Back from my Earthwatch project - Kenya

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Aug 28th, 2005, 03:19 AM
  #1
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Back from my Earthwatch project - Kenya

I got back from Kenya yesterday and all I can say is that it was amazing!! I took part in Earthwatch's Kenya black rhino project at Sweetwaters in Nanyuki. It's a beautiful reserve and the people there just couldn't be nicer. I feel very depressed to be back home!

We carried out field work every morning, including rhino patrols, game counts, and lots of vegetation sampling. They also have a semi-tame rhino there ('Morani the friendly rhino'!). He has his own compound which is about 70 acres and we could observe him closely and even touch him. He's a really funny animal, we had to keep saying his name over and over so that he wouldn't forget we were there! There were a couple of times when he sort of froze and had obviously forgotten us! He doesn't mind people at all though, he just wanders around eating and then goes to sleep! There are also a couple of giraffe in his comound and a warthog called Caroline who had some very cute babies.

Of course my friend and I got charged!! It was our first rhino patrol (2nd day) and we had been walking for about an hour without really seeing anything. Suddenly we heard a 'snort' from a Euclea bush just metres in front of us and our 2 guards started sprinting in the other direction!! We didn't need telling twice either! We had stumbled upon a mother rhino and her baby (Tulivu and Felix) and would have walked right into her if she hadn't warned us. We got to a safe distance and then noticed another rhino, a male called Job. He's one of the safer ones but we still wandered off to put a bit more distance between us. We were watching him when we suddenly spotted Tulivu again, she was following the scent of our tracks. She came towards us and our guards told us to get into the middle of a Euclea cluster. She got to about 20 metres away before our guard fired above her head, For one scary second she ran straight towards us but then veered off and ran away, it was so exciting/terrifying! They wouldn't normally shoot at rhinos, if they hadn't had us with them they would have just climbed a tree to get out of her way. We also got charged by 2 buffalo another day and had to fire again. The guards are allowed to kill buffalo if necessary but our guard just fired in their direction.

Walking around the bush isn't the most relaxing! It's wonderful though and although we often got closer to animals in the car you get to see so many subtleties that you'd otherwise miss. We saw most animals although missed out on cheetahs, leopards and hyenas. We saw lots of elephants, giraffes, lions (including a lovely group of a male, a female and 4 cubs). One afternoon we went on a hippo walk and found a mum and baby sleeping in the water. We could stand above them on the bank about 10 metres away which was amazing. Of course we saw all her 'usuals', zebras, hartebeest, thommies and grants etc. A highlight was seeing a massive herd of zebra galloping flat out almost in formation. There are also a lot of antelopes there I hadn't seen before, such as eland, oryx, water, bush and reed buck. There are only 2 ostrich there but we saw them lots and we also saw the rarer Grevy's zebra which are larger with stripes which are closer together. There are lots of baboons and one day they came right into our camp and were sitting outside the door to my friend's banda!

The camp was lovely, most of us stayed in round bandas with thatched roofs, and a few stayed in the research centre. When I first saw the inside of my banda (and the showers!) I didn't think I was going to be able to cope - thatch = spiders!! They only have those fine spindly spiders there but I'm such an arachnophobic it was horrible! After a couple of days though I got used to it and I loved my room so much. I didn't get much sleep though as we went on game drives most evenings and then invited the guards back for drinks around a campfire, or went to the bar at the tented camp.

The guards were so lovely and my friend and I actually got on better with them than the other Earthwatch volunteers (although they were nice too). They were really funny and had us in stitches every day, they also tried to teach us Swahili and we learnt loads. It was amazing how our eyesight really improved and we could spot animals so much more easily with time, and we also learnt other skills like judging distance, and identifying plants and footprints.

The weather was pretty good, it was always nice and hot in the mornings when we did our field work and often rained later in the day. It shouldn't really be raining yet at this time of year so everyone was a little bemused! The rain was amazing though, on the hippo walk day we sheltered in the hide for a while and it was like standing next to a waterfall, I'd never seen rain like it! That day the landrover was being used to take some of the others into town so we got a lift on the back of a phd student's truck. Unfortunately after dropping us off by the hippos the truck broke down. We went to help try and fix it and ended up having a mud fight! It was so much fun and later we saw fresh lion tracks on the road very close to where we had been.

We did organised activities most afternoons which included a trip to Nanyuki spinners and weavers (a self help group for women) and to Ol Pejeta Ranch. The reserve is within the ranch but they are looking to open it up and expand it into the whole area. We saw a cow getting slaughtered there which was a little tough for a vegetarian like me (some of the meat eaters wouldn't look though!) but I wanted to see that it was humane etc. (and it was).

Sorry this has got so long, I can't describe how wonderful it was.
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Aug 28th, 2005, 03:31 AM
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Oops, didn't mean to post that yet!

One afternoon we also went to a gorgeous restaurant at a trout farm. It was built up in the trees on stilts and there were black and white colobus monkeys in the trees.

We also saw hundreds of birds, superb starings, crowned cranes, lilac breasted rollers, weavers etc. One day I had 2 little sparrows in my room that I had ro rescue! There were bats too most nights.

The principal investigator Linus (a really funny man!) has said that we can go back next year as we are zoology students and won't have to go through Earthwatch (which we couldn't afford again). I can't wait! If anyone wants any more info about the project then just ask, I thoroughly recommend it. The tented camp looked lovely too and we saw quite a few rhinos at the water hole there.

I'll put some pics up once we've got them developed and online.

Thanks for reading!
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Aug 28th, 2005, 07:25 AM
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What a fantastic time you had and a variety of wildlife you saw, including Colobus monkeys! You certainly had your share of chargings.

How long were you there?

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Aug 28th, 2005, 05:04 PM
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Wow, Great report! It really sounds like you had a wonderful, life changing experience. Thank You for sharing, I enjoyed it immensely!!! Let us know if you are planning to go back next year? It sounds like you may have found where your degree may take you. Suzi
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Aug 28th, 2005, 05:37 PM
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rainbowrose:

I too thoroughly enjoyed your trip report. You have now had experiences that many of us three times your age have never experienced. I hope that you will indeed follow your heart and return next year. What better experience could a zoology student have?

Jan
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Aug 28th, 2005, 07:57 PM
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Great trip report with some completely different experiences than most visitors have. Looking forward to your photos!
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Aug 28th, 2005, 08:00 PM
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rainbowrose: Thanks for the great report, it was very interesting! I'm glad to see the next generation of zoologist finding their passion and getting some good training.
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Aug 29th, 2005, 02:03 AM
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Sounds WONDERFUL! Thank you for sharing your experiences!
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Aug 29th, 2005, 02:03 AM
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Thanks guys, it was truly amazing. We were there for just over 2 weeks and will definitely be returning next year! I finally feel inspired about zoology again.
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Aug 29th, 2005, 05:01 AM
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Thanks for a very interesting and different trip report.

Sounds like, for you, splashing out on an Earthwatch Expedition was a good investment for a wonderful future.
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Aug 29th, 2005, 09:28 AM
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Wow, rainbowrose, this sure sounds like a great mix of fun and hard (rewarding) work.

I hope you are able to return to Africa very soon. And good luck with your studies.
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Aug 29th, 2005, 11:07 AM
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Want to add my thanks, Rainbow~ I was looking at that very Earthwatch project myself just the other day. I'll read through your report more thoroughly later. Nice work!
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Aug 29th, 2005, 11:10 AM
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bwanamitch
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Nice to hear that Morani is still alive and well.

Touching him behind the ears fundamentally changed my perception of rhino skin...

Mitch
 
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Aug 29th, 2005, 01:15 PM
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And your perception of aardvark skin...has that changed at all recently?

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Aug 29th, 2005, 04:21 PM
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benidormaardvark
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I don't think so.
 
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Aug 29th, 2005, 04:49 PM
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What a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing it.

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