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Kipchoge IN THE MARA

Diary of a Kenyan traveller, 10 fascinations from my US trip

Taking a trip to the United States is something some Kenyans aspire to as a dream destination – Over 75 million tourists visit the United States each year. While some wish to visit places they see in the movies like Las Vegas and Washington DC, I aimed to tour the main fascinating sites in the country. This included attractions like Fort Lauderdale in Florida, Santa Fe in New Mexico,Fort Collins in Colorado, and Winston-Salem in North Carolina, among others.

I wanted to cover as much ground as possible. So before I flew out, I sat down and crafted my most desired destinations and things I would like to do once I landed. Doing so came in handy since I ended up having a fascinating time in America.

Here is a list of places I toured while I was in the United States.

1. Sequoia National Park In California

The first day was a bit slow since I had to unpack and acclimatize. I spent most of my time in my hotel room, relaxing. I later took a stroll and had a nice dinner at an exquisite restaurant nearby.

The next day I started my adventure, and the first place I decided to visit is the Sequoia National Park in California. The park is not only among the best places to visit in the US but also one of the most rated parks in the country. Sequoia boasts of a remarkable landscape that consists of giant sequoia trees. Mount Whitney gives the park a spectacular backdrop and adds glamour to the site. I passed by the General Sherman Tree, which is thousands of years old before I left.

2. MacKerricher State Park In California

MacKerricher State Park is famous for many things, including rare plant species as well as whales. But then, among the top reasons for including the park on my list was to see the famous glass beach.

The first time I heard of glass beach I swore I was going to visit the site when the time was right. The idea of a beach covered with sea glass was stunning. The site is marvelous and one of the places to visit if you want to have a lovely day. I stuck around until sunset and left for my hotel.

3. The Living Desert Zoo In Palm Desert

The next day I spent time at the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert. The attraction site offers a vast array of activities, including animal shows and hiking trails. I also took my time to visit the wildlife hospital, where I got some insight into how to treat animals. I also found the mountain lions and cheetahs a bit scary and amazing to watch.

I finished off at the botanical garden where I saw plants I have come across in Africa. The whole experience was fulfilling.

4. Route 66

While in California, I also got to see part of route 66, which I learned stretches from Illinois. Throughout its stretch, the highway goes through eight states and a total of three time zones, making it one of the most popular routes in the United States of America.

If you’re a machine enthusiast or an avid motorcyclist who loves to ride, that’s the route you should explore.

Before calling it a day, I passed by a millennium restaurant and had a delectable vegan meal, which I washed down with a glass of refreshing juice.

5. The Wave In Arizona

On my fifth day, I took a trip to Arizona to visit The Wave. The sandstone rock formation remains to be a spectacular site that attracts huge crowds every day. The Wave also provides a perfect hiking spot for anyone who loves taking long walks while enjoying a breathtaking landscape.

You should, however, be quick since only twenty permits are given out in a day. The slopes of Coyote Buttes provide a great view making the region one of the best attractions in the States.

I also visited the Grand Canyon to see if it is as legendary as advertised. The place is dreamlike. I could only manage to set foot on the South Rim where I biked. I then took a helicopter tour to get a better view.

6. The Kennedy Space Center In Florida

The Americans were the first people to land on the moon, and so I had to see how they made that happen. That is why I went over to Orlando to have a look at the National Aeronautics center. The place is fantastic and sophisticated at the same time. At the visitor complex, you will see all sorts of space equipment.

7. Rhodes Island

My seventh day in the country was more about music and vibe, and that is why it found me in the city of music festival, Newport in Rhodes Island. At the place, people worship music, and I found it fantastic given that I often listen to jams whenever I want to clear my head.

8. Washington Park In Portland

I wanted my eighth day to be peaceful. That is why I saved Washington Park for last, and it worked perfectly fine. The gardens in the area are beguiling, and the impressive landscape is enough to make your day better.

I also stopped by the Farma medical clinic, which is one of the top cannabis dispensaries in Oregon. They also have some of the best strains.

With so much happening in this field in the US, I thought it was a must-visit to explore what cannabis offers to the medical world. The place is fantastic with amazing finishes. Bright lights enhance the beauty of this place multiple times.

9. Yellow Stone In Wyoming

It was not until I visited the yellow stone that I realized it was the first national park in America. The attraction has a fantastic landscape with breathtaking sites. I found places like the steaming geysers, hot springs and the long trails to be incredible. You can also book a tour guide and have yourself driven through the Lamar and Hayden valleys. I found the place fun and exciting, given that I am a nature lover.

10. The Statue Of Liberty

Leaving the United States without visiting the Statue of Liberty is one mistake that I was not going to make. I thus decided to make my last days exclusive by flying to New York which is easily one of the most happening places for planning a vacation.

The copper statue is phenomenal. Staircases are available to get you to the balcony where you can observe the stature better. The tickets were however limited, and it is only by luck that I got one.

Final Words

Throughout my visit, I learned that the US is a fascinating country with many attraction centers which are not only fun but exciting to visit. I also noticed that if you don’t have a plan, you may find it hard choosing which place to visit and which one to spare for your next visit. My adventure was not only successful but also splendid.

– By Jenny Travens

Maasai Mara: 5 Things that make it a Great Destination for Safaris

Every year, magic that attracts large numbers of tourists happens. Over 2 million herbivores, acting on uumm… animal instinct – and all that pun – move homes. The grass, they note, is greener on the other side. So they migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara to enjoy a few months of pure bliss, fattening, a few births, and the usual survival of the fittest. This feat is so majestic that it has been dubbed The World Cup of Wildlife, and earned its place as one of the world’s wonders. But is that all there is to the Mara?

A little about Maasai Mara…
You cannot talk of parks in Africa without mentioning Maasai Mara. The 1.510km park lies southwest part of Kenya, and it borders the Serengeti of Tanzania. Several tented accommodations host over 100,000 visitors every year. On a random day of the peak season – usually July to October, you won’t miss at least five safari vans in the park.

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Image: AJK
Image: Maasai Mara

Here are five fascinating facts about this national reserve.

The Locals love their Mara
One of the most unique things about Maasai Mara is its connection to the local community. You see, it is named for the Maa community that has lived here since the 17th century. The local authorities are in charge of the management of most of the park, a fact that has helped resolve wildlife-human conflicts in the region.

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Image: AJK

Home to the Big Five… and then some
The Mara is home to almost 100 species of mammals. It is also where you will find all members of the Big Five: Lion, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard, and Rhinoceros. It makes sense that the park houses this large number being as it measures 1,510 km2.

Over the years, man has been unkind to wildlife, killing and exploiting game for his own benefit. However, a census done in 2017 shows the number of elephants, lions, giraffes, and almost every large mammal in the Mara to be increasing when compared to those of 2014. These good news can be attributed to the intentional conversation efforts being made by various parties, and we all laud them.

Quick fun fact: the Mara is also fondly known as the Kingdom of Lions.

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Image: AJK

Four Different Topographies
The Mara is divided into four different topographies; Ngama Hills, Oloololo Escarpment, Mara Triangle, and Central Plains. Ngama Hills is 2025 meters above sea level and is characterized by sandy soil that black rhinos seem to love. The Oloololo Escarpment was once densely populated with trees, but elephants damaged most of them so that now it’s mostly grassland. The Mara River crosses here, making this area an animal haven.

The Mara Triangle is also mostly a lush grassland that borders the Mara River and is well-loved by animals. It is quite popular with visitors. In the Central Plains, you will find antelopes and gazelles that prefer to graze in the open grassland where they can see their predators.

Bird Species – so Many Types
If you are into bird watching, then you may want to camp at the Mara for a while. This haven is home to over 450 bird species, with White-Tipped Crest, Red-Winged Schalow’s Turaco, and Orange Buff Pel’s Fishing Owl among those roaming the open savanna freely. There are about 53 species of predator birds too.

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Image: Mara Engai

Filming Ground of the Big Cat Diary
That BBC Film that keeps most of us glued to Nat Geo, Big Cat Diary, is shot in the Mara – in both the reserve and conversation parts of the park. Cool, right?

Been to the Mara?
Been there yet? Nothing beats seeing these beautiful animals roaming their natural home freely. If you haven’t, it’s never too late to make a trip.

Fighting for Trash Free Seas: The International Coastal Cleanup – Kenyan Chapter

33 years ago, a movement began. Catalyzed by the desire to see a trash free coastline, the international coastal cleanup was born in Texas geared by two individuals; Linda Maraniss and Kathy O’Hara.

What may have seemed then like just a small project has since sparked into a great movement spanning across the globe with volunteers from over 100 countries joining in, coming a long way from the first cleanup with just a handful of volunteers. What makes the international coastal cleanup outstanding is that volunteers do not just pick up trash but also go a step further to record each item collected on a standardized data card in order to identify ways to eliminate ocean trash in the future.

This year, Kenyan locals along the Indian Ocean coastline came out in numbers to show their resolve of beating plastic pollution in our beaches. Led by the Kenyan team coordinators – Ocean Conservancy has coordinators in all countries involved in the ocean conservancy – the Kenyan cleanup was segmented into various beach cleanup sites with the main event culminating in a ceremony at Mama Ngina Drive. Zuru Kenya helped coordinate and took part in the Kikambala Beach cleanup.

Pictures below highlight the successful event that took place across the entire coastline. We are grateful for all those who came out to help clean our coast and create more awareness to the effect of pollution on our oceans.

Kids from Braeburn School cleanup Jumba ruins Mtwapa

International coastal cleanup ceremony at Mama Ngina Drive

Registration of volunteers in Kikambala

A volunteer counting trash collected

Mtepeni ward MCA – Kilifi South also took part in the cleanup, taking trash to the garbage truck

Turn up in Kikambala was impressive

Volunteers being awarded their participation certificates

Briefing before the cleanup

Students showcase their certificates in Kilifi

Nyali beach team

Trash collected in Shimoni awaiting pick up by garbage truck

Technical University of Mombasa Team

Coastal cleanup in Lamu

We’ve been nominated: Please vote for us

zuru kenya- kenya travel awards

Happy New Year!

2018 has started off on a high note for us and we’re delighted to announce that Zuru Kenya has been nominated in the Kenya Travel Awards 2018 by Jumia Travel! We’re up for Best Destination Website, and we’re pretty excited about it.

The awards aim at promoting Kenya’s tourism sector, and responds to the need of encouraging hoteliers to improve the quality of their services for further advancement of their respective destinations.

“By organizing these African Travel Awards, our mission is not only to recognize and reward the merit of local tourism stakeholders, but also to provide a credible benchmark for the African tourism industry,” said Joe Falter, CEO of Jumia Travel.

We’d be thrilled if you showed your support and voted for us. The process is straightforward and voting should take just a few minutes – all you will need to do is click the link, enter a few details and submit your vote. Anyone is welcome to vote, so please do feel free to share the link with your family and friends – it would be hugely appreciated! Plus Bonus! All voters will automatically be entered into the Awards’ prize draw, where you could win a stay in the winning hotel – oh my!

Voting closes on 26th January, with winners being feted at a ceremony which will be held on February 1st, at Fairmont the Norfolk from 6PM. In other Jumia Travel countries, the awards will be held simultaneously on the 25th of January; in Lagos, Algiers, Dakar, Abidjan, Accra, Douala, Dar es Salaam, and Kampala. Vote now!

Backpackers, Beaches and a Big Burning man: My Christmas in Kilifi By Calum Warriner

Great Venture Surf Co.

We all know that Kenya is famous for one of nature’s most incredible spectacles; the great wildebeest migration. Perhaps what is less well known around the globe is the mass migration down to the coast for the festive season. If people aren’t heading up country to see the family, then you can bet your bottom shilling they’re making this annual journey to kick back on little piece of white beach and soak up the sun. A trip I was privileged enough to round off 2015 with and one that will leave anyone from the northern hemisphere swapping they’re stocking for a snorkel, and they’re hot coco for an ice cold tusker! Here are just a few of my thoughts, experiences, tid bits and tips. Those I can remember anyway 😉

The majority of my stay on the coast was spent in the lovely little town of Kilifi, about 56Km northeast…

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Camping in The Taita Hills – Needle In A Haystack

The Kenyan Camper

I am unsure if i should share the fact I drove for 6 hrs over 400km, camped for 2 nights and walked for hours through the Taita Hills to find 3 of Kenya’s treasures that were each about 10 cm long. These are the reasons why you have to be a little bit mad to be a traveller. You need that one screw loose, that one blown fuse, the slight spark of insanity to justify some of the reasons that take you places. But thats just the way travel is, it cannot be separated from the quest of of knowledge; the answer the question  “What is over that next hill?”

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#Conservation: This is how you can help the endangered Grevy’s Zebra

PHOTO: Francis Mbatha

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species – in 2015, it was updated three times.

Sometimes it can feel intimidating when you get inspired to help in conservation, especially once you understand the urgency, the overwhelming numbers and extent of the need – the List currently includes 79,837 assessed species, of which 23,250 are threatened with extinction, with habitat loss and degradation identified as the main threat to more than 80% of species assessed.

“How can I help,” What can I do,” are common questions you may find yourself asking, but it doesn’t always have to be complicated or expensive. Citizen science is gaining popularity in conservation efforts globally since the crucial data and insights collected by citizen scientists (usually the public), are used in scientific research, and also engages people in conservation through providing tangible assistance.

PHOTO: Grevy's Zebra Trust

PHOTO: Grevy’s Zebra Trust

The Great Grevy’s Rally Calls On Citizen Scientists

The endangered Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi), which is taller than the Plains Zebra, has narrower stripes, a white belly and large rounded ears and has an estimated population of only 2,800 in the wild (primarily in Kenya with few in Ethiopia).

For the first time, a national census of the endangered Grevy’s Zebra will be held in Kenya on 30th-31st of January, 2016. The collected data will be used in updating the existing database and populate the new Image Based Ecological Information System and identify future conservation strategies.

The success of The Great Grevy’s Rally will depend greatly on the public’s participation. So if you’re someone who’s always wanted to help – this is your chance!

How You Can Help

If you know how to operate a digital camera and can spot different animals – you’re perfect for the job!

Register as citizen scientists and join academics, conservationists and local community members capture Grevy’s Zebras on your GPS enabled camera (provided by organizers for the two days). The only thing you need to keep in mind, for uniformity,  is to take pictures of only the right flank of the Grevy’s Zebra.

The Great Grevy’s Rally will be taking place in Nanyuki, Kenya and there will be many camping and lodging options – there are affordable camping options that begin as low as KSh 400 per night. The Registration fee is KSh 2,000 per vehicle team and each member of your team must provide proof of medical evacuation or AMREF air evacuation coverage at time of registration. If you don’t have proof of medical evacuation, AMREF air evacuation annual coverage will be available for purchase on Friday, 29th of January for KSh 2,000 to KSh 2,500 at the registration desk at Nanyuki Sports Club.

If you would like to help, I would suggest registering as soon as possible. The first teams of citizen scientists will be able to reserve a specific location to conduct their census and book their preferred accommodation.

For more information on how you can register, complete the form here.

Cheers to a year full of mistakes!

Happy new year good people…

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, travel, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, this year, next year and forever.”
Neil Gaiman

How Women Are Effecting Change in Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor

It is well known that women are more likely to invest in their communities than men, and that a developing country that invests in women advances quicker and further. What is amazing is to see this phenomena occur in a society, as I did last month in Kenya.

As part of my work documenting Audi’s carbon offset program, I flew to the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in the southeastern part of Kenya. Like in many parts of Africa, women are generally considered second class citizens. But in the Kasigau Corridor, they are creating systemic change that, in turn, is protecting the land.

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Income is a huge issue in the corridor. Slash and burn farming, the deforestation of the land for charcoal, and elephant poaching all provide quick sources of income for families in need, particularly the men responsible for support. Unfortunately, the income is not sustainable and fleeting at best.

The long-term impacts are many. The land is ravaged, meaning less economic opportunity. There is a resulting downward spiral that creates a desperate situation in the home.

zurukenya wildlife works

As a result, women often find themselves in suffering households with many risks ranging from HIV/AIDS to extreme poverty. That is why their role in the Kasigau Corridor’s recovery is so amazing.

The Power of Kenyan Women

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Women’s groups in Kasigau Corridor are one of the leading solutions ushering in sustainable change in the region. The loosely knit associations of women engage in entrepreneurial activities like producing arts and crafts sold in the U.S. through the auspices of REDD+ Project manager Wildlife Works. In all, there are 26 registered women’s groups in the Corridor, touching 550 women or 4% of the overall population.

With the resulting money women are building clean water tanks, buying solar lights and clean cook stoves for their households, and providing an education for their children. Husbands see the positive impact on their households and encourage their wives’ newfound roles in the Kasigau community.

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These Marasi Primary School girls are dressed up for a traditional dance ceremony to celebrate World Environment Day. They have a chance for a different future than their mothers, thanks to the changes occurring in the Kasigau Corridor.

The impact is far more than numerical though. Each woman has her own story of renaissance. And each story impacts handfuls of others, creating a spreading boon of positivity and economic growth in the Kasigua Corridor.

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Saum Chaka (above) is a member of the Neema Women’s Group, which has been operating since 2011. The group helped her out when a windstorm destroyed her house. She and her six children had nowhere to go, so the group put up funds to house her and her family while the home was being rebuilt.

The Neema Group has 15 women in total, and they often help each other out in times of need. They make their money by selling young trees, creating paper from elephant dung, and making beautiful jewelry. Some projects the women have taken on include building a water tank for their community (which ended a five-mile walk for water) and sending their children to school.

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Jenliza Mwikamba (above) is part of the 32-member, 10-year-old Bungule Women’s Group. She said her house was made of grass and leaky, and that her kids did not have beds and were not attending school. Now there is a metal roof over her house, and her children sleep in beds and are in secondary school. She and the other women in Bungule make money by weaving and selling colorful baskets.

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A third women’s group features opportunities for women who have suffered injuries or are handicapped. The Bugata Disabled and Handicapped Group produces stuffed animals for the Wildlife Works markets.

The Overall Impact

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Women’s groups are powerful, but they are not completely open. A woman must be invited to participate, and participate she must. If a woman does not show up and meet her obligations, she is asked to leave.

While the groups are a primary source of revenue for women, there are additional opportunities. The Wildlife Works Ranger Corps has added women to its staff in its efforts to protect the forest from slash and burn farming and charcoal burning, as well as its wildlife inhabitants from poachers. Other women have joined the Wildlife Works eco-charcoal making team.

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There are many, many levers that are changing the course of the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project area’s future. It is clear that women are one of the most powerful ones.

When I consider that their reach touches more than 10% of the region, it is clear that the home improvements, education and general living improvements are lifting the morale of the region. I think these levers are a primary reason people are friendly and welcoming in Kasigau. Life is improving and the future looks brighter.

Disclosures: Audi paid me to visit Africa and capture content as part of a larger documentary project that will be released this Fall. Audi supports Wildlife Works as part of a carbon offset program that compensates for the manufacturing and the first 50,000 gas driving miles of the new A3 e-tron. All photographs are by me, the author, Geoff Livingston.

Source; Huffingtonpost Geoff Livingston