Category Archives: Safiri Kenya

Why Zuru Kenya?

Millions of travelers year in, year out, make Kenya their chosen holiday destination. There has to be a good reason why…

One of Africa’s top tourist destinations, not only does Kenya rank high in the world as a safari provider, it also features beautiful white sandy beaches, famous national parks, varied rich cultures, and very welcoming people. Granted some aspects of your trip may be affected by poor infrastructure or a few security concerns in some regions; the adventures, scenery, people and exhilarating experiences will have you coming back to the country for more!!

Here’s why we think Kenya should be top of your destinations to visit list!

1. Home of Safari

George_Elsa_Mak31eCrjpgSubject to a series of safari-inspired film classics such as Mogambo and Born Free, Kenya is famous in the safari world as having been host to the greatest, unrivalled private hunting safaris frequented by American presidents and European royalty. Photography safari was also pioneered here in the 50’s and 60’s and countless documentaries such as BBC’s Big Cat Diary serve as pull factors drawing safari enthusiasts to the country.

2. White sandy beaches  kenya-beach-2The Kenyan Coast boasts of both beautiful white sandy beaches along the warm azure waters of the Indian Ocean and an abundance of unspoilt coral reefs providing for  arguably the best diving sites in the world. The coral reefs harbor dolphins, turtles, tropical fish, as well as whale sharks. Activities here are centred around swimming, diving, game fishing, rafting, snorkeling among others.

The most popular beaches are Mombasa Beach, Lamu Beach, Diani Beach, Bamburi Beach Tana River Delta Beach, Malindi Beach, Watamu Beach and Tiwi Beach.

3. Rich Culture

Samburu-tribal-people-of--013One of the most exciting aspects of a safari in Kenya is the chance to meet and interact with local tribes people …With 43 or so tribes, this country is home to an abundance of culture  bound to give you great appreciation for other peoples way of life. Right from the most known Maasai/Samburu warriors, down to the Swahili culture at the coast…whether you are fishing with the people from the south, or riding camels in the North, here is where you’ll get to sample varied tastes of culture.

4. The exclusivity of Lamu

Lamu_Kenya20120328184732_sThe island of Lamu has seemingly become the place to go for exotic holidays. The place is a buzz with upmarket clientele during the holiday season and is certainly the embodiment of shabby-chic. The islands of north of Lamu also play host to some similarly shabby-chic but nonetheless upmarket beach lodges, notably Kiwayu Lodge and Manda Bay Lodge; great bases from which to explore the island ruins and isolated beaches, as well as to sail and dive the network of waterways.

5. The Great Wildebeest Migration

wildebeest migration in masai mara, kenya2011The most exhilarating experience is to watch thousands of zebras and wildebeests migrating in the “Great Wildebeest Migration” in the Masai Mara and Serengeti. Watch as the migrating animals fight for their chance at greener pastures while escaping the lions and crocodiles preying on them.

6. Our History

Fort_jesusA portrait of Fort Jesus

Kenya does not fall short of historical sites to visit. Some of which hold mysteries and facts bound to leave you in awe…be it political, social or economic, our countries history is one to draw you in. Some of the prominent sites include Fort Jesus, the oldest coastal fort in the world and Shimoni, once used a holding pen for slaves during the slave trade.

7. A wide range of activities

29-ACTIVITIES-3_600x300Enjoy wildlife safaris, bird watching, windsurfing, horseback riding, golfing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, snorkeling, scuba diving, hot air ballooning, mountain climbing, hiking, water skiing, fishing, and many more wonderful activities.

8. Affordability

Money-ShillingWith a favorable exchange rate against many international currencies, Kenya is a fairly inexpensive tourist destination. Although the Kenya shilling fluctuates, it always gives a much better value compared to other major currencies, such as the United States dollar, sterling pound or the Euro. The cost of living is much lower in Kenya as well when compared to Europe or the United States.

9. Climate

climate-mapKenya enjoys a wonderful tropical climate. It is generally warm all year round, with plenty of sunshine and cooler nights and mornings. Visitors are able to enjoy most activities on the beaches and in the national parks all year round. Since Kenya lies on the equator, the seasonal temperature changes are not extreme. However, due to the differing topography, you will experience different weather patterns when traveling across Kenya. The hottest months of the year are February and March with temperatures as high as 93°F (34°C) while the coolest season falls between July and August with temperatures dropping to around 60°F (16°C). Kenya provides very perfect weather for those who live in colder countries to escape to.

10. Great Game

39.-Three-male-Lions-walking-closely-together-Masai-Mara-KenyaKenya offers some of the best and most accessible game viewing in the world, including the hard-to-resist attraction of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). These, together with many other animals that are unique to Africa, can be seen at the national parks and game reserves throughout Kenya.

The months between June and October, and December to March are the most popular times of the year to Visit Kenya. April, May and November can be quite wet.

 

 

 

 

Weekend City Tour

Over the weekend, we spontaneously decided to explore one of Mombasa’s oldest town and historical sites. On Sunday we went to tour Mombasa’s most popular tourist attraction, Fort Jesus where we spent a better part of the afternoon learning about its history and significance from our tour guide, Ali Mohammed whom we met by the entrance.

Read more about Fort Jesus… http://zurukenya.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/fort-jesus-fortaleza-de-jesus-de-mombaca/

DSC01024DSC01001 DSC01000 DSC01005 DSC01004 DSC01003 DSC01002 DSC01006  DSC01008 DSC01009  DSC01011 DSC01014 DSC01015Our guide Ali explaining to us about the materials used to build the fort.

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One of the curio shops within the fort. This was formally the kitchen area used by the portuguese and the setting remains the same to date aside from some minor renovations.

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Carol stands beside the tree believed to be 2 million years old, how outstanding!! This tree owes its existence to the Jurassic period and what stands here is believed to have been the roots of the tree that are now visible due to subsistence. The fort was built around it.

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Ancient Portuguese art on display at the fort. The art was excavated from the fort’s grounds and due to aging the museum had to trace the drawings using graphite.

DSC01053 DSC01056 DSC01057 DSC01058 DSC01061 DSC01062 DSC01063 DSC01065 DSC01066 DSC01067DSC01108 DSC01107 DSC01105 DSC01104Remains of one of the Portuguese soldiers buried at the fort

DSC01103 DSC01102 DSC01100Remains of the Portuguese chapel brought down by the Omani Arabs

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After a few educative hours at the fort we headed on to the streets of Old town where we were awed by the architectural influence of the Portuguese and the Arabs on the buildings. The streets of Old town are always so alive with bright colours of the traditional coastal khanga and kikoy, the all purpose wrap around cloth worn by both men and women. The exotic town has retained its culture and one will find here busy markets, women along the narrow streets in traditional buibui, fishermen selling their fresh fish at the dhow docks and the sweet aroma of varied spices in the air.

DSC01140 DSC01141 DSC01142 DSC01143 DSC01144 DSC01145 DSC01146Shark teethDSC01147 DSC01148Ancient homes with Indian ArchitectureDSC01149 DSC01150 DSC01151 DSC01152 DSC01153DSC01154 DSC01155One of the oldest mosques in the area. It is still in use today.DSC01156Looks like residents here are Liverpool fans 🙂DSC01157 DSC01160The little Askari (soldier) guarding the place

DSC01163A very old warehouse used to store goods during the Arab trade daysDSC01164DSC01165Our guide Ali seems to really love his job and is good at it too.DSC01166 DSC01168 DSC01169DSC01171 DSC01172DSC01167

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This was an afternoon well spent. Many thanks to our guide Ali Mohammed for the tour and the things we learnt. Hope to go on another similar venture soon!

Keep travelling and exploring!!!

Fort Jesus (Fortaleza de Jesus de Mombaça)

Fort Jesus, undoubtedly Mombasa’s most popular tourist attraction, is a monumental piece of architecture built in the 16th century from 1593-1596 by the Portuguese. Sitting on the edge of a coral ridge overlooking the entrance to the old port of Mombasa, the Fortress which was built to protect the Portuguese trade route to India as well as their vested interests in East Africa is now turned Museum, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2011 and one of the finest examples of 16th century Portuguese military architecture.

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Designed by Italian architect, Giovanni Battista Cairatiand and later dedicated and named  “Fortaleza de Jesus de Mombaça” by the then-captain of the coast, Mateus de Mendes de Vasconcelos, the quadrilateral fort is comprised of four bastions; S. Felipe, S. Alberto, S. Mathias and S. Mateus and owes its existence to the Turkish raids of 1585 and 1588 which is what led to its construction.

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Since its erection, Fort Jesus’ control has exchanged hands numerous times in counting; In 1631, Sultan Muhammad Yusif baptized as Dom Jeronimo Chingulia entered the fort taking the Portuguese by surprise and killing the Portuguese captain, Pedro Leitão de Gamboa. He also then massacred the whole Portuguese population of Mombasa (45 men, 35 women and 70 children) and after two months of siege, abandoned the enterprise becoming a pirate. Right After sultan Dom’s departure, a small Portuguese force under Captain Pedro Rodrigues Botelho, that had remained in Zanzibar, reoccupied the fort.

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In 1696, Fort Jesus fell under siege from Omani Arabs but was easily relieved by a Portuguese expedition in the same year. Unfortunately though, in the following months a plague killed all the Portuguese of the garrison (50-70 portuguese soldiers) and by 1697 the defense of the fort was in the hand of Sheikh Daud of Faza with 17 of his family, 8 African men and 50 African women. After several other sieges from then, the Omani Arabs successfully took over the fort and with this conquest taking the whole coast of Kenya and Tanzania with Zanzibar and Pemba under their control. The fort had clearly become a vital possession for anyone with the intention of controlling Mombasa Island or the surrounding areas of trade. The struggle didn’t just end there though, the Portuguese were not one to accept defeat so easily as they retook Fort Jesus in 1728, when the African soldiers mutinied against the Omanis; a take over that didn’t last so long unfortunately. Tables turned the following year when the Mombasa locals revolted against them and put under siege the garrison. Years later during colonization, the British used the fortress as a prison, until 1958, when they converted it into a historical monument.

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Today, visitors get to explore the gun turrets, battlements and houses within the walls of Fort Jesus. The national monument combines Portuguese, Arab and British elements, representing the major powers that held it at different times in history. The presence of the Portuguese and British is felt through their respective cannons; The Portuguese cannons had a range of 200 meters and are longer than the British cannons which had a range of 300 meters. The Omani Arabs on the other hand, left their mark throughout the fort with numerous Koran inscriptions showcased on the wooden door posts and ceiling beams whereas a former meeting hall supported by 5 stone pillars to the ceiling portrays their Muslim tradition of 5 pillars.

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Those interested in learning more about the struggles that the fortress has housed over the years will be delighted by the spectacular sound and light shows hosted by the fort 3 nights in a week. On the night of the show, visitors are welcomed into the Fort by guards in flowing robes brandishing flaming torches. They are then led to a specially designed and choreographed show that uses lights, sound effects and costumed actors to bring to life the long and turbulent history of the Fort. After the show, the visitors are treated to a candlelit dinner in the open courtyard of the Fort, under the stars. The sound and light show can also be combined with a sunset dhow cruise on the Mombasa harbor.

 

Vasco Da Gama’s Memorabilia

It stands on the Northern end of Casuarina Beach atop rocks that provide stunning views along the coast; an architectural memorabilia affiliated with Vasco Da Gama and his exploring adventures. One of Malindi’s top attractions, the Vasco Da Gama pillar came into existence in 1498 built as a sign of appreciation for the hospitality of the then sultan of Malindi, and still stands today as one of the oldest remaining monuments in Africa. Its erection was met with resistance from the muslim community and as a matter of fact what many do not know is that the Portuguese explorer had not only built one pillar but two. The first pillar had been erected near the sultana’s palace however due to christian-muslim animosity then, the pillar was demolished sighting that the cross surmounting it was seen as encouraging Christianity. Vasco was later allowed to build the second pillar on the cliff where it stands today only after explaining to the sultan of its importance.

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It may come across to many as just a simple monument but this coral pillar right here might well define the essence of colonial intrusion into the country and East Africa at large, with the Portuguese being the first Europeans to explore the country. Vasco Da Gama’s arrival into Kenya was led by his endeavor into finding a sea route to India and Malindi being well placed as a sea route to and from the east coast, saw the pillar serve well as a landmark that could be sighted from a far by those approaching the harbour from the sea.

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Today the Pillar is a frequent for couples what with the cool breeze and spectacular view, it has also become a good fishing ground; practiced either leisurely or as a sport and you will definitely not fail to spot the photographers who offer instant photo services to the many visitors. Make this the site to see next time you are in Malindi!!

Vasco da Gama Pillar, Malindi, Kenya

Shackled Caves

In the words of Kenya-born singer-songwriter Roger Whittaker,

                 There’s a hole in the side of Africa, where the walls will speak if you only listen

                           walls that tell a tale so sad, that the tears on the cheeks of Africa glisten,

                                  stand and hear a million slaves, tell you how they walked so far

                                          that many died in misery, while the rest sold in Zanzibar

                                                                     Shimoni, Oh shimoni,

               you have to find the answer and the answer has been written down in shimoni.

Shimoni (swahili for the ‘place of the cave’) harbors a history of brutality and enslavement. South of Mombasa Island, Shimoni caves sit in a small peaceful village categorized among the poorest in the south coast as it is home to poor and disabled villagers. Years back during the colonial era, the village was the original headquarters of Imperial East Africa Company and right opposite the caves’ entrance sits a memorabilia of the time; remains of the old headquarters building which later became the Districts Commissioner’s house. Now, the village remains a humble home for a few local traders and fishermen with countable shops. One can access this historical site easily as it is only a two-hour drive from Mombasa, 15km off the main Mombasa – Lungalunga road.

220px-Colonial_Residence First senior staff residence headquarters built in 1885

Believed to be millions of years old, Shimoni Caves house gory stories of inhumane conditions that captives experienced in the hands of their masters, and metallic studs stuck to the cave walls with chains dangling till date as well as preserved wooden crates used to transport slaves remain as a stark reminder. Previously used as Kaya shrines (Red scarves tied on coral polyps and bottles lying on the ground which were mainly used to keep herbs serve as evidence), Arab traders used the caves as a holding pen for slaves awaiting ships for transfer to Zanzibar en-route to Arabia, Yemen and America. The slaves were captured from the Hinterland.

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The Arab caravans were brutal, often burning and ransacking villages as well as highly mistreating their captives. According to Dr. Livingstone, for every five slaves in a caravan, only one reached the coast alive; thousands died along the way with their bodies left by the roadside for wild animals to devour. Moreover, for every slave that got captured, ten others were killed; goes to show just how gruesome an experience this was. In case of a disease break out, sick slaves would be thrown overboard while others would be left on board awaiting their fate; death. At the time, the British colonialists were against the trade and whenever they would be in pursuit of the traders, the poor shackled up slaves would without a thought be thrown into the shark-infested sea. Same case scenario when faced with  rough conditions at the sea. The ride to the land of their masters was not only torturous but also not cozy…the small dhows used for transport would be cramped up with a total of up to 1000 captives. The poor souls could hardly sit, squat or kneel down one can’t help but imagine the state of their bodies upon arrival.

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Machakos, Kitui,  and Mariakani are among the various caravan routes with the Main towns being Mtito Andei, Kibwezi, Vanga, Takaungu amongst others. The Akamba (one of Kenya’s tribe) people are among the Kenyans who served as middlemen at the time of the slave trade and are inhabitants of most of these towns. They had to trek long distances into the interior to capture slaves.

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Freed slaves on a British boat in 1868

Today, Shimoni Caves are an attraction for individuals interested in the history of East African slave trade as well as those curious as to what evidence the caves of torture hold.  They are also very dark and the only inhabitants that remain are bats.

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Nairobi in a day

Courtesy of The Tribe Hotel Nairobi, below is a take of things to do and places one should visit if they only had a day in the City.

 

Karura Forest;
Fancy a family picnic by the lake, bird walks, bike trails and generally a spectacular nature trail, Karura forest should then definitely be on your list of things to do. Things to enjoy here include the Mau Mau caves, scenic waterfalls, picnic sites, bamboo forest and nature trails. Karura does not fall short of wildlife as well one can spot  different monkey species, bush baby, bush-buck, bush pig, porcupine, duiker, genet, dik dik, African civet and epauletted bat.
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Cafe Brasserie;
Located in Nairobi’s Village Market, The Cafe Brasserie by Art Caffe is a bright, light-filled café famous for its roasted coffees, hearty dishes and mouth-watering deserts. With wood-panelled walls and high ceilings, the café has a unique character, and is the ideal spot for post-shopping coffee and cake breaks with friends, pre-shopping breakfasts and leisurely lunches. The contemporary interior with clean lines, combined with a convivial ambiance, have made this restaurant a staple on the local dining scene.
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The Giraffe Centre;
Run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, this is a sanctuary for the rare Rothschild’s giraffe. Spend some time observing, hand-feeding (and if lucky, get a big wet kiss) as well as capturing close-up photos of the giraffes in case you did not catch sight of them while on safari. One can also enjoy a quiet nature trail through thick bushes and forest. Other animals you are bound to encounter include warthogs, hyenas and sometimes leopard.There is a variety of flora and fauna.
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House of Treasures;
The House of Treasures is filled with unusual and exotic goods from around the globe. Antique and modern furniture, architectural pieces, innovative fashion & jewellery, Africana artefacts, children’s toys and eclectic home-ware – all gathered in a striking double-storey gallery set in mature gardens in Karen, just outside Nairobi, Kenya.
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Maasai Markets;
Meet craftsmen of authentic Kenyan artifacts and enjoy the sight of ladies beading and making jewellery at the markets. Held around the city at different venues on different days, bag yourself a set of souvenirs for your friends and families back home including wooden carvings and bead-work; beaded necklaces, batik wall hangings, shoes, soap stone carvings, sisal bags, kikois, textiles and much more.  All Maasai Markets items are Kenyan and the range of goods on offer is impressive .You can’t go wrong at the Nairobi Masai Market.
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Adèle Dejak;
The Adèle Dejak brand creates handmade fashion accessories for the modern, sophisticated and multidimensional woman. Inspired by African shapes, textures and traditional techniques, the cutting-edge pieces sit perfectly between artifact and high fashion statement designs. The Adèle Dejak collections express acute appreciation for African-made fabrics, including Kuba cloth and kitenge (wax print); a dedication to using recycled materials including rice and cement sacks, brass, aluminium and glass and; a commitment to exceptional quality.
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Anselm – Kitengela Hot Glass;
Sleek vases the colour of sea glass, a coffee table that looks as if it is made of crushed ice.  Extravagant murals. A goblet that feels solid and perfect in your hand, majestic and bejeweled chandeliers. A splash of window that is a mosaic of the sun, a globe-shaped lamp glowing like a planet. A Maasai necklace design that is an explosion of colour and lighting. A passionate and practical ensemble of scrap window and bottle glass renewed, refashioned into stylish pieces, functional art and inspired design. All this and more at Anselm- Kitengela Hot Glass, each piece is unique, handmade to catch the eye and satisfy the soul.
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New Kitengela Works-Westend House, Westlands, 1_4 tonnes, 750 pieces
African Heritage House;
The African Heritage House overlooking the Nairobi National Park is described by the prestigious Architectural Digest as “an architecture rising from the serene Kenyan plain like an outcropping of earth, a vision of usefulness informed by the African genius for decoration.”
Designed by American Alan Donovan, co-founder of the African Heritage Pan-African Galleries, the house is a combination of the mud architectures from across Africa.The house is available for tours, meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinners on the rooftop or by the refreshing pool), conferences/functions, as well as overnight stays in its luxurious rooms, filled with African art and furnishings with modern appointments.
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Kalabash;
Once at Kalabash you will be awed by the creativity and pronounced ethnic artistry that awaits you. Kalabash Selections specializes in extraordinary art, crafts and accessories from across Africa.  The curated collection represents the finest examples of Africana in wood, stone, metal and beads. It  glows with unique earthly African shades of brown, which most of its racy crafts represent. Kalabash also stocks beadwork and artifacts made from driftwood, soapstone and clay.
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Kaya Spa;
Kaya, Tribe’s exclusive spa combines traditional and new-world treatments from around the globe. The five treatment rooms and hair studio infuse a sense of tranquility through inspiring design – taming the body, mind and soul.
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NEST;
Also at the Tribe,  NEST is the perfect location for sun-downer drinks, private parties, or just an intimate space to get away and hang out. NEST serves the best martinis in Nairobi which are a perfect compliment to aromatic shisha pipes or hookahs.
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Jiko;
Jiko holds true to the glamorous yet sophisticated feel of the Tribe hotel whilst maintaining the warmth and personality of Kenya. Its contemporary international cuisine focuses on carefully grown fresh ingredients and specially sourced international imports. The extensive menu features grilled meats and vegetables as well as house made pastas, breads, pastries and gelatos. Jiko’s exclusive wine list highlights some of the finest selections of wines to perfectly compliment the flavors of Jiko.
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Finish your day in style sleeping at the Tribe’s Presidential suite. A one-bedroom suite overlooking the protected natural wetland, the Presidential Suite features a living room with dining table and over-sized couches, a 60-inch plasma TV with a BOSE Lifestyle sound system, guest bathroom, a private balcony, enhanced storage facilities and the suite’s iconic master bathroom. The Presidential suite is furnished with a rain shower, bath tub, 300 thread-count sheets, and a king bed. Tribe offers a complimentary mini-bar and free high-speed wireless internet with all rooms.

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Wonders of the Mara

Doubling up as a wonder of the world as well as Africa’s greatest Wildlife reserve, the Masai Mara is a sight to behold. Home to the Great Wildebeest Migration, this reserve will offer you a safari of a lifetime; watching over two million animals cross-over from the Serengeti in Tanzania in search of greener pasture. This experience serves both as a ‘wow’/’chilling’ moment seeing this magical migration of wildebeests, gazelles and zebras in their thousands , while at the same time having to watch some of them make their last cross as the predators; lions, crocodiles and hyenas seize their opportunity across the Mara river.

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The annual Migration has highly boosted Kenya’s place as a favorite safari destination and during June/July the reserve receives numerous guests ready to watch this natural spectacle. The millions of wildebeests spend much of the year grazing throughout the plains of the Serengeti and when the dry season dawns in June, they begin to gather, forming a single vast herd ready to head north. The experience is amazing as you anxiously await for the herds, one can envision the numbers hearing the sound of the approaching herd with the rumbling of hooves and low grunts; very awe-inspiring indeed. By July, the predators are set on the Kenyan side, Knowing the feasting opportunity that awaits.  The river crossing serves as a major challenge for the migration as many of the animals succumb to their fate either through drowning, being swept away by strong currents or by the wrath of the hungry crocodiles.

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Come October, the herds start their journey back to the Serengeti to the renewed grasslands. Out of all the calves born in the Serengeti before the migration, two out of three never return from this excruciating adventure. This is thus a test of both renewal and sustenance as well as life and death. The Mara aside from being host to the greatest migration ever seen, is home to the famed Maasai people. It is beyond amazing how man and wildlife share the same space of existence in utmost harmony. This co-existence probably makes Maasai Mara one of the most unusual and unique wilderness regions the world over.

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Other co-inhabitants include; herds of zebra, giraffe, gazelle,topi, an array of bird life, monkeys, elephants and buffalos  in the Musiara Swamp and numerous hippos and crocodiles in the Mara and Talek rivers. The Maasai Mara is also packed with a wide range of Accommodation for any budget and is a popular attraction with Safari operators. The reserve is ideal for game drives and there are select camps and lodges that will provide you with opportunities of safari walks as well as spectacular balloon safaris. You are bound to encounter wildlife at many areas of the Mara as they are allowed to move freely in and out of the reserve and through neighbouring Maasai lands.

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Outside the boundaries of the reserve there are many other small camps and lodges, some of which offer walking, horse riding and other safari options. One can also take part in high forest trekking in the nearby Loita Hills and the Nguruman Escarpment.

Unravelling the Marvel that is Taita Hills

Travel enthusiasts en-route to various safari destinations along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway more often than not by-pass this Majestic wonder over Voi town. What many fail to realize is that this unexploited backdrop not only provides for a beautiful view while on your safari, but is also a rare attraction gem yet to be exploited and can only be attested to by a few; locals, researchers, and rally drivers. The early mornings are a sight to behold with dense fog shrouding the hills so much so one cannot be able to see another’s compound. Moreover, approaching the scenic hills from the vast and expansive plains spread in the lowland areas, provides for an exciting anticipation knowing that the higher one goes the more amazing the view of the landscapes, more like a far off deep sea.
Birds eye view of Rukanga village
DSC_1735View of Mt. kilimanjaro a far from Taita hills
P1050376Evening view
2Wesu rock shrouded by fog
The lowlands, teamed up with Taita hills  form the greater Taita/Taveta County formerly district, and are more accustomed to tourist visits being home to Kenya’s largest National Park; Tsavo National Park, Lakes Jipe and Chala, various water springs as well as a number of lodges namely Voi Wildlife Lodge, Voi Safari Lodge, Voi Town Lodge, Lions Bluff Lodge, Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge and Sarova Salt lick Game lodge.
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sarova8Sarova Salt-lick Lodge
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080164ASarova Taita Hills Lodge
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The Taita Hills are mainly Precambrian mountain ranges consisting of three massifs; Dawida, Saghalla and Kasighau with Dawida outcropping the rest at 2,228 metres above sea level at its highest peak – Vuria; it also has three other main peaks – Iyale, Wesu and Susu. Inhabitants of these hills are classified into three subgroups/sub-tribes in relation to the three topographical zones  i.e the Wadawida/Taita from Dawida, Wasaghalla from Saghalla and Wakasighau from Kasighau. The Taita have a variation of dialects that include the Mbololo, Bura, Wusi, Kidaya, Mghange, Chawia, Mwanda, Kishamba, Werugha, Wumingu, and Wundanyi whereas the Kisaghalla and Kasighau stand on their own as self-sustaining dialects.
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vuriaView of Vuria
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Sagala_IMG_2815 View of Saghalla
One’s journey atop, begins at Mwatate town, the central junction point linking wundanyi, voi and Taveta. Between Mwatate and Wundanyi several view points will prompt you to stop and gaze at the awesomeness below. One such spot is Mbengonyi; here you will be fascinated by the plains spreading across from Kishamba to Mwachora as well as the expansive Teita sisal estate. Mwachora is historically renown among the Taita as a medium of death as this is where sorcerers were executed by throwing them over the hill (sorcery was only punishable by death).
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mwachora peakMwachora peak and its views
Another hill with a similar history to Mwachora is Shomoto with a story of how thieves would be thrown over the cliff or have their fingers beaten to a pulp after which they would be tied by a rope to the tree that sits right on the edge of the cliff hanging over a deep cleft in the rock; left for dead. It was the responsibility of a member of the suspects’ relatives to push them over the edge.
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Crevice-400x560 Shomoto rock and crevice
If you thought the views of the plains impressive, sight of the Lwada falls should leave you dumbfounded at the nature of its beauty. Found in the Dembwa area, the falls cascade from tall, moss-lined rocks and boulders against a scenic backdrop of thick evergreen vegetation and indigenous cover mostly of wild date palms.
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Water pool
Water sources
The cruise up hill leads you to Wundanyi town; formely Taita’s District Capital from where one can access other destinations via hiking or use of motorbikes as very few places can be accessed by vehicles due to rough terrain especially during the rainy season. However, to better enjoy the splendor of the treasured sites, hiking is more preferred; Inhabitants swiftly traverse these precipitous hills without the break of a sweat whereas for those of us who come back here once in a while this seems to be quite a chore (never mind the fact that I hail from here). Walking about closely linked villages brings you to encounter very friendly people who will more often than not, not shy off to salute you with a ‘Kwawuka mana’ (good morning) or ‘Kwasinda mana’ (good afternoon) obliging you to reply with a simple ‘Mana-to’. Guests with preference of the uphill climate over the lowlands can enjoy their stay at Irido springs, Lavender Garden and Rocks hotels.
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8595536Wundanyi Town
Having withstood the years, Taita Hills have significant political stories to tell with sites like Mile 27,  the Mashoti encampment, Mbuyuni,  Salaita, Latema, Reata and the fortifications near Maktau portraying events dating back 100 years ago during world war 1; the only memorabilia of the battleground being the war cemetery segregated into white and Asian races (wonder where the Africans were buried). There is a story told of a German lady sniper  supposedly hidden in a hollow Baobab tree, out to avenge her husband, leading it to become a target for the British. The baobab tree survived as the most-shot-at tree during World War One and still has the bullet holes to show till date.
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Mwakitau ( as pronounced by locals) war memorial
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observation post and its view on top of mwakitau
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The legendary bullet-holed baobab tree
The hills also played a crucial role for Kenya’s independence serving as a hideout for our founding heroes including the first Kenyan president; Jomo Kenyatta. It is said that the Kapenguria seven stayed at Kino caves where they would keenly plot their victory plan over their colonizers. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, First president of Tanzania would also frequent the location in order to exchange ideas with his counterparts.
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kino Cave
Taita Hills not only harbors these cherished political antiquities but is also rich in cultural mementos. Before conversion into christianity, the Taita were known to store skulls of the dead in caves; Ngomenyi, Yale, Shomoto amongst others. The skulls would be disconnected from the corpse after a year’s exhumation; this was deemed a sacred act of restoring the dead to the ancestors resting place. The skulls would be lined denoting lineage and stacked near the entrance facing the setting sun. The subgroups differed as to who would be accorded this honor with the wadawida placing skulls of only elderly men whereas the wasaghalla included skulls of women and children. In times of calamities, elders would visit the caves and appeal to their ancestors for help; their Higher Being was called Mulungu whereas the ancestors’ spirits were referred to as milungu.
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Entrance to sacred skull cave
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With continued exposure by the media, these breathtaking hills have proven that its allure is not one to be left to oblivion having attracted a myriad of naturalists, researchers and birding enthusiasts alike. With a unique biodiversity of 9 and 13 taxa of animals and plants respectively, found nowhere else in the world but here, areas like Ngangao forest have been deemed a true treasure; being part of a unique Eastern arc range of forests found mostly in Eastern Tanzania and the only one of its kind in Kenya. In total there are 48 indigenous and exotic forests (surviving on hill tops and ranging in size from 500 square metres to 2 square kilometres) 28 of which are gazetted and are under the able protection and management of the Kenyan Government.
Ngangao_Mbololo_2005 Ngangao-forest
Ngangao forest
Moist forest
Nice canopy
Ngangao forest (under the care of Forestry Commission) will provide you the splendor of moist, thick dripping vegetation with sights of rare birds, butterflies, amphibians and plant species that only exist here. Some of the endemic species that call Taita hills home include  Bird species like the Taita Thrush, the Taita White-eye and the Taita Apalis, a unique rear-fanged snake – Amblyodipsas teitana, an endemic toad – Bufo Teitensis, and butterflies; the Taita Glider, Taita Charaxes, Cymothoe teita, Papilio desmond teita and Taita Swallowtail. There are at least nine plant species found nowhere else in the world but on the these moist slopes including the African violet – Saintpaulia teitensis, Memecyclon teitensis, Milletia obrata, Psychotria petitae. Trailing the forest within the first morning sun rays, one is also bound to chance a upon an endemic species of chameleon – Bradpodium Kinyongia. For birding enthusiasts, species like Orange Ground Thrush, Stripe- cheeked Greenbul, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler amongst others, should adequately quench your thirst.
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Taita white-eye
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Flame-Bordered-Charaxes-C-002Taita Charaxes
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African Violet
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As a climax to your exploration endeavor,  something that ought to give you a rush would be the climb of Wesu rock either as a pro with harnesses, ropes and all or simply by hiking your way up. What awaits you at the top is a reward of panoramic views for miles over kasighau, Ngulia, Mount Kilimanjaro’s Mawenzi and Kibo peaks as well as chyulu hills.
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Vuria ( Taita’s Highest point) will also be able to offer you the same thrill of the superb views. Early risers should be able to enjoy the glory of snow fall on the peaks of Kilimanjaro teamed up with the beautiful sunrise, truly a sight for sore eyes.

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