Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sun over the Yatta Plateau

Evening sun over the Yatta Plateau

…50 cheers for 50 years

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Ukambani

Get to KNOW, EXPLORE, PROTECT and CELEBRATE Kenya

 Ukambani: The Mysterious Marvel

Kamba Land or Ukambani is divided in to three administrative county regions namely, Machakos, Makueni and Kitui counties, stretching east of Nairobi along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway towards Tsavo National park and North East to Embu.  It is widely perceived as a region regularly haunted by long drought seasons. Far from this notion, there are green and fertile stretches which make up for a wonderful destination outside Nairobi. Machakos for example, which was actually Kenya’s first inland capital, is surrounded by green hills. The Makongo Valley, right behind the town, also offers a spectacular drive through undulating hills covered by forests and terraces that remind you of Italy.

Machakos Landscape Hills around-5

The South Eastern landscape in Machakos

This region is in many regards a land of vastness and impressive landscapes, such as  the Yatta plateau, the longest lava stream in the world and the baobab country beyond Kibwezi. Further north, we have the Ol Doinyo Sabuk Mountain covered by rain forests, the spectacular 14 Falls as well as the Masinga dam  which is the biggest reservoir in Kenya.

In any case, Ukambani is worth discovering, so come along!

The People

The inhabitants of this region are the Kamba people, also called the Akamba. They are Bantu speaking ethnic group who form 11% of Kenya’s population ranking them fifth among the largest of the 42 tribes in the nation. The Kamba are also know as the Kikamba, Kekamba, Masaku, Ukamba, Kitui and Mumoni. They were originally grouped into some 25 dispersed patrilineal clans or itui of varying size which were often mutually hostile though their social and territorial boundaries were flexible. Their system may have been a response to fluid geographical groupings rather than strictly determined by ancestry or tradition. This may have attributed to the few if any institutions of centralized political authority yet in times of external threat, military action could be coordinated across the whole tribe.

Kamba folk

The People of Kamba-land

The origin of the Akamba began in western Tanzania  from where they migrated coming through the Usambara Mountains to Eastern Kenya. Some were forced to migrate south to Kibwezi and further near the coast due to the 18th Century drought which ravaged their homeland. The Kamba people  thrived as  hunter gatherers and long distance traders before the coming of the Europeans in East Africa. The settlement along the coast and the trading ties with the inland tribes made the community very valuable as guides to the first European Settlers. From guides, many of them ended up serving in the British Military during the first and second World Wars.

Nzaui AIC Kalamba Mission -24

The Young smiles of Kamba-Land

The Akambas mostly traveled by organizing caravans to transport their goods back and forth from the interior to the coast. This trade led to the development of Machakos as a main trading center as it started in the beginning of 1900. The British colonization however brought misfortune to the Akamba community with the coming of the railway. This followed the predictions of the  famous Akamba prophetess Syokimau who fore-told that a long snake that would be sent by the white people to come and wipe out their religious myths and traditions.

Ukambani now covers a predominantly semi-arid, eastward-facing slope, which becomes progressively lower and drier to the east. It is part of Kenya’s eastern foreland plateau, an eroded basement complex broken by residual hill masses and occasionally overlain by tertiary volcanic landmasses. The hills in the Machakos area can also be described as dropping down to a series of plains that are separated by steep slopes.

Machakos Landscape Hills around-9

Machakos Hills

This region forms a scenic gradient of decreasing altitude from 2,100 m to 440 m. Elevation controls the quantity of rainfall at the regional scale, whereas topography strongly influences rainfall distribution at the local scale. It is characterized by increasing temperatures and decreasing moisture ranging between 381-1,270 mm of rainfall annually from west to east. Rainfall, except in the hill regions, is low and unreliable. The precipitation pattern is bimodal, with long rains falling between March and May and short rains from October to December.

landscape of Ukambani-2

Rock formation in Mutomo and scenery of the Yatta Plateau

The soils of Machakos and Kitui reflect the largely metamorphic parent material and the rainfall regimes that contribute to their formation. These soils are all generally of low fertility, and many are highly erodible and are also susceptible to sealing. This increases runoff and makes the clay soils hard to plough by the end of the dry season. A rough estimate of the agricultural quality of the region’s soils indicates that less than 20 % of Kitui and Machakos has well-drained, deep, friable red and brown clays of good fertility. More than 60 % of the region has very erodible, relatively shallow, sticky, red, black, and brown clays of variable fertility on steep slopes while another 20 % has poorly drained, shallow, stony soils of low fertility .

The dominant vegetation of this area is dry bush with scattered trees within the savanna in the higher areas. The hills were once forested but by the beginning of the colonial period most of the suitable agricultural land had been cleared. Thus leaving patches and corridors of forest along ranges, rivers, ravines, hilltops as well as dry forest in large expanses of grazing land. The main features at the higher altitudes above 1,700 m includes remnants of lush forestry, a bracken, mist forest and evergreen thicket clumps in grassland.

vegetation

Vegetation in Ukambani

Elevations at 1,200-1,700 m are dominated by Combretum species, with particular plant associations correlated with topography and moisture. The most widespread vegetation type in Ukambani, and especially in Kitui, is semi-arid deciduous thicket and bushland, particularly Acacia/Commiphora associations in the 1,200 m elevation range. In the dry areas below 900 m, Commiphora/Sanseveria thorn bush grades into semi-desert vegetation.

Machakos Landscape Hills around-21

Forest in Machakos

The forest zone is now largely under cultivation, with shrubby secondary growth dominating non-cultivated areas. The soils characteristic of the moist Combretum areas are fairly productive for agriculture, but the dry Combretum zones have sandy soils of limited fertility. The Acacia/Commiphora zone includes perennial grasses valued for grazing , but even in these areas forest and shrub-land are increasingly being converted to cropland.

Lighthouse Attraction

Makongo valley

The Makongo valley which runs for over 40 km, on a good all weather road, is good sporting site that can be used for sport tourism. In addition, the road and the site are suitable for travelers to Mombasa who wish to avoid the chaotic Nairobi-Mombasa road. It is important to note that Makongo valley is located along the long winding Machakos-Makueni-Makindu road, a great attraction to adventure tourists who travel by motorbike who can enjoy the scenic green hilly environment and beautiful rock designs on the valley. Motorits can divert at Machakos junction to Machakos town and further via Wote town to reconnect with the Mombasa road again at Makindu. This way they not only enjoy the good road, but appreciate the beauty of this marvelous countryside.

Makongo Valley-7

View of Makongo Valley

The valley’s panoramic viewpoints has been systematically divided with a visionary touristic focus on the creation of a road and landscaped business premises. The local youth community is now working on the construction of  environmentally friendly structures to sell essential traveler artifacts and take away food products.

 The local Akamba community was known to have very strong cultural beliefs and faith in their local traditions and myths. As long distant traders who travelled through the wildlife infested lands to the coast of Kenya to do barter trade with the Arabs. Legend has it that they possessed very strong magical charms that could send even the most dangerous wildlife scampering for safety out of their way. However due to the frequent wildlife invasions into the community land causing frustrations and destruction. The community has continued to view wildlife negatively hence loosing out from interest in tourism related development activities over the years.

Interestingly, the region is the immediate neighbor to the North  of Tsavo, Kenya’s largest and the second most highly visited of all wildlife national parks. Apart from the exception of the Ol Donyo Sabuk Park which was established in 1967, fewer are animals spotted in this area compared to other parks and national reserves.

Ol Doiny aSabuk-3

Buffalo Mountain-Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

 It is situated 65 km north of Nairobi and has an excellent and clear view of Nairobi and other lowland areas.One approach to the park is via the Fourteen Falls on the Athi River.

The park’s  main attraction is its beauty and views of both Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro. It also has a good view of the Fourteen Falls and Lord McMillan Castle. Wildlife species that can be spotted here include buffalo, Columbus monkey, baboons, bush-buck impala, duiker among abundant bird-life. There are good campsites at the entrance and in the park for group activities such as family excursions and team building activities. It is particularly attractive for hikers or families seeking some freedom and exercise outside their vehicles.

Ol Doiny aSabuk-2

Inside Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

 While the name “Ol Donyo Sabuk” is Maasai for ‘large mountain’, the word Sabuk was mistakenly thought by many writers to mean “buffalo” whereas in fact Maasai call buffalo Olosowan.  Kikuyu traditionalists also call the mountain  Kea-Njahe, known as the ‘Mountain of the Big Rain’, one of Ngai’s lesser homes.

Today, over 200 buffalo roam the slopes.

Ol Doinyo Sabuk National Park-26

View from the peak of Ol Donyo Sabuk Park

The solitary mountain rises to 2,145 m from an otherwise flat area with the highest peak in the park, covering an area of about 20.7 km2. Near the peak  are the graves of  great philanthropist Lord William Northrop Macmillan, his wife, their maid servant and their dog. Down past the mountain base sits Donyo Sabuk town, a town that has retained many things that Lord Macmillan bequeathed the area. Further east of  Ol-Donyo is the museum that was once Lord Macmillan’s home. A fort by any definition, Lord Macmillian Castle is the building that Lord Macmillan and his wife spent their eccentric life together.

McMillan Castle-8

Lord Macmillan’s Castle

It was in this house that Macmillan housed his friend and former American President Theodore Roosevelt when he was he writing his biography. They also played host to Mr. Roosevelt during his famous 1911 safari at their ranch. In fact, it was one of the many occasions  that Roosevelt was spent time there. He had actually been there before he became president while on a series of hunting trips.

Lord Macmillan was himself a decorated American soldier, and knighted by the king of England, who arrived in Kenya in 1901 for big game hunting. He and his wife  also established the Macmillan Library which is situated in central Nairobi.

The baobab country of Ukambani

On your way to Ikutha, outside Kitui county, the magical baobab tree, also known as the ‘Tree of life’ can be spotted growing on the road side. This is a very important tree in the drier Ukambani region because during the traditional times, long distance travellers sheltered in such mega trees that grew in the wild. They would also sip the rainwater that collected in the clefts of the baobabs larger branches. Aside from many people claiming that the tree grows upside down, the tree is usually large enough that many still believe it can provide shelter and its branches are strong enough to be able to hold rainwater.

Baobab Chappel near Mutomo-3

Baobab Chapel near Mutomo

Scenic drives through Ukambani offers a good chance for adventure tourists to enjoy nature and vegetation. You will definitely find the many baobab trees quite spectacular if you are a nature enthusiast. Watch out however for the wild animals and cattle that come to feed on the fallen flowers.

Explore Ukambani

South Eastern Kenya is blessed with a variety of tourism attractions ranging from the rich cultural heritage diversity to historical missionary destinations to breathtaking landscapes and sceneries. It is also a superb high altitude sporting destination that is home to some of Kenya’s gold winning international sportsmen. It’s however unfortunate that this region falls under the hitherto lesser known tourism regions in the country because its potential in rich tourism activities and mining exploration has not been explored  extensively.

On the way to Masinga Dam-3

On the way to Masinga Dam

Machakos County

Starting just 60 km south of Nairobi, Machakos County stretches down along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway and borders Kajiado to the West, Makueni to the south and Kitui County to the East. The  intriguing history of Machakos town dates back to early 1890’s when it was established as the Akamba trading administration center. This was in the back in the days of their early engagements with the Arabs in the pre-colonial era. During the construction of the Uganda railway, Machakos town was identified as the Capital City of Kenya in 1889 but due to conflict of interest between the local traders, the White Settler government and the Uganda railway construction officials. The capital was later moved from Machakos to Nairobi in 1905.

Machakos

Machakos Scenery

The town, which is now the Machakos county headquarters, is situated at the base of five hills, two of which form very high altitudes making them ideal destinations for sportsmen and womenIveti Hills the Women’ Hill and Kiima Kimwe, a free standing hill with peaks that create beautiful vantage points for scenery lovers. The county is in addition the origin of  the famous Akamba woodcarving and the basketry skills.

Ukambani Wood Carving-6

Skillful wood carving

Seeking to tap a collective market from the woodcarving, a group of  industrious women just 15 km from this woodcarving center started a ‘basket weaving’  society. The group currently commands a membership of over 2000 women who are involved in commercial basket weaving. The beautiful handcrafts and well decorated artifacts found in posh art galleries and gift shops both locally and abroad are products from this area.

Attractions in Machakos

Kyamwilu magic corner

 The Kyamwilu magic corner just 10 kilometers along the Machakos –Mutituni road is a mysterious natural attraction where nature has defied science. Experience the fascination of pouring  water at the base of the steep hill and watch the water flow upwards towards the hill instead of  downwards defying the laws of classical physics. The locals at the time were obliged to call this place, ‘The Magic Corner’ and many people from different places especially from the Asian community visit this place regularly. It is a suitable destination to visit especially in the afternoons after arriving at Machakos for lunch.

Kyamwilu corner

Mattew Mutie of SECTA and Mike Makau demonstrate how it works

Koma rock shrine

 Another attraction in the area is this popular shrine,located eastwards towards Kangundo road. This rocky outcrop over the past few decades has become a special place of prayers and retreats. From ancient times, Koma rock was always referred to as a sacred place Ithembo. Elders would journey there, climbing to the western side of the rock to offer  their sacrifices while praying to their gods and ancestors  for protection from natural calamities or attacks from other communities. Elders often say their petitions are granted thus fostering the belief among the people that an unknown power resided on the hill.

First AIC Church at Kalamba village 

As a historical destination it is now known as the origin of AIC church in Kenya. In 1895, Mr. Peter Cameron Scott, a Scottish missionary sent from America passed here and ventured further interior to Nzaui where he set up the first Africa inland Mission in Kalamba. After hardly seven months, he had established three other missions in Ukambani at Sakai, Kilungu and Kangundo. He died in Nzaui- Kalamba on 4th December in 1896. after having established the first mission that gave birth to the world renowned Africa Inland Church in Ukambani. This important milestone of great human sacrifice thus justifies the site’s claim as the home of the first AIC church in Kenya.

Nzaui AIC Kalamba Mission -8

The AIC Kalamba Mission

A very committed Christian, Peter Scott managed to build the first house that measured 30ft by 14ft  that was completed on 23rd December,1895 which the five missionaries occupied. Peter was generally weak but very strong in faith as he had been run over by a hand cart back home at the age of 3 making his general condition of health unpredictable for the better part of his life. Despite his poor health he had within 7 months managed to establish three other mission stations at Sakai, Kilungu and Kangundo including the main station at Kalamba through very challenging situations. In recognition of Peter Scott’s efforts to spread the gospel in this region, the District Commissioner of Machakos offered him a government building in Kangundo to be converted in to a church mission at a fee of kshs. 10 per year. God’s presence was evident and Peter moved in immediately and started work in Kangundo.

A portrait of Johanes Hoffman and that of his wife Emilie who lived here between (1886-1914) is preserved in the church with a written message in his own words.

 Yatta plateau 

Yatta Platteau-7

Sun set over the Yatta Platteau

Yatta Plateau is one of the longest lava flows in the world. Stretching 350 km from Ol-Donyo Sabuk Hills in South Eastern Kenya region to the north Coastal region, this plateau is one of the star geographical attractions in Kenya. From this region along the Kibwezi –Kitui road, the Yatta Plateau is a haven for  scenery loving enthusiasts and professional photographers.  It offers the best view points and photo scenes than any other area in the region.

River Athi

Athi River and Yatta Platteau-10

Athi River and Yatta Platteau

The river that runs beneath the plateau has three distinct names. From its origin in Ngong Hills in Nairobi, the river is called Athi. When it enters Tsavo, it is called Galana and  Sabaki as it pours its waters into the Indian Ocean from Malindi. A natural U shaped depression or Mwanyani, just a few kilometers to the Athi River bridge, creates the best crossing into the Kitui from Kibwezi. You’ll get the best view point of the picturesque area and the parallel elevation of the plateau from a distance from here.

Masinga Dam 

The Masinga Dam on River Tana, is the largest man-made lake in East and Central Africa spanning 46 km. It was developed and commissioned by Tana and Athi River Development Authority (TARDA) in 1981 as a multipurpose reserviour for storing water for power generation by other dams downstream. The complete project was intended to serve three main areas of income generation that included irrigation, power generation and Eco tourism.

Masinga Dam-11

Masinga Dam

In the midst of this dam, there is the Gichuki Island- a serene destination of isolation and privacy suitable for honeymooners. Private trips to the island can be arranged through the Masinga Dam Resort,a lake side Lodge-for interested guests. The dam has also been designated as the regional training center for water sports in Africa. In 2008, an international event in Canoe –Kayaking was held here and the Ministry of Tourism recommended the destination as a regional water sports destination.

Sikh temple in Makindu  town

Set in the forest about, 170 km from Nairobi, off the main road, the Makindu Gurdwara is the only convenient rest stop for weary motorists on the busy and long road to and from Mombasa.  The Gurdwara complex spans an estimated 5000 m2  which houses a huge dining facility with a common kitchen and around accommodation for travelers. It was built in 1926 by the Sikhs who were working on the construction of the Uganda railway line from the Mombasa inland to Lake Victoria and on-wards into Uganda.

When the Uganda Railway was completed in 1902,  Makindu played a prominent role as a service point on the train’s advance from Mombasa.

Makindu Sikh Temple-3

The beautiful Sikh Temple in Makindu

Although the Sikh Temple Makindu was built in 1926, its roots are believed to have been present way before that time. In the years before then, it was a tin-roof little hut where the Guru Guru Granth Sahib was housed and the Sikhs prayed daily. Since dozens of artisans and train drivers were Sikhs, the station at Makindu became a place of religious devotion.  The Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims would gather together to worship under a tree, the spot where the current Gurdwara now stands.

Sikh Temple

A tour the Temple and its grounds

The Sikh temple in Makindu is an important attraction for tourists on spiritual safaris. This holy shrine provides a peaceful atmosphere where one can meditate and repose.The place is very calm and inviting for visitors who would love to know the history of the Hindu religion in Kenya and its interaction with other religions. Rooms with beds – several ensuite – are available for visitors to stay for up to two nights. It is apparently managed by a consortium of the Nairobi Gurdwaras and visitors are not charged for the service so most people make donations to the Gurdwara instead.

Makueni  County

Makueni County is located in the southern part of Eastern province and borders Kitui to the east, Taita Taveta to the south, Kajiado to the west and Machakos to the north. The county covers an area of 8008.8 kms and comprises of eight districts namely Makueni, Mukaa, Mbooni East, Mbooni West, Kilungu, Nzaui, Kibwezi and Kathonzweni. It has five constituencies which are Kaiti, Kibwezi, Kilome, Makueni and Mbooni.

It was the  first destination in the interior where the early slave traders and missionaries encountered inhabitants after a long trek in the expansive wildlife infested wilderness of the now Tsavo national park. The Akamba Community first arrived in early 1800 from Usambara Mountains in Tanzania through Chyullu hills and settled in Kibwezi area before spreading further into the interior. The first missionaries arrived in Kibwezi in 1891 and fell in love with the green town –plenty of crystal clear water from nearby springs.

The main economic activities are currently subsistence farming, beekeeping, small-scale trade, dairy farming and limited coffee growing;

Attractions in Makueni

Mbui Nzau hills 

The Mbui Nzau Hills or White Goat Hills  are situated just 5 km from the Kibwezi junction along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway. The hills are cusyomarily famous from the local folk tale of a white goat that used to appear on top of the hills very early in the morning just after sunrise before the arrival of the missionaries. It was actually the holy place where the local Akamba people used as their Ithembo  or sacred shrine where they used to offer their sacrifices.

Missionary graves at the PCEA church

Kibwezi has been known from ancient times to have been established by the Arab slave traders and being on the slave route, it was itself a slave collection point. The area has also seen several battles before the World War I and II and Mau Mau as it was an old battlefield where the Kamba and the Maasai fought fierce battles over livestock. The first Westerners  later arrived in Kibwezi following the routes established by Arab slave raiders and ivory traders.  Although their mission was to cross into the interior, they fell in love with Kibwezi and decided to stay on.

Kibwezi Missonary Graves-2

Kibwezi Missonary Grave site

Although Kibwezi has been defined by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa as a Nendeni area, a region for church growth.The locals however were  once so set to their traditional beliefs that when the first mission school and church was established later in Ikutha by another German Missionary Mr. Johannes Hoffman. It took him half a decade from, 1886-1891 to form the first Christian congregation that composed of 4 men and only 1 woman convert!

Kitui County

Kitui County is the largest of all the three counties in South Eastern region and borders Machakos to the North West and Makueni to the South West, Tharaka Nithi to the South East and Embu to the North East. The town is a modern urban center and the main administration hub of the Kitui county government. This is a semi arid region with a heritage of natural resources as large deposits of coal and cement were discovered here recently.

Kitui

Sweet Kitui

The county is rich in tourist attractions ranging from historical, cultural and wildlife destinations. Some tourist class hotels have been built here to accommodate various non-governmental organization officials who have camped in the region. They include  several well known community based projects like the Action Aid, Plan International, World food Program among others. Being a semi arid zone, many organizations have moved in to supplement the Government’s efforts to supply water, fund educational projects and distribution of foodstuffs to the needy communities.  Parkside Villa, Talents Hotel and the Kitui Cottages are some of the popular seminar and conference establishments in the town.

Attractions in Kitui

Nzambani rock

Just 15 kilometers away from Kitui town is Nzambani Rock or Ivia Ya Nzambani.  This is is a superb team building challenge and an adventure destination in addition to its  uniqueness and mythology. This outstanding attraction rises more than 90 feet high with a top surface area that is close to an acre.  The locals claim that it continues to grow even to date according to a legend that is narrated in two different versions.  The nocturnal noises  reported to emanate  from the rock and eerier activities are some of the bizarre stories behind this rock.

Kitui Nzambeni Rock-14

Nzambeni Rock in Kitui

The most interesting version is that when you go round the rock seven times, your gender changes automatically as you complete the seventh round. It is especially interesting since it seems that it is mainly men who undergo this transformation. Visitors to this rock always leave with a  memory that will linger stubbornly in their minds. That is whether to come back and take up the challenge, hence the justification of Kitui county as the home to the gender changing myth.

It should also be noted that is currently on private property and the guide will require clearance from the owners of the property at a fee to gain access. After walking to the base of the rock, a permanent staircase gives you access to the top to enjoy panoramic views of this free standing rock and is it the perfect destination for sun downer lovers. During clear days you can be able to see both Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya from a distance.

Practical Travel information

Mlolongo town

Mlolongo Town, popularly known as Soko Muyo meaning a lovely town is actually the main gateway into South Eastern Kenya region. Located practically between Machakos and Nairobi city, just 18 kilometers away from the capital and a 10 minute drive to the international airport, this town is the most convenient meeting point for all the ‘South Easterners’ living in Nairobi.

Molongolo Town Accommodation-5

Molongolo Town

 It is for this reason that all the famous and upcoming Akamba music artists have identified this town as their central entertainment hub in the entire region. Dotted with modern entertainment hotels complete with family entertainment no-alcohol facilities, live band performances in most clubs. Revelers and fun enthusiasts come here from as far as Thika and Machakos to wish the weekends away with their families and loved ones.

The other gateway to the Ukambani treasure is the fourteen falls with its scenic fourteen cataracts flowing 10 m down to the rocks beneath. Located just 45 km from Nairobi, along the Thika /Garrissa road, a little distance from Thika town. It is one of Kenya’s most rare water sports attraction sites as the daring divers display their unique expertise by diving down the 40 feet high falls.

14 Falls-41

Iris over the 14 Falls

On your way to explore the larger Ukambani region, stop by and enjoy the falls on a day trip. It is a relaxing place where you can find a placid pool and a pod of resident hippos up-stream that add to the ambiance. A boating experience for only kshs.100 across the river is usually worth it as it will take you to a central island, covered with vegetation and slippery and slimy rocks that have been hit by the fast flowing water over a long time.

14 falls

Panorama of 14 Falls

 This is also a secure area that is completed with a picnic site where you can catch the best sights of the fourteen falls during the early morning sunrise or the late sunset as the falls flow into the Athi River.  It also has historical and religious importance both to the residents and other communities. The Asians use the site as a shrine for disposing of cremated ash in the river believing that it will go all the way to India through the Indian Ocean. Others come for entertainment and recreation, retaining the Happy Valley theme that was first introduced by Lord Macmillan. Following his example, some of  the descendants the adventurer brought here still farm the land in the adjacent community.

water sports-activities

Boat riding at the 14 Falls

Other activities at the falls include guided crossing of the river  by experienced water sport guides who take you round to all the attractive scenes of the picturesque cascade of the fourteen successive falls.

How to get there

By road:

Ukambani is located along Mombasa Nairobi highway towards Tsavo National park and north East to Embu

Highway to Kitui-1

A bikers Dream

Where to stay

Machakos is a modern town that has joined others in the global map as a tourist destination with some of the best tourist class hotels like the Garden Hotel and Maanzoni Lodge being very popular venues for hosting regional conferences, forums and cultural events. The Machakos International Conference Centre is the ideal destination for Christians and non-alcoholic visitors as it is the property of a Christian ministry the Jesus Celebration Centre.

Accommodation

Different types of accommodation from Mlolongo to Kitui

Machakos Garden Hotel

Is located in Machakos County 60 km from Nairobi and features 67 stylish and well-appointed guest rooms featuring custom crafted furniture, granite and marble bathrooms with high speed internet and flat screen TVs with DSTV. They also provide 4 conference rooms accommodating up to 250 delegates, fully functional with air-conditioning, natural daylight with black-out facility plus sound proofed glass, wireless internet connection and a full complement of audio visual equipment. The Ivory bar offers an extensive cocktail menu both local and international, and Bustani restaurant offers a rich menu of international cuisine. Garden Hotel also boasts a salon and health club and a swimming pool.

Other beautiful Hotels offering different tastes from entertainment joints to quiet and serenity environment lovers: all have their interests taken care of in this town known for its ever reveling mood.

Masinga Dam Resort.

Masinga Dam Resort is located, approximately 160 km from Nairobi, adjacent to the Masinga reservouir at the shores of Masinga Lake with a beautiful landscape and breath taking landscapes .

Masinga Dam

Accomodation in Masinga Dam

They offer executive rooms, standard rooms, conference rooms, bar & restaurant, swimming pool for guests with an interest in knowing how electricity is generated. A tour to the nearby Masinga Power Station can also be arranged. It is also appropriate for vacations, camps, hikers and nature walks.

Masinga Dam-2

Pool at Masinga Dam

Fourteen falls lodge

Fourteen Falls Lodge is located some 10 kilometres along the Thika – Garissa Highway and is an alcohol-free zone situated on a 30-acre piece of land. The lodge borders both the main road and Chania River at the bottom. It is a secure environment with 24-hour security surveillance. Accommodation is in traditional African spacious huts, fitted with all the modern amenities. The Lodge restaurant has an a la carte menu which have a variety of choices both in African and continental dishes. There are several halls in which conferences and seminars of various sizes can be held. On request these activities can be held in tents in any suitable corner of the lodge. Also the loge provides grounds weddings and sessions. Activities involve boat rides and fishing expeditions, picnics and camping.

KWS Sabuk Guest House

It is located in Eastern Province, Machakos District and 2 km from the park’s main gate.

Ol Donyo Sabuk

Accommodation at Ol Donyo Sabuk

Accommodation comprises of 4 bedrooms; master bedroom with King-size bed and one single bed, 2nd bedroom with two double beds, 3rd bedroom with three single beds, 4th bedroom with two single beds. There is an annex that has one double bed with a kitchen equipped a with gas cooker (with oven), refrigerator, utensils, cutlery, crockery and glasses. The guesthouse has a conference room, which can hold 12 persons, at one given time and a caretaker is available, electricity, blankets, pillows, bed linen, towels, soap, and mosquito nets. Activities offer campsite and picnic site also Hiking and game viewing.

 

For further information please contact

Mattew Mutie -tukenews@yahoo.com

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  Until the next time its many thanks from the 50 Treasures of Kenya  Trust  to all the contributors in this feature with special acknowledgment  going  to our chairman Mr.Harmut Fiebig for the wonderful photography and most of all to you our treasured audience for your delightful company.

 Its always our pleasure to share a treasure.

 Much appreciated.

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Can you count the falls?

Can you count the falls?

still waters of the 14 falls Thika- Kenya

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The sustainability agenda: A conservancy safari

Follow  the ‘Countdown to 50’ Campaign!

Get to KNOW, EXPLORE, PROTECT and CELEBRATE Kenya

Every single week of the 50 weeks between January 2013 and the 50th Anniversary of Kenya’s Independence on the 12th of December 2013 we are going to highlight one of the 50 Treasures of Kenya with stunning pictures, practical travel information and personal impressions.

On this feature we would like to highlight the Sustainability Agenda

Flashback 30 years ago and contrast the state of the wildlife population in the major national parks, the percentage of forest cover, the richness in culture and the rate of waste disposal with today’s impacts. When we remember those days back in the early 70s, when a game drive in the Tsavo East National Park wouldn’t have to be as early as 5 a.m in the morning because the fauna are in their hundreds. By the time you are out you had already lost count of the number of elephants you have seen!  How about the Nakuru National Park , another heaven for bird watchers, that was once covered with a wide variety of birds from its entrance to the dense acacia forests?

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Elephant family in the Mara Triangle

Making another comparison with tourism from the late nineties, will show that poaching activities have also increased. The Mara is estimated to have lost 50-80% of most species over the past 25 years; counts within the Maasai Mara National Reserve indicate losses as high as 95 percent for giraffes, 80 percent for warthogs and 76 percent for hartebeest. Waste disposal in our parks and national reserves is significantly changing the biodiversity of the wild. Forest cover in the forests is now reducing even below the 2% forest cover we used to appreciate in 2010. Most importantly, global warming, that is as a result of climate change is quickly melting away the snow on Mount Kenya.  These factors are adversely turning these fragile ecosystems into threatened habitats.

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Our pride

Changes have become more obvious with time and the most affected industry is obviously is in the tourism sector. The big question is, what is the tourism industry doing about it? There is only one answer to this question; ‘the sustainability agenda’. Many people have different ideas of what sustainability is really about but I like to put it as; use of resources by current tourists in such a way that the future tourists will be in a position to enjoy the same resources. In tourism these resources are simply the products we sell, the wildlife, serene environments, our forests, our heritage and also our cultures. These resources have to be conserved and I am happy that we have organizations like Eco-tourism Kenya and Nature Kenya that are taking up this agenda very seriously and have come up with a set of guidelines for responsible travel.

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Talking about wildlife

The sustainability agenda now has every stakeholder on their feet about what contribution they can make in order to drive this agenda home. The role of local communities stands out as the most important because these tourism resources essentially belong to the local communities. Communities such as those around the Maasai Mara and Mount Kenya have used conservancies to make sure that they benefit themselves as well as conserve the attractions around them. The Maasai Mara National Reserve has quite a number of conservancies some privately owned and others on sustainable partnerships between Maasai landowners, eco-tourism investors and conservation interests including: the Naboisho, Mara North, Motorogi, Lemek, Enonkishu, Ol Chorro, Olare Orok and Ol Kinyei conservancies. As we move into an era of green travel and tourists interests now focusing on travel that is responsible, benefits the local communities and is of less negative impact to the environment, conservancy safaris will soon become the most sought after tours.

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Perfect balance

The local communities have built magical eco-lodges whose income now provides much-needed funds for their education, health and humanitarian projects. Aside from benefiting the local communities, these conservancies are centers to protect endangered species of wildlife, canters for local cultural promotion, and are managed by rules on environmental conservation. All this is in the bid to promote sustainable tourism in Kenya. Conservancy safaris come with eco-friendly camps, walking tours, bush breakfast, dinners and sundowners, game walks with armed guides and also night drives. Facilities in the conservancies are made from material that camouflages with the local environment; reflect the cultural values of the local people and application of the three Rs of recycling, reducing and reusing are an order.

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Masai village on Oloolo Escarpment near Lolgorien

Stakeholders are doing their research in terms of what strategic approaches they can adopt in conservancies, however, erosion of cultural identity, and the loss of biodiversity, both intensified by climate change and poverty are universal challenges which face a number of tourism destinations hence derailing the implementation of these strategies. Through global advocacy, extensive stakeholder dialogues and strategic partnerships support for capacity building, ecosystem management and economic empowerment of local communities many conservancies are on the way to achieving sustainable tourism objectives.

Written by

Carol Kavinya

We trust that this feature has been informative to you.

If indeed, please take it a step further and spread the message, like it, share it and follow us as we countdown to Kenya’s 50th birthday!

 Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter and stay posted for the next Treasure. Please contact us if you require  further details on how you can get to visit these wonderful places.

Perhaps you too have a view, comment or article you would like to share with our audiences. Kindly send us an email or drop us a note in the comment box if you would like to make your contribution(s) on our blog. We will be delighted to publish them along with our regular features as long as they  focus not only on the affluence of Kenya’s treasures but their influence as well.

  Until the next time its many thanks from the 50 Treasures of Kenya  Trust  to all the contributors in this feature with special acknowledgment  going  to our chairman Mr.Harmut Fiebig for the wonderful photography and most of all to you our treasured audience for your delightful company.

 Its always our pleasure to share a treasure.

 Much appreciated.

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Maasai Mara

Get to KNOW, EXPLORE, PROTECT and CELEBRATE Kenya

This week we invite you to come along with us as we revisit 

The Maasai Mara-Kenya’s premier wildlife sensation

The fabulous Maasai Mara  is named in honor of the legendary Maasai. It is considered to be Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve by its very description and synonymous with the word safari in every sense.  Its proximity to the plains of the Serengeti has made it a very celebrated venue of the spectacular Great Wildebeest migration. Also dubbed the 7th wonder of the world, according to a poll of experts conducted by ABC Television, this phenomenon is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide.

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Maasai Mara…where beauty is “spotted”.

Fondly known as the Mara because of  the landscape’s scattered features when viewed from a distance, it is a wonderful composition of breathtaking open plains, woodlands and riverine forest. Featuring  a wonderful array of browsers and hunters.  The vast grassland plains and Acacia forests abound with myriads of birds and delightful primates. As the rivers brim with lounging hippos and crocodiles while lumbering elephants and buffalo wallow in its wide swamp.

Lighthouse attraction

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is without any doubt a premier wildlife park. Yet unlike most other national parks in Kenya this game reserve is not administered by the Kenya Wildlife Service. When it was originally established in 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary, the Mara covered only 520km2 of the current area. Much of this region had been allocated to agriculture during the colonial era and some of the Maasai were even moved completely from their homelands.

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…Legendary

The area was then converted to a game reserve when it was extended further eastwards to cover a 1821 km2 area. A large portion of the reserve was gazetted as a National Reserve in 1974 and the remaining area of 159 km2 was restored to the local communities. An additional 162 km2 was later removed from the reserve in 1976 before it was reduced to about 1510 kmin 1984.

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…solitary beauty

The  eastern part of the park is currently under the custody of the Narok County Council .The Mara Triangle, in the western part, is now managed by the Trans-Mara county council which was formed in 1995. Later on in May 2001, the Mara Conservancy,a local nonprofit organization took over management of the Mara Triangle. It was formed by the local Maasai as a measure to protect the assailable wildlife and tackle the growing menace of marauding poachers .

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The sentinels of Mara

The outer borders known as the Maasai Mara Conservation area is administered by the Group Ranch Trusts of the Maasai community who also have their own rangers for patrolling the park area.

 The Mara  is situated in South West Kenya about 270 km from Nairobi at 1500-2170 m above sea level. The western border is small part of a system of rifts over 5,000 km long, stretching from Ethiopia through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. Its is primarily open grassland with the Talek river and Mara River as the major rivers draining the reserve.

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The Great Shift in the Great Rift

The Mara-Serengeti ecosystem itself covers some 25,000 km2 at its northern-most section between Tanzania and Kenya. Whereas the Maasai Mara National Reserve is only a fraction of the Greater Mara Ecosystem. The area includes around a dozen group ranches  bounded by the Serengeti Park to the south, the Siria escarpment  to the west and Maasai pastoral ranches to the north, east and west. The south-east region is mostly comprised of clumps of the distinctive acacia  tree.

The vegetation in the reserve is primarily grassland and riverine forest. It not only varies according to the type of soil and drainage but also influenced by fire and destruction from elephants and other grazing animals. The grasslands form the main vegetation layer interspersed with few trees and shrubs in the drier areas. These are the areas which are most susceptible to frequent fires and herbivores which prefer different grasses and shoots.

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Mara’s green life

The evergreen bushland cover patches particularly vulnerable to foraging elephants and rhinos, as acacia trees dominate the woodland which is mostly preferred by giraffes and monkeys. With its forests of wild cedars, olive trees and different varieties of acacias, the gorges and valleys in the north of the reserve are a wonderful setting for those interested in learning traditional medicine. The area around here has a very interesting variety of pristine flora which allude to how the Mara ecosystem was before permanent settlements were established in the region.

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Mara River seen from Oloolo Escarpment

Rainfall in the ecosystem increases markedly along a southeast–northwest gradient  where shrubs and trees fringe most of the drainage lines and cover the hill slopes. This environment makes it an ideal home to hundreds of  mammals and birds that naturally tend to be most concentrated around these areas. The swampy ground means access to vital water where tourist disruption is minimal.

All members of the popular Big 5 can be found in good numbers in the region and wildlife are permitted to roam freely across both the Reserve and Conservation areas. It  has been duly noted that the Maasai Mara Ecosystem holds one of the highest lion densities and is world famous for its exceptional population of big cats. This can be largely attributed to the annual wildebeest migration involving some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 200,000 zebras, 97,000 topi and 18,000 elands.

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The Feast of Wilderbeest

As in the Serengeti’s case, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the area. Their numbers are naturally estimated in the millions among thousands of zebra and Thomson gazelle that also cross over from the south. Along their annual, circular route, these migrants attract other hungry predators, most notably lions. Other pursuers include leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals and the nocturnal bat-eared fox.

Hippos at Mara River sunbasking

Hippos basking near the Mara River.

Hippopotami and Nile crocodiles can also be found in large heaps along the Mara and Talek rivers. There are plenty of other reptiles as well in the game reserve that often go unnoticed. Many include a large variety of snakes like the African rock python, black-necked spitting cobra and puff adder. Some are rare lizards such as the intriguing Red-headed rock agamas, the venerated leopard tortoise plus chameleons.

Thomson Gazelle

Sight for sore eyes

Numerous other antelopes can be found in the reserve apart from the Thomson’s gazelle such as Grant’s gazelles, impalas, elands, duikers and Coke’s hartebeests. Its unfortunate the population of Black rhinos that was also fairly numerous until the early sixties, severely depleted by poaching in the seventies and early eighties, dropped them to merely fifteen!  Since then numbers have been slowly increasing, but the population was still only up to an estimated twenty or so until the beginning of the millennium.

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Scavengers paradise

Many of the 500 species of birds which have been identified in the park are also migrants.  The ones that call this area home for at least good part of the year include almost 60 species of birds of prey. Marabour storks, Secretary birds, hornbills, Crowned cranes, ostriches and the Lilac-breasted roller,which is the national bird of Kenya,  are also common in the region.

Explore the Mara

Spending your time among the traditional people of this region is the best way to gain an insight into local beliefs and customs. The Maasai, who are native speakers of the Maa language,belong to the Chari-Nile branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family. They are proud nomadic pastoralists with a fascinating culture that has survived the test of time under relentless contemporary influences. According to history, these Maa speaking peoples migrated into their current territory around the 16th century.They divided over time into a number of sub-tribes some of which still share the Mara region.

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A phone,a watch and a flashlight!…staying connected, all the time, day and night

 Around 2005 the visionary conservationist Jake Grieves-Cook leased parts of the land from the Maasai who owned the areas adjacent to the Reserve. They are as agreed being paid rent in turn for these areas and many families are benefiting from employment at some of the eco-friendly camps that have been set up.

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Catching up-Maasai women shooting the breeze

You will always get to see a variety of wildlife within the reserve apart from the areas inhabited by the Maasai tribes. The sheer volume and diversity of life in the Mara will certainly not disappoint you if the prime interest for visiting is to see its fauna. A safari through the Mara  gives visitors a chance experience several different habitats in a single day.

Taking your time to enjoy the Mara as a whole will give you a much better appreciation of the mixture and intricacies of this fascinating eco-system. Tourist numbers and safari vehicles are strictly limited, which translates into a much better safari experience all around.

Close encounter

Animals still have it their way

The best time to see game in the Mara is early morning and late afternoon. In the midday heat, most animals generally retreat to the cool of thick undergrowth and become concealed. Sometimes specialized hide-outs and viewing platforms are erected on the grounds of lodges or camps to enhance your game viewing experience.

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A siesta after the fiesta- The only other time the hunters lay low

 Morning and afternoon game drives also allow you to witness the unforgettable African dawn and sunsets. The plains between the Mara River and the Siria Escarpment are probably the best areas for game viewing, especially for spotting lion and cheetah.

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The Mara- A 1500Km2 ‘ArK’

You can also usher in the dawn in a hot air balloon for a truly unique perspective of this spectacular wilderness. These balloon safaris are carried out daily from several lodges and can be booked through most safari companies. This incredible once in a lifetime experience offers visitors a fantastic view of the great plains of the Mara and the chance to drift quietly over the oblivious wildlife below.

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Balloons over the Mara near Governors Camp

You should also take the opportunity to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration if visiting the Mara from July through October. The herds calve in January to March, before the young are born ready to make their first, in preparation for the epic journey. Usually the central migratory herds of  these wildebeest spend much of the year grazing throughout the plains of the Serengeti.  In June, as the dry season withers the grasslands and a distant scent of moisture brings promise of rain in the north, they begin to gather, massing together to form a single vast herd.

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The dawn of the great migration

On the southern plains of the Mara the herds make a spectacular entrance pouring northwards in a massive, surging column of pulsing life that makes a breathtaking spectacle. The sound of the approaching herd is a deep, primal rumbling of thundering hooves and low grunts. This endless grey river of life is checkered with black and white as zebras join the masses, drawn on-wards in their quest for the rains and fresh life giving grass.

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The floods of Wildebeest

The banks of the Mara River is one of the best vantage points where you can see the herds making their exodus through the wild, crocodile jammed waters. It is this remarkable event that saw the Mara ranked as one of the new Seven Wonders. The sheer spectacle of this event draws excited spectators to one of the world’s largest and most fascinating marvels that is regarded as the planet’s greatest natural spectacle.

Kongoni on the watch

Kongoni on the watch

On the wide open grasslands you can travel through huge herds of zebra, giraffe, gazelle and topi.  There are also excellent river views of hippos and crocodiles as you travel along the banks of the Mara and Talek, while the riverine forests abound with birdlife and monkeys. Elephants can always be found seeking refuge from the heat around the waters of the Musiara Swamp.

Some safari companies offer all day game drives, stopping for a riverside picnic in the midday heat. Other lodges and camps can arrange escorted walks through the bush. This is an ideal way to explore this wilderness and experience the wildlife up close. Walking in the Reserve itself is strictly controlled and any attempts must be arranged through your lodge, camp or safari operator. There are many options of course for hiking and trekking outside the Reserve.

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Leaves of Vultures

The Mara is equally popular with birders and specialist birding safaris. The notables consist of the Corncrake, Grey crested Helmet Shrike, Lesser Kestrel, Madagascar Squacco Heron and Saddle Billed Stork. Resident raptors include the White headed Vulture, Martial and Crowned Eagles with other more common species like the Yellow billed Ox pecker. You can always look for a safari operator who can offer you tailored guides and services to suit your needs if you have a particular wildlife or birding interest.

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The wonderful Aloe Vera

Herbs have always played a major role in the Maasai culture for those with an interest in herbal knowledge of the community. Families are often able to care for their own health as traditional practitioners known as the “laibon” conduct rites spells and ceremonies mostly. Visitors are always welcome to learn more and visit with traditional healers and herbalists. Some of the camps, lodges and private ranches in and around the Mara can arrange for guests to learn more about the herbal medicines and rites of the Maasai.

Dawn at Oloolo Escarpment

Dawn at Oloolo Escarpment

Horseback Safaris are now being offered in some areas outside the main reserve. These safaris are a unique way of viewing game that allows you to move easily through herds of plains game.These safaris can cover a great deal of country and are best suited for experienced riders.

Other attractions near the Mara

Serengeti National Park

The reserve is situated in the Rift Valley with Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains running along its southern end. It covers approx. 14,763 km2 of savanna grassland plains including riverine forest and woodlands. The endless, almost treeless grassland of the south is the most typical scenery of the park. This is where the herds of wildebeest breed, as they remain in the plains from December to May.

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A real family getaway

Although this national park is situated in the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania, the name Serengeti is actually borrowed from a Maasai word describing the area as ‘the place where the land is endless.’ The Serengeti as it is commonly known has an appreciative heritage as Tanzania’s oldest national park. It is now World Heritage Site that has also gained fame through the annual wildebeest  migration and for its numerous Nile crocodiles. Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra, the bushy savannah is the best place to find elephant giraffe and dik dik.

Rusinga Island

Angling on the pier of Rusinga Island Lodge.

Angling on the pier of Rusinga Island Lodge.

Special fishing expeditions to Lake Victoria can be also be arranged from the Mara. These include return flights from the Mara to Rusinga Island, a fishing resort that provides boats, tackle and fishing guides. Guests can either spend the night in the well-appointed lodge or return to the Mara the same day.

Cultural Attractions

According to many suggestions, Olkaria, Naivasha Stadium and Egerton University are four of the best of four most recommendable cultural attractions near the Mara.  There are two other art and cultural attractions one being the Gusii Stadium in Migori Town about 40 km from the reserve and the other is the Kisumu Museum which is around 51 km away.

Practical Travel information

The  eastern regions are normally the most visited by tourists since the easternmost border is closer to Nairobi at about 224km. There are also a series of well maintained roads throughout the reserve. The Mara Triangle has well serviced all weather roads as the rangers patrol the area regularly ensuring that there is no poaching, contributing to further to excellent game viewing.

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Touring the Mara…left right and center

There is also strict control over vehicle numbers around animal sightings, allowing for a better experience when out on a game drive. Entry fees are currently at about $80 for adult non-East African residents and $30 for children staying inside the park per day. The tourists and visitors can also cater for their own expenses unless previously arranged by their agencies and tour operators. In general, you should budget an all inclusive cost of about $500 per person per day excluding travel expenses especially if you are flying.

Important things to carry are your sun-screen cream, binoculars and camera equipment. Also bring along updated travel books and field guides which will prove most useful during your safari. You are always expected to pay in cash if you purchase souvenirs or items at the camp. It is however recommended to make payments preferably in dollars to avoid surcharges.

How to get there

Accessing the Mara area is difficult without private transport. Most visitors come to Maasai Mara as part of a safari package from Nairobi or on a privately hired vehicles.

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Muddy road in the game reserve

Some people choose to fly to the Mara, which is serviced by several airstrips and it takes about 5-6 hours by road or 40-50 min by air. There are daily scheduled flights from Nairobi and the coast to the Mara Serena airport, Musiara airport and Keekorok airport which are all located in the game reserve. The Mara Shikar airport, Kichwa Tembo airport and Ngerende airport are located in the Conservation area of the Maasai Mara.

Where to stay

There are a number of lodges and tented camps for tourists inside the Reserve and the Conservation area borders. The Mara Triangle has only one lodge within its boundaries in, comparison to the numerous camps and lodges on the Narok side. Lodges and camps that are available inside the Reserve include the Keekorok lodge, the first lodge built in the Mara in one of the best spots to view wildlife without ever going for any game drive. At the height of migration, the lodge is surrounded by a swarming mass of animals and guests can watch a lions hunt from the bar. Most of the options for budget accommodation in the Masai Mara area are however confined to basic campgrounds.

Other lodges and campsites are also of equal value for visitors to the Masai Mara Reserve area include;

Kilima Camp

It is one of the best safari holidays camp in the region where you can enjoy the real African wildlife in comfort and style. The intimate eco-lodge is in a fantastic location on the edge of the Siria Escarpment overlooking the Maasai Mara. The Mara Serena Safari Lodge is the ultimate safari destination. Set high on a bush-cloaked hill with long views over the savannah and down to the winding coils of the hippo-filled Mara River, it is located at the very center of the famous ‘Mara Triangle’ of the world-renowned Masai Mara National Reserve.

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Kilima Camp’s luxurious interior

Fig Tree Camp

Fig Tree Camp is located on the banks of the Talek River. The Camp is situated on the northern border of the game reserve and its central location makes all the areas of the luxury tents located on the private park accessible to game drives.

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Fig Tree Camp- The best of both worlds

To make an evening a real adventure, one can choose to stay in a tent or a chalet giving the best of both worlds. The rooms are spaciously lined up along the Talek River with private balcony overlooking the plains of the game reserve.

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Making the most of your visit-Up in the air or down on the ground

Your day is designed to be as exciting or relaxing as you wish. There is a  variety of activities from which to choose – escorted bush walks, day and night game drives, sundowners, full days out with delicious picnic lunches  into the very heart of the Mara, bush dinners down by the hippo pools, visiting the rhinos and cultural visits to Maasai villages – all tailor made to    ensure a rewarding safari of a lifetime. You can also enjoy balloon safaris offering scenic flights over  the Maasai Mara and day trips at an extra cost.

The Mara Serena Safari Lodge

Set high on a bush-cloaked hill with long views over the savannah and down to the winding coils of the hippo-filled Mara River, it is located at the very centre of the famous ‘Mara Triangle’ of the world-renowned Masai Mara National Reserve.

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The Mara Serena Safari lodge-A ringside seat for the greatest show on earth.

Styled to echo the circular motif of a traditional Maasai manyatta, the lodge blends international sophistication with raw African beauty, while featuring twin rows of individual rooms, each with its own view of the famous Mara River. The central bar and dining areas enjoy spectacular views, as does the rock-surround swimming pool. Each luxuriously-presented room is accommodated in its own stand-alone modular unit, with uninterrupted views, private balcony and spacious seating area.

Camping sites

There are over 20 campsites in and around the Reserve but few of them are listed and some are extremely basic making them little hazardous. Most campsites are located near the gates grant access to their toilet and water facilities so you don’t have to go too far. You can also try asking for information at any of the gates to the reserve if you can’t make any bookings in advance. Public campsites used to be payed for right at the reserve gates now everything should be payed in advance through the new Smartcard system.

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A shopping convenience in Talek

Among those available that are run by local Maasai are the Oloolaimutiek Camp site near the Oloolaimutiek gate and the Riverside Camp, west of Talek Gate. The one near Oloololo displays a nice view of the mountains while the Musiara campsite is very popular for being a safe area, shaded and with plenty of wildlife including lions. There are ten campsites located near Talek, east of the gate which border the river at the north bank. Several of them are nearly always booked up by safari companies. Still outside the reserve near the gates, in Sekenani there are four campsites, placed half a kilometer from the gate. There is also the Sand River Campsite, next to the gate of the same name that is located by a waterhole usually visited by animals at night. The Sand River Campsite is equipped with toilets and running water.

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Fire in the wild

There are other campsites in addition to those located by the gates such as the Crocodile campsite, a private site close to the outer limits, Naunerri Campsite, 3 km off Sand River Gate; and the Mara River Campsites. Four of them are by the east riverbank outside the reserve and is located right south of Mara Camp. Lastly, near the closed Olkurruk Mara Lodge there is another accessible site which overlooks the plains from the mountains.

Whatever the case, it is advisable for you to check the available sites with local authorities since campsites vary. They may and actually do change gradually and it is cumbersome to keep accurate track of them. The best way to enjoy a budget camping safari in the Masai Mara is to book with a tour operator. Many tour operators offer quality camping safaris starting at $270 per person which includes camping, food, park fees and transport.

For further Information please visit

http://www.magicalkenya.com

kenyalogy@kenyalogy.com

We trust that this feature has been informative to you.

If indeed, please take it a step further and spread the message, like it, share it and follow us as we countdown to Kenya’s 50th birthday!

 Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter and stay posted for the next Treasure. Please contact us if you require  further details on how you can get to visit these wonderful places.

  Until the next time its many thanks from the 50 Treasures of Kenya  Trust  to all the contributors in this feature with special acknowledgment  going  to our chairman Mr.Harmut Fiebig for the wonderful photography and most of all to you our treasured audience for your delightful company.

 Its always our pleasure to share a treasure.

 Much appreciated.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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