"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." (Mark Twain : The Innocents Abroad, 1869)

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Malum Africanum / Mal d’Afrique / The Africa Bug

In an earlier posting I pondered on why I (and others) are repeatedly drawn back to Africa.  The following is another perspective from a Dutch contributor to Trip Advisor’s Kenyan Forum :

A visit to Africa may result in your becoming afflicted with a malady for which there is no known cure . . .
The condition has afflicted many people over the centuries.  Some of them were great explorers, others great physicians.  Way back in ancient times it had already been identified and given a name, “malum africanum”, by the Latins, today known as “Mal d’Afrique” by the French.
There is no escape : no known remedy.  They can now join those born with the condition in Africa and help fashion its image in a culture that aims at a fullness of human dimensions, good to serve as a global one.

The symptoms are extraordinary.  The scope of our vision changes and you become preoccupied with distance, far horizons.  At the same time you notice small things, subtleties that previously seemed irrelevant – shades of colours more noticeable than the colours themselves.
Your hearing intensifies; mechanical noises offend you as never before.  You detect melodies in the trickle of a stream, hear voices in the rustling of leaves.  The things you do in life become less important than the things you see, feel, and can touch.

And then the smell !  The smell of life in the first rain falling on and fertilising the arid soil and making it bloom with green grass and life-sustaining crops.
In the African bush, far away from surroundings you are accustomed to, you feel as though you have come home.  Some say your spirit recognises the birthplace of its origin, others say you feel an overwhelming presence of the Creator in the scope of communal life.
In this country which abounds with nature, we have the most wonderful story to tell and yet we don’t tell it.  God is exposed in this land.  It is as though God mixed the ingredients of the earth here.

I wouldn't disagree with anything she says but still I remain uncertain of the true source of the continent's continuing attraction.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Another Step at a Time

We had originally hoped that at the start and end of our trip that we would stay at  the Wildebeest Campsite as it seemed to offer VFM accommodation, was in a good setting and received good reviews.  However, it couldn't provide exactly what we needed and then didn't bother to respond to any further e'mail queries.

So before any more decent (and cheapish) accommodation disappears, we have booked into the Methodist Guest House.  Not that we a particularly religious group of people but it seems to offer good accommodation (B&B) at reasonable rates (about £25 per person per night), transfers to and from the airport, secure parking, three restaurants + a snack bar and two pools.  The only - slight - disadvantage is that being Methodist, it probably doesn't have a bar !  To add to its attractions, it also receives some good reviews on the Travel Advisor site.

It is fairly conveniently located close to a couple of good supermarkets at which we can provision before leaving Nairobi and from which we can fairly easily reach Nairobi's attractions if we decide to spend some time in the City before heading out to the 'bush'.

It's now only a couple of weeks before the three of us get together for the first time to discuss our two week's exploration of part of Kenya.  I've a good idea of where I'd like to go and what I'd like to see - but the others may have completely different ideas ! !

Friday, 12 March 2010

Our First Decision

We've taken our first decision - that is apart from deciding to go to Kenya and hiring a 4x4 - but the rest is still up in the air !

However, we are all sure we wish to visit the Massai Mara (to see where David Attenbourgh has spent much of his life) and, whilst we are there, that it would be good to have a real Africa experience.

So we are combining the two and have booked a few days at one of the Mara Triangle's Private Campsites.  After a bit of research - on the interweb and exchanging e'mails with Alex at Serian - we've booked the Kiboko Campsite.

The camp is situated in the Southern portion of the Triange about 4.5 miles as the vulture flies North of the Tanzanian border. For those who want to look it up on Google Maps and see how remote it is, its co-ordinates = S1°29'29.88" E 35° 2'9.99".

Located on the West bank of the Mara River, I think we can guess who will be close neighbours as Kiboko is Swahili for Hippo !  However, as the camp is unfenced it is probable that other neighbours will also pay us a visit at some stage.  Others, using similar sites, have had quite exciting visitors as they have recorded in their own blog.

It is a campsite in its strictest sense as there are no facilities - not even a long-drop toilet - and we will have to carry-in all our own food, drink and fuel.  However, it is in the middle of the Mara and nature has provided lots of trees under which we can find shady pitches for our tents.

There are a few restrictions :
    - no bathing in the river (Crocodiles !);
    - no feeding the animals (they may take more than you are offering);
    - don't stray more than 25 metres from the camp (no matter how fast you think you can run); and
    - no loud music (the animals aren't into discos and complain).

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Getting there before it's too late !

Surfing the intergalatic interweb thingy finding out about things to do and places to go has highlighted a number of interesting facts etc.

However, one of the most worrying has been a number of references to the overdevelopment of the Massai Mara.  A local newspaper reporter says "The allure of the Masai Mara is turning out to be its achilles heel, with the ecosystem facing an imminent collapse under the weight of heavy investments by hoteliers and camp operators".

He goes on to highlight that developers are disregarding the sensitive nature of the Mara's ecosystem and are now threatening not only that area but also the wider area that encompasses the Serengetti.  Some camps were originally just 'temporary' to cater for the number of visitors during the high season - but they remain after its end.  One five mile stretch of the Mara now accommodates five camps.  A number of the Triangle's Private / Special Camps - renown for their peace and isolation - have been withdrawn following the development of lodges on the opposite bank of the River.  In another area, there has been a big development within an area crucial to the local Black Rhino population.

It is reported that "To stem the human activity that now threatens the Masai Mara ecosystem, Tourism Minister, Najib Balala has launched a plan to shut down camps and lodges operating illegally starting next week. There are 108 camps and lodges in the Mara by the last count. Stakeholders are, however, calling for the gazettement and impementation of the Mara Management Plan that promises to offer a long-term solution." 

It seems to be high time that the powers that be - both in the Mara area and in Nairobi - get together to agree a plan for the future of all parts of this sensitive area.   It should cover the National Reserve areas on both side  of the Mara River (currently administered by different local authorities) and also the surrounding conservancies.  BUT the plan needs to be more than a piece of paper - it needs to be enforced.

Already the Mara has already lost 50% of its wildlife in the past 10 years.  Also, since both County Councils agreed a moratorium on new lodges in 2005, another 50 have appeared in the Eastern / Narok part of the Mara - that's 10 every year !
If it is not enforced, there will be a lodge or camp under every Acacia tree and 20 combis around even the smallest animal.  Once that happens, the Mara will lose its special place in people's hearts, they will stop coming and everybody will be a looser !

Following writing this post, this interesting article about lodge/camp developments in the Mara subsequently appeared in the Kenyan Star newspaper.