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National Parks Bushdrums.com - Striving To Protect Wildlife and Encourage Responsible Tourism Practices http://bushdrums.com Thu, 23 Nov 2017 11:24:39 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb The Kenyan Reef – sadly disappearing! http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3426-the-kenyan-reef-–-sadly-disappearing http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3426-the-kenyan-reef-–-sadly-disappearing

The beautiful Kenyan Coastal Reef – sadly disappearing!

 

KWS – Kenyan Wildlife Services has set up laws along the Kenyan coast that shells, starfish – actually all marine life are strictly not to be removed from the coral reefs and gardens…. Gardens… a word of the past!

 

Gone are the days when one would fill their lungs with the salty warm tropical air and attempt to dive a few meters to get close to the colourful shawls of fish rushing from one coral garden to the next using the ocean currents to maneuver whilst the sun’s rays glimmer off their metallic bodies and shiny scales.

 

I recall snorkeling, or perhaps better explained, lying motionless in the ocean, face down and geared with a simply mask and snorkel.  The only movements was of my head and eyes darting from one spectacular display of colours to the next, not needing to search much to enjoy a spectrum of tropical warm saltwater marine life.

 

Last December and this January – I felt embarrassed after explaining to my son and daughter what beauty the Kenyan coastal gardens had to offer. 

Why embarrassed? –  After various attempts of taking the kids out for some snorkeling, I felt that I had fooled them as it seemed my stories were lies.

 

Could it be that the tsunami helped devastate the gardens and disappearance of the numerous corals and fish?  Perhaps again an expert can expand on this question.

I would be relieved if that was the answer.  At least I can put it down to natural disasters hoping that nature would soon bounce back and show its true phenomenal colours.

 

Sadly some areas and coral gardens have been turned into semi deserts and at times a complete bland grey and dull green colour with little marine life.

 

Some blame it on the star fish!!  Personally I blame it on the absolutely naïve, disrespectful stupidity that some locals but most of all tourists do.

 

I saw tourists and “fishermen” wearing their rubber shoes going off onto the reefs during low tide and removing any shells they could find.  Do the hotels not see this and explain to their gets the ethics of the ocean?  Do the hotels not understand that part of this ecosystem is what brings people to such wonderful countries!

Does KWS close their eyes to the beach boys selling cowrie shells amongst others on the beach – spread on native rugs?

KWS have rangers walking the beaches; – why do my eyes see things their trained paid eyes do not? Yet when guests  go out to sea they are ready pounce and take entrance fee for the marine parks!

Why do street stands and shops in Mombasa sell numerous types of sea shells?

Again I have been personally disappointed with the lack of education or sense that is being used by the educated tourists and some locals who for money are willing to damage their own land! 

 

Lucky there is still a lot to be seen when scuba diving as over the reef a boat is needed and a good healthy pair of lungs to get past 5 to 6 meters if free diving.

I say – come back Jaws but is a smaller version to scare away those ignorant reef wreckers!!!

 

Sorry about such negative reports but when you are still young and have seen what has happened to our childhood play ground in only 20 years (when I left the coast for the 1st time to study abroad) – what will happen in the next 20 years… it is very worrying and sad!

 

Cody

Co-founder of bushdrums.com

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Marine Park Sun, 23 Jan 2011 14:26:47 +0000
Sperm Whale washed up in Watamu http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3253-sperm-whale-washed-up-in-watamu http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3253-sperm-whale-washed-up-in-watamu

Coastweek - Kenya

 

SPERM WHALE WASHED
UP OFF WATAMU BEACH

.

Coastweek - - Ranger Mohammed Mwachanze from
Watamu Marine Park carefully examines the rotting
remains of the dead sperm whale that was washed
up on the Watamu Beach..

Cause of death has not been established

 

SPECIAL REPORT AND PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OKOKO ASHIKOYE

Coastweek - - Fishermen in Watamu have discovered the rotting carcass of a dead sperm whale washed up at Kitangani Island, along Watamu Beach.

The cause of death has not been established but it is believed that the sperm whale might have drifted  to shallow waters during high tide but was unable to retreat or it might have died elsewhere and then been washed up to the beach.

The fishermen, Beach Managers and the community along the beach have expressed concern that sharks can be attracted towards the beach by the decomposing flesh and could cause danger to the beach users.

The stench emanating from the carcass could also discourage tourist at the resort beach.

The carcass can only be accessed during low tide  and there has been a suggestion that the best possible way to deal with the smell  is by pulling it to the sand beach, bury it in the sand and after it rots the bones can be put on display at Gede Museum.

This exercise is being done in collaboration with the Watamu Marine Park, Gede Museun, Fishermen, locals and hotel managers.

Coastweek - - Curious on lookers mill around the carcass
of a sperm whale that was washed up at Watamu Beach.

Coastweek - - Kenya wildlife service Watamu Marine park
officials led by, Pascal Magiri, deputy warden extreme
right with rangers, Mohammed Mwachanze, Emily Simba
and Abdallah Alausy, Senior Curator Gede Museum
(touching the carcass) follow the leads at the scene
where a sperm whale was washed up at watamu beach.

]]>
Marine Park Wed, 04 Oct 2006 18:19:57 +0000
Kisite and Mpunguti Marine Parks http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3252-kisite-and-mpunguti-marine-parks http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3252-kisite-and-mpunguti-marine-parks Kisite and Mpunguti Marine Parks are located on the south coast off Shimoni and south of Wasini Island in Kwale District on the south Kenyan coast near the Tanzanian border. Kisite park covers 11km2 while Mpunguti reserve covers 28 Km2. The complex covers a marine area with four small islands surrounded by coral-reef. Kisite island is a small waterless coral island, 8 km offshore in the Marine Park. Coral platforms around the raised central portion are exposed at low tide. The three other coral islets in the park (Mpunguti ya Juu, Mpunguti ya Chini and Liwe la Jahazi) lie closer to the larger Wasini Island, are scrub covered and support no significant wildlife or birds. The surrounding waters have well developed coral gardens and a large variety of fish.

Roads: 40 kms from Mombasa via Diani & Kwale

Major Attractions: Coral Gardens

Activities: Snorkelling, Diving, Bird watching

Common Vegetation:
Kisite is flat and treeless, covered in low grass and herbs while Mpunguti Islands have dense coastal equatorial forest. Sea grasses Cymodocea serrulata and Syringodium isoetifolium cover a large area of the sub-littoral zone of the reef. Marine algae include Padina commersonii, Dictyota bartayresiana, Bostrychia binderi, Ulva lactuca, Dictyosphaora sp., Udotea indica, and Halimeda opuntia.]]>
Marine Park Thu, 27 Apr 2006 08:51:00 +0000
Kiunga Marine National Reserve http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3251-kiunga-marine-national-reserve http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3251-kiunga-marine-national-reserve Kiunga Marine National Reserve incorporates a chain of about 50 calcareous offshore islands and coral reefs in the Lamu Archipelago, running for some 60km parallel to the coastline off the northern most coast of Kenya and adjacent to Dodori and Boni National Reserves on the mainland.
Composed of old, eroded coral, the islands mainly lie inland around 2km offshore and inshore of the fringing reef. They vary in size from a few hundred sq m to 100ha or more. Their walls rise sheer from the surrounding seabed and are usually deeply undercut on the landward side. The larger islands and the more sheltered inner islands are covered with low, tangled thorny vegetation including grass, aloes and creepers. The small outer islands provide nest sites for migratory seabirds. The reserve conserves valuable coral reefs, sea grass meadows and extensive mangrove forests, with their attendant biodiversity and is also a refuge for sea turtles and dugongs.

Climate:
The climate is hot and humid with rainfall around 500mm per year.

Roads:
By boat from Lamu or by road from Lamu Airstrips: One at Dodori N. Reserve Major

Attractions:
Coral reefs, Sand dune, Kiwayu Island Activities: Wind surfing, Snorkeling, Water skiing, Sunbathing, Diving Reptiles/fish: Sea Turtles, Olive Ridley, Leatherback, Turtles, Reef fish Insects/arthropods: Lobsters, Sea urchins, Sea star, Crabs, Mosquito

Common Vegetation:
The islands consist of bare sharp edged spikes and ridges of coral on the seaward side with a little straggling vegetation such as Saliconria and the succulent sanseveria. On the landward side there is more vegetation including stunted thorny bushes of Commiphora and Salvadora persica. The coast itself has sandy beaches, some with mangrove swamps and a great variation of marine flora. Microscopic marine plants are absent from the upper part of the intertidal zone except for areas of Bostrychia bindelia. In the intertidal sand and mud, the finer sediments below water, which are subject to less wave action, have become fixed by growth of marine angiosperms and there are extensive areas of dugong grass (green algae) and Zostera spp. Dwarf shrub thickets of salt-tolerant plants (halophytes) typical of the Indo-Pacific beach littoral zone are common on the mainland, and species include Ipomoea pescaprae, Cyperus maritimus, Suaeda, and Tephrosia. Mangrove swamps dominated by Rhizophora mucronata occur in the sheltered tidal waters between Mwanzi and Mkokoni.]]>
Marine Park Thu, 27 Apr 2006 08:50:00 +0000
Mombasa Marine National Park & Reserve http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3250-mombasa-marine-national-park-?-reserve= http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3250-mombasa-marine-national-park-?-reserve= The Mombasa Marine National Park is 10 km2 while the reserve is 200 km2. Both the park and reserve are the most highly utilised among marine protected areas . Their coastline is heavily developed with tourist facilities. There are various agents who offer for hire boats to get into the Marine Park. There are quite a good number of companies offering water sports facilities. These firms are spread along the beach. The place is ideal for diving. Diving gears are easily available from water sports desks.

Mombasa itself is a mix of traditional and modern culture. The 17th Century Fort Jesus, which was used as a Fort by the Portuguese against Sultan invasion after which they (Portuguese) were eventually evicted after a two year siege, is within the Island which is a few minutes drive from the marine park. Mombasa Old Town is highly dominated by swahili culture especialy architecture.

Major Attractions:

Beach, Coral gardens. Insects/arthropods: Crabs, Corals, Shells, Sea urchins, Sea cucumbers, Sea Stars, Jelly fish.

Common Vegetation:
Mangroves, Sea grasses, Sea weeds.]]>
Marine Park Thu, 27 Apr 2006 08:49:00 +0000
Watamu Marine National Park http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3249-watamu-marine-national-park http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3249-watamu-marine-national-park Watamu National Park is part of a complex of marine and tidal habitats on Kenyas North coast stretching from Malindi town to beyond the entrance to Mida creek. It is enclosed by the Malindi Marine National Reserve which also encloses Malindi Marine National Park. Habitats include intertidal rock, sand and mud; fringing reefs and coral gardens; beds of sea grass; coral cliffs, platforms and islets; sandy beaches and Mida Creek mangrove forest. The park was designated as a Biosphere reserve in 1979. Mida creek is a large, almost land locked expanse of saline water, mangrove and intertidal mud. Its extensive forests are gazetted as forest reserves and the extreme western tip of Mida Creek is part of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve.

Roads:
Access is via tarmac road from Mombasa or Malindi.

Airstrips:
Mombasa or Malindi Airports.

Reptiles/fish:
Fish, Turtles. Insects/arthropods: Crabs

Vegetation:
Mida creek has important mangrove forests with a high diversity of species including Ceriops tagal, Rhizophora mucronata, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Avicennia marina and Sonneratia alba.]]>
Marine Park Thu, 27 Apr 2006 08:48:00 +0000
Malindi Marine National Reserve http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3248-malindi-marine-national-reserve http://bushdrums.com/index.php/kenya/kenyamarineparks/item/3248-malindi-marine-national-reserve The Malindi Marine National Reserve encloses Watamu and Malindi Marine National Parks. The area also includes several coral islets, notably Whale island at the entrance to Mida Creek in the Watamu Marine National Park. The reserve is 213 km2 forming a complex of marine and tidal habitats on Kenyas North Coast. It extends 5 km into the sea and stretches 30 km along the coast from Malindi town to beyond the entrance to Mida creek.
Habitats include intertidal rock, sand and mud; fringing reefs and coral gardens; beds of sea grass; coral cliffs, platforms and islets; sandy beaches and mangrove forests. Mida creek is a large, almost land locked expanse of saline water, mangrove forest and intertidal mud protected in the Watamu Marine Reserve. Its extensive forests are gazetted as forest reserves and the extreme western tip of Mida Creek is part of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve. Malindi Marine Parks' unique historical features include Vasco da Gama pillar build slightly over 500 years ago.

Roads:
118 kms from Mombasa (Malindi Town)

Airstrips:
Via Malindi Airport.

Facilities:
KWS Bandas.

Activities:
Snorkelling, diving.

Reptiles/fish:
It is a key spawning ground for many fish species. Turtles, Parrot fish, Several species of coral fish Insects/arthropods: Butterfly, Mosquito

Vegetation:
Mida Creek has important mangrove forests with a high diversity of species including Ceriops tagal, Rhizophora mucronata, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Avicennia marina and Sonneratia alba. Coral reefs are among the richest, diverse and biologically productive ecosystems, with more organisms per square meter than any other type of ecosystem in the world. A total of 140 species of hard and soft corals have been recorded along the Kenya coast. These corals live in symbiosis with chlorophyll generating animals, which give corals their spectacular colours.]]>
Marine Park Thu, 27 Apr 2006 08:46:00 +0000
Kenya Losing Wild Animals at Alarming Rate http://bushdrums.com/index.php/tanzania/tanzania-national-parks/item/373-kenya-losing-wild-animals-at-alarming-rate http://bushdrums.com/index.php/tanzania/tanzania-national-parks/item/373-kenya-losing-wild-animals-at-alarming-rate

Kenya losing wild animals at alarming rate

 

The Nation
By Dave Opiyo
February 22, 2010
 


Minister says lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas are becoming extinct

The number of carnivorous animals in the country is on the decline and the government is worried.

From cheetahs, lions and leopards to stripped hyena’s and African wild dogs, their population has been dwindling at an alarming rate, a trend that is now being blamed on climate change, loss of food, and increased human population.

On Monday, Forestry and Wildlife minister Noah Wekesa said it was a matter of serious concern that needed urgent attention.

“The number of the large carnivores is on the decline throughout the world and Kenya’s is no exception,” said the minister in a statement.

Dr Wekesa asked communities not to kill lions and hyenas and pledged that KWS would do everything possible to protect them and their livestock.

“I know there are plans to build lion-proof bomas. Let us all strive to preserve this important heritage,” he concluded.

Statistics from the Kenya Wildlife Service, for instance, indicate that the population of lions in the country had declined from an estimated 2,749 in 2002 to about 2000 in 2008.

Receding numbers

But despite their receding numbers, the minister said the remaining animals were still a major source of problems especially to those living near national parks and reserves.

Attacks on livestock by large carnivores, he said, had increased and this consequently led to the killing of the wild animals.

“The just ended prolonged drought was the worst that had ever been felt in the area. The number of herbivores was reduced from as many as 7,000 to just 300,” he said while launching an ambitious strategy to conserve the carnivores.

Added the minister: “Already, the communities had lost over 80 per cent of their livestock to the drought. When the lions and hyenas turned to the remaining livestock, the communities were distressed and attacked them in return.”

Dr Wekesa continued: “The drought took a heavy toll on both wild animals and the habitats we care for. Besides, it also adversely affected the livestock of communities living adjacent to national parks and reserves. One of the consequences of the drought was increase in human wildlife conflict.”

The minister cited the ongoing translocation of 7,000 zebra and wildebeests at a cost of Sh103 million to restore the Amboseli ecosystem by the Kenya Wildlife Service as a show of government commitment to community welfare.

It is expected that the exercise will, in the long run, provide food to these animals, thus alleviating the human-wildlife conflict and ecological imbalance.

Dr Wekesa said the success of conservation efforts in the country largely depended on the goodwill of communities living adjacent to national parks and reserves.

“This means we have to protect the livelihoods of these communities and promote harmonious co-existence with wildlife,” the minister said.

The strategy is to provide a road map for the conservation of the animals.

It prescribes actions that need to be taken by various stakeholders and coordinated by the KWS to reverse the declining wildlife population.

Separately, the world’s 25 most endangered primates have been named in a new report.

Mankind’s closest living relatives — apes, monkeys, lemurs, and other primates — are on the brink of extinction and in need of urgent conservation measures, according to Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008-2010.

The report reveals that nearly half of all primate species are now in danger of becoming extinct from destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade, and commercial bush meat hunting.

The list includes five primate species from Madagascar, six from Africa, 11 from Asia, and three from Central and South America, all of which are the most in need of urgent conservation action.

Compiled by 85 experts from across the world, the report was launched at Bristol Zoo Gardens last week, with guests from national and international conservation and research organisations.

Conservationists want to highlight the plight of species such as the golden headed langur (trachypithecus p. poliocephalus), which is found only on the island of Cat Ba in the Gulf of Tonkin, north eastern Vietnam, where just 60 to 70 individuals remain.

Similarly, there are thought to be less than 100 individual northern sportive lemurs (lepilemur septentrionalis) left in Madagascar and just 110 eastern black crested gibbons (nomascus nasutus) in north eastern Vietnam.

The list has been drawn up by primatologists working in the field who have first-hand knowledge of the causes of threats to primates.

One of the editors of the report is Dr Christoph Schwitzer, head of research at the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF), a sister organisation of Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Alarming reading

Dr Schwitzer, who is also an adviser on Madagascan primates for the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, contributed the chapter on the Endangered Sclater’s lemur (also called the blue-eyed black lemur).

Dr Schwitzer said: “This report makes for very alarming reading and it underlines the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates. We hope it will be effective in drawing attention to the plight of each of the 25 species included. Support and action to help save these species is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever.”

Almost half (48 per cent) of the world’s 634 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The main threats are habitat destruction, particularly from the burning and clearing of tropical forests (which results in the release of around 16 per cent of the global greenhouse gases causing climate change), the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.

Article and photo at:  http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/866788/-/item/0/-/3rcnla/-/index.html

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National Parks Tue, 23 Feb 2010 01:28:40 +0000
Animals by the Thousand Arrive at Kenya's Meru National Park http://bushdrums.com/index.php/tanzania/tanzania-national-parks/item/371-animals-by-the-thousand-arrive-at-kenya's-meru-national-park http://bushdrums.com/index.php/tanzania/tanzania-national-parks/item/371-animals-by-the-thousand-arrive-at-kenya's-meru-national-park

Animals By the Thousand Arrive at Kenya's Meru National Park

 


Environment News Service
August 28, 2007
NAIVASHA, Kenya

 

Some 2,000 wild animals are being relocated to Kenya's Meru National Park from areas of the country with larger populations as part of a drive by the government to revive and rebrand the park as "complete wilderness."

Species such as the endangered Grevy's zebra, common zebra, impala, hartebeest and Beisa oryx are being moved in what the Kenya Wildlife Service is calling, "the greatest African ungulate translocation."

Early this month, Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kipng'etich formally started the last phase of an historic process to restore the park's biodiversity that started in 2000.

Since the end of July when this relocation started, 396 zebras and 492 impalas out of the targeted 2,000 have been moved to the park. The animals are being taken from overstocked wildlife areas in Naivasha, Nakuru and Laikipia.

They are driven into funnel-shaped capture sites and loaded into crates. The system can only be used for smaller animals and is commonly used in South Africa.

This relocation will cost Sh8.8 million (US$135,000), says Paul Udoto, corporate communications manager with the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Meru National Park in northern Kenya, 348 kilometres (216 miles) from the capital Nairobi, lost its position as a premier destination for visitors seeking untamed wilderness when it suffered a downturn in the 1970s and early 80s due to rampant banditry and poaching.

During this period, poachers slaughtered 90 percent of the park's 3,000 elephants. Rhinos were completely wiped out. Lawlessness and land use conflicts between humans and wildlife devastated the park and tourism plummeted.

Since 2000, international donors Agence Francaise de Developpement, AFD, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, have helped to bring animals back into the park. In April 2003, one of nine endangered white rhinos translocated to the park the month before gave birth to a healthy calf, the first born in the park in 20 years.

Thirty-nine reticulated giraffe from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy were relocated to Meru National Park in June 2003 as part of ongoing efforts to replace wildlife species in the vast protected area. In 2000, the Kenya Wildlife Service moved 66 elephants from private ranches in Laikipia to Meru. IFAW teamed up with the Born Free Foundation and Ol Pejeta Ranch, a private game sanctuary, to help the Service translocate the elephants. Each family group was captured and moved at one time to ensure that their social bonds were not disturbed.

Meru National Park is best known as the setting for George and Joy Adamson's book and Oscar-winning 1966 film "Born Free", about an orphaned lioness cub they raised and named Elsa.

Joy Adamson acquired the lioness after George shot its mother in self-defense. The film depicts the dilemma the Adamsons faced when their time in Kenya came to an end, forcing them to decide whether to place Elsa in a zoo, or to attempt to teach the domesticated lioness to hunt and fend for herself. Else was successfully released back into the wild.

Gazetted as a protected area in 1966, Meru National Park straddles the equator at the foot of the Nyambene Hills. It is inhabited by rare and unique animal species characteristic of semi-arid areas and is dominated by tall grass, lush swamps, thorny acacia, bush lands, and 14 permanent rivers.

The rivers support swamps and river forests with such diverse trees as figs, tamarinds and doum palms. There are 400 recorded species of birds, including such rare species as Peter's finfoot and Pel's fishing owl.

The Kenya Wildlife Service, with millions of dollars in support from AFD and IFAW, has invested in new infrastructure developments including four airstrips, visitor accommodation facilities, roads, gates, staff housing and community projects.

These funds have allowed rebuilding of the park's original ranger headquarters, repair of security vehicles, and fencing of two nearby farms to prevent elephants from wandering onto them.

The Service is building one of its biggest ranger camps with 129 housing units at the park's Murera gate to boost security and avoid a repeat of the 1980s poaching and banditry.

Earlier this month, investors in the tourism industry were invited to purchase sites in four development locations in parks and reserves in the Meru Conservation Area, which includes the Meru and Kora national parks and the Bisanadi and Mwingi national reserves, having a total of 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles).

A 10 year management plan for the area, unveiled at the end of June 2007, opened 13 new sites for construction of tourism facilities in Meru National Park.

All these moves are in line with Kenya's Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife's shift "from mass to exclusive high-end tourism," says Udoto.

Some of the area's key tourist attractions include game viewing, wilderness habitats, the grave of Elsa the lioness and the home of Joy and George Adamson, a rhino sanctuary, Adamson's Falls, and boating opportunities on River Tana.


Article at the following link:
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2007/2007-08-28-02.asp

]]>
National Parks Wed, 29 Aug 2007 23:32:52 +0000
Peep at Wildlife Haven Which May Outshine the Maasai Mara http://bushdrums.com/index.php/tanzania/tanzania-national-parks/item/370-peep-at-wildlife-haven-which-may-outshine-the-maasai-mara http://bushdrums.com/index.php/tanzania/tanzania-national-parks/item/370-peep-at-wildlife-haven-which-may-outshine-the-maasai-mara

 Peep at wildlife haven which may outshine the Maasai Mara

 

Story by BRYAN HARRIS
The Nation


High up on the list of excellent places to visit, close to the slot reserved for the world’s Seventh Wonder — the Maasai Mara Reserve — is the Samburu National Reserve. And even better, it is off the beaten track. 

Driving there takes five to six hours on fairly good roads, with much to see en-route. By plane, it takes a bare 60 minutes to the adjacent Buffalo Springs Reserve airstrip. 

Also nearby is the Shaba Reserve. 

 
River Uaso Nyiro. It is key to the region’s success as a wildlife refuge as it provides almost year-round water for humans and animals. Photo by Brian Harris
The three reserves have a spectacular landscape of dry bush, yellow grassland and acacia thickets. They are ringed by towering mountain ranges, dominated by the sheer-sided Ol Olokwe. The trio are home to an abundance of wildlife not equalled even by the Mara. 

Still, it was good to hear that the Mara had been declared a World Heritage site by Unesco, and rated by some as a Seventh Wonder of the modern world.

Saved for posterity

Now it can take its rightful place, alongside other natural and man-made wonders such as the Grand Canyon in the USA and the temples of Angkor War in Cambodia. Thereby, it will secure special care and attention and will be saved for posterity. 

Expect the Mara to be more popular then ever, especially now that tourist arrivals to Kenya have broken through the million number. Even more visitors are expected in 2007, with many of those travel advisories consigned to the waste bin. 

While in no way detracting from the famous Mara, which will be the country’s biggest tourist draw for a number of reasons, topped by near certainty as the place to view the ‘Big Five’, other parks and reserves should be adequately publicised. (The Big Five are, elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and giraffe.)

Visit to the arid north

It’s not the fault of promoters for concentrating on the Mara and a few selected parks. They are driven simply by what tourists and other clients want. But for anyone to come and leave Kenya without a visit to the arid north is to miss out on colourful and natural scenery. 

Take the Samburu reserve. It is easily accessible by road and air. Together with the nearby Buffalo Springs Reserve and the Shaba Reserve, it makes for scenic landscape and abundant wildlife unequalled even in the Maasai Mara. 

Unequalled, that is, in variety — and not in sheer numbers. Here are to be found at least six animals that are unique to the area. These are the reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, the Somali blue necked ostrich, the gerenuk and the Beisa oryx. Elephant, leopard, lion and cheetah are seen frequently and, although rhino are listed, it is doubtful that any remain as permanent residents. Birdlife is prolific, running to perhaps 500 species. Again, this beats the Mara hands down.

Perhaps key to the region’s success as a wildlife refuge is River Uaso Nyiro, which separates Buffalo Springs and Samburu reserves. It winds around Shaba and provides near year-round water for humans and animals. 

From a trickle or less, it can, following heavy rains in the Aberdare or Nyahururu ranges, be a raging torrent, carrying all before it. Within weeks, however, it usually reverts to a gently flowing stream, so shallow for the most part that elephants can ford it pretty much where the fancy takes them. And crocodiles emerge from the muddy water to warm themselves on a convenient sand bar. 

Try watching this idyllic scene while parked under the shade of an acacia tree. You will be transfixed by the beauty of it all. Once in Samburu reserve, you quickly get the sensation that civilisation has been left far away, so pristine and unspoiled is the landscape.

These days, there is a multitude of places to stay at, most of them strategically placed along the Uaso Nyiro river. For those who want to get even closer to nature, there are several camp sites with all the necessary amenities. 

Choosing to indulge ourselves, we opted for the Samburu Game Lodge, one of two properties operated by Wilderness Lodges Limited in the reserve. Both properties have been recently refurbished and upgraded. 

Searching for game

The rooms, in particular, have been tastefully done, as has the dining area. At other times, we enjoyed relaxing by the swimming pool, or meeting at the Crocodile Bar overhanging the river to partake of a sundowner and compare notes after a day’s searching for game on the hot savannah.

 Whichever way you travel to Samburu, you might be lucky to be treated to a full-on view of Mt Kenya’s majestic, snow covered peaks, particularly early in the day before the warmth of the sun causes them to cloud over. 

Surprisingly, very few people know when Kenya came by its name. Many believe this happened around the turn of the 19th century, in 1901 to be precise, the year the Uganda Railway finally reached Port Florence (present day Kisumu). But that is not so. 

Dark rock and white snow

Although Uganda got its name in 1894, Kenya became a country in its own right only in 1920. Before then, it went by the undistinguished title of East Africa Protectorate. 

The country’s name, of course, was taken from the mountain which, in Gikuyu, is Kirinyaga. In Kamba, it is Kii-nyaa. Both names refer to the black and white plumage of the male ostrich, redolent of the peak’s dark rock and white snow. 

Seen from Nairobi, the mountain appears to consist of a single peak. But, in fact, there are two — one just a few metres higher than its twin. 

Now, here’s a teaser with a big reward for the winner: What are the peaks called, and who are they named after? Send your answers to Wilderness Lodges at sales@wildernesslodges.co.ke

The first correct entry to be drawn will win two nights for two at Samburu Game Lodge.
 

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National Parks Mon, 12 Mar 2007 23:18:59 +0000