As the year 2012 ended, A.F.E.W (K) Ltd – Giraffe Centre organized a southern circuit safari treat for the high school winners in the A.F.E.W 2012 Environmental Awareness Competition. The trip took place between November 27th to December 3rd, 2012. A total of 19 participants drawn from different schools from all over Kenya took place in this safari accompanied by 2 A.F.E.W Educators and 2 safari crew from Gametracker Safari limited. This safari treat was sponsored by A.F.E.W (K) Ltd – Giraffe Centre, Kerrigan Waves Trust UK and Gametracker Safari Limited.
The safari was not only about watching animals or sand and sun beaches but it aimed at exposing the students to some of the major conservation issues and challenges Kenya is facing as it strives to conserve biodiversity, natural attractions, and culture both on terrestrial as well as marine ecosystems while at the same time tries to achieve greater economic development. To achieve the set objectives, the safari involved game drives, guided nature walks, mountain climbing, snorkeling, lectures, powerpoint presentations, conservation movies, group discussions among many other activities.
On early Tuesday morning, November 27, 2012 all the invited winners converged outside the Nairobi Railway Station ready to embark on their 1 week long trip. After brief introductions and highlights about the safari from the AFEW team at exactly 10.30am the safari participants were driven through the busy Nairobi – Mombasa highway especially the Athi Kapiti rolling plains whose potential for sustainable wildlife conservation is slowly being threatened by ecosystem fragmentation due to changing land use practices and human activities. The safari offered the participants a rare chance to visit Amboseli Ecosystem, Tsavo Conservation Area and the Kenyan Coastal Ecosystem.
During the first 2 days the students explored the Amboseli landscape which covers approximately 5700km2 stretching between Mt.Kilimanjaro, Chyullu hills and Tsavo west national park. This is mainly savannah grassland spreading across Kenya-Tanzania border, the park is famous for being the best in Africa to get close to free ranging elephants among many other species, It is also the best spot to get spectacular view of Mt.Kilimanjaro. During the group’s stay in Amboseli landscape they made a visit to the Maasai cultural village where they got a chance to sample the Maasai way of life and the fascinating rich Maasai cultural heritage. This visit was of most importance as it helped the students to understand the role of indigenous knowledge and cultural practices in sustainable environmental conservation.
On the third day of the safari, the group proceeded to the Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA) through Amboseli – Tsavo West Road. The Tsavo Conservation Area is composed of Tsavo East, Tsavo West and Chyullu Hills in South Eastern Kenya which together with the adjacent area makes it the largest Protected Area in Kenya. Its massive size, variable landscapes provides the best possible habitat for diverse wildlife species. But despite its expansiveness it takes a little more effort to spot wildlife within this conservation area, however, the amazing landscape sceneries especially the Mzima springs, Shetani Lava flows and Kyaimu hills offers a great compensation. The Mzima springs which produces approximately 250 million litres of freshwater per day, filtered down from Mt.Kilimanjaro and Chyullu hills. The springs are an oasis and home to abundant Nile crocodiles and hippos and are the bulk of Mombasa’s freshwater supplies.
The trip concluded with a visit to the Kenyan coastal ecosystem to explore the warm humid climate along the Kenyan coastline on the Indian Ocean. This was the best opportunity to learn about its rich Swahili cultural heritage and its rich marine ecosystem. This started with a guided tour of the Fort Jesus and old Mombasa town which have been declared World Heritage site under the UNESCO. The old Mombasa Town Situated on the south-eastern side of Mombasa Island, which occupies approximately 72 hectares and it hosts the Fort Jesus which is a popular tourist attraction for both local and international tourists. This offered great opportunity to remind the participants about the county’s history and the rich East African coastal cultural heritage.
On their second day in the Coast, the group visited the Kuruwitu Community Marine Protected Area, which is the first community marine conservation initiative in Kenya. The Kuruwitu initiative has benefited from support of AFEW. Through this initiative biodiversity within the conserved area continues to grow in abundance with the expansive sea weed dominated area and the fringing reef system, supporting high density of beautiful fish species. The participants learnt that the marine waters of Kuruwitu are very important biodiversity hotspots along the Kenyan coast and have distinct coral reef ecosystem with diverse assemblage populated by many species of ornamental fish and sea turtles. Later in the day the students under the watchful eye of the dedicated local staff took part in Snorkeling through sections of beautiful corals, which are a host of many sea urchins and beautiful species of fish.
The coastal safari excursion could not end without paying a visit to the Haller Park which offers great lessons on degraded land rehabilitation being an ideal product of how a once barren landscape of disused limestone quarries that had been degraded through limestone mining was reclaimed through reforestation and conservation efforts and turned into habitat for a great diversity of flora and fauna species. Today, Haller Park has been converted into vibrant and diverse forest, grasslands and manmade wetlands ecosystems. It is a great habitat to a variety of wildlife species both animals and birds.
The group discussions during the safari which were facilitated by the AFEW staff member helped to highlight the current conservation issues and challenges facing sustainable natural resource conservation at local regional and global level although these were mainly drawn from the daily safari experiences. The discussion provided a good platform for the participants to consider what forms of local strategies are necessary to tackle the issues and challenges for sustainable development of our Country.
What the safari participants had to say after the trip
“Kuruwitu was the best destination because it is a masterpiece of the conservation of a fragile marine ecosystem which is being done by the local community”, Annette Gatwiri, AFEW 2012 Miss Environment, Mary Hill Girls High School, Thika.
“Kuruwitu was the best destination as it was a new experience for many of us and new experiences are what fascinates many young people!!…Generally the safari was fantastic and taught many of us the art of good time management”, Rachel Mbae, Moi Girls High School, Eldoret.
“The safari was fabulous and a lifetime experience, we acquire some life skills such as being responsible and gained knowledge on wildlife conservation. Am grateful to Giraffe Centre for allowing us to take part in this great safari”, John Boboti, Utumishi Academy, Gilgil.
“The safari was the best exposure I’ve gotten so far to better my understanding of the country’s green environment and wildlife. The best place we visited was the Kuruwitu Community Marine reserves in the coast where we got a chance to Engage in snorkeling and also learn more on Marine flora and fauna”, Annette Achieng, Coast Girls High school, Mombasa.
“It was very informative trip. The students showed a lot of interest in the environment and they were very knowledgeable. The mentorship programme you are giving them will take them very far. I wish I had that kind of exposure when I was their age”, Sarah Kutahi, Chaperon during the safari and Pwani University, Kilifi.
“The safari was fabulous as it was an important source of information on the value of the environment and sustainable conservation of wildlife hence boosting positive attitudes among the youth towards the environment. It helped to build our teamwork skills. I thank all the organizers and our guardians who made this trip a success especially Emmanuel, Kelvin, Sarah and Gametrackers safari crew”, Francis Amwayi, Malava Boys High School.
It is difficult to overemphasis the importance of healthy ecosystems for human well being. The principles of ecosystem based management and active community involvement is the basis of sustainable conservation and development of most protected areas both on land and marine areas. However, Unsustainable utilization of biodiversity is not only an issue in world’s terrestrial protected areas; it remains an obstacle in marine ecosystem too; today most of these ecosystems are highly threatened by socio-economic activities and natural factors. As an organization we can take pride in the fact that we have successfully preserved the spirit of shared responsibility as we move towards achieving green economy which is built on the foundation of ecosystem based management.
We would like to sincerely thank the Board of Directors and management A.F.E.W (K) Ltd for having supported this environmental awareness initiative, our gratitude to the Kerrigan Waves Trust UK for having tirelessly co – sponsored the trip through supporting 2 students and purchasing book prizes for the outstanding boy and girl during the safari, Gametracker Safaris Ltd for co-sponsoring the safari truck, Interactions & Solidarity Kenya for the Amboseli Camping facilities and their hospitality. We would also like to thank Kuruwitu Community Marine Protected Area for giving free entry to the safari team and for the wonderful tour of their area, we appreciate the efforts of WCK Mombasa Office for facilitating the visit to the Mombasa Marine Park. Finally we would like to thank the Lafarge Ecosystems – Haller Park for the waiver to the team and guided nature walk it was a wonder to feed your giraffes see all animals in your facility. To the Participants we would like to say well done for being good students but challenge you to practice what you learnt during the safari.