Category Archives: Lifestyle

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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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.

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Maasai man hired to kep unwanted guests away.

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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).

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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THE PRIDE OF AFRICA | FLYING HIGH IN 2016

“The Pride of Africa”

Our national flag carrier is on a lane of its own; seamlessly living up to its name if the World Travel Awards 2016 is anything to go by. Going by the title “Africa’s Leading airline” this year, Kenya Airways not only affirms its dominance in the African skies but also confirms that it is indeed, the Pride of Africa.

Moreover, Its commitment to modern conviniences and overall customer experience, also saw it scoop the “Africa’s Leading Airline – Business Class” award for the fourth consecutive year.

In light of this remarkable achievement, we reached out to Kenya Airways’ Marketing Director Chris Diaz, to get his sentiments on the awards and future progress of the carrier.

KQ Marketing Director Chris Diaz. Photo/Hannington zurukenya
Kenya Airways’ (KQ) Marketing Director Chris Diaz. Photo/Hannington

For the past 22 years consecutively, South African Airways has been the best airline to fly with as far as winning the Africa’s Leading Airline Award at the World Travel Awards is concerned. This year however, Kenya Airways broke that cycle, taking the Africa’s Leading Airline Award home. How big a deal is winning this title and what does it mean for the airline and your consumers going forth?

The award was a tremendous honour and great reward for the monumental efforts all of us at Kenya Airways have put into making the airline a leader in the region. Going forward, we are working to ensure Kenya Airways remains at the forefront of international aviation with a commitment to continue offering our guests warm African hospitality . We continue to connect Africa to the world and the world to Africa.

Aside from Bagging Africa’s Leading Airline Award this year, you also scooped Africa’s Leading Airline – Business Class Award. This is the fourth consecutive year you are taking this award home; you clearly must be doing something right in this department.  Today, Business-Class travel experience is highly valued by flyers and a lot of factors come into play when deciding what airline offers seamless travel for this group. What sort of developments or services offered by your airline do you think sets you apart from the rest in the game, hence getting you this accolade for the fourth consecutive year?

Over the years we have invested heavily to get where we are. We have one of the newest fleet in the region. We have invested in ensuring our guests experience superior flying experiences in the Business-Class cabin. We are now operating from a fairly new hub at JKIA with a state of the art terminal, we have introduced new menus on board, and we have fully-flat bed in our aircraft. We also have world class inflight services and award winning lounges at JKIA. These are just some of our strengths but our greatest one is our people who work tirelessly despite difficult circumstances to keep our guests coming again and again.

Having won the “Africa’s Leading Airline” title, do you perhaps think that all eyes will be on you now to set the industry’s standards in terms of service and comfort?

Definitely. As a result, our focus is to remain committed to transforming air travel by continuously investing in the best people, products and technology and, in doing so, developing a highly acclaimed airline brand.

While we are still on that topic, are there any developments that Kenya airways may have achieved that perhaps are a first in the industry thereby setting yourself apart as a trend setter?

As mentioned above, our product and people speak for themselves. The fact that we also know Africa better than anyone else is a great advantage. We go to 42 destinations in the continent and if anyone knows Africa, it is Kenya Airways. In this case we continue to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa.

Of course, even with a successful a company as yours, one cannot fail to encounter a few shortcomings here and there, in a few reviews that we’ve taken a look at, we’ve come across several critiques in terms of “cost-cutting measures in regards to meals, delays without notice and/or apologies and sometimes a not so customer friendly staff and so on” thus while the airline might be good, the overall experience for some is not so good. Have you encountered any such concerns, and what are you doing to curb them?

We receive complaints and we know we are not perfect but are continuously investing to ensure we offer our guests the best in service and the quality of our product.  Yes, there is an opportunity to improve. We strive to bring consistency and quality by focusing on delivering consistently high levels of customer service that extend beyond in-flight service.

Last year, financial reports indicated a 25.7 billion after tax loss incurred by Kenya airways during the last fiscal year. One of the reasons given for this was the major challenge faced by the tourism Industry as a whole i.e. insecurity following terror attacks and the issuance of travel advisories by most countries. However, things are looking up now. Are there any measures or incentives that Kenya Airways has taken to try and draw more tourists to Kenya?

Yes. We currently executing a turnround strategy dubbed, Operation Pride in a bid to change the fortunes of the airline and we are already seeing some positive traction. We have stepped our efforts to ensure seamless connectivity through our hub, at competitive prices. We are working on improving our profitability by instituting several measures in the strategy. In the next 18 to 24 months, we should be breaking even.  In addition, the move by the Government of Kenya to reduce the visa restriction of for children under 16 years has impacted positively on growing tourist numbers especially for Kenya.

Lastly,  if you could recommend one place to tourists looking to visit Kenya, where would this place be and why?

As you know, Kenya is a world-class destination offering some of the best rated tourist activities and products including the Masai Mara and Diani Beach which were voted leading destinations at the Awards. I would recommend visiting these sites among the many others Kenya has to offer.

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Travel Smart with Google App

“I don’t appreciate a hassle-free travel experience”, said no one ever!  The  modern day traveller prefers to have everything under control before embarking on their trip. Long gone are the days of  having awkward conversations with strangers trying to get some words translated or having to test your geography skills, burying your face in a map to help you negotiate your way around the streets of Nairobi.

Travellers today appreciate that being digital-savvy goes along way to giving you convinience, ease and saves you plenty of time whilst on your globe-trotting adventures whether travelling for business or leisure. Google is aware of this too; They are aware that you like to prebook your  hotel room, counter check your travel details, and prepare your itinerary before you even leave home. It is by this virtue that they are constantly at work to provide you with a ‘personal assistant’ designed to make your travels smoother, cheaper and plenty fun.

Having google app in your pocket guarantees that you stay organized, on time, up-do-date with events and on budget wherever you go.


Prepare for Takeoff – Google Flights

There’s a good chance you’re going to fly and if you need an assistant to do the heavy lifting for you, Google Flights is at your service. Google Flights lets you quickly find and compare flights between airports on certain days.  Not sure where you want to go? worry not, google flights has you covered…with the popular destinations feature, you will definitely have an idea or two of new destinations to exlore.

Or maybe you’re interested in visiting a certain region or country, but aren’t sure what airport to fly into or cities to visit. Google Flights has an answer for that as well.

Instead of entering a specific airport as a destination, selecting a  country or region shows you a map highlighting the major airports in the specific regions and how much it costs to fly there. If you zoom in, you can also see small regional airports. You could even narrow down the suggestions based on your interests like culture, safari, restaurants, etc.

You can see prices for your trip on every day of the month, with the cheapest days highlighted in green. A bar graph at the bottom lets you know how prices will likely drop or rise over time.

Come rain or shine?!

It’s definitely wise to check on how the weather looks like at your destination lest you pack and prepare for activities that are not catered for by the current climatic conditions.

Google provides you with an intuitive app offering weather reports for well over two million geographical locations, feeding in everything from cloud formations and atmospheric pressure to wind speed and humidity. It’s also accurate to the point of clairvoyance, so if  it predicts rain, pack your umbrella please.

What’s so cool is that you don’t have to feed the app your location…It automatically detects your new location, providing you with the areas weather conditions.

Road Trippers, this especially comes in handy for you. Google app helps you track the weather along your road trip. You are now able to know what the weather will look like in the counties you’ll be going through and at what time, and more so where you can stop if the conditions get too bad.

Know what to wear with daily weather forecasts for your current location, work location, and travel destinations.

Translate s’il vous plait

Google Translate

This translator can be a useful tool to support your own, more serious language learning, but realistically, it’s most useful on a practical level quickly translating day-to-day words you come across on your travels. Particularly intriguing is the Word Lens tool, whereby you point your camera at a text– such as a sign, or a menu – and Google will translate it for you instantly. It’s an essential app for any traveller.

Have you Reserved?

Get one-touch navigation to your hotel when you arrive in a new city.  Google App also provides updates to restaurant and hotel reservations received in Gmail.

Currency Exchange

Don’t bother paying up for one of the many currency conversion apps out there – this freebie is slick, easy to use, and – best of all, since it uses live currency rates – completely accurate.

Let’s take a walk…

Google App has added a pedometer to its website that tell you how much you have walked, cycled or travelled in a month. You can also swipe cards away when you no more need them.

Could you direct me to…

I can’t even imagine driving without Google Maps. Its a real time-saver detecting delays up ahead, such as traffic, accidents, or construction. The app automatically offers a quicker route. It’s a great in-car GPS navigation system, right from your phone.

Other cool features:

  • Set reminders: Get reminded of your scheduled meetings. Just set reminders for any meetings and events on your calendar and Google App will remind you before it’s late.
  • Voice instructions: How cool is it that you don’t have to type instructions anymore, Google app takes instructions from you: ask it to call someone, what time is your meeting, ask for voice directions and so on and it’s done! you get an answer in natural language. Simply say ‘Ok Google’ or tap the microphone icon to begin.
  • Sports: If you are a sports fan and cannot watch the match, Google App is here to help. Add the team you wish to follow under customise option of the Google App and it will constantly update you on match dates, scores and so on.
  • Stories to read: Are there any stories you need to catch up on?
  • Get to work on time: Once you enter your office address in its settings, it will automatically suggest you the shortest route to the destination. The App keeps tabs on the time when you usually leave for the office and after a while automatically starts reminding you, based on the traffic conditions, when the right time to leave for the office is. So cool right?
  • Stay up to date on movies, books, and TV shows: When you search for a movie, book, TV show, music artist, or video game on Google, it’ll remember—and give you information about it in Google App. You can even tell Google to remind you about upcoming episodes, so you know when your favorite shows start. how about that?
  • Keep up with the trends: This card shows you the most trending topics on Google for the day. The topics are figured out on the basis of what interests you, which in turn is figured out on the basis of what you search more on Google.

How to get started: If you let the Google App learn about you and your habits, then it can throw up information that it thinks you might be interested in. News, sports scores, weather, and traffic information is served up in real time based on your previous movements and searches. Information is served up in the form of cards, which you can tap for more detail or swipe away to ignore. What’s even more interesting, Google App can give you what you want before you even know you want it.

With such cool features, I’d be amazed if you still complain of travel inconviniences. Planning your vacation just got plenty easier with your own google “personal assistant”… you can thank me later!

Free, iOS and Android

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#Destinationweddings: Walk down the isle the Kenyan Way

Its a Saturday. Saturdays come with weddings…and what better place to host that dreamy, unforgettable event than amidst the beautiful landscapes that is our motherland?!

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  1. Some colourful Maasai flavor at your wedding – Porini Lion Camp 📷: Ali “Millzero” Nishan

2. Let’s go to the beach 📷: @distantrelativeskilifi

3. It gets so magical at the Mara – Maasai Mara 📷: Jonas Peterson

4. Look at that backdrop… so dreeeaamy – Maasai Mara 📷: Jonas Peterson

5. A runaway bride?….Not! – 📷: Mukima House Laikipia

6. How scenic is this Laikipian backdrop? wedding album should be out of this world 😲 📷: Mukima House Laikipia

7.  This wedding guest though…he/she really wanted to get in on the action 😂 – Giraffe Centre 📷: Cheetah Platt

8. Walk down the isle the Maasai way – Fairmont Safari Club Maasai Mara 📷: ChristopheViseux

9. The bride comes down the dhow steps – Turtle Bay Beach Club Watamu 📷: ChristopheViseux

10. And then there was the dhow wedding – Turtle Bay Beach Club Watamu 📷: ChristopheViseux

Richard Branson Has Been Everywhere—and Kenya Is His Favorite Place

Photo by Glenn Addison
Photo by Glenn Addison

Through the support of the local Maasai community and Kenya’s President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, the entrepreneur, adventurer, and Virgin Group founder RICHARD BRANSON opened a tented safari camp in 2013 in the heart of the Kenyan bush. A recent visit to the camp, Mahali Mzuri, further bore out his reason for establishing it.  

“A few years ago I had been told by a friend that the great migration was in danger of being choked by development; I wanted to do something about it, as I truly believe that there is nothing more magical than witnessing the grasslands of the Maasai Mara begin to rustle as millions of migrating wildebeests head for the plains of the southern Serengeti.

Photo by Jackie Caradonio
The terraces of each tent at Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri safari camp overlook the vast plains of the protected Olare Motorogi Conservancy. Photo by Jackie Caradonio

“Opening Mahali Mzuri, which means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili, has given me access to the best wildlife viewing in the world. I recently went with my Uncle Charlie—he’s the ultimate safari partner: full of wisdom and jokes, and has plenty of stories to tell during late-night dinners in the bush or sundowners on our balcony.

“A typical day on safari starts bright and early, at 5:30 am, with a strong cup of coffee before you set off on a morning game drive. Our wonderful guides took us exploring in the bush in open safari vehicles. It’s incredible to be so close to the wildlife in their natural environment; we spotted so many beautiful animals—from leopards to lions, elephants to giraffes—it’s impossible to pick my favorite.

Photo by Jackie Caradonio
Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri safari camp. Photo by Jackie Caradonio

“The camp offers game drives twice a day, but I love to spend afternoons visiting the Maasai villages. On this trip, we visited the village that is only 10 minutes’ drive from Mahali. Our guide showed us around, introduced us to the families, and taught us about how the women of the village build the houses. The children love having visitors, as they have very little exposure to the world outside of their village. Although be warned if you try and take photos: They love to photo bomb!

“After visiting the village, we returned to camp for a relaxing spa treatment and dip in the pool before having a sundowner on the deck. This particular trip was right before I became a grandfather, and Uncle Charlie spent the evening giving me his top tips. We joined all the guests for dinner followed by entertainment from the Maasai dancers, who put on an incredible show. As an honorary ‘Maasai elder,’ it’s my duty to get involved and show them a few moves, too.

Photo by Jackie Caradonio
Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri safari camp. Photo by Jackie Caradonio

“There’s something about Kenya that makes you feel like there’s magic in the air, wonder at every turn, and an ever-present sensation of oneness with nature. I always come back with a clear mind ready to take on my next challenge.”

Do It Yourself
You can witness the great migration of wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, eland, and topi as they pass through Kenya on their way to Tanzania typically from July through November. Mahali Mzuri (mahalimzuri.virgin.com) hosts guests in 12 luxury tents. Prices range from $800 to $1,540 per person per night.

Janice O’Leary, Source: RobbReport

#InspirationMonday: 5 Inspiring TED Travel talks to give you wanderlust

New year, new resolutions…perhaps “travel more” is one of them?!

We have just the right bit of inspiration; perhaps a brief insight into the lives of others who view life as an adventure will give you the much needed excitement and enlightenment to start you along on your journey.

It’s essential that from time to time we escape the monotony of routine, and actually listen and absorb what we see, feel what could be and embrace that rush of invincible energy that is strong enough to change your direction.

So, if your will is to travel but you just can’t seem to get away from the magnetism of money and the daily grind,  I believe these stories will pull you in and sway you for a life of adventure. The TED speakers listed below have managed to alter not only their own lives through their powerful beliefs and strong-will but also the lives of many others.

Discover the unknown and learn from other peoples’ view of travel:

MY JOURNEY TO START A SCHOOL FOR GIRLS IN KENYA
Daniela Papi says: “Schools don’t teach kids. People do.” This ted talk here is a touching story about an inspiring woman -KAKENYA NTAIYA, who never gave up on her dream to improve her community’s overall standard of life. You will hear about the horrifying practice of mutilation in Africa and the importance of education and giving opportunities.

DIVE INTO BIOLOGY – GET INSPIRED TO SCUBA-DIVE
This is how teaching by entertaining is supposed to look like. David Gallo is talking about the intriguing creatures that live underwater. But not only talking – he is showing them to us on the screen. Check out for yourselves, what you can see in our oceans and get inspired to go scuba-diving in at least one of them.

TAKE A LOOK AT OUR FUTURE
Robert Neuwirth gives a presentation on why he thinks that squatter districts of cities like Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Nairobi and Istanbul are going to define the future of our civilisation. Understanding how people live there will most probably make you want to see at least one of them with your own eyes.

 

FOR MORE TOLERANCE, we need more … TOURISM?
Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian activist with an unusual approach to peace-keeping: Be a tourist. The TED Fellow shows how simple interactions with people in different cultures can erode decades of hate. He starts with Palestinians visiting Israelis and moves beyond…

THE JOY OF SURFING IN ICE-COLD WATER
“Anything that is worth pursuing is going to require us to suffer, just a little bit,” says surf photographer Chris Burkard, as he explains his obsession with the coldest, choppiest, most isolated beaches on earth. With jawdropping photos and stories of places few humans have ever seen — much less surfed — he draws us into his “personal crusade against the mundane.”

Meet Joseph Mwakima: Wildlife Works’ Community Relations Officer

On my visit to Wildlife Works, I was very fortunate to meet Joseph Mwakima; a charismatic young fellow working closely with the community teaching them about conservation and sustainable development.

Despite being introduced to him towards the end of an exhaustive work day with one of his communities in the Kasighau REDD+ Project area – this time Saghalla, he gladly engaged me on a few kilometres walk taking me around the project area and explaining indepth, the projects that Wildlife Works engages in.

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Joseph showing me around the Wildlife Works’ green house

A community relations officer, Joseph’s work entails educating and creating awareness in the surrounding communities about environmental conservation and the  important links between deforestation and climate change.

Joseph and his group use different styles and methods to communicate with the people on the roles they can play in mitigating climate change. Considering that many people in the project area are illiterate, the team organizes film viewings, theater plays and workshops, sports and informal open-air meetings.

Read more of Joseph Mwakima’s story below as told by Geoff Livingstone

In online circles we believe a community manager is someone who cultivates and activates a group or a brand following on a social network. In Africa I met the ultimate community manager, Joseph Mwakima, a fellow busy activating his community and inspiring change in Kenya’s Kasigau Corrdidor REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Project area through word of mouth.

But unlike his American counterparts, Joseph doesn’t use a Facebook Group, Instagram or Twitter as primary tools of his job (though he is on those Wildlife Works community relations officer, he regularly meets with people engaged in projects throughout the region.

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Joseph could have gotten a job in the city. He has a wife and baby, and could easily justify seeking more bountiful land. He’s also college educated, speaks fluent English, and is well travelled. But he instead came back to the region he calls home to make a difference. His community needs him, as does the overall Wildlife Works effort.

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A variety of issues are impacting the region, including rapid deforestation through slash and burn farming and charcoal harvesting, a lack of jobs in the community, and disappearing wildlife. The REDD+ Project Joseph is part of seeks to counteract challenges with a sustainable community development program that creates jobs and protects the forest.

Joseph Talikng to Us

I got to see Joseph at work, thanks to working with Audi as part of its documentary project produced by VIVA Creative (you can see Joseph talking to the VIVA team above). Audi supports Wildlife Works as part of its carbon offset program that compensates drivers for the manufacturing and first 50,000 gas-driven miles of the new A3 e-tron being released this fall.

Widespread Community Activation

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Nestled between Kenya’s Tsavo East and West National Parks, the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project is widely considered to be a leader in sustainable carbon offsets. Wildlife Works applies a wide set of innovative market-based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity.

Joseph works in the community to socialize the solutions and encourage adoption of them. Here is what I witnessed Joseph doing:

World Environment Day

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Marasi Primary School hosted a World Environment Day celebration the day after we (the documentary team) arrived. It acknowledged many of the positive changes that have occurred as a result of the community’s fight to stop deforestation. There, I watched Joseph help a child plant a tree, speak with children, and converse with many of the community leaders in attendance.

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The school in many ways symbolizes the future of the corridor. In total, Wildlife Works pays for the school fees of more than 3,000 students in the area, including partial scholarships for some college students. Most people who work for Wildlife Works reinvest their wages in their children’s education.

Rangers

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In this picture below you can see Joseph talking with several Wildlife Works Rangers. The rangers are an 80+ person ranger corps that protects wildlife throughout the corridor’s 500,000 acres from poachers seeking ivory. They also stop people from slash and burn farming or from simply cutting down trees for charcoal. So part of Joseph’s job is explaining to them why the rangers are stopping them from using the forestland, and what alternatives they have.

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We spent seven days in the company of Joseph and Evans and Bernard, two of the Wildlife Works Rangers. I was impressed by their work, their passion for the wildlife in the Project area, and the danger they face from poachers. A poaching incident occurred on my last day in Kenya, and the pain was evident on their faces. You can see the rangers at work in the Animal Planet reality TV show “Ivory Wars.”

Eco-charcoal

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Instead of slash and burn farming and chopping down forests for charcoal production, Wildlife Works offers new alternatives to citizens. These include job opportunities, smarter farming education, and alternative methods of creating charcoal. This latter effort — the creation of eco-charcoal — offers an innovative, yet pragmatic approach to fuel.

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Joseph showed us how the eco-charcoal is created. Teams clip small branches, collect fallen tree limbs, and burn them. The ash is then mixed with a pasty substance, and poured into casts for eco-charcoal bricks. The end result is a brick that burns longer and better than the charcoal most Kenyans make when cutting down trees.

Women’s Groups

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Joseph introduced us to three different women’s groups in the region. The loosely knit associations of women engage in entrepreneurial activities like producing arts and crafts that are sold in the U.S. and Europe through Wildlife Works. In all, there are 26 registered women’s groups in the Corridor, touching 550 women, or four percent of the total population.

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The women use the resulting money to build clean water tanks, buy solar lights and clean cook stoves for their households, and provide an education for their children. Husbands see the positive impact on their households and are encouraging their wives’ newfound roles in the Kasigau community.

Joseph Small

These are just some of the programs that Joseph supports in the community. Wildlife Works engages in other economic development actions such as textile production, better farming practices and more to build a sustainable future for Kasigua Corridor REDD+ Project Area.

This type of community management shows the real-world impact that such a role can have in the right situation. When local people like Joseph interact with the community and serve as a liaison for Wildlife Works, adoption of sustainability programs increases, and ultimately transforms the entire region for the better.

Story Source: geofflivingston.com

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston

To reach Joseph: joseph@wildlifeworks.com

Craft Beer Guide to Kenya

If you are a beer lover, then you are probably aware of the craft beer movement that is currently taking our country by storm. Although the said trend hasn’t been around for very long, production of craft beer has seen tremendous growth in Kenya over the past few years and is gaining skyrocketing popularity, at least in Nairobi.

The first African country to see the onset of craft beer brewing was South Africa. It has to date, with over 120, seen nearly as many craft breweries as those in Czech Republic crop up. Most of these popped up within the last ten years, hinting to the rest of the continent that this kind of brew is here to stay.

But what exactly is craft beer?

Beer Enthusiast Jonathan Gharbi, author of “Beer guide to vietnam and neighbouring countries” who travels for beer tells us more about craft beer and his experience with Kenyan craft beer breweries during his visit to the country. His blog www.beervn.com is about Vietnam where he visited 45 microbreweries. He is soon to start a new blog that will cover African breweries and beer culture in the continent starting with Kenya.

Zuru Kenya Jonbeer
Author of “Beer guide to vietnam and neighbouring countries” Jonathan Gharbi

ZK First off, Karibu Kenya! Hope you are enjoying your visit?

JG Thanks. I do like it here, the climate is perfect, not all agree but for me it is. There are so many nice beers too, so I am happy.

ZK So for those who are not familiar with this kind of brewing, what exactly is Craft beer?

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JG Craft beers, unlike industrial beers which are produced on large scale are beers made in small batches, for local customers only. The Craft brewers focus on creating a flavorful, high-quality beer which in most cases is very different from the mass-produced beers like Tusker, white cap, Heineken, Carlsberg, and others which most Kenyans are familiar with.

When you drink a hand-crafted or “craft” beer you are enjoying a fresh, natural beer made using time-honored methods with a lot of passion poured into it.

ZK There’s a tendency to assume that a craft beer must be better than a mass-produced beer, how true is this, are these beers better?

Zuru Kenya craft beers

JG Craft beer like wine is about flavor and taste. Sometimes to keep costs down, mass producers may substitute their ingredients or speed up the fermentation process with enzymes that make a beer concentrate of sorts. Handcrafted beer on the other hand, is produced using only the best ingredients and brewers do not cut corners in order to lower cost of production.

So yes: Craft beers are more delicious and flavorful as the brewers spend time focusing on the quality of their beer. With this choice of drink, you are sampling distinctive full-bodied taste and aroma achieved by interpreting traditional styles with new twists. Lagers like Carlsberg, Tusker, white cap and others on the other hand, tend to be pretty bland stuff, aimed at the broadest possible range of tastes…thin body, short aftertaste, no flavors. You need to keep in mind though that some beer lovers just want to enjoy an alcoholic drink and don’t pay much mind to taste and flavor.

ZK Having sampled the craft beer spots in Nairobi, which one would you best recommend and why?

JG I was able to visit three craft beer spots; Sierra Lounge, Brew Bistro and the newly launched, Sirville brewery.

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The newly opened Sirville Brewery and Lounge in Galleria

If you want a change of scene from the all too common lagers, begin with a tasting at sierra lounge, Yaya Shopping Mall. Owned by Ozzbeco, Sierra is a larger scale craft brewery stuck between craft and industrial beer. They make tasty beers and occasionally offer seasonal beers. Once or twice a year they offer special brew such as the german styled Maibock.

Brew Bistro located at Piedmont plaza, Ngong Road is a more typical craft brewery. This small scale brewer produces 1000 litres of brew at a time using 5 kinds of hops and malts. The pub provides a variety of beers each with its own description and story.

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The third spot, newcomer sirville brewery, opened late last year in Galleria shopping mall has a typical microbrewery set in the same size as brew bistro’s. Being new in the market, the lounge is still testing the waters with different kinds of beers trying to find their clients’ tastes so you won’t really get much of craft beer here.

To answer your question on which one I would recommend, I like brew bistro because of their variation of beer. However I think sirville is exciting because they are new. Sierra on the other hand is very big, with good beer but not much charm.

ZK Tell us more about these breweries…

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JG Sierra, which is the first craft brewery in the country, went from a small boutique brewery to a more industrial one with a capacity of 2 million liters a month and that Journey in less than 10 years. Beers here are sold on tap as well as cans and bottles. The lightest in their range is platinum and then follows Blonde, Amber and Stout.

Brew Bistro opened in 2009 is the most popular spot among beer lovers today. This brewpub has a good spectrum of beers that are only available on tap with the brewery placed just in the middle of the bar. The pub has a variety of special beers made with a traditional crafty approach. They also sell a wider range of malt and hops.

Though just recently launched, Sirville Lounge uses the most experienced brewer you can find in Nairobi with 30 years in the business and five years at Brew Bistro. Since it’s still new, beers at the brewery are adopted and not as bold yet. However starting July 2015 Sirville will brew Stout which is promising and as soon as more beer enthusiasts come in, the beers at the lounge will also change. Today they have four beers on tap, all made in the small microbrewery.

ZK What beers would you recommend to other beer lovers from the three craft breweries?

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JG Sierra Lounge offers Sierra Platinum and Sierra Blonde which are not craft per se, just more industrial. Their beers Amber and Stout however, are for sure craft and worth trying out.

At Sirville, Amboseli Bitter is your best bet. With good body and a nice finish, you will feel some fruity notes in it.

My favorite at Brew Bistro was definitely the Stout; very tasty with coffee notes and a good finish.

ZK Other than craft beer, what other Kenyan beers have you been able to sample and how do they compare to other beers you’ve had in other countries?

zuru kenya craft beer guide

JG I find that Kenyan beer is like any other beer in the world. Miller lager and miller light in the US, Carlsberg in Denmark, Tiger from Singapore, Hanoi beer from Vietnam, Bitburger from Germany, all are similar to Tusker, Tusker Lite, White cap, Pilsner and Summit Beer.

ZK Finally, how would you rate the craft beer breweries you visited while in town?

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JG Brew bistro is the established and most international styled craft brewery. Servile on the other hand being new is yet to get a clear identity. It does however offer both local traditions and a strong craft beer culture.

Sierra brewery does not have a brewpub which is very sad. They also produce international lagers such as platinum so the risk is that they may soon stop making craft beer and just do international styled lagers at a huge scale instead.

Summary: I like sirville because they are new and open to ideas however Brew Bistro offers you a wider range of craft beers and the best experience. Sierra falls short since they are one foot in the craft beer culture and one foot in the industrial beer market offering thin and boring lagers.

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Craft beer is a wide spread trend and like wine, it’s just a matter of time before people start choosing their beer for taste and flavor, and not bottle brand.

One of the coolest perks to drinking craft beer is that you actually get to meet the individuals brewing your favorite drink. What’s more, with craft beer; you are not stuck with the same boring, flavorless, thin-body beer all year round. Each craft beer pub that exists provides you with different brewing styles, special recipes and ingredients as well as different brewer perspectives. Every brewer makes their own beer, in their own special way.

With so many exciting craft beer pubs popping up all around the city, beer enthusiasts are getting a taste of fresh, local creative beer…no more bland stuff! If you haven’t yet, I dare you to give it a try. Who knows? you might even trade in your favorite lager. Oh and good luck in trying to find just one favorite beer.

To follow Jonathan Gharbi on his beer adventures: www.beervn.com Photos credit  ~Jonathan Gharbi

Preying on poverty: Sex tourism in coastal Kenya

Enduring distasteful glares and snarky comments without one iota of apprehension, that’s the kind of thick skin one needs to parade around the coastal towns of Kenya, mzungu in hand. Not that an interracial relationship is frowned upon; only when these kind of cross-generational relationships contribute to moral decay and thrust underage children into sex tourism.

Kenya is a well-known tourist destination for a number of reasons; premier wildlife safari, beautiful landscapes, good climatic conditions, beautiful coastal beaches and her hospitable people to boot. Whilst all this is positive, the country also seems to attract another breed of tourists. Tourists lured here by, although not officially stated, a ready market for a very lucrative business; the sex trade.

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Economic hardships and illiteracy have been cited as some of the issues that lead young men and (mostly) women to such desperation. Drug abuse also fuels sex tourism, because it’s an easy way to get money for a fix. However, living in a once upon a time nondescript coastal town that can largely attribute its growth to this trade, you slowly learn that the greatest drive towards this business is simply the materialistic nature of our society today.

Lined up with numerous restaurants, pubs, clubs, and the infamous strip clubs, Mtwapa is the town to be in. Some foreign travelers can’t pinpoint Kenya on the map to save their lives, but ask them where Mtwapa is. People get here and they just want to go to Mtwapa. Locals aren’t left behind either. Holidays to Mombasa are incomplete if you haven’t sampled the Mtwapa nightlife.

Connected to Mombasa through a bridge over-passing the Mtwapa creek, this town has recorded one of the highest property developments in the region. Unlike most kenyan towns, Mtwapa offers an array of amenities and services; ample security, an exciting nightlife, the ocean and sandy beach, modern shopping malls, hospitals and banking centers, and tastefully furnished apartments and hotels. Locals here find no need to head to Mombasa for goods and services unless they really have to.

It is this convenient lifestyle and the zero-to-none crime rate that most tourists find Mtwapa favourable to the extent of pitching tents here. This is the town where the rich, mostly tourists, and the not so rich live in harmony. Here you  get people of different nationalities, different ethnicity, and different religions. Here you get an open-minded and liberal atmosphere. The sort of atmosphere that permits high-end call girls, foreign prostitutes, escort girls as well as lowly paid sex workers to camp in town. It is the same liberal atmosphere that has the gay community scampering for safety in Mtwapa.

There’s a certain phrase we like to use in this town, “usiku kumekucha (the night has dawned)”. Come nightfall, the streets of Mtwapa are filled with tons of people looking to make merry  – and others to get paid. Music blaring from the numerous pubs lined up can be heard from a far distance. Nyama choma stands and roadside eateries are opened up where would be walking pavements by day. Business here is really good at night. As other towns go to sleep, Mtwapa is wide awake. So are its clients and servicers.

This town, like many others in the coast, has lured tourists, both international and local, with the promise of sun, sand, and sex – but mostly the thriving sex trade. It has also lured young men and women, with the promise of the much coveted mzungu money, better welfare and a ticket out of Kenya. A ticket, to the the better preferred western world; an escape from the low paying jobs, unemployment, and the rising coast of living & healthcare.

With this promise, it is therefore not unusual to see girls, barely in their teens, hanging on to the arms of 50, 60, even 70 year old men. Girls as young as 12 turning tricks in order to make money for their families. Some of these girls drop out of school to join the trade thinking it’s a cool thing to do (some of them make in a day what there teachers would make in a month). In other unfortunate cases though, the girls’ parents are the enablers. After seeing how the proceeds of sex work are giving others a more desirable life, some parents urge their kids to get themselves a “sponsor” like so-and-so in the neighborhood. In the name of profit, these young ones are forced into relationships with men old enough to be their grandfathers, if not great grandfathers.

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These kind of relationships are not unique to girls alone. It is well known that beach boys at the coast are on the look out for older white women to have flings with for financial benefit. Hard figures are difficult to come by, but locals estimate that as many as one in five single women visiting from rich countries are in search of sex – Reuters. Such women, well in their 60s and 70s, travel across the globe to Kenya to pick up local boys barely in their 20s.

It is estimated that there could be as many as 40,000 child sex workers in Mombasa city.

– Trace Kenya.

It is also not uncommon to see a married couple living with a mzungu lover in the pretense that either one of them is a sibling and not husband or wife. This sort of charade has been going on for years at the coast. Anything necessary for mzungu money!

This kind of lifestyle subjects the individuals involved to society’s judgment and prejudice. They make the money, at the end of the day they have to survive the judgment. Whenever an interracial couple of odd ages flags down public transport at the coast, tongues start wagging. Just the other day, I spotted a young girl struggling to assist an old white man clamber into a matatu. Shopping bags in one hand and her financial savior in the other, the old man, who was about 80 at most, could barely walk let alone breathe (he had to breathe with the aid of an oxygen tube). Once in the matatu, there was an uneasy silence as the thinned hair mzungu walked unsteadily to his seat. The girl avoided stares in shame while most people just shook their heads in disgust.

In 2006, UNICEF released a report that stated; up to 30 percent of girls in some Kenyan resorts – aged from 12 to 18 years old – were involved in the sex industry.  Today, if anything, the number has incredibly risen with the area attracting more wealthy locals and tourists than ever.

The increase in the industry has seen bigger fish crop up. Cartels, bigger and more powerful than even some of the drug lords in the country. The number of women being trafficked to the coast is increasing by the day. Women are lured into the business from as far as Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and even Tanzania.

Thanks to these cartels, child pornography is burgeoning. Young girls are taking part in stripping, live sex shows in local clubs, shooting pornographic movies amongst other moral corrupting activities. Young boys are also sought out as much as girls. Young men are inducted into the industry and are subjected to homosexual acts with both local and white men inside villas.

Whilst some of the partakers (especially university students led by their curiosity) travel to the coast to moonlight as sex workers, others are mainly duped either by friends who lie to them about their profession, or are sourced via social media with the promise of big business deals. Not so long ago, a number of college going ladies made the headlines after they were caught shooting bestial pornographic movies with dogs (in some cases, others are forced to have sex with a horse). These activities were taking place in a Swedish owned villa; one of the numerous, highly guarded villas where young locals are paid for the most horrific and abnormal acts. Behind the steel gates and perimeter fences, sex tourism takes on different shapes; pornography, sadomasochism, child abuse and even fatalities.

Although the media has highlighted some cases of sex tourism like the Swedish villa saga and the strippers at Banhof Bar and Restaurant owned by a German national, this is just the  tip of what is going down at the coast. There’s more , that Kenyans might or might not be aware of. Sex work and trafficking is rampant. As long as the mzungu remains the synonym of wealth in Kenya, morals and caution will be thrown to the wind and towns like the ‘sin city’ will continue to grow. With the promise of easy money and a better life, the crisis of underage prostitution will recycle .

It is imperative, therefore, that strict measures are undertaken to curb any kind of sex tourism especially those that target underage and vulnerable children.

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