Category Archives: About Kenya

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 ~

“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”

Daima Mkenya – Happy Madaraka Day

Nothing affirms our belonging as kenyans this Madaraka day as the song Daima Mkenya – by Eric Wainaina . Though created years ago, the message resonates with us on a daily basis and so much so on this special day as we celebrate the freedom that our fore-fathers so vehemently fought for; releasing us from the clutch of colonialism.

Verse 1
Umoja ni fahari yetu
Undugu ndio nguvu
Chuki na ukabila
Hatutaki hata kamwe
Lazima tuungane, tuijenge nchi yetu
Pasiwe hata mmoja

Naishi, Natumaini,
Najitolea daima Kenya,
Hakika ya bendera
Ni uthabiti wangu
Nyeusi ya wananchi na nyekundu ni ya damu
Kijani ni ya ardhi, nyeupe ya amani
Daima mimi mkenya
Mwananchi mzalendo

Verse 2
Kwa uchungu na mateso
Kwa vilio na uzuni
Tulinyakuliwa Uhuru
na mashujaa wa zamani
Hawakushtushwa na risasi
au kufungwa gerezani
Nia yao ukombozi kuvunja pingu za ukoloni

Naishi, Natumaini,
Najitolea daima Kenya,
Hakika ya bendera
Ni uthabiti wangu
Nyeusi ya wananchi na nyekundu ni ya damu
Kijani ni ya ardhi, nyeupe ya amani
Daima mimi mkenya
Mwananchi mzalendo

Verse 3
Wajibu wetu
Ni Kuishi kwa upendo
Kutoka ziwa Mpaka pwani
Kaskazini na kusini

Naishi, Natumaini,
Najitolea daima Kenya,
Hakika ya bendera
Ni uthabiti wangu
Nyeusi ya wananchi na nyekundu ni ya damu
Kijani ni ya ardhi, nyeupe ya amani
Daima mimi mkenya
Mwananchi mzalendo

What is Madaraka day?

Madaraka Day, 1 June, commemorates the day that Kenya attained internal self-rule in 1963, preceding full independence from the United Kingdom on 12 December 1963.

June 1, 1963, Jomo Kenyatta became prime minister of the newly-formed autonomous Kenyan government, seeking final reconciliation with the former British settlers. The country officially gained it’s independence on December 12, 1963.





Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story

The day had begun well. My friend and I were in Tsavo National Park, among the tangled vegetation and wild herds, searching for Eleanor. I was eager to find my most treasured orphaned elephant. Over my many years of involvement with elephants, there was no doubt about it: Eleanor had taught me the most about her kind. We had been through many ups and downs together. She was my old friend.

Finding her was not an easy task. Tsavo spreads over 8,000€€€ square miles. We were looking now in the place where I had heard she had been just the day before. There had been many occasions in the past when, suspecting that Eleanor might be among a wild herd, I had simply called her name and she had turned quietly from her group and come to me. We had shared many tender moments, her massive trunk prickly as she wrapped it gently around my neck, one huge foot raised in greeting for me to hug with both my arms.

I had known Eleanor since she had become an orphan at two – now she was in her forties, almost the same age as Jill, my elder daughter – and there existed between us an amazing bond of friendship and trust that had persisted beyond her return to the wild. At last – in the right area – we spotted a wild herd. From a distance it was never easy to identify Eleanor among a milling crowd of her fellow adults, and I had never felt the need to do so, certain that she would always know me. Unlike the other wild elephants of Tsavo, who had no reason to either like or trust humans, Eleanor would always want to come when called, to greet me, simply for old times’ sake. I have come to know a lot about elephant memory and how very similar to ourselves elephants are in terms of emotion – afterall, greeting an old friend makes you feel good, remembered, wanted.

There stood a large cow elephant drinking at a muddy pool, her family already moving on among the bushes. From this distance, it didn’t look much like Eleanor, for although as large, this elephant was stockier. I told my friend as much.

“How disappointing,” he said. “I was so hoping to meet her.”

“I’ll call her,” I replied, “and if this is Eleanor, she will respond.”

She did. The elephant looked up at me, her ears slightly raised, curious. She left the pool and walked straight up to us.

“Hello, Eleanor,” I said. “You’ve put on weight.”

I looked into her eyes, which curiously were pale amber. I had a fleeting thought that Eleanor’s eyes were darker, but I dismissed this instantly. This must be Eleanor. Wild elephants in Tsavo simply did not behave in this way, approaching humans so trustingly. The Tsavo herds were now innately suspicious of our kind, having been relentlessly persecuted in the poaching holocaust of the 70s, 80s and early 90s.

“Yes,” I said to my friend. “This is Eleanor.”

Reaching up, I touched her cheeks and felt the cool ivory of her tusks, caressing her below the chin in greeting. Her eyes were gentle and friendly, fringed with long dark lashes; her manner was welcoming.

“She’s beautiful,” murmured my friend. “Stand next to her so that I can take a photo.”

I positioned myself beside one massive foreleg, reaching up my hand to stroke her behind the ear, something that I loved doing with Eleanor. The hind side of an elephant’s ear is as soft and smooth to the touch as silk and always deliciously cool.

I was totally unprepared for what happened next.

The elephant took a pace backwards, swung her giant head and, using her trunk to lift my body, threw me like a piece of weightless flotsam high through the air with such force that I smashed down onto a giant clump of boulders some twenty paces away. I knew at once that the impact had shattered my right leg, for I could hear and feel the bones crunch as I struggled to sit up. I could see too that I was already bleeding copiously from an open wound in my thigh. Astonishingly, there was no pain – not yet, anyway.

My friend screamed. The elephant – I knew for certain now that this was not Eleanor – rushed at me, towering above my broken body as I braced myself for the end. I closed my eyes and began to pray. I had a lot to be thankful for, but I did not want to leave this world quite yet. Inside I began to panic, jumbled thoughts crowding my mind. But suddenly there was a moment of pure stillness – as if the world had simply stopped turning – and as I opened my eyes I could feel the elephant gently insert her tusks between my body and the rocks. Rather than a desire to kill, I realized that the elephant was actually trying to help me by lifting me to my feet, encouraging me to stand. I thought: this is how they respond to their young.

But lifting me now could be catastrophic for my broken body.

“No!” I shouted, as I smacked the tip of the wet trunk that reached down to touch my face.

She gazed down at me, her ears splayed open in the shape of Africa, her eyes kind and concerned. Then, lifting one huge foot, she began to feel me gently all over, barely touching me. Her great ears stood out at right angles to her huge head as she contemplated me lying helpless, merely inches from the tip of two long, sharp tusks. I knew then that she did not intend to kill me – elephants are careful where they tread and do not stamp on their victims. If they do intend to kill, they kneel down and use the top of the trunk and forehead. And it was at this moment – with an astonishing clarity of thought that I can still feel within me to this day – I realized that if I were to live, I needed to fulfill the debt I owed to Nature and all the animals that had so enriched my life. For even as I could feel the broken bones within my crumpled body, feel the fire of pain now engulfing me, and even though it was one of my beloved creatures that had caused me this distress, I knew then and there that I had an absolute duty to pass on my intimate knowledge and understanding of Africa’s wild animals and my belonging to Kenya.

I thought: if I survive this, I will write. This will be my legacy. I will set down everything I have learned in my efforts to contribute to the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife in this magical land.

It was as if the elephant had heard my thoughts. There was a tense silence as she took one more look at me and moved slowly off.

I would live on. In a state of some distress, my friend managed to find his way back to our driver to fetch help.

After many hours of lying beneath that boulder, experiencing agonizing pain such as never before, I was rescued by the Flying Doctors. My ordeal was far from over. I was to endure endless operations, raging infections, bone grafts and a lengthy convalescence in which it took me months of learning to walk again. But I was alive, still here in Africa. I had survived because of elephants’ extraordinary ability to communicate very sophisticated messages to each other, messages that often go against all their natural instinct. For we discovered that Eleanor knew Catherine – as we subsequently named my wild attacker – and had somehow told her that I was a friend.

As for my epiphany – the certainty that I had to write about my life and my work – here it is, some years down the line. This is the story of my settler ancestors; of growing up on my parents’ farm; of safaris and nights under the stars; of my soulmate David, my daughters Jill and Angela, the birth of our elephant orphanage, my life lived – all interwoven with spellbinding stories of the many different animals that have immeasurably enriched my life, animals I have reared and loved and come to know as a surrogate mother.

Set against the majestic land of Africa, the birthplace of mankind, my story begins.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick. My hero.:


For over 30 years, Dame Daphne Sheldrick has pioneered the hand-raising of orphaned elephants. Here she is with Eleanor, now a fully wild orphan who was rescued in 1960. Read more about Eleanor at

Excerpted from “Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story” by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, published in May 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright ©2012 by Dame Daphne Sheldrick. All rights reserved. All photos are courtesy of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Hemingway in Africa

The legendary American writer Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961), winner of the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes,  was probably the one introducing the word ‘safari’ to the English language. Hemingway traveled in East Africa two times in his life and the experiences gave him material for several short stories and novels. The remarkable personality of Hemingway also contributed to the image of the Great White Hunter. He was probably not the greatest of hunters but he had a true love affair with the hunting experience, the nature and wildlife of Africa. Without learning the Swahili language he also managed to have some understanding of the Kenyans, which was far from common at that time.

“All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa.  We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.”

First Safari

From early in his life Hemingway traveled more than most people at that time. He had an enormous appetite for adventure, war and danger. That gave him a chance to show of the macho image he was creating for himself all his life. The first visit to Kenya and Tanganyika was in 1933 with his second wife, Pauline. He was probably a bit bored at the time seeking out new inspiration. Early on the safari Hemingway was sick with dysentery. He stayed several weeks in Nairobi where he met other adventure seeking men from Europe and America. One of them was Bror Blixen, the husband of Danish writer Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen). After continuing the safari and returning home Hemingway started writing the travel description “The Green Hills of Africa”. The book did not sell well at first, which depressed Hemingway, but his two major African short stories were quickly recognized to be among the highlights of his writings (The short happy life of Francis Macomber and The snows of Kilimanjaro)

The second safari

In the winter 1953-1954, Hemingway set of for Africa again. A bit older and changed – drinking far too much. Now traveling with his fourth and last wife, Mary, to enjoy another safari. He also wanted to visit his son, who was living in Tanganyika (Tanzania). The visit was in the middle of Kenya’s Mau-Mau rebellion ignited by later president Jomo Kenyatta. The rebellion against the British colonialists was very violent. Hemingway almost lost his life on this journey, but it was not as a victim of the Mau-Mau. As a matter of fact, it happened 2 or 3 times that Hemingway was declared dead (only the last time, of course, was it true). In January 1954 he had the rare chance of reading his own obituary notice. On the journey from Nairobi to Bukavo – Congo, he and Mary had several emergency landings in the small airplane together with the pilot Roy Marsh. They had two serious crashes near Entebbe in Uganda. They were alive, but wounded after the plane disappeared in flames. They decided to return to the luxury of New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi.

Hemingway wrote about this second safari and his flirt with a young, wakamba girl. The book is written as fiction, but most of it can be read as the diary of Hemingway. ‘True at first light’ was published posthumous in 1999. The unfinished manuscript was completed by his son Patrick. Ernest Hemingway shot himself on July 2nd 1961.

Things you may not have known about Ernest Hemingway…

1. He was a failed KGB spy

In the last few years of his life, Ernest Hemingway grew paranoid and talked about FBI spying on him. He was even treated with electroshock therapy as many as 15 times at the recommendation of his physician in 1960. It was later revealed that he was in fact being watched, and Edgard Hoover had personally placed him under surveillance. In 2009, the publication of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, revealed that the FBI was in fact right to spy on Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel prize-winning novelist, because he really was on the KGB’s list of its agents in America. Based on notes from a former KGB officer who was  given access in the 1990s to intelligence archives in Moscow from the Stalin era, the book reveals that Hemingway was recruited in 1941 before making a trip to China, and was given the cover name “Argo”.

According to Soviet documents, he met with Soviet agents during the 1940s in Havana and London and “repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help us”. In the end, Hemingway turned out to be of little use to the Soviets  however, as it’s claimed he failed to give them any political information and was never “verified in practical work”. By the 1950s, “Argo” was no longer an active Soviet contact. Some project that Hemingway’s escapades as a KGB spy were more likely all part of an elaborate charade by him to gather literary inspiration. Others suspect his paranoia over being watched by the FBI may have led him to take his own life.

2. Ernest Hemingway survived through anthrax, malaria, pneumonia, skin cancer, hepatitis, diabetes, two plane crashes (on consecutive days), a ruptured kidney, a ruptured spleen, a ruptured liver, a crushed vertebra, a fractured skull, and more.

In the end, the only thing that could kill Hemingway it would seem, was himself…

“In 1954, while in Africa, Hemingway was almost fatally injured in two successive plane crashes. He chartered a sightseeing flight over the Belgian Congo as a Christmas present to Mary. On their way to photograph Murchison Falls from the air, the plane struck an abandoned utility pole and “crash landed in heavy brush.” Hemingway’s injuries included a head wound, while his wife Mary broke two ribs. The next day, attempting to reach medical care in Entebbe, they boarded a second plane that exploded at take-off, with Hemingway suffering burns and another concussion, this one serious enough to cause leaking of cerebral fluid. They eventually arrived in Entebbe to find reporters covering the story of Hemingway’s death. He briefed the reporters and spent the next few weeks recuperating and reading his erroneous obituaries.”

3. Ernest Hemingway was charged with war crimes under the Geneva Convention when he took command and led of a group of French militia into battle against the Nazis.

Hemingway as a young soldier

Serving as a war correspondent during WWII, he had removed his non-combatant insignia and posed as a colonel. In the end, he was not convicted and claimed that he only offered advice and any titles given to him by the men were simply signs of affection. According to Hemingway himself, he and his unit were the first to enter the city during the Liberation of Paris, when he and his unit retook the Ritz Hotel, and more importantly the Ritz Bar, from Nazi control a full day before the Allied liberation force entered the city!

4. Ernest Hemingway killed himself with his favorite shotgun bought from Abercrombie & Fitch.

The suicide of his father haunted Hemingway until the day he followed his example. Indeed, depression and suicide plagued the Hemingway family: His grandfather committed suicide. two of Ernest’s sisters and his only brother, Leicester also killed themselves; two of his three sons received electroshock therapy for emotional turmoil; his granddaughter Margaux, a supermodel and sister of actress Mariel Hemingway, died in July 1996 in what was deemed a depression-related accident. Margaux and Mariel’s father, Hemingway’s eldest son John, now 75, has said with grim humor: “My brothers and I are determined to see just how long a Hemingway can live.” (Neil A. Grauer, Remembering papa)

source; crawford, MessyNessy

Western Kenya untapped

Are you a value minded traveler looking to explore nature and enjoy delicious pot-boiling traditional foods? Then Kakamega and Bungoma counties in western Kenya are calling.
With a basketful of sights and sounds these areas will undoubtedly draw your appreciation for nature. Birding enthusiasts will for the most part love the Kakamega forest in Kakamega County, home to over 360 species of birds and more than 380 species of trees. The only tropical rainforest in the country, Kakamega forest is also host to 27 species of snakes, baboons, and white tail monkeys. An interesting spectacle here is Mama Mutere, a name coined by the locals for the oldest tree in the forest, nearly 400 years old.

Image source


Kakamega forest also provides for nature walks although it is advised that one carries a heavy jacket and gumboots on some occasions as the forest can get quite chilly and the terrain muddy when it pours.

zuru kenya western 3
Image source

Further down from kakamega is the stunning webuye (Broderick) falls in Bungoma County. Draining into Lake Victoria, the hippo infested falls serves as a beautiful destination for team building and great scenery. One can also enjoy a spectacular view of Webuye town from the Chetembe hills.

Image source
Image source

To relax, indulge and explore what nature offers, these areas are available for tourists at pocket friendly fees.

Lastly, you cannot have been to western Kenya without trying their famous sumptuous meal of the traditional chicken (ingokho) and ugali. These can be enjoyed at Park Villa and Camp David hotels.

Need a break? 4 pristine islands in Kenya to daydream about.

Manda Island

Photo source: Manda Bay
Manda-bay-beach-view. jpg
Photo source: Manda Bay

With the allure of the pristine beach, Manda is site to several new luxury homes and a couple of boutique resorts.

Kiwayu Island
Photo source: Mikes Camp
Photo source: Mikes Camp

The stunningly remote and beautiful Kiwayu is a fabulous spot, one of the most alluring locations on the whole of the East African coast.

Funzi Island

the Funzi Keys aerial view
Photo source: Funzi Keys
Funzi Keys Activities Canoeing
Photo source: Funzi Keys

Funzi Island is known for its pristine beaches and as Kenya’s best nesting site for a variety of sea turtles. Sailing, creek fishing, windsurfing and canoeing are some of the activities to enjoy here. Plus spotting dolphins should be fun!!!

Rusinga Island

Photo source: Rusinga Island Lodge
Photo source: Rusinga Island Lodge

One of Kenya’s most remote areas, Rusinga takes you away from hustle of city life. This place excudes an atmosphere of serene tranquility; Lapped by lake Victoria waters and with beautiful exotic gardens.

Western Kenya: As You’ve Never Seen It Before

An aerial view of the beautiful environments,  amazing sites and scenic accommodations only found in western Kenya, as seen from a new perspective: through the lens of a flying camera.

Produced, filmed and edited by Ben Kreimer for African SkyCAM and the Kenya Tourism Board.

Credits: Africanskycam, Benkreimer, magicalkenya.

I pledge my loyalty…

Growing up, the national pledge is something we routinely recited  either on Fridays or Mondays (depends which school you went to) during school assemblies. Without putting much thought into it we would excitingly and loudly declare the love we had for our country under the watchful eye of our principle/headmaster. But honestly back then I doubt we had any clue as to what we were speedily reciting, as a matter of fact many of us mumbled through most of it until the infamous ‘HARAMBEE” part. See then they were just words…words that every student in the 844 system had to cram. I wonder how many of us can actually recite our national pledge today (without peeping)…

The Pledge of a nation is a binding promise or agreement we make between ourselves and our Nation. It is meant to act as an overall direction of which the country chooses to take and how it plans to get there.

Kenya-FlagI pledge;

My loyalty to the president and the Republic of Kenya

My devotion to the words of our national anthem,

My life and strength in the service of our republic

In the living spirit embodied in our national motto,


And perpetuated in the Nyayo Philosopy of Peace Love and Unity.

Now, there are phrases in the loyalty pledge that deserve a brief historical background. Kenya gained her independence from the Britons on 12th December, 1963. It became a democratic country, headed by a president, complete with a parliament and a senate. Elections – or what passed for them – were held every five years; there was no term limitation on how long a guy could rule, especially the president. In 1978, Jomo Kenyatta, the first president, passed on, after ruling for 15 years. His then deputy, Daniel Arap Moi, took the reins of power, with a pledge to follow the “footsteps” of the “founding father”. Therefore, Nyayo (footsteps) became the motto, the name of the president, the catch-phrase…it became everything, including part of the loyalty pledge. ( source; Stephen Magu )

Right after the 1982 attempted coup on the then president Moi’s government, things had to change….From then on, there was a systematic attempt to crack down on any alternative political thoughts. Parliament introduced, debated and passed an infamous Section 2 (a) into the constitution, which made the country a de facto one-party state. True, elections continued to be held for the next 11 years, but there was only one party in power, so it was almost akin to choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Among the changes that were introduced in the school system during that period, was a free school milk program (once every week, for all the good that could do), an 8-year primary, 4 year secondary and 4 year university education system, a departure from the British system, and…yes, the loyalty pledge. If I have ever seen indoctrination of minors, that was the purest form. The loyalty pledge was recited in every school in Kenya, under the watchful eyes of stern-faced, stick-holding, menacing-looking head-teachers, deputy head-teachers and teachers on duty. It became routine; something we did not really think about, or whose ramifications really did not manifest themselves to us.

Moi’s era gone, two governments later,  and the loyalty pledge continues, to the best of my knowledge – to be recited. Patriotism to one’s country is to be aspired for. It is paramount for the cohesion and unity of a country.  Whereas pledges of loyalty and allegiance should probably not be mandatory, I do believe that it is the highest form of indoctrination to have some pledges, such as the Kenyan one. When you have a party whose motto is “Nyayo” and have every kid reciting that pledge, now that is influencing the political process and the future direction the country’s thinking will take. It is my supplication that the pledge of allegiance ought to have free reign; but the Loyalty Pledge…now that is something else. I don’t believe kids should be pledging loyalty to particular parties, philosophies; perhaps more appropriately, to national unity, cohesion, the flag and concepts/symbols that are neutral, but that which all citizens of a country can identify with. ( source; Stephen Magu )

Kenyan National Anthem

The Kenya National Anthem reflects the traditional music of Kenya and the nation’s values. Composed in both English and Swahili, the national anthem focuses on Kenya’s rich heritage that is integral to the nation’s identity. It also emphasizes peace and liberty both within Kenya and with her neighbours.

Interestingly, the method selected to create the anthem had never been tried in Africa. Kenya’s national anthem is notable for being one of the first anthems to be specifically prepared by a group of local musicians. The five member team consisted of G.W. Senoga-Zake, Thomas Kalume, Peter Kibukosya, Graham Hyslop, and Washington Omondi. The tune was derived from a traditional lullaby sung by the Pokomo community. It showcases authentic African melody. The lyrics reflect the convictions and aspirations of Kenyans, evoking utmost civic pride and patriotism.


Kiswahili English
1 1
Ee Mungu nguvu yetu
Ilete baraka kwetu
Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi
Natukae na undugu
Amani na uhuru
Raha tupate na ustawi.
O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders.
2 2
Amkeni ndugu zetu
Tufanye sote bidii
Nasi tujitoe kwa nguvu
Nchi yetu ya Kenya
Tuwe tayari kuilinda
Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavour
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendour
Firm may we stand to defend.
3 3
Natujenge taifa letu
Ee, ndio wajibu wetu
Kenya istahili heshima
Tuungane mikono
Pamoja kazini
Kila siku tuwe na shukrani
Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving.