For the love of colour…and fragrance!

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Today’s post is to celebrate colour, shape, size, form, character and diversity of a group of plants called Orchids. The other day I went for an Orchid festival in Nairobi, where orchid enthusiasts and growers come together to celebrate and exchange these beautiful plants. Shortly after that, a friend of mine shared some photos from a photographer who had gotten closer to the orchids’ characters; more than I did mine. And it got me thinking of this post and of sharing these lovely flowers.

Orchids have an amazing array of plant sizes, forms and aspects. They are plants of mystery with exotic colour combinations and enticing fragrances. The Family name Orchidaceae is derived from the Greek word Orchis. Orchis means “testicles” and refers to the shape of the tubers of a group of terrestrial orchids.

Orchid flowers can be huge or tiny. As with colour and scent, flower size is influenced by the orchid’s pollinators. Night flying moths are the frequent pollinators of the large sized orchid flowers, while clouds of tiny insects swarming through the forest are the pollinators of the smaller sized orchid flowers.

Some orchids have attractive fragrance and this adds an advantage of luring the pollinators from farther away than visual cues. In the wild, some fragrant orchids will release their perfume to coincide with the time of day when their pollinators are most active. Some orchids have fragrance early in the morning, others during the warmest part of the day and others in the evening after sunset.

Simply enjoy these colourful and “shapeful” shots that I got from the Orchid festival!

Wildcat

Wildcat

The butterfly orchid often called so because its yellwo and brown flowers resemble and insect, from the broad lip to the prominent dorsal sepal and slender upright petals that look like antennae

The butterfly orchid often called so because its yellow and brown flowers resemble and insect, from the broad lip to the prominent dorsal sepal and slender upright petals that look like antennae

Tay Sweet King

Tay Sweet King

Tahoma glacier

Tahoma glacier

Swiss Beauty

Swiss Beauty

Pink Slipper

Pink Slipper

Pink delight

Pink delight

Pink dawn

Pink dawn

Phalaenopsis-They resemble a winged insect in flight

Phalaenopsis-They resemble a winged insect in flight

Orange princess

Orange princess

Oncidium Orchid-dubbed dancing ladies,they feature long, arching sprays adorned with numerous flowers with broad lips-the ladies' skirts-and spreading petals-their arms

Oncidium Orchid-dubbed dancing ladies,they feature long, arching sprays adorned with numerous flowers with broad lips-the ladies’ skirts-and spreading petals-their arms

Nicknamed Slipper orchid because the lips are shaped in a pouch that looks like a slipper toe.

Nicknamed Slipper orchid because the lips are shaped in a pouch that looks like a slipper toe.

Naked man

Naked man

Miltonia clowesii

Miltonia clowesii

Le Gold digger

Le Gold digger

Lovely colour mix

Lovely colour mix

Interesting growth behaviour

Interesting growth behaviour

Golden beauty

Golden beauty

Formosan gold

Formosan gold

Dendrochilum cobbianum

Dendrochilum cobbianum

Dendrobium

Dendrobium

Cattleya Hybrid

Cattleya Hybrid

Blue butterfly

Blue butterfly

Admiring orchids in art

Admiring orchids in art

Turns out I wasn't the only admirer!

Turns out I wasn’t the only admirer!

The Sacred Sites of Taita Hills

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Taita Hills is a mountainous area in Southeastern Kenya forming the northernmost outcrop of the Eastern Arc Mountains. The area is favored by regular rainfall and is known for endemic wildlife including African Violets, endangered birds and amphibians. The Taita plains are used mainly for grazing and sisal cultivation, while the hills, which were once covered by large forests, are used for agricultural activities, and more uniquely, they host sites that are considered sacred by the local communities.

Our journey starts with a short hike to Mwachora hills which, as our guide enlightens us, were where sorcerers were executed-by throwing them over the hill. The local people believed that the sorcerers were evil to the society and this was only punishable by death. From the hills one has a great view of the surrounding towns like Wundanyi and Voi town.

View of Taita environs from Mwachora Hill

View of Taita environs from Mwachora Hill

We also get treated to a sporadic chance of visiting the Ngomenyi cave, which is one of the sacred sites of the Taita hills. The cave, like most other sacred caves around the area, is situated in a private farm. We also hike to Yale Hill, where, after maneuvering our way through thick bush, we come to an opening and the guide points out that it’s yet another sacred cave. Both caves are full of human skulls, which are a bit eerie, and are still unspoiled by the local community surrounding them.

Ngomenyi Caves-Taita Hills

Ngomenyi Caves-Taita Hills

The guide highlighted that these caves were the dwelling place of their Higher Being, called Mulungu; the ancestors’ spirits were also called milungu. It was in these caves that sacrifices were conducted in cases of famines, epidemics, drought and sicknesses. Sacrifices in form of slaughtered goats were offered to the spirits of the dead. A council of elders conducted these sacrifices. Incase of domestic affairs sacrificial ceremonies were conducted by an elder of a home or a village and by a clan elder in charge of general clan affairs. Local brew, sheep and goats were offered. The sacrifices were meant to end disasters by appeasing the ancestors’ spirits and were offered in these caves, which are also considered as shrines.

Yale Cave-Taita Hills

Yale Cave-Taita Hills

Asked about how the skulls got to the caves, our guide says that they were normally placed there after someone died. After burial they would wait until at least a month was over and then they would exhume the body and remove the head, which only belonged to an old person or a village hero and kept in the caves. They believed that the birth of an albino or child with any form of disability was a curse and was not allowed in the public; even after death, an albino or disabled person’s body would not be exhumed. This tradition however, has changed and people with disabilities are no longer considered as curse.

View from Yale Hill, Taita

View from Yale Hill, Taita

These ancient traditions and taboos surrounding these sites have so far demanded respect for nature, or simply kept people away from these sites because nobody was supposed to cut trees or collect firewood from these “holy places”. This in turn has led to the conservation and preservation of the hills and indigenous knowledge. However, many of the sites are now under threat as the traditional practices and activities fade and pressures from natural calamities like landslides, development and tourism increase. Some of these caves are also threatened by direct destruction by people, a threat that the local guides are currently addressing through educational programmes to schools on the importance of such sites in the area.

The Splendid Crow, one dive at a time

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Bold, noisy, abundant and almost totally unafraid of people is the best way to describe the Indian House Crow, Corvus splendens, an exotic bird, which has become a major problem in cities along the East Coast of Africa. This crow has become widespread by introduction around the Indian Ocean and the East African Coast.

As an avian intruder, the Indian House Crow has been given the scientific name Corvus splendens: the ‘Splendid Crow’ is ironically undesirable for a number of reasons. It is an aggressive and opportunistic forager; it feeds largely on human scraps, small reptiles and other animals such as insects and other small invertebrates, eggs, nestlings, grain and fruits. Most food is taken from the ground, but also from trees as opportunity arises. It is a highly opportunistic bird and given its omnivorous diet, it can survive on nearly anything that is edible.

It has a devastating impact on indigenous bird populations by eating eggs and mobbing other birds that might compete with it or just for the sheer fun of it. Indian House Crows have also been blamed for causing power cuts in some areas, as they often construct nests on electric poles. They are now found in every East African coastal city, often scrabbling in large flocks through piles of garbage at the sides of roads.

However, it might not be the same case with this flock of Indian House Crows at a water fountain opposite the Mombasa Railway Station. At mid day, with the heat of the sun at a higher degree, they would fly out in flock, circle around the water fountain and the garden and after five minutes they would, totally undisturbed by the passers by, dive in for a bath. This bath, done in turns, would last about two minutes and the next crow in line would dive in the water for the same period of time. This is unlike the Indian House Crow which is always associated with garbage sites and poor sanitation.

Indian House crows at the water fountain

Indian House crows at the water fountain

The crows decide who goes first

The crows decide who goes first

They look on as they each wait for their turn

They look on as they each wait for their turn

It's his turn

It’s his turn

SCAW 2014

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There is nothing more peaceful than a sleeping child”.-Murray Dryden, SCAW Co-founder.

Once again, Rotary clubs in conjunction with Rotaract Clubs and Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) have lived their “service above self” motto. The Canadian charity, SCAW, together with the Rotary Club of Nairobi and Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central helped distribute bedkits to children from underprivileged communities around the country including Nairobi slums (Kibera, Kayole and Mathare), Kajiado and Kakamega. This was achieved through support from various donors, which saw 5000 children benefit from bedkits. Each bed-kit consisted of a mattress, blanket, mosquito net, clothes outfit, and stationary.

The packaged bed-kits

The packaged bed-kits

Bed-kit contents

Bed-kit contents

The distribution was made a success not just by the donors and volunteers but also by the kids who braved the long queues and the heat; you couldn’t wipe off their excited smiles.

A group of a hundred beneficiaries in Kakamega

A group of a hundred beneficiaries in Kakamega

A group of beneficiaries in Kajiado.

A group of beneficiaries in Kajiado.

Since its formation by Murray and Margaret Dryden in 1970, SCAW has raised over 23 million dollars to provide bedkits for children in 33 countries; the millionth child was reached in 2009. More information about SCAW can be found on their website.

Some of the distribution volunteers

Some of the distribution volunteers

Some light moments from the distribution exercise.

Volunteers' excursion before distribution in Kakamega.

Volunteers’ excursion before distribution in Kakamega.

Together we happily take on the world!

Together we happily take on the world!

New lessons learnt, Evan learning to sharpen a knife on a bike ;)

New lessons learnt, Evan learning to sharpen a knife on a bike😉

This is where I come from

This is where I come from

These beautiful smiles brightened our day

These beautiful smiles brightened our day

And more smiles shared!

And more smiles shared!

One of the "baby" in our volunteer group :)

One of the “baby” in our volunteer group🙂

Some volunteers were made in Canada ;)

Some volunteers were made in Canada😉

No, it wasn't a 'clean' job

No, it wasn’t a ‘clean’ job

The funniest moment when some kids told Brenda (mom) and Evan (son) that they looked like husband and wife :D

The funniest moment when some kids told Brenda (mom) and Evan (son) that they looked like husband and wife😀

These desks are nostalgic!

These desks are nostalgic!

High fives for a job well done.

High fives for a job well done.

These beautiful clouds in Kakamega have a sad story. Check back soon for the story.

These beautiful clouds in Kakamega have a sad story. Check back soon for the story.

The unofficial year of rabbits

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The current trending news in Kenya right now is Quail farming. Well, am not going down that road. The year started on a high note…I attended a rabbit farmers’ training at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) in Thika, with other twenty farmers and aspiring rabbit farmers. Like the facilitators inform us, rabbit rearing began many years ago but it was a “boy thing” and didn’t flatter the adults. But, rabbit farming is the current alternative to poultry farming, with rabbit meat currently been ranked as the most nutritious white meat, lowest in cholesterol, lowest in saturated fats, high levels of protein and vitamin B12, high calcium and low sodium, need I say more?!

Rabbit enthusiasts

Rabbit enthusiasts

We covered several topics, from importance of rabbits to their diseases and treatment. One fascinating fact I learnt was that they are very clean animals and therefore their houses need to be built in such a way that they are self-cleaning; I made a mental note to redo my rabbit house. They also reproduce fast and the proper age for the first mating depends on the breed and individual development. Their manure is very rich in nitrogen and their urine, like one of the farmers confirm, can be used as pesticide in horticulture.

How to hold a rabbit

How to hold a rabbit

However, much as rabbit farming is relatively easy to start and maintain, it’s still neglected by many, including the lack of government support for rabbit farming ventures. The industry also faces inadequate resources and infrastructure to reach the farmers and larger community for information dissemination.

A relatively old litter

A relatively old litter

After the short training, we were served with rabbit meat (which was slaughtered during one of the demonstrations) as our lunch…it sure does taste like chicken! We later visited the resident rabbit houses. Most of them are breeding and the litter is so puffy and too fragile to hold.

To good health!

To good health!

All that was 2013

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It amazing how the 2013 has gone by so fast…I know I haven’t written any posts this year😦 so this is going to be the only post of the year 2013. I will highlight the things that have happened and hopefully promise to be consistent with my posts in coming years… does that sound like a resolution already? Well, we’ll see.

January 2013
A day visit to the Giraffe Centre, in Nairobi with my friend, RJ. The Giraffe Centre, also known as the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife is a rehabilitation centre for the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. Other than getting close to the giraffes, the centre is also world known for conservation education (offering students a chance to showcase their talents in environmental competition through essay writing, art and photography), environmental and ecology trips; and micro-project funding, monitoring and evaluation.

Visitors at the Giraffe Centre, Nairobi

Visitors at the Giraffe Centre, Nairobi

February 2013
An excursion to the Fourteen Falls, which is situated 27km from Thika town, Machakos County. It’s close to the Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park and is protected by the town council. When the waters are high, the local guides will offer their boat services (at a small fee) and help visitors cross from one side to the other.

A group crossing the falls after heavy rainfall.

A group crossing the falls after heavy rainfall.

March 2013
My first time on the Kenyatta International Conference Centre viewing tower, from the helipad you can see Nairobi and it’s environs in 360°.

View of the Railway Station, Nyayo stadium and Nairobi environs from the KICC helipad

View of the Railway Station, Nyayo stadium and Nairobi environs from the KICC helipad

Visited friends in Kisumu and witnessed the construction of an eco toilet. An eco toilet is a dry or waterless toilet, one that doesn’t use water to take the waste somewhere else; it also allows natural processes to produce useful compost and they don’t smell. A handful of sawdust is dropped into the toilet after each use. The sawdust allows oxygen into the pile, and absorbs liquid. This allows the pile to decompose aerobically to produce nitrates, phosphates and sulphates. Well, that wasn’t why I visited my friends but was a good experience. We ended up going to birdwatch at the lake, which, we later concluded, was a not so good idea because it rained cats and dogs shorty after we arrived at the lake; though it was beautiful watching the rain and the wind shifting the water hyacinth at the lake.

An eco-toilet double-vault: The basic principle of an eco-toilet is to separate urine and feces.

An eco-toilet double-vault: The basic principle of an eco-toilet is to separate urine and feces.

April 2013
Together with the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central and other organizations and schools, we got to plant trees at the Karura Forest Reserve, which is located in the northern part of Nairobi city and is managed by the Kenya Forest Service. The reserve also offers important attractions that visitors enjoy including Mau Mau caves, scenic waterfalls and rivers, picnic sites, walking trails and small wetlands.

Restoring mother nature, one tree at a time

Restoring mother nature, one tree at a time

The National Museums of Kenya got to host Thailand cultural festival, a night full of Thai music, food and performances, including a tribute performance to Kenya.

Thai Cultural Festival-NMK 22nd April 2013 (165)

Thai Cultural Festival-NMK 22nd April 2013 (211)

May 2013
My two friends from Canada visited Kenya and it was an amazing time visiting some of the various Canadian supported projects, families and students in Western Kenya. We made visits to orphanages and special schools including school for the deaf in Kakamega. We also made a visit to my rural home and family in Machakos County. This is the same day that our dad passed on due to heart failure, may his soul rest in peace.

My friends, Angela and Shelagh

My friends, Angela and Shelagh

Pupils at the Mwikhomo school for the hearing impaired, Kakamega

Pupils at the Mwikhomo school for the hearing impaired, Kakamega

The last photo I took of my dad :)

The last photo I took of my dad🙂

June 2013
I travelled to Morocco to attend and present a poster during the seventh World Environmental Education Congress. The flight had an overnight layover at Cairo, so I spent the day photographing nature at Al-Azhar Park where ended up dancing with kids at the park and getting invited to family picnics-I photographed them instead.

One of the families that invited me to picnic with them, we settled down for a photo shoot

One of the families that invited me to picnic with them, we settled down for a photo shoot

Later I flew to Casablanca, only to realise that the airline had lost my backpack along the way but eventually found it and took a train to Marrakech. I met more people, made new friends and explored various attractions around Marrakech, including Jebel Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains which my new found friend, Grace, invited me to climb. And while hiking, one local guy told our small hiking group that it was easier finding a man in Morocco than finding water, well, long story but we could attest to that.

With Moroccan students at the conference

With Moroccan students at the conference

Any mention of Marrakesh is incomplete without the beautiful and busy square, Place Djemaa El Fna

Any mention of Marrakesh is incomplete without the beautiful and busy square, Place Djemaa El Fna

Grace and I at the peak of Jebel Toubkal

Grace and I at the peak of Jebel Toubkal

July 2013
I was contracted to travel and photograph an ongoing pollinator project (read critters ☺) at Mogotio in North Rift Valley. The pollinators including insects, birds and bats were in abundance; the flowers too. The birds interacted very well with hoverflies; they gulped them in mid air!

Cattle Egrets feasting on hoverflies

Cattle Egrets feasting on hoverflies

August 2013
Most of the times I love to think that am a passionate tour guide by profession🙂. I got to go on several safaris, all of which has the same itinerary. We would pick tourists from the airport or hotel in Nairobi, drive to Samburu National Reserve, spent atleast two nights; then head to Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha or Lake Elementaita and spent two more nights before dropping the clients at Maasai Mara National Reserve. I had one group that spent a night in Amboseli National park before they proceeded with their safari in Tanzania. These, I must say, were my best guiding (and photography) moments…got to witness lions killing a hippo, ostriches taking a bath in the red earth, a herd of Giraffes drinking water and a young cheetah hunting Sacred ibises. The highlight of the month was when I hitchhiked to Kora National Park to attend the 24th George Adamson’s (Father of the lions) memorial. What more can a tour guide ask for?🙂

Reticulated Giraffes in Samburu National Reserve. This is why I was excited to witness them drinking water

Reticulated Giraffes in Samburu National Reserve. This is why I was excited to witness them drinking water

George Adamson's burial place inside the Kora National Park; He's buried beside his brother Terrence and Supercub, (Terrence's favourite lion) and his own favourite, Boy.

George Adamson’s burial place inside the Kora National Park; He’s buried beside his brother Terrence and Supercub, (Terrence’s favourite lion) and his own favourite, Boy.

September 2013
This is my birth month. Also my late mom’s birth month; may she rest in peace. So I got to celebrate two birthdays in a span of two days. These, I celebrated by desnaring, which is an exercise that involves removing traps set by poachers to catch wildlife. The exercise was organized by Born Free Foundation team in Nairobi. We rescued several zebras; other antelopes weren’t as lucky.

The team with a zebra after the KWS vets cleaned its wounds

The team with a zebra after the KWS vets cleaned its wounds

October 2013
Another difficult month for our family where a week after we visited our 90 year old grandpa, he passed on due to throat cancer, may his soul rest in peace. Here is the last photo we took together❤

Grandpa and I, may he rest in peace.

November 2013
This month was a special one, worldwide. It was the month that the world would witness the solar eclipse and it was noted that the only good place to see the eclipse was in Turkana. So people from all over the world…(except me!) travelled and got to witness the eclipse. Others from around the globe did witness this spectacle but not as much as the people in Turkana did. From where I was in Nairobi (on my rooftop) I got to witness a cloudy afternoon and a rainy evening, so much for a world spectacle🙂.

And in celebration of my photography hobby, I was, among others nominated as a finalist for the first Kenya Photography awards. This, I must say, was a great highlight for my not-yet-launched-photography-career. It was a better highlight for my friend Karim who has worked very hard in launching and maintaining his photography career; he won the nature photography category award, very much deserved.

Karim and I at the award event

Karim and I at the award event

December 2013
Guided by the Rotary International’s motto, “Service above self”, we, the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central and the Rotaract Club of Nairobi University visited the Children’s Cancer Ward at Kenyatta National Hospital. We had a wonderful time interacting with these beautiful children, what with singing, dancing and playing but to say that the day did not take its toll emotionally would be a lie. However, knowing that we put a smile on their faces and hearts was peacefully calming.

Beautiful smiles, even in the face of adversity

Beautiful smiles, even in the face of adversity

We, Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central, also made a visit to the Thogoto Home for the aged, which is run by the PCEA church to cater for the old people. Thogoto is home for almost 100 men and women who are too old to take care of themselves, some do not have families or relatives to house them. The home takes care of their needs especially their health, diet and spiritual matters and like all old people come, they are ever delighted to share their wisdom with the younger generation.

Some elders at the home

Some elders at the home

Well, 2013 was a beautiful year, topped up with my younger sister graduating from the university and my younger brother completing his primary education and my elder brother launching his IT Company. Looking forward to an awesome year in 2014! Happy new year!

At my sister's lovely graduation <3

At my sister’s lovely graduation❤

Buna, Ethiopia’s Coffee Ceremony…in Tanzania

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“We have been invited for coffee ceremony tomorrow,” Sami quips as we discuss the day’s program in Arusha, Tanzania. When asked by our multinational group if we would have lunch before going to the coffee ceremony, he says, “Coffee doesn’t not mean we will have coffee only.” Well, that’s an exciting thought. It turns out that we were going to have a full day of Ethiopian hospitality, warmth, love and celebration.

Mulu, Sami’s aunt and our host, welcomes us to her warm home; after arriving an hour late!! She had spent the entire morning preparing Ethiopian cuisine for our arrival. The table was afloat with food, ranging from Ethiopia’s famous injera–a yeast-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture to spicy vegetables, stew and rice; and lots of laughter and friendship. Sami, Bruk and Alazar, our Ethiopian friends, inform us that an invitation to a coffee ceremony is a sign of friendship and respect, even while they are away from home. Well, it was honor to be part of this special occasion with special friends.

Ethiopian cuisine

Ethiopian cuisine

As Bruk reveals, Ethiopian respect to coffee is rich, and always ceremonial. She explained that the ceremony process starts with the ceremonial equipment being arranged on a green mat, this, we watch as Mulu sets the pieces neatly on the mat.

Getting ready to roast coffee beans

Getting ready to roast coffee beans

She then proceeded to roast the coffee beans in a flat pan over a small charcoal stove, the strong smell mingling with the scent of incense that is usually burnt during the ceremony.

Roasting the coffee beans

Roasting the coffee beans

A little incense

A little incense

After it was ready, Mulu served the coffee in tiny china cups. As we learn later, you have only have had the buna experience if you have consumed at least three cups of black coffee, as the third round is considered to bestow a blessing.

Time for mouth watering Ethiopian coffee

Time for mouth watering Ethiopian coffee

Black coffee...with some spicy herbs

Black coffee…with some spicy herbs

Well, I drank three cups…of milky coffee! And all the while, indulging in conversations around careers, culture, soccer and music…and toasted to long lasting friendships.

Ethiopian music

Ethiopian music

Soccer-Sami's favorite passtime

Soccer-Sami’s favorite passtime

“The Buffalo Rhino”

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During a game drive in Nairobi National Park our group was very excited to spot the first Rhino of the day. The Nairobi National Park is one of the safest haven for both Black Rhinos (Diceros bicornis) and White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum). The two species can be differentiated by their physical appearance, eating habits and social behavior. The White Rhinos are square-lipped, social and grazers; the Black Rhinos are hook-lipped, solitary and browsers.

“Our Rhino” was very far and we all had turns using the binoculars to get a closer look at it. What we couldn’t tell was if it was Black Rhino or White Rhino, we could only see the rump.

The "rear" view

The “rear” view

Well, our group was a patient bunch and didn’t mind waiting for the Rhino to lift up its head. It didn’t take very long; it lifted its head to look at us. It was my turn to look the binoculars, and I could see its head very well. The head didn’t look like it belonged to a Rhino and the horns weren’t where they are supposed to be…

I don't look like a Rhino, do I?

I don’t look like a Rhino, do I?

It was humorously disappointing, but had a good laugh about our “special Rhino”, which turned out to be a Cape Buffalo. And every day after that, we all laughed and still do laugh at our Buffalo Rhino!!

The excitement didn’t go to waste. Before we could call it a day at the Park, we were rewarded by our first sighting of not one but four Rhinos of the day, the White Rhinos. And this time round, we could clearly identify that they were Rhino Rhinos!

The White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum)

The White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum)

We drove back to our camp, and reflected on how the rhino’s population is currently in decline due to poaching, habitat loss and illegal horn trade. We silently hoped that the species would survive long enough for future generations to marvel at their gracefulness and beauty.

We are where we belong, this planet is our home.

We are where we belong, this planet is our home.

Look at that gorgeous dead tree!

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Often times we look at dead trees and frown. I had a different reaction recently when my friend Elaine echoed my thoughts after passing a very dead dry tree during a game drive in Maasai Mara. Shelley, Elaine’s daughter, was quick to assure me that I would get this reaction for the rest of the trip. Dave, Elaine’s son-in-law, also made sure to let me know that Elaine would stop and photograph all the beauty along the way. As anyone would expect any foreigner’s reaction to a lion, cheetah or leopard sighting, it was refreshing to listen to oohs and aahs of a dead tree sighting. And for once during my outdoor activities, I knew I was bound to have the greatest time of my life with this lovely crew.

We came across many of these beautiful skeletons

Back to the dead trees, they often stand out in far away landscapes and decorate them in the most awe striking beauty I have ever witnessed. The importance of dead trees in the ecosystem has rarely received the consideration that it deserves. It has been found out that the removal of dead wood and dead trees may seriously affect the long-term availability and viability of habitat and diversity. It may also threaten primates, reptiles, insects and birds, which depend on dead wood and forest litter for their survival.

A gorgeous dead tree in Maasai Mara landscape

A Lilac Breasted Roller perched on a dead tree branch

My appreciation for gorgeous dead trees and other nature’s beauty was renewed during this trip. Like Elaine says, continue to enjoy dead tree skeletons as much as you can; they are the mirror of their past and each has a story to tell.

If i had a bumper sticker it would read “I love gorgeous dead trees”

Egypt Memoirs

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The Last Sign
We are headed for El Shalateen, with various stops along the way, something you always expect with birdwatchers. There are beautiful sceneries along the way and special birds too. But the day’s highlight is when we get to this sign written, “El Shalateen, 25 Kilometers Ahead.” Well, the sign stirs a humorous debate between us.

And the sign is in Arabic of course😉

Let’s stop here.
What for?
To take a photo.
Of what? There is nothing to photograph!
The sign!!
Who wants a photo of a sign? There are more signs on the way.
No, this is the last sign before El Shalateen.

Well, I thought, why waste the moment? And the sign?! Watter is a photographer, and being one myself, I know we see things that non-photographers don’t see and at times it very hard to convince them to take a photo, where they don’t see any, even a road sign. So I got out of the car and decided to make the last sign atleast interesting for us all.

A quick pose wont do any harm, will it?

And some spice😉

Russell got interested

Watter opted to pose with his camera lens lid!

Peter opted to enjoy the show from inside the car🙂

Believe me, after we were done, we were all grateful that we had stopped on this last sign before we got into the City of El Shalateen, the last City in Egypt, before you get to the border of Sudan and Egypt.

Egypt memoirs

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Watter Al Bahry

Watter Al Bahry, a guide, writer and professional photographer (https://www.facebook.com/WatterAlBahryPhotography) joined us in Wadi Dome from a safari along the Red Sea Coast. We talked and later he informed me that he writes articles for National Geographic in Egypt; we don’t even have a Kenyan National Geographic..for youth!! So later on he showed me his article in the Egypt National Geographic Magazine for Youth. I marvel at it even though I can’t read a word-it’s in Arabic!! For a moment I considered studying Arabic as my next foreign language, this reminded me, I just read a quote in a little book and it read, “Life is too short to study German!” Well, I guess the Arabic will wait.

Watter speaks Arabic and English with Mary Lyn, our co-host and she tells him that he has speech impairment. He doesn’t understand what this means, so she simply explains that he mixes his T’s, S’s and H’s..and uses them altogether..he scratches his head and says, “I guess I need new software!” Well, it’s useful to have an Egyptian with a sense of humour!! He turns out to be my photography teacher during my stay and travel along the Red Sea.

Below is Watter in his element (s).

He takes time to read

He prefers photography

He has time for cats-even stray ones

And I wouldn’t pass a chance to pose with him😉

Egypt memoirs

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The Triplets

I have always loved kids and they have always loved me..well, am not bragging😉. I met these triplets in Hurghada, Egypt on my way to Cairo. These triplets were on the bus that I caught from Marsa Alam. The minute the bus stopped for more passengers in Marsal Alam, I first saw two of the triplets, waving at me. I waved back and as if that’s what they were waiting for, they came to me and sat on my lap. I must say, I was surprised but not as much as their dad was; one minute their dad was holding their hands and the next minute they were seated comfortably on my lap.

I greeted them with the only Arabic I could remember at that time. Being kids, they continued speaking to me in Arabic, thankfully their dad understood English, he translated. Well, the only thing they asked was, “Why is she speaking English?” Am glad I was not the dad, I didn’t even have an answer to that!! But he explained that I was from Kenya and that we speak English in our country. Still they couldn’t understand why I spoke English and not Arabic.

Music is a neutral language. On the bus ride to Cairo, the radio played Arabic music and the triplets held my hands and danced in the bus, other passengers could only smile and watch us, as they too didn’t speak English. They got to their destination too quickly and I went back to enjoying the music, the triplets’ happy faces engraved in my memory-forever🙂.

The Four-eyed Frog

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During a recent birding trip to Northern Rift Valley we visited a wetland that’s rich with bird diversity. But, this is not the only attraction in the area. The area had received heavy rains in the last couple of days and everything was alive and celebrating in their own unique ways.

The frogs and toads croaked and their songs filled the air on one section of the wetland. Wilson, my birding friend calls me and tells me to come and see a frog with four eyes!!

Really?! I’m curious, way too curious and ever ready to record any unusual occurrences in the wild. A four-eyed frog would just be enough for today. My gaze follows where his fingers are pointing. I can see the water lilies moving, but not because of the wind; it’s very calm. Within few minutes all I see is just two pairs of eyes peering just above the lilies. My camera is in motion-in video motion because they are not very close to me.

The birds are forgotten at this moment!! The movement goes on in the water, and still, nothing much can be seen except for the two pairs of eyes.

My patience pays off and atleast am sure I have more than just couple of eyes. It turns out that the four-eyed frog is none other than a couple of Guttural Toads mating!!

An injured Toad, a goat must have stepped on it😉

Phew, am a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a Four-eyed Frog, but just excited that I have witnessed the behavior first-hand and happy to go back to birding after the croaky break!

From my class window..

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Everyday after work I have to debate whether to go to my evening classes or just go home. But then again I remember my awesome classmates and the assignments and tests that i have to submit or present..

But one of the main reasons I go to class is because of these beautiful views from my class window. I get to watch birds flying by to their roosting sites, see the City, streets and best of all the sunset.

Here are some images of Nairobi at night…from my class window!

Well, I guess am going to class again tonight😉