one of our favorite sights

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Out and About

Obviously, one of the most exciting aspects of being in Kenya for a long time is that there are going to be a lot of opportunities to see some new and interesting natural beauty. Kenya is known for its wildlife and interesting terrain. In fact, I would wager that the image of the Acacia tree with a lion underneath it chowing on an unlucky zebra is a common “African” image among most nonAfricans.  Kenya is quite diverse in terms of its terrain and of course they do have a lot of wildlife parks.  We look forward to being able to take some adventures, both big and small, while here. Since we live in a city, and are not really into city living, it is nice to have an outdoor excursions to look forward to.  Our tentative plan is to take day trips at least ever two weeks.  I am not sure we will be able to sustain that pattern, and right now we are a little homebound because of the puppy (looking for dogsitters).
Although Eldoret itself is not so appealing to us, it is well situated for taking short journeys. It is located in the Great Rift Region and it is very near the Great Rift Valley, which is quite picturesque and home to many  lovely nature preserves and lakes. We are also lucky in that there are quite a few folks from the AMPATH community who have lived here awhile and who have done a lot of cool adventuring. So we have the benefit of their input.
Soon after arriving, we went to Kakamega Forest, which is the last rainforest in Kenya. It is about 2 hours west of here and we went with one of the AMPATH drivers because you need a 4 WD vehicle to get there and we of course were nervous to drive at that point. There is a place called Rondo Retreat Center, where we began our tour. It is a lovely little oasis of a place, set off of the road but in a completely natural setting surrounded by the forest.  We hired a guide who was very well versed in the flora and fauna of the rainforest and we took a 4 hour hike with him. It was beautiful, interesting, and fun.  We were relieved to get out into the woods.  We not only experienced the joy of unadulterated nature, but we also saw some cool wildlife which we never see at home! Most noteable were the Colubus Monkeys who were jumping all over the place from tree to tree.  Although we were there  midday, which is not the best time for birdwatching,  we did get a gander at  a black and white casqued hornbill. There were other birds that we don’t know the names of but none that we were familiar with and many of which are only found  in this part of Kenya.
The next weekend we went to  Kruger Farm, on the outskirts of Eldoret, and then on to Kerio Valley, near the village of Iten. Kruger Farm is both a large working farm owned by white Kenyans (who hail originally from South Africa) and it is also a giraffe conservancy. It is nearly 3000 acres and is in a very picturesque area. We were thrilled to get the opportunity to walk the farm and see the giraffes close up.
In fact, we were able to walk almost all the way up to them and if we had been  taller, we maybe could have petted them! It was a definite highlight as I have always loved giraffes. It may seem odd that they are so domesticated to not be scared of approaching humans, and although they must be used to humans, they are definitely not in an enclosed area. They roam the farm and the surrounding acreage freely and they are protected from poachers. Sadly, poaching is a huge problem in Kenya and the Kenyan Wildlife Services must use a fair amount of its minimal resources to hunt them down so that they don’t ruin the wildlife preserves. There is talk of it in the national  papers all the time. However, Kruger Farm is a privately run preserve and they maintain only about 15 giraffes at this point (they have 2 babies and 2 are pregnant, though).  We are thrilled to report that Liam is going to get to go out there during his upcoming break to help out with the farm and hang out with the giraffes.
Iten is a small village nearby and it is interesting because it is up pretty high  and home to the Iten Training Center which is where a lot of the East African athletes come to do their training. Just outside of Iten there is a public viewing spot of the Great Rift Valley which is fantastic. The Great Rift Valley is the major geological feature of this part of the world, running from Lebanon to Mozambique. It is just exactly what it is called, a great rift, and due to that, it has terrifically beautiful mountains on either side of it  in this area, so and there will be many opportunities for hiking, etc. The views are breathtaking as the air is clear and you can see all the way across the valley. Apparently there is a road that goes through the valley that we hope to traverse one day. We then went to Kerio View Hotel for lunch and to take in another view of the valley.  We enjoyed learning about both these places as we have hopes that we will have visitors during our stay here and these are three places to which we would definitely take visitors. The lakes in the valley are of particular interest because they are home to all sorts of wildlife , especially birds.  The great thing is that they are all within reach by car and/or taxi and we can even get to them and home in one day.
The most recent place that we visited, last weekend, is called Naiberi, and it is a bit northeast of Eldoret. We asked our favorite cab driver, Andrew, to take us there as he had been talking about it and we were interested in it because there is a pool there. Most of you know that we are water people and the weather here is lovely almost every day thus far, so we think of swimming a lot. Unfortunately, we are not on or near the coast and the fresh water opportunities in Kenya are too polluted and full of strange buggies (or other weird things) that we wouldn’t dare swim in them. Naiberi is a little oasis out in the middle of nowhere where I suppose tourists go although the day we were there it was full of Kenyans enjoying themselves. Basically it is a hotel with bandas (little round huts) and a campground all built into the rocks. There is a lot of area for walking and playing games, a couple of bars and restaurants, a nice river running through it, and yes, a swimming pool. We will definitely go back and it will be a nice place to take company, should they come!
our guide in Kakamega forest

indigineous tree in forest


Colubus Monkeys

Kruger farm

Kruger preserve

view of farm from hillside

looking down into field

Rothchilds Giraffe

View of Great Rift Valley

Great Rift Valley

View from Kerio Valley hotel

lunch at Kerio Valley hotel

Entering Naiberi

grounds at Naiberi

local beer ad


pool at Naiberi

bar at Naiberi

monkey at Kakamega


guys carrying wood from outskirts of town

big load!

guy carrying charcoal from outskirts of town
Our next adventure will take us to the Kapsabet Forest, which is just 25 miles outside of Eldoret. We have met some new friends who are building a home near there and they have been working to protect the forest. We are hoping to get involved in that conservation effort as well. Like the wildlife, the forests of Kenya are in a lot of danger and have been for awhile. Fortunately there are a fair number of people here who are aware of the issues of deforestation and wildlife conservation so there are a lot of efforts being made. It is unfortunate and sort of mindboggling how to deal with or positively affect the deforestation because all villagers and even institutions still burn wood to warm water, cook and bathe! Even the hospital here in Eldoret uses wood , or charcoal made from wood, for cooking and laundry! So, you see a lot of people out on the country roads,  all the time, collecting wood.  It’s actually interesting but sort of disheartening when you look across the hills of Kenya and see how few forests are still here.  There has been a lot of education of late about deforestation and erosion, etc, and thanks to groups like The Greenbelt Movement there is an effort to reforest. We are hoping to get more involved in these efforts while here. It is not unlike our issues in the States and all over the world really, but the bigger issue is how to offset this need to use wood for cooking, bathing and laundry, the essentials?  It is a difficult situation for sure and a pretty universal one. 
So, that's about it for news from us just now. Hope you enjoy the pictures. I think they relay the diversity of terrain and the opportunities available for outdoor experiences! The sky here, as you can see, is quite amazing. In fact, I just can't really get enough of it. Take care and Keep in Touch! Kwa Heri!


  1. Liz, I just re-discovered your blog, and I bookmarked and filed it so it is easy to locate. So good to hear from you; reading your news makes me ache for Africa. Kenya is so different, geographically, from Burkina, where we saw so little that was green. Of course, we went in the dry seasons, just before the spring rains which brought a new vitality to the earth, each year. Anyway, I'm anxious to catch up with your earlier posts-hoping to share some with my IvyTech sociology classes, since we're exploring cultures and socialization. Hugs to you, from C-bus. VickiB, from UUC

  2. Hi, Lizzy! Love you pictures! Thank you so much!

    The landscape and vegetation in the distance doesn't look that different from Indiana from this far away, although it must be up close.

    Maybe you can get some close-ups of the plants and insects (if they are not too scary!).

    Keep up the good work!

    How about more about Liam and Michael, too? What's going on with Liam's school? How's that shaking out?

    And Michael's job too.



    1. Hey Patrick, the landscape is pretty different as the trees that are here are not the same species. There is a lot of farming of corn (not industrial though) and cow grazing...most farms are small..Kruger is unusually big...most of the indigineous trees have been logged but as I say there are efforts to protect and there are other trees which were brought in and grow fast. Even's also pretty hilly in this area due to the Great Rift. I will write about Liam's school soon. The project was delayed but Michael has been dealing with other building issues for AMPATH and working on the plans and energy issues for the new building. We will keep you posted as it progresses. There should be news soon!

  3. Wow,
    Liz this is great! It really makes me want to go to Kenya, which is something I never expected to say, let alone put in writing ;-)
    You will be happy to know that the local efforts on the Food Co-op are continuing well and the Street Fair on Saturday was a blast. Say "Hello" to Liam from all of us. We miss you, but your excellent writing makes it seem that you are not too far away. Keep up the good work.
    Time for a Tusker!

  4. Liz-

    I love reading your blog. The things you are doing are so fascinating! Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    Erica (I started a blog of my own!)