before making each next step.

A miscalculation however has me sliding

over a moss-covered stone, and the ice cold

water rushes inside my wellies with gusto.

Once across, there is no time to pour it out,

however, as we now have to walk across a

muddy swamp, boots sinking calf-deep with

every step. As I am next in line after Jimmy,

I am careful to step exactly where he has

trudged before me.

Set on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya,

the Afro montane forest here is breathtaking.

Tall, narrow trees tower high above the

ground with branches meeting at the top

to create a canopy which keeps the harsh

sunlight at bay. The area is said to be

teeming with wildlife ranging from buffalos

to elephants, leopards, the mountain bongo

and an array of birdlife. While there are no

face-to-face encounters during our hike, the

signs are there. The closest shave is a buffalo

which the guides spot somewhere in the

distance, and given its strong olfactory sense,

we have to divert off the track to ensure our

smell doesn’t waft back to it.

There is an old carcass of an antelope

that must have been left up the tree by a

leopard several days ago. Fresh elephant

dung indicates that they would have passed

through this path not more than two days

ago. My favourite, however, is the cluster

of feathers - of a Haurtlaub’s Turaco - which

we find lying right next to the river. This bird

whose beautiful plumage has all the colours

of the Kenyan flag, and would therefore be

an excellent national mascot. One of the

guides lines these feathers along his hat

resulting in a beautiful design worthy only of

an avant-garde issue of Vogue magazine.

An all-white monkey playfully flits through

the higher branches with two colobus hot on

its tail. We stare on for a while, and even

the guides admit that this is the first time they

have seen it.

Peter’s (videographer) timer beeps. It has

been five hours since we started walking

from the cabin. I am feeling the burn. So

much so, in fact, that when we have to

climb yet another fallen tree trunk, I have

to manually haul my left leg over with my

hands. Our mecca, however, is a bit of an

anticlimax today. There is thick vegetation

but it is the dark cloud cover that blocks the

mountain’s peak in the distance. We are here

for all of five minutes, and then it is time to

circle back.

THE CABIN

When we arrive here late at night, we have

to pack our car a little way from the cabin

after which a few staff members come to

help us carry all our luggage inside. A fire is

crackling in the grate which makes it easier to

acclimatize. Light is by way of solar powered

lamps set around the space, but thankfully,

the water in the shower is hot. There are four

double rooms, a spacious living and dining

room, an enviable fully-equipped kitchen with a

gas cooker where I whip up the day’s supper,

and a massive front porch. It is however pitch

black outside, so I am unable to get a true

sense for the surroundings.

I am woken up by the sunlight washing into

my room through the large windows, some

birds are chirping right outside and I can hear

the water rushing in a large waterfall which

I was told is nearby. Like an excited kid at

Christmas, I rush outside to check out where

we are, and spotting the scenic glade upon

which the house sits, my breath is taken away.

A wooden pathway from the balcony leads

to a bridge under which the river streams,

and Ndongoro Log Cabin is by all accounts a

beautiful spot.

Fishing is a key activity here, and Jimmy tells

me that Ragati River was initially stocked with

rainbow trout in the 1920s. In the time since

then, they have gained a unique red colour,

and this is now a go-to spot for fly fishing

enthusiasts. Armed with all the required tackle,

we walk down to the base of the waterfall

where, after a few pointers from Jimmy, I am off

casting my line like a seasoned pro.

With no entertainment and the rest of the

day to just relax, by evening, the cabin fever

has set in, and I am hallucinating that I’m highfiving

Forrest Gump. Accommodation starts at

Ksh 11,500 per person per night, with children

under seven going for free. This includes the

conservancy fees, fishing licence, guides,

fishing equipment, guided walks, staff fee and

firewood.

34 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


GREAT OUTDOORS

TIPS

• There is no electricity but solar lamps are

available. Pack torches and bring a cooler box.

Bring a book and some board games to while

away the time as well.

• If you intend to go hiking, pack wellies. Trousers

and long sleeved shirts/jackets will also serve

you better than shorts and T-shirts- the nettles are

fearsome!

• This is a self-catering spot so bring all of your

own food to last the duration of your stay. You

can do all of your own cooking, but there are

two cooks that can help as needed.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 35


DID SOMEONE SAY

LAKE ELLIS?

An anticipated drive to the scenic Lake Ellis at 3,500m up Mt Kenya

doesn’t exactly start out as planned, writes Wendy Watta

PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI, PETER NDUNG'U

36 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


GREAT OUTDOORS

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 37


Growing up you are warned not

to trust strangers, but no one

ever thinks to warn you about

a guide trying to keep you

motivated to keep climbing a

mountain. I think their ploy is to

get you so far up that there is

just no turning back.

“Lake Ellis is just around the next bend,”

he says, yet again. When we get to the

said bend, however, it’s like the lake packed

her bags and stealthily left in the dead of

the night like a slighted girlfriend. Ever so

near, yet so far. I am panting heavily, which

arguably has less to do with my physical

fitness and more with me struggling to adjust

to the altitude. Heck, I remember turning in

my bed the previous night, and at about only

3,000m above sea level, that slight activity

had me wheezing like I had just competed in

some 100m dash at the Olympics.

In my defence, too, I had just walked for

six hours the previous day, and when I woke

up this morning, a hike was certainly not on

the itinerary. Matter of fact, the plan had

been to drive our Land Rover Defender up

the scenic Chogoria Route on the eastern

side of Mt Kenya, all the way to Lake Ellis.

In hopes of catching the sunrise, we had

gotten up at 5:00am and bundled into the

car ready to make the 7km stretch which

would ideally have taken us 30 minutes,

but even with some forewarning, we had

underestimated the state of the road.

It is that last bit of very rocky and

relatively steep ascent up to the lake that

gets us, and now, the Land Rover is left

somewhere along this treacherous trail, and

I trudge on as though I weigh 400 pounds.

It is rainy season, too, so mercifully it hadn’t

poured as there is just no way the car

would have even made it through that first

kilometre.

My hands are blocks of ice and I feel

as though if I were to knock them on a

rock, they might shatter all over the place

into a myriad of bloody fragments. At this

altitude, I am eyeball to eyeball with the

clouds, and the rising sun plays peekaboo

from behind a rocky outcrop. Despite my

struggle, the scenery makes the climb all the

more worthwhile. The lush green is emerging

yet again from the charred remnants of the

fire that swept through the mountains only

recently. Reading about it is one thing, but

seeing the destruction it caused first hand

is a different matter altogether, and I am

appalled at the loss of indigenous flora.

About 30 minutes later, I walk up to an

elevated viewpoint from which I spot the

lake shimmering from its base down below,

and a little above my eye line, all three

jugged peaks of Mt Kenya are visible. Rocky

escarpments and green vegetation frame the

setting. The pain of the climb is forgotten,

and with renewed energy, I run down to

the lake and touch its waters. Lake Ellis is a

beaut.

We spot some happy campers who as it

turns out, have been here for two days. One,

Mathew, an avid sportfishing enthusiast,

is trying to snag some trout but has so far

been unlucky all morning. His friends are

whipping up breakfast, and I’m reminded

that we left our picnic back in the car as

the package was too heavy to haul up. I do

not even like tea, but when we’re offered a

cuppa, I happily oblige.

The rest of the morning is spent marvelling

at the lake and taking photos and videos

of the scenery, after which our new friends

generously drive us back to the car and

help us manoeuvre it out of the rut. When

we learn that there is a 100ft high waterfall

called Nithi around, we decide that it won’t

hurt to make a short detour.

WHERE WE STAYED

MERU MT KENYA BANDAS Commonly known

as Chogoria Bandas, this spot is run by the Kenya

Wildlife Service. We were unable to make a booking

beforehand as the staff are hard to reach given the

network situation, but we easily found some rooms on

arrival. The cabins are all painted black with a coat

of green around the shutters, and accommodation is

Ksh 1,500 per person. The rooms are basic with three

dorm-style beds inside, and we also had to pay Ksh

600 extra for the gas cooker.

There is no electricity, but paraffin lamps are offered

and I get my electronics charged at the Chogoria gate

which is actually a walking distance away (I however

get strict warning not to walk there alone at night as

this is still the wilderness). Utensils can be offered on

request at no extra cost, and there is a small shop with

limited goods such as beer. It’s a lovely spot to stay

particularly as there aren’t many options around, but

expect only the very basic of necessities and service.

38 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


TIPS

• KWS don’t accept cash at the gate. Luckily, they told

us exactly where to stand to get network and we were

therefore able to pay with MPESA, otherwise, we would

have had to drive back down to be able to complete

the transaction.

• It is ridiculously cold. Carry warm clothing, including

gloves and a beanie. Jeans, as it turns out, don't have

good heat retention- I learnt that the hard way.

• If you love fishing, carry a rod as Lake Ellis is a haven

for rainbow trout.

• Camping is available, so plan accordingly. You will

have to be self-sufficient and carry everything you need

including firewood.

• The drive up to Lake Ellis requires nothing short of a

4X4. You can however also walk there and we were

told that this would take about 2 hours, but to me that

seems only plausible if you’re actually sprinting.

• Carry water bottles; single use plastics are banned in

Kenya’s national parks and game reserves.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 39


HIKING THE

UNDERDOG

During Martyn Pollock’s three-day climb up Mt Elgon to see Kitum Cave and

summit Koitobos Peak, he only meets one other tourist-and-guide combo.

It may get far less visitors than its more popular counterparts in Kenya and

Uganda, but this mountain’s charm is certainly not lost on the writer.

PHOTOGRAPHS: MARTYN POLLOCK

40 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


FEATURE

Gusii lands disappear

behind me and with the

Nandi Hills of Kisumu in

sight, my Nissan Note

powers up through the Rift

Valley towards Kitale. She

doesn’t complain until the

last 20km of murram road

where bottoming out becomes a constant

affair on every pot hole, bump and rock.

But, rental cars can go anywhere. They have

special powers of driver indifference that you

do not get with a regular vehicle.

Mount Elgon, like most other large

mountains in East Africa, is an extinct

volcano, formed over 20 million years ago

as the earth spewed molten rock over an

area 80km in diameter. Straddling both

Uganda and Kenya you have the option

of several approaches to reach the many

summits. I’ve chosen Kitale on the Kenyan

side to start my journey.

My guide David is late. Despite having

phoned me the night before insisting I arrive

by 7:30am, he rocks up at 8:40am with no

explanation. After the standard formalities

we are on our way walking through thick

ancient forest with an abundance of zebras,

bushbucks, waterbucks, dik-diks, baboons

and colobus monkeys. At this stage it is

more of a safari than a mountain climb

and I begin to see the charm that sets this

mountain apart from other climbs in the

region.

The mountain massif is particularly famous

for its abundance of large caves, and Kitum

Cave is the biggest on the Kenyan side

stretching over 160m into the mountainside. I

always forget how much I dislike caving, until

someone takes me caving. Especially when

it is prefixed with “follow me” and I think we

are going a further 10ft into the cave to see

something interesting, when in actual fact,

what follows is a 20 minute subterranean

cave tour in complete darkness with nothing

but David’s phone to light the way. He

points the light towards the cave ceiling and

thousands of bats descend, rushing past our

faces but never touching. Claustrophobia

aside, the caves are an amazing spectacle:

the entrance is like a huge opera house and

there is clear evidence that tourists like me

are only one of many visitors. As well as

most of the antelope species on the mountain

and some of the cats, an unlikely group of

visitors are the elephants who come here to

scrape and lick the salt off the cave walls

in the hours of complete darkness, using

nothing but smell and intuition to guide them

into the depths.

A note of caution: post trip I learned that

Mt Elgon and specifically the bats that live

in the mountain’s many caves are associated

with a strain of the Ebola virus. There have

been no confirmed deaths due to cave visits

since the 1980s, but as a precaution the

WHO suggests avoiding the bat colonies,

and if you do need to get close, to wear

gloves and a face mask. Sadly you won’t get

such advice or guidance from your guide or

even from the park authorities, so best to be

prepared.

Situated far from the main tourist

attractions of both Kenya and Uganda,

Mount Elgon gets far fewer visitors than

Mount Kenya, the Aberdares or even the

Rwenzori. During my climb, it seemed

practically deserted. I only met one other

tourist and guide combo in the three-day trip.

There are the same lobelias as well as thick

forest and bamboo sections that you find in

other African highlands, but what struck me

most were the fields of lavender that cover

the mountainside giving an omnipresent

sweet floral aroma.

David convinces me to skip out a day

of the trip by going straight from the gate

to camp two. It makes for a more intense

climb, but also means we will not be too idle

at each stop. This is good as the campsites

are basic: a cleared area and a rock circle

for a fire and that’s about it. Don’t expect

huts with bunk beds and three course meals

being served to you after a hard day’s

walk. Pretty quickly we are in a rhythm and

any guide/client relationship is out of the

window. I build the tent while he builds the

fire, he gets more wood while I cook and so

on. With huge downpours of rain coming

daily, working together is the only way we

can ensure we get everything done before

the inevitable soaking. I really should stop

climbing during the long rains, but I rarely

get to choose when I am free.

Lunch time on day two we reach the

summit of Koitobos peak. From the campsite

it is a really quite pleasant 6km walk with

several other peaks in view throughout. The

last 200m is a scramble through a rupture in

the solid Basalt column. From the summit the

full extent of the massive caldera is visible,

one of the largest in Africa with several

distinct peaks on both sides of the border.

Koitobos is the third highest overall and

second highest in Kenya, but for me this is

largely immaterial. There is no triumphant

moment of conquest, of man vs mountain.

It is a cliché to say, but the joy is in the

journey. Losing yourself in the isolation of

the natural world where nothing matters

except staying dry and staying hydrated. All

of life’s normal worries and responsibilities

melt away into insignificance. This is the true

beauty of climbing.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 41


THE RHINOS FLYING

TO BOTSWANA

Sophie Ibbotson writes

about Rhinos Without

Borders, a project which

aims to move 100 rhinos

from poaching hotspots in

South Africa to new safe

homelands in Botswana’s

Okavango Delta.

PHOTOGRAPDHS: DAVID MURRAY,

SOPHIE IBBOTSON

42 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


CONSERVATION

Akudu blocked the path to

my tent. I looked across the

channel from my deck at a

giraffe sauntering by. And

when I drove out in the late

afternoon, the heat of the

sun still burning, I envied

the shaggy maned lion chilling out in the

shade beneath a tree. The Gomoti Plains, a

private concession to the east of the Moremi

Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango

Delta, is remote and challenging to reach,

but in the absence of many humans, the

wildlife populations thrive.

What I had not expected to find, even

here in this southern African Eden, was

a rhino. It was a species I previously

associated only with zoos, or occasionally

staring out at me forlornly from the pages

of National Geographic beside an article

talking about their imminent extinction. Rare

and precious, it hadn’t even occurred to me

that I might drive out one evening and be

confronted with a fully grown white rhino.

But there he was, munching away on the

grass, completely ignoring my presence. I

struggled to stifle my shrieks of excitement

and was grinning from ear to ear watching

his every move, entranced.

The world’s rhino numbers have been

decimated in the past 100 years. It is

estimated that a rhino is killed every eight

hours, and that South Africa alone has lost

7,130 rhinos since 2008. More rhinos are

lost to poaching than are born, and most

countries lack the resources to fight back

against the illegal trade in rhino horn which

drives the killing.

Botswana, however, offers a beacon

of light for rhinos and other big game: it

has more elephants than any other country

in the world, for example. Though recent

changes in hunting laws may be a cause

for concern, as a rule, Botswana has a

no tolerance approach to poaching. In

the national reserves, anyone carrying a

gun is a legitimate target for the wildlife

rangers. This, combined with the low human

population density, the proper resourcing of

wildlife rangers (supported where necessary

by troops) and constant monitoring of big

game has ensured that Botswana is arguably

the safest place on the planet to be a rhino

right now.

This is all well and good if you happen

to be a rhino born in Botswana, but what

about rhinos living elsewhere? It is not as

though they know to walk across a continent

to this safe haven, or would be able to do

so unharmed. Thankfully, Rhinos Without

Borders is managing the logistics on the

rhinos’ behalf, and in doing so might well

save the species from oblivion.

Rhinos Without Borders - a joint project

between &Beyond and Great Plains

Conservation - aims to move 100 rhinos from

poaching hotspots in South Africa to new,

safe homelands in Botswana’s Okavango

Delta. Some 77 rhinos have already

made the journey and it was one of these

fortunate emigres that I met during my stay

at Gomoti Plains Camp.

Translocating a rhino is no mean feat.

You cannot simply put it into the back of

a van and drive it along the road. (And

remember: there are a hundred rhinos to

move!). Every rhino had to be tranquilised

and airlifted to safety, with a heavily armed

guard to protect them whilst in transit. Flying

reduced the journey time and risk of ambush

while cutting down the amount of stress the

rhinos had to endure so that they were more

likely to settle in well when they arrived.

As you can imagine, flying a rhino

anywhere doesn’t come cheap. Rhinos

Without Borders estimate that it costs

$45,000 to relocate each rhino and to

secure it in Botswana, requiring a total

budget of $4.5 million. Such funds couldn’t

be raised overnight, and the translocation

process also took time to refine. In the first

three years, 37 rhinos steadily made the

move and then the pace accelerated and

40 more were translocated in a three week

period in 2018.

The work can’t stop once rhinos arrive

in Botswana. They need time to acclimatise

to their new surroundings, find out where

to graze and recover from the shock and

stress of the journey. Rhinos Without Borders

commissioned purpose built steel bomas for

their charges so that they could be closely

monitored and then released once vets and

conservationists were happy the animals

were in good condition. Every rhino has a

specially designed telemetry device so it

can be tracked for research and security

purposes; even in Botswana, no one is

taking any chances.

Rhinos Without Borders have released

the rhinos at multiple locations across

Botswana, in both national parks and

private game concessions. The chosen

locations were kept secret during the move,

but once released, the rhinos were free to

roam.

A few days after my initial rhino sighting

at Gomoti Plains, I was treated to an

encounter with a mother rhino and her

calf heading down to the river bank at Rra

Dinare. Unlike the elephants, which stick

together in huge herds, the rhinos seem to

be much less sociable creatures. If these

pair did have a guard (which many of the

rhinos understandably do), he was well

hidden, camouflaged amongst the bushes

and grasses. It felt as though it was just me,

the guide and two of the most precious,

spectacular mammals on earth.

Sophie Ibbotson is the author of five

Bradt Travel Guides, including the first

guidebook to South Sudan. She travelled

to Botswana with wildlife and wilderness

specialists Africa Exclusive.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 43


ADVENTURE

ROW ROW ROW

YOUR KAYAK

Whitewater kayaking is one of those

experiences that seems to be on everyone’s

bucket list but it’s one of the more difficult

adventure sports to actually get out and try.

For kayaking guide Robbie Mingay, it’s just

another day in Jinja, Uganda.

Ifirst travelled to Uganda for what was supposed to

be six weeks of kayaking the Nile’s famous rapids.

Little did I know that six weeks would soon stretch

to three months, then to a year, and on to another.

It’s not an uncommon story; kayakers from all over

the world have travelled to Uganda and many have

stayed for far longer than they ever could have

anticipated. One of the reasons I have stayed this long is

because I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a whitewater

kayaking guide for Kayak the Nile based in Jinja, Uganda. It’s

a wonderful place to teach others how to do what I love, and

the reasons I enjoy working here are the same ones that make

it a wonderful place to learn to kayak.

As a beginner, your first river can make a huge difference

in how much you enjoy yourself. This is what makes Uganda’s

White Nile so special. It has the unbeatable combination of

being deep and warm, with great rapids. Because kayaking

is such a niche sport, most of my clients are usually first timers.

The introduction classes are always a favourite to teach. To

take your own knowledge and pass it on to someone else is

both challenging and rewarding. Everyone learns in different

ways; some people like to hear instructions while others need

to see something to understand, and this makes every lesson

different.

And so we get out on the water and paddle down the

river giving them a chance to see a side of Uganda that

they usually haven’t experienced before. We pass fishermen

carefully tending to their traps and casting their nets, villagers

doing their washing on the river banks and beautiful areas of

dense indigenous vegetation which are home to countless bird

species. As we glide down the Nile, it’s usually not uncommon

to hear the familiar, laugh-like call of a pair of fish eagles

perched high up in the tree-tops.

When we approach the first rapid of the day, the first thing

you notice is the sound. Initially, it’s faint, a barely perceptible

white noise somewhere in the distance, but as you draw

closer, it begins to amplify. Every paddle stroke propels you

closer to the source of that sound and it is in this moment that

one of my favourite parts of the day occurs. We approach our

first rapid called ‘Jaws’, and that faint white noise begins to

creep into the forefront of guest’s consciousness as they realize

what that sound actually is.

How people react to that realization is a great part of my

day. You can see them mentally shift gears depending on

how they feel about the approaching challenge. For some,

the excitement overrides their nervousness and it’s full-steam

ahead. Others shift to neutral; more questions are asked, more

hypothetical scenarios are talked through and, eventually, we

go. Some switch to reverse but it’s only temporary as in the

end, the draw of the rapid is too much to resist. People crave

unique experiences and running a rapid in a kayak on the

Nile is as thrilling as it gets.

As for the rapids themselves – they are big, with large

powerful waves, swirling currents and fast-moving water.

Despite that, they are remarkably safe and many are not too

difficult to navigate. With the skills we teach on someone’s

first ever day kayaking, many beginners make it down some

of the rapids without capsizing. Those that do capsize end up

swimming down the rapid which, in the Nile’s warm water,

can be just as fun as paddling them.

Whitewater kayaking is one of those experiences that

seems to be on everyone’s bucket list but it’s one of the more

difficult adventure sports to actually get out and try. Travellers

visiting Jinja should be excited by the wonderful opportunity

they have to try whitewater kayaking on such an incredible

river.

For more information on kayaking the Nile River in Jinja,

check out kayakthenile.com

44 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 45

oo Camp.indd 1 16/07/2019 16:2


DISPATCH

COMOROS:

AFRICA’S

FORGOTTEN

ARCHIPELAGO

Floating between

Mozambique and

Madagascar lie a number of

volcanic islands, tropical in

climate, unspoiled in nature

and positively wild: this is

Comoros, the romantically

named Islands of the Moon.

Maurice Schutgens paints a

perfect picture with these

five activities that should be

on your bucket list:

1. EXPLORING MORONI

Set in the shadow of Mount Karthala, with

a name that roughly translates to “in the

heart of the fire”, Moroni is the capital city

of Comoros, home to an eclectic mix of

Arabic, French and Swahili cultures. Moroni

is loud, somewhat gritty and possibly ever

so slightly chaotic. My overloaded taxi,

blaring the latest hip-hop tracks, drops

me off at the famous Volo Volo Market at

the heart of the city. From the get-go it’s a

sensory overload. I’m offered ripe produce

from the flanks of Mount Karthala, freshly

caught tunas and tasteful local fabrics worn

by Chiromani – Comorian women. Vanilla

aromas hang heavy in the air. I head for the

serenity of the medina awash with intricate

Arabic architecture and beautifully carved

Zanzibar doors, a fading reminder of former

glory. I wind my way aimlessly through the

deserted maze of narrow streets striking up

conversations with local Comorians about

everything and nothing. Finally I move along,

heading for Moroni’s most iconic landmark

in the harbour: the Ancienne Mosquee du

Vendredi (Friday Mosque) dating back to

1427. As the sun sets, I people watch, my

legs swinging over the embankment. It’s a

mesmerizing place.

2. SCALING MOUNT KARTHALA

Mount Karthala looms large over the

southern half of Grand Comore, its imposing

presence a constant reminder of the fury that

bubbles just below the surface. The crater

rim, located at just under 2,400m, appears

permanently lost in the equatorial clouds.

Karthala is one of the most active volcanoes

on earth and the opportunity to look down

into its crater irresistible! I leave my hotel at

3:00am In the cool of the night. As the sun

crests the horizon the landscape changes,

we leave the equatorial forest behind and

head up into a wild tundra like landscape

characterized by stunted trees, giant heather

plants and remnants of ancient lava flows.

Upwards we go, sweating profusely though

it's only 6:00am. Three hours later we crawl

onto the crater rim. I am absolutely battered

but the pain is temporarily forgotten for the

views are breathtaking. Ahead of us lies the

colossal moonscape of Karthala’s caldera.

We descend into it and cross the soft grey

fields of ash till we stand on the rim of the

new crater.

46 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


DISPATCH

3. SCUBA DIVING IN MOHÉLI MARINE PARK

Mohéli Marine Park, established in 2001 as

the first National Park of Comoros, is home

to some of the healthiest coral still thriving

in the Indian Ocean. Its location directly

in the path of the warm and nutrient rich

Mozambique channel, means that the islands

are teeming with marine life from humpback

whales and dugongs to giant manta

rays. Through a powerful deluge, my taxi

circumnavigates the island to the diminutive

and laid-back village of Nioumachoua,

home to Laka Lodge – an oasis of calm and

the gateway to the islands of Mohéli Marine

Park. Richard – the resident Slovakian Dive

Master, takes me to his favourite diving

spots. We start with a 15-minute traverse

over to Leprosy Island (yes you read that

right). The water is startlingly clear as we

watch the rays of sunlight pierce far into

the depths. We strap on our tanks, take a

healthy breath and roll back dropping down

quickly to coral outcrops beneath, teeming

with a staggering variety of fish. The hours

spent underwater are over in a flash.

4. GREEN TURTLE NESTING ON

ITSAMIA BEACH

On Mohéli Island lies an isolated fishing

village by the name of Itsamia. It is here

that Green sea turtles have found a safe

refuge to come and nest year-round. Up

until about 20 years ago sea turtles were

commonly killed for meat and the population

was in serious decline. The villagers put a

stop to this and their conservation work has

yielded dramatic results. Today more than

a million turtles hatch on Itsamia’s beaches

every year, transforming it into the second

largest nesting site for the species in the

Indian Ocean. Late at night we head out

on a nocturnal patrol with one of the local

eco-guards. Under a billions of stars we

head to the village’s main beach looking

for the tell-tale drag markings - It doesn’t

take long before we spot one. We watch

her lay her clutch of eggs then slowly return

to the depths of the ocean. It is a humbling

experience to share with her.

5. DISCOVERING GRAND COMORE’S

UNIQUE SIGHTS

Grand Comore, known locally as Ngazidja,

is the largest island of the archipelago with

many sights worth seeing. I hire a barely

roadworthy vehicle and head south, out of

Moroni soon coming upon the village of

Iconi, home to the impressive 16th century

ruins of the Palais de Kaviridjeo where the

mighty Sultan of Bambao once ruled and

where Malagasy pirates plied their trade.

I continue my journey further south passing

Sangani, a small village partly destroyed by

one of Karthala’s mighty eruptions in recent

times. The north of Grand Comore is a barren

expanse of stark beauty and jagged rocks.

I head towards the town of Mitsamiouli,

where Maloudja, a stunning palm tree lined

beach awaits. I ditch my car and walk along

several secluded bays that lead to the Trou

de Phrophete (Prophets Hole) where Prophet

Mohammed is rumored to have sought refuge

from pirates. The water is crystal clear – perfect

for a swim. I push on to Lac Sal, a stunning little

coastal crater of deep green water, the locals

claim it is bottomless. The walk along its rim is

as hair-raising as it is spectacular.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 47


YOUR PRIVATE

GETAWAY IN DIANI

Inspired by a fusion of African, Indian & Arabian architecture,

this exquisite 5 bedroom beachfront villa in Diani Beach makes the ideal holiday retreat.

Available on an exclusive basis, the 5 acre property comes with a chef, waiter and 7 additional staff

so you and your family can relax in the privacy of this palatial home.

48 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE

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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 49


SANDSTORM: WHAT I PACK

Tan Moshi

Ksh15,900

Anyiko Owoko is a Music Publicist, Journalist and

travel enthusiast. She just got back from Lagos

then went to Diani Beach shortly after. These

were her travel essentials on those trips.

Instagram: @anyikowoko

GARNIER MICELLAR OIL-INFUSED CLEANSING WATER

I get the smallest bottle which usually lasts about two weeks. It works

as both a cleanser and make-up remover so I get to save space while

packing. I also don’t have to wash my face again after using it.

BOSE SPEAKER

Small but powerful. I’ve been using this when getting ready in the morning

or preparing for bed in the evening. When people come to hang out on

the balcony of my room for drinks, for instance, we can just play some

music and have a good time.

CANON 5D MARK III

I might need to record myself at an event or might be interviewing a

celebrity and so this always comes in handy for my work.

ADELE DEJAK JEWELLERY

I have a collection of earrings, chockers, rings and bracelets. They are

gold and made of brass, and I love that they are bold. In Lagos, for

instance, people kept asking who I was wearing so that’s always a good

ice breaker in a social gathering. I sometimes pair them with my Maasai

jewellery.

H&M ONE PIECE SWIMSUIT

It comes in my favourite colour. It’s also very stylish and I actually wore it

like a top, with pants and a jacket. I recently saw Victoria Kimani wear it

like that as well and immediately identified it.

WAZIWAZI BAG

It is stylish, made from cowhide, is very spacious and even has a

compartment for my laptop, and this is also an authentic Kenyan brand.

What’s not to love?

IPHONE AND POWER BANK

I carry two phones so one will still have my Kenyan sim while the other

will carry a local line in a new country. This is to ensure I’m online

always, can take enough photos and videos of the trip and gather all the

content I need on the road. Chances are I might never do that activity

ever again and the last thing I want is to be offline for prolonged periods

of time.

50 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate

www.sandstormkenya.com

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 51


SHEPHERD'S

HUT NANYUKI

Inspired by vintage British horsedrawn

caravans of yesteryear,

these huts in Nanyuki are

certainly one of a kind.

PHOTOGRAPDHS: BRIAN SIAMBI

52 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


SPOTLIGHT

Finally, the Nomad team arrives in

Nanyuki after a couple of days

up in the mountains. To electricity

and hot showers and KFC, which

is actually our first stop in town.

Nothing short of fast food will suffice! For supper

later that evening, we swing by Little Barney’s at

One Stop for some takeaway pizza before being

shown to our cottages, Bramble and Oak, which

are actually only a stone’s throw away.

Similar in design, these stylish and quirky huts

are traditional shepherd’s wagons that were used

during lambing season in the UK from the 15th

to the 20th century. Raised and with extended

wooden front porches, they actually even have

the standard wheels at the bottom and would

therefore be mobile should they ever need to be

moved. Nestled in a garden, an outdoor lounging

area leads to the main door which opens to an

intimate space with one double bed, a single bed

and kitchen area where you’re more likely to easily

whip up coffee with toast than cook a full meal for

dinner. It includes a fridge, kettle, tea bags, instant

coffee and enough glasses to invite a handful of

friends over for a quick sundowner, possibly out on

the verandah while taking in the views of Mt Kenya

on a clear day.

My hut could comfortably sleep three. The

space looks bigger than it actually is thanks to

the spotless all-white coat of paint within as well

as the large glass windows and doors which

let in maximum light. The eco-friendly toilet and

bathrooms are private, solar-heated, set right

outside the room and intentionally designed to

create a rustic African “mabati chic” feel.

Unique in the country thanks to being inspired

by vintage British traveller horse-drawn caravans

of yesteryear, Shepherd’s Hut is set opposite the

Nanyuki airstrip and thanks to its location at One

Stop Nanyuki, you can find an array of facilities

and services ranging from a farm shop and hair

salon to a vet’s office right within the premises.

Accommodation starts at Ksh 5,000 per person.

A safari tent with one king size bed and two

singles is available, and if you have tents, you

can camp here for only Ksh 500. A swimming

pool is currently under construction, and there is

also a wooden three-bedroomed house said to be

over 100 years old that was recently transported

to Nanyuki from its previous location in Nairobi.

For its age, it is surprisingly still very intact, and

is being restored exactly as it was with very little

reinforcements, and it will likely be ready for

bookings by the beginning of August. Once the

decor is completed, likely in a similar simple,

stylish, airy and tasteful manner as the huts, it will

certainly be one of the most charming places to

stay in town.

www.onestopnanyuki.com

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 53


ELEWANA

MOMENTS

ELEWANA KIFARU HOUSE

A visit to Elewana Kifaru House is to plunge

into the timeless tranquility of Africa. Located

within the world-famous Lewa Conservancy,

home to East Africa’s healthiest black and

white rhino populations, this bijou property,

appropriately takes its name from the Swahili

word for rhino.

A haven of luxury in the bush, you will

immediately feel at home on arrival, warmly

welcomed by the friendly and attentive staff.

The comfortable sitting room with wellstocked

bar and elegant dining area extend

out to a large, comfortably furnished terrace.

Here, you can enjoy a sunny breakfast al

fresco and watch the busy goings-on at the

waterhole below, or you can choose to relax

by the picturesque infinity pool and enjoy the

magnificent views over the distant plains.

The property luxuriates in total exclusivity

with five charming thatched cottages tucked

away in an oasis of vibrant lawns filled with

birdsong. All have well-appointed bedrooms

with sumptuous four-poster beds and

generous en-suite bathrooms.

With an excellent library and log fires in

the lounge and dining rooms, you can truly

sink into delicious, cozy comfort during the

cool evenings and luxuriate in the peace and

serenity of the African night.

ELEWANA LEWA SAFARI CAMP

Sprawling over the rolling plains north

of Mt Kenya, Lewa is a prolific wildlife

conservancy that is popular with celebrities,

conservationists, writers and photographers.

Lewa has in recent times found media

attention with stories of a royal romance and

the fairytale engagement that followed.

Visitors to Lewa are privy to some of the

most spectacular wildlife viewing that Kenya

has to offer: lion, leopard and jackal thrive

on the rich diversity of prey that inhabits the

area. The Wildlife Conservancy is home to

the largest concentration of Grevy’s zebra in

the world, and its range of habitats attracts

diverse birdlife and hosts over 130 black

and white rhino.

Featuring large tented bedrooms with

verandahs and full en-suite bathrooms, the

54 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


NOMAD PARTNERSHIPS

camp offers authentic comfort for its visitors;

cozy log fires in the sitting room are perfect

for relaxing after a day in the conservancy.

This unique and exclusive retreat offers

privileged access to 65,000 acres of private

protected wilderness.

Underpinning the glamorous magnetism

of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a serious

mission: a pioneering and pragmatic

approach to conservation, founded in the

1970’s, that has developed into a thriving

and globally recognised rhino conservation

habitat.

Profits and conservancy fees generated

by the camp are reinvested directly into

the conservation and community efforts of

Elewana Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

THE LOCATION

Lewa covers 65,000 acres, a vast

wilderness. It has dramatic views to the

south of snow capped Mt. Kenya, and to the

north down to the arid lands of Tassia and

Il Ngwesi. It has many diverse habitats from

pristine forest, fertile grasslands, extensive

springs and acacia woodland.

Registered as a rhino conservancy in

1983, the conservancy is famous for its

successful rhino and Grevy zebra breeding,

two endangered species; Lewa is home to

10% of Kenya’s rhino, and 20% of the worlds

population of Grevy zebra. The whole

conservancy is fenced, and the conservancy

employs over 150 rangers. The conservancy

does extensive outreach work into the

surrounding communities with its Community

Development Program, including healthcare,

education, micro-finance, and water projects

– in order to share with the community the

benefits of wildlife.

With over 70 recorded mammal species

within the conservancy, for you, the wildlife

experience is unrivalled.

Elewana Collection manages Elewana Lewa

Safari Camp and Elewana Kifaru House on

behalf of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

www.elewanacollection.com

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 55


LAST WORD

LAGOS

WOES

By Karanja Nzisa

A

mongst my abundance of

catastrophes at airports,

one incident in Nigeria so

shook me that I may have

slipped into a temporary

mania. Standing at

an ATM machine that

wouldn’t dispense any cash, I wept and

cackled, then wept and cackled in repeat.

I can’t say for sure how long this went on,

but I remember pulling myself together when

a stranger yanked at my elbow and said

something I couldn’t comprehend.

The day had begun without a single

ominous sign. As a participant in a twoweek

workshop, I attended all the scheduled

sessions that Friday before tearing out of the

facility and into an awaiting taxi bound for

the ill-famed MMIA (Murtala Muhammed

International Airport). See I had to leave

Lagos mid-stay to attend to an urgent matter,

and had bought a round trip ticket to fly

home for the weekend and get back to Lagos

on Sunday in less than 48 hours (oh the

follies of hope).

Off to the airport I went, feeling happy

with myself as I had only hand luggage

and just barely missed the traffic snarl

up for which Lagos has earned a ghastly

reputation. Cruising the Third Mainland

Bridge that joins Lagos Island to the

mainland, our jalopy jerked violently a few

times before coming to a silent and rather

final halt at about the same time my heart

sunk to the bottom of my gut. After a half

hour of waving down speeding motorists

with the flashlight on my phone to avoid

my imminent death while the driver fiddled

with bolts and cables under the bonnet, the

damned tin box sputtered back to life and

we went on with our journey. We hadn’t

gone far at all before arriving at the scene of

a horrific accident and had to wait nearly an

hour while the raging fire that had engulfed

a luckless danfo bus was put out.

When I arrived at MMIA, my flight hadn’t

left. Rather, our aircraft hadn’t even arrived.

Thanking whatever gods might have been

working in my favour, I marched confidently

to the check-in counter from whence the

second part in the terrible drama that

was my night unfolded. The airline official

scrutinised my passport with a scowl, tapped

her knobby fingers on her keyboard, looked

at me sadly and said in that dulcet Nigerian

lilt, “I’m sorry SAH your ticket isn’t in the

system.” Snorting, I read her my booking

reference number, told her she was speaking

nonsense and requested that she check

again. Five minutes and no ticket later, a

queue of grumbling passengers was forming

quickly behind me and I was grinding my

teeth in exasperation.

As it turns out, my travel agent had made

a reservation which because of a technical

glitch, never made it on the other side of

the ticketing queue, which meant no ticket

number had been issued, which also meant

- as I discovered sitting in the airline Station

Manager’s musty office- that I couldn’t get

on the flight. The matronly manager made

dozens of futile calls to Nairobi. Realising

the window of opportunity was closing fast

on me, she advised that I bring forward

my original departure ticket and pay the

negligible change fee. “Should be easy,”

she said, guiding me to the Flying Blue

office as that original ticket was an award

ticket bought with my accrued flying miles

and could only be modified there.

I didn’t have enough cash so I happily

handed my bankcard over. “Declined”.

Second try. “Declined”. Substitute card.

“Declined”. Mad dash to the ATM

machine. “Please contact your bank”.

Meltdown.

I later discovered that I should have

given official notice to my bank that I

would be travelling to a country marked

for ‘fraudulent activity’.

Back in that dreary office, the darling

lady offered her regrets and informed me

it was way past closing time and there

was nothing more she could do. Then she

left and with her, all my fortitude. The gods

were not asleep however, and my partner

had made a call from Nairobi to the

Flying Blue office in Amsterdam, pleaded

my case and asked to make the payment

over the phone, which they allowed.

Zooming through the night skies

towards Nairobi with the trace of dried

tears on my face, I replayed the events of

that evening in my head, took down some

notes and made a promise to myself that

one day I would write about my ordeal.

SKETCH: MOVIN WERE

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