We have safely returned from our four day escapade on safari to Tsavo. The 330km journey took us twelve hours in the end- with the buses arriving late, us hitting morning Nairobi traffic and then the school bus accelerator going on the blink- but we were able to see camels, baboons, zebra and giraffe along the way, as well as some beautiful scenery- plains dotted with acacia and baobab trees with mountains for as far as the eye could see.
We stayed in a private sanctuary which was filled with wildlife and acts as a ‘corridor’ between Tsavo East and Tsavo West- two enormous National parks which are at least 21,000 square km in size, and is home to thousands of elephants and hundreds of lions. We slept in a little round red walled banda huts with a huge thatched roof (which was also home to a friendly bat, which ate the mosquitos!).
With a group of older students, S climbed Mount Kisigau. It was roughly a 1,600m trek- it was an extremely hard climb because of the steep and long gradients, plus the temperature was over 35 degrees. It took four and a half hours to climb and about three hours for the descent. There were three climate zones, arid and rocky at the bottom, bushy vegetation in the middle and tropical rainforest at the top. S saw huge silver backed and red legged spiders the size of his palm and yet still made it to the top! He looked rather bestragled and sweaty on his return!
S and I did game drives on different days with the children and we both saw large herds of red elephants (a deep copper red from the soil that is in Tsavo), plus numerous birds such as the peculiar looking long legged Secretary birds, Golden crested starlings, eagles, hawks, red billed hornbills, Eurasian roller and the Lilac Crested Roller which is Kenya’s national bird. The birds were incredibly beautiful with bright colour combinations and unusual and exotic looking beaks and heads. I was lucky enough to see two cheetah, which were sitting under a tree surveying the plains for prey and S saw a black backed jackal, white striped kudu, and a gerenuk. We both were lucky enough to spot a large lioness just outside the camp where we were staying- reminding us just how close the wildlife we really were!
Whilst in the camp, we saw copper headed lizards and also a beautiful animal called a Genet, which has a black and white tail like a racoon and then a spotted body.
We also got to do activities too- we learnt how to make our own elephant dung paper, weave Sisal grass into ropes and string, make colourful beaded bracelets with local women from the Imani woman’s group, plus S helped to make a life size elephant out of snares that have been found by wardens- laid down by poachers trying to catch the elephants for their precious ivory. The elephant, when complete, is going to be in display in Nairobi to try and discourage Kenyans from supporting the illegal ivory trade. We had a good time at Tsavo and look forward to returning- though the weather was extremely hot- over 35 degrees every day- it was definitely shorts and t-shirt weather!
Today, we returned to Dandora to teach the children in the morning and then in the afternoon we started our new charity project of teacher training. We trained eleven volunteers from Kenya, Burundi and Uganda about how to plan a lesson and some educational games that they can use to make their lessons interactive and fun. It was a two hour session and was well received. We have been invited to Burundi, a former French colony and to Uganda to do the same in December. We have also realised a new need for the students at Dandora- currently they do not have any water bottles and therefore don’t drink and get quite dehydrated. So S and I have spoken to our school and we are starting a mass collection of old soda bottles, which we will clean and then take to Dandora so that the children can carry water to and from school. We have also started to hatch a plan about organising a fun day for the Dandora children- where they can come to our school and use the field to play games and have face painting etc. The head teacher of the college is supportive of the plan, so we hope to do this in the Summer term. I was pleased today to receive a package of books from my friend PA in New York- she sent some picture books to donate to Dandora- so that, with the books that S’s dad is bringing from his grandparent, and the books that my mum and dad have bought, means we have built our first transportable library with at least sixty books!!
So that’s our news for now- its been a good but tiring week and we both need to catch up on our sleep and have a good rest for our last week of school before three weeks of Easter hols and family visits! Kwaheri!