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Kenya Trip Report: Aug 19 – Sept 5, 2007

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Hi everyone! I just returned from Kenya and wanted to report on my trip. I really had a great time and learned so much. This was my first trip to Africa.

I had enough frequent flier miles to get a free trip on United ($88 in taxes was the only charge). I flew out of Chicago on Swiss Air to Frankfurt and then a quick flight to Zurich and then directly to Nairobi on Swiss Air. I had no problems with the tight connections. No flight delays and my luggage was there and waiting for me in Nairobi. I brought a bag of items for the school I am sponsor for, Victory Academy outside of Meru, and handed the bag off to a school rep at the airport so it could be taken directly to the school. Because of my crazy schedule I could not visit the school until the end of the trip.

My taxi was waiting for me and I headed to the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi. The hotel is very nice and has lots of character. I would stay there again. It was quiet and had a good location (10 minutes to Wilson Airport and 30 minutes to the international airport). Breakfast was included in the room rate and was quite impressive. I also had dinner one night at the hotel. I stayed two nights at the Fairview and used the Internet café regularly. You cannot just walk out of the hotel, you need to be escorted or be in a car. This is really hard for me as I started to feel trapped and was ready to head out of Nairobi after two days. In Nairobi I visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife elephant orphanage. I have to say it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was nice to see the baby elephant I sponsor, Lempaute. I also went to a Cyber Café, some shopping areas and a super market in Nairobi. I didn’t have a lot of time there and just wanted to relax at the hotel after the long flight.

Next, I was off to Wamba and took a quick hour flight out of Wilson Airport. The project was through Earth Watch, and was similar to summer camp. There were 7 volunteers including myself and we arrived in Wamba, in Samburu and stayed at a camp right outside of town. Over the next 14 days we focused on several projects:
1) Tracking and documenting carnivores in the Samburu reserve. We did this by meeting up with a Samburu to act as our guide to find a hyena, lion or leopard den. We’d hike to the den and document any foot prints and bones found in the area or at the den. Once the den was located we would take the GPS location and collect any scat found. The hiking was amazing and we always had two armed guards with us. Back at the camp we would enter the data collected and analyze the scat by extracting hairs to determine what the animal had eaten. This allowed us to track the animal and document the eating habit and location. If funding comes through, radio collars will be used to better track the carnivores.
2) Samburu tribe community land census. We would travel around the Samburu community in a vehicle and stop at homesteads to count the number of manyattas, people and livestock. We would then interview the head of the homestead and ask about access to water and land resources, livestock lost to drought, disease, and attacks from carnivores and ask abut their attitudes toward animals in the area. We had an opportunity to learn a lot about the Samburu culture and practice our Swahili which usually made everyone laugh.
3) Document activities and location of Grevy’s Zebras and other animals in the area. Kenya's Samburu region provides one of the species' last strongholds for the remaining 2000 Grevy's zebras, but 90 percent of the land falls outside protected areas. Working with the African Wildlife Foundation we helped collect data on the zebras and other animals. We then entered the information into a database.

We also had time for some great hikes and went to the Samburu Lodge and animal reserve one day. There we saw many animals – including cheetah and leopard! Unfortunately, the animals on the community lands are far fewer.

After two weeks in Samburu, we flew from Wamba back to Nairobi. There I met my driver and headed to Meru. My goal was to visit the school Victory Academy which is Kindergarten through 8th grade (primary). In Chicago I found out about an organization called Matanya’s Hope that gets sponsors here in the US for the children at this school. My sponsor daughter’s name is Stella and I got to visit her at her school, Victory Academy. Stella lives at the school along with many of the children that have no home. I was able to take Stella shopping for all her school needs which was very fun! I think spent around $50 USD and got her new shoes, underpants, blankets, a towel, soap, toothpaste, and much more.

After Meru, it was back to Nairobi, after a quick stop in Nanyuki. After dinner I had an overnight flight to Zurich where I spent 6 hours and then back to Chicago.

It was a very safe and easy trip – no problems at all. I admit I was nervous as this was my first solo international trip and as a young’ish female everyone thought I was crazy to do this on my own, but I did and never did I have any problems. The only time I felt uncomfortable was when I asked to use the restroom in a café outside Meru and I think they were strangling a chicken in the kitchen – it was making some terrible gurgling noises! On the other hand, I got a chuckle when we stopped to give two little girls a ride (all of 8 and 9 years old) and they got in the back seat when we noticed that one was carrying a live chicken. The chicken was very well behaved and just sat on the girl’s lap for the entire ride. It turns out the chicken was a gift for her mother.

Here are some photos. Thank you!

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