For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

~ John O’Donohue ~

#Stargazers: Chasing the African Night Sky

City life tends to get us engulfed in so much that we forget to appreciate and enjoy the little things in life. One such little thing is simply looking up at the African night sky, undoubtedly one of the best things you could ever take time to do.

The city robs us of this experience, what with huge skyscrapers, light pollution among other distractions. To be honest most of us only get to appreciate the existence of the moon let alone the stars when power goes out no?!

If you are yet to marvel at the beautiful African night sky, your best bet is to travel to the remote country areas. Something the  astrophotographers below got to appreciate. We are just glad they got to bring back souvenirs from their Kenyan stargazing adventures courtesy of their night captures.

Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Turkana – ©2008 Jon Warren/World Vision
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Amboseli night sky – Nick Saglibeni
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Amboseli National Park, southern Kenya ©Tunc Tezel
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
African night sky – @deadmau5
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Babak Tafreshi/National Geographic Society
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
The Mara night sky – Mark Gee
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Milky Way over Mount Kilimanjaro – Dale Johnson
Zuru Kenya - African night sky
Kenya Stargazing – image via flickr user Weldon Kennedy

Did you Know? Northern White Rhinos in the Brink of Extinction

Are you aware that there are only three Northern White Rhinos left in the world?

yes! one, two, three! They all reside in a natural habitat in Kenya.

The three;  one male, Sudan and two females, Najin and Fatu, live under 24-hour armed protection at  the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki. In addition to round-the-clock security, the conservancy has also put radio transmitters on the animals and dispatches incognito rangers into neighboring communities to gather intelligence on poaching.

Keeper Mohamed Doyo leans over to pat female northern white rhino Najin in her pen where she is being kept for observation.— AP
Source: dawn.com, Keeper Mohamed Doyo leans over to pat female northern white rhino Najin in her pen where she is being kept for observation.— AP

Round the clock surveillance is vital for these animals as conservationists are running against time to ensure that this subspecies does not go extinct.  Seeing as Sudan is quite old, beside the fact that he is Najin and Fatu’s father and grandfather, respectively, his sperm, even if it was viable, risks the problems associated with inbreeding. Experts are now looking into alternative reproduction techniques, including in vitro fertilization (IVF) to try ensure that come the next decade Northern White Rhinos still roam this earth.

This is the sad reality for the subspecies who’ve been driven to near extinction by money hungry poachers. The poaching is fueled by the belief in Asia that their horns cure various ailments and the trade is believed to be very lucrative.

#CoupleTravel: In the spirit of Love

What adventure do you reckon is more greater; to travel or to be in love?

How about both? To travel the world, expand your cultural understanding, discover new destinations that too with someone you love  by your side, what could be more rewarding than that?!

We’ve also heard that couples who travel together stay together. How true that is, we will leave to your judgement…meanwhile in the spirit of celebrating Love, we share some inspirational couple travel quotes.

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“A couple who travel together, grow together.” ― Ahmad Fuadi

“A couple who travel together, grow together.” ― Ahmad Fuadi

zuru kenya couples
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live? – Walt Whitman

Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live? – Walt Whitman

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“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, “I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.” – Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, “I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.” – Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

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Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back, and reasons to stay.

Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back, and reasons to stay.

zuru kenya couple
“Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.” –The Dhammapada

“Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.” –The Dhammapada

zuru kenya couple
“Travel brings power and love back into your life” – Rumi

“Travel brings power and love back into your life” – Rumi

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I wanna travel the world with you. Go to every country, every city, take pictures and be happy.

I wanna travel the world with you. Go to every country, every city, take pictures and be happy.

zuru kenya couples
“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

zuru kenya couples
“In Life, It’s Not Where You Go, It’s Who You Travel With” – Charles Schulz

“In Life, It’s Not Where You Go, It’s Who You Travel With” – Charles Schulz

Couple zuru kenya
“Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” ― Roman Payne

“Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” ― Roman Payne

10 Things to Know Before Moving to Kenya

Is moving to Kenya at the top of your things to do list this year? Fantastic! this is going to be one adventurous ride.

If this is going to be your first time in the country though, you need to fasten your seat belt because no thanks to the much sought entertainment value depicted in the Kenyan-based big hit films and documentaries, the Kenya you’ve familiarized yourself with on screen is nothing compared to the Kenya you are about to experience.

What then – if not sunsets and safaris?

1. It’s not always a sunny paradise

Image result for rainy kenya

Whilst the beautiful tropical climate might have drawn you here, don’t discard your cold weather outfits because some regions can be unforgivably cold.

2. Where you choose to live as an expat in Nairobi directly relates to your social circle

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Appleton Resort, a seductively and exclusive well designed town resort in the midst of the serene and leafy up market residential area of Westlands.

There are two obvious choices of living areas as an expat settling in Nairobi: Karen or Westlands. Karen is usually where you find the old-timers and the families who have been around for years, whereas Westlands boasts a more diverse community being the area of choice for the United Nations and other Embassies.

3. There’s no hurry in Africa

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This is one phrase you’ll have to be accustomed to, so is the behavior that comes with it. Reality on the ground is that it shouldn’t come as a shock to you when an event you attend doesn’t start as scheduled. Don’t be frustrated if deadlines aren’t met either, Kenyans are always running late!

4. PaaPaa PeePeeeeeee… Traffic Jam In the city
Image result for traffic jam nairobi

 

Traffic congestion on our roads is horrendous! Nairobi being most notorious. One therefore needs to master the art of avoiding traffic so as not to get caught up in the madness. The rule of thumb is to leave for your destination before or after the rush hours; mornings between 7:00 a.m and 9:00 a.m and evenings between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  nonetheless, you’ll want to allow extra time for your commute, even if it’s not “rush hour.”

5. You will start to refer to yourself as Kenyan, regardless of what it says on your passport

you'll call yourself kenyan zurukenya
Image: osbke.com

It is very easy to connect in Kenya simply because the locals are very friendly and welcoming. It also helps that most cities are a hub of social activities; festivals, concerts, art exhibits alongside having meetup groups that organize outdoorsy events. Don’t be a loner!

6. You are either a Land Rover or a Land Cruiser person

Image result for offroad safari kenya rhino charge
Hitting the road in the BRCK Land Rover Image: brck.com

The reason for this is simple: safaris. There is an ongoing debate as to which car is better to take bundu bashing (off-road driving).

Another thing, from the moment you land on Kenyan soil, you will realize  that driving here is not for the faint at heart…there aren’t any rules really. The bigger the car you drive, the better your chances of winning any on-road battle. So get yourself a four-wheel drive to be on the safe side.

7. Our reputation as an insecure country is undeserved

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Sure we’ve had our hiccup with terrorism but Kenya isn’t as dangerous as portrayed. You will however need to be cautious of security concerns common to all major cities such as petty crime.

It helps to avoid crowded areas, do not expose your most valued possessions in public and in case you use public transportation, stay alert the entire duration of the journey. Moreover,  be cautious of strangers who approach you in need of help; this may sometimes be a tactic to lure you into a dangerous situation.

8. Real Estate is Growing

Image result for real estate westlands and karen kenya
Have nowhere to stay yet? no worries, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The real estate market has grown significantly in Kenya  with both furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses being readily available. Rental listings are easy to find online and you could as well deal directly with a reputable real estate company, such as Hass ConsultKnight Frank, or Lamudi Kenya.  There are also expat community sites and groups online that could assist with suggestions. As always, exercise caution whenever you make contact online.

 

9. You will be kept in the dark. Literally!

Image result for candle light no power kenya

If patience is an area you need work on, then heads up, you’ll need lots of it. Be prepared for constant power outages, more so during the rainy season. In case you do not want to waste money on stocking perishables or better yet value constant internet connection, then you’d better stock up on a generator.

10. You don’t really need to carry cash. Ever!

Image result for mobile money mpesa

Well except for chump change in case you need to negotiate price. Thank God for ‘M-Pesa’ (mobile money service). The whole country uses M-Pesa. Using the mobile money service, Kenyans keep cash on their mobile phones and can then pay bills or send money just by sending a text. When they need the physical cash, they can then withdraw it at any  M-Pesa agent across the country in less than a minute. How about that?!

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“For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.” — Alex Garland, “The Beach”

Wild soap bar: Wildlife works’ “Green” soap production

As with previous series’ on wildlife works, the people of Kasigau Corridor have highly benefitted from provision of jobs in different sectors of the company with training and development of varied skillsets;  If you are not cutting or sewing in the eco-factory, maybe you are protecting the diversity as a ranger, or perhaps putting your knowlege of plants to good use in the greenhouse and if you are more adept at mechanics,  then you can spend your work days at the workshop.

In order to maximise job creation, Wildlife Works is constantly venturing into new sectors, soap making being one of them. The soap-making factory, albeit still a small operation, works on producing high quality soaps with a touch of individuality – some of which you love to pocket home from your eco-lodge getaway.

MEET BETTY KITIRO

The principal employee of wildlife works’ soap factory, Betty Kitiro who hails from a village in the  Kasigau corridor started volunteering at wildlife works in 2007 where she was trained in soap-making. In less than year, she became a full time employee and now shows great initiative in experimenting with different ingredients to create fun and fragrant soaps for Kenyans and international tourists alike.

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Betty is currently producing five core varieties of soap, with the key ingredients coming from local sources.  The soap-making factory aside from producing  for consumers, it is able to provide a boost in income for small-scale producers of aloe, limes, jojoba seeds, myrrh, loofah pods, honey and oranges. To add extra essence of the region, the soaps are generally simply packaged in elephant dung paper made at Rukinga or sisal baskets made by local women.  At the moment the soaps are primarily sold to hotels in Kenya, providing their guests with a little something from Tsavo.

Zuru Kenya-Wildlife Works Soap

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Note: Wildlife works uses only pure essential oils to scent their products.  Each original recipe also includes wild native plants, organic botanicals, natural colorants, and healing earth clays therein remaining purely “Green”.

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‘Shetani’ Lava Flow

‘Shetani ’ means ‘devil’ in Kiswahili: The Lava flows are said to have been formed about 500 years ago. When the locals first saw ‘fire’ erupting and ‘flowing’ on the ground they believed that it was the devil himself emerging from the earth – hence the name “Shetani” Lava Flow.

Want to envisage how the world was like when it was “formless, dark, and void” before God said “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1-3)?? ‘Shetani’ Lava Flow in Tsavo West is the place to visit. God’s wonders are all around us take sometime to appreciate them.

zurukenya shetani lava flow
“Formless Earth” with Chyulu Hills – the youngest volcanic range of hills in the World. Estimated to have been formed about 500 years ago
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Shetani Lava against the background of the scenic Chyulu Hills
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Klipspringer – an inhabitant of the Shetani Lava’s rocky terrain
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Chaimu Crater
Wish you all a Great Weekend.
Location: Tsavo West

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Traverse Africa in Four minutes with Yemi Alade and Sauti Sol

So I have just come across the “Africa” official Video by Yemi Alade ft Sauti Sol and now its on constant replay. Of course I had heard it a while back, but I really paid no mind to it because a song is never really a song until the video is out then you can put two and two together; Music Visuals in relation to the lyrics.

Just yesterday, some colleagues and I were discussing how Yemi Alade showcases so much culture and colour in her music videos – perhaps a depiction of the African Continent, based on her Mama Africa Album birthed in journeys around the continent – then I come across this today (To the African Gods who were listening, Thank you!). Yemi Alade has won millions over with this Album and so has Sauti Sol with Live and Die in Afrika. It is only right therefore, that they had a collaboration on this big hit “Africa”.

These two talents did not disappoint as usual, but the reason why this music video is on replay is not the polished blend of guitar and dancehall, no. It is merely the fact that  I remain fixeted on the beautiful people, landscapes, and wildlife. Basically the spirit that is our motherland. The video not only showcases our history, through the pics of the people responsible for our freedom today, It also shows the world the vibrancy that is our cultures, destinations and love for each other. Thanks to Yemi Alade and Sauti Sol, you get to traverse Africa in just four minutes.

If you’re still not exactly sure how Africa looks like, take a look at this Music Video. I’m sure you’ll be booking your next ticket here whilst getting down to the very danceable tune. Don’t get it twisted though, Africa is still not a country…so come to kenya first *wink*.

“Anywhere you go, nowhere be like Africa, no where be like home”

Fun Facts: 

  • ‘Africa’ video was shot in different locations – Nigeria, Kenya, UK and USA, celebrating the incomparable beauty and richness of Africa
  • The amazing backdrop of  landscapes and wildlife is yours truly, Kenya.

HUSSEIN GUIDA TURISTICA: THE ‘BEACH OPERATOR’ WITH A DREAM

You may have noticed that majority of beach hotels have erected fences along the shoreline, leaving only a narrow opening leading to the beach. Perhaps you have come across some Samburu and Maasai men roaming the stretch of the shoreline as well?  In as much as they are an attraction to tourists, these young men serve as barricades, hired by some hotels to serve the same purpose as the erected fences.

Beach boys zuru kenya
Maasai man hired to kep unwanted guests away.

watamu

Knowing very well that hotel guests come here looking for some relaxation time by the white sandy shores, why then would these establishments go to such lengths to keep them fenced in? Well… have you heard this before, “when you head down to the beach, pay no mind to the beach boys!”

Ah, yes, beach boys! The mere mention of the words has tourists and locals alike, running for the hills.

These people will ruin your day. They do not take no for an answer. They will adamantly try to sell you whatever favors are on offer for that day. And if you think those fences are good enough to keep them away, guess again, they will cling on for dear life, calling out for you until you heed their call.

Beach boys have a keen eye too. They will spot you the moment you set foot on the white sands. Instantly working out tactics in which to reel you in. Like fresh prey, you are just another meal ticket for the day’s survival walking through these “vultures’” door.

“Jambo!

Would you be interested in a boat excursion to the Watamu Marine Park?” a somewhat young guy approached us. He introduced himself though I forget his name.

“It’s not costly” he said.

“No thanks! We are just walking” we responded.

“How about snorkeling? Promise you’ll have loads of fun”

“We weren’t prepared for that today…Asante, pengine Kesho! (Thanks, perhaps tomorrow!)”

Now, whenever you tell Kenyan hawkers “no thanks, perhaps another day” – accompanied with a polite smile, they generally tend to leave you in peace, of course, after few attempts of trying to convince you to check your pockets again, but they do move on without a hassle in search for the next potential client (Lessons learned from years of having to negotiate buys at the market).

So when we said perhaps tomorrow, he said okay and left.

Only to come back with a booklet filled with photos showcasing the excursions they offer…haha *facepalm emoji* sigh!

This guy just wouldn’t let up.

“Tomorrow we can go see the dolphins, yeah?!”

Knowing we weren’t even going to be there tomorrow we just said we’d think about it.

“Okay, if you don’t want to go on the boat trip, maybe you can check out the sourvenirs we have at our hang-out joint?

Man, this guy’s marketing skills were up there with the rest of them. Although, I now get how the dogged persistence can be wearing and a tad-bit annoying. He and his crew spend their days at a small makuti restaurant (their hang-out joint) by the beach from where they chill and wait to spot potential clients. The restaurant is owned by one of them; it’s apparent that “beach boys” spread themselves thinly over a wide range of deals rather than specializing in one so as to cushion them from uncertainty.

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some of the items sold infront of the restaurant “hang-out joint”
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some of the items sold infront of the restaurant “hang-out joint”

We had nothing to lose so we obliged. On approaching the “hang-out joint” a number of other beach boys came over to say hi asking us where we were from and so on. One of them on noticing I had a camera requested for a photo with one of us. That is how I met Hussein Guida Turistica (I learnt his name later on).

beach boys zuru kenya
Hussein’s photo request obliged to…

“Come upstairs” the rest of them said. The restaurant had a balcony lounge with a real nice view. “C’mon we won’t bite, come hang out with us.”

beach boys zuru kenya
I believe his name was peperone…up at the restaurants balcony

Once upstairs, they all introduced themselves and offered us seats. Our conversations involved their experiences at the beach, selling several services and what excursions they could take us on; at some point they would shift from Swahili to Italian to keep us from understanding what they were talking about. “Have you eaten, we have food you can buy” one said. “Or perhaps something more relaxing,” the guy who had initially approached us added. He explained how he had taken some alcohol earlier that day to relax. Apparently he worked better that way. Before we knew it he was singing a tune holding a make-shift microphone, explaining the benefits of alcohol…hilarious!

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Our “marketer” singing of the benefits of alcohol…great entertainer he was!

Amidst our conversation I enquired on whether they could take me across the shore to the little lagoons. I wanted to take a nice shot of the beach line from the other side. Hussein offered to take me…said he’d do it for free even. There was no need for a boat ride as one of them could be accessed on foot which provided for a good opportunity to have a real conversation on the “beach boy” life and his experiences.

Until the recent security threats, Hussein used to go by his real name. But during this period, he went by the alias ‘Brian’ for obvious reasons. Asked why he is in this business, to fend for his family the only way he knew how. He wasn’t fortunate enough to proceed with his education. His family didn’t have the funds.

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zuru kenya beach boys

Many of the beach boys along the Kenyan coast are in the profession because it’s what they know. Their fathers were also in the same business so it’s only natural.

It is also well known that aside from boat safaris, beach boys also trade drugs as well as sexual favors. He however told me that there are two types of groups clumped into the definition “beach boys” saying that the latter, gives them bad repute. “They have nothing to lose hence why they engage in sex for profit; constantly seeking foreign women (and even men) to upgrade their lives perhaps fly them out of the country even.”

He prefers to go by the title ‘beach operator’ doing honest work as an improvised tourist guide and translator. Some Italian hotels hire them as full time tour-guides assigned to groups of tourists because well, beach operators have proven to be a huge tourism attraction despite the negative connotation linked to their profession. Hussein is up to date with all the fun up-coming events in Watamu; a good guide has to be after all. He tells me that in the evening they will be having a beach party by the restaurant which is open to all and extended an invite. Unfortunately though, we weren’t sticking around till evening.

watamu (9) zuru kenya beach boys

He furthermore, informed me that he only works here to fend for his family; his mother and siblings. When he’s not at the beach, he is performing as a street dancer, something he says his mom discourages him from. “She’s just afraid I’ll hurt myself,” he says as he shows me the scar he got on his face from a fall the previous night during his performance. “But it’s my dream and passion,” he adds.

As we continued along the beach stretch, I noticed that he was really popular with the locals here, everyone from children to his peers and even older stopped us just to say hello. Perhaps it was his kindheartedness and soft nature that captivated and enticed him to people.

watamu (11) zuru kenya beach boys

Hussein went on to tell me of his challenges and future aspirations. “You see that building there,” pointing to a hotel construction at the beach stretch that is in its final touches. “I hope to one day earn enough money to afford me just one night’s stay at that place and get the royal treatment that all these tourists get.”

watamu (10) zuru kenya beach boys

For now, nothing is standing in his way to achieve his passion and dreams; he has plenty of time to earn that night’s stay.

After all, he is only 24!

Beach Boy Facts:

  • Beach boys are known to mostly sport dreadlocks. (None of the ones we interacted with in Watamu had dreadlocks)
  • They offer a range of services from boat trips, safaris, curios selling, drugs and even sexual favors.
  • Majority are illiterate and are in the beach boy profession as a result of unemployment.
  • Not every young male at the beach is a  “beach boy”, some are fishermen and Maasai ‘guards’.

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