UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya
Lake Turkana National Parks
Date of Inscription: 1997, 2001
– Unesco List
Lake Turkana, “The Jade Sea” is the largest lake in Kenya on the floor of the Great Rift Valley (about 255 by 50 km). It is an inland sea in the middle of a desert which offers the latest tourist attraction in the country and stretches into Ethiopia in the north where several rivers from the Ethiopian Highlands including the Omo River enter its waters. Like the rest of the Rift Valley lakes, it has no outlet. It’s beautiful, clear and unpolluted water is therefore semi-alkaline but rich in fish, crocodile and bird life. The regions temperature may rise to 145 F (63 C) and sometimes become a bit uncomfortable especially to visitors.
Count Sammuel Teleki von Szeki was the first white man to see the lake in March 1888. He named it Lake Rudolf in honor of his patron the Austrian Archduke .The name was, however, changed to Lake Turkana in 1975 by the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. The southern tip of the lake is characterized by strong violet winds which tear across the lake forming high tides and making that part of the lake extremely dangerous for fishermen. Giant Nile perch grow to over 200 lbs and may reach 400 lbs, much to the delight of the sports fishermen but commercial fishermen look for the more palatable Nile Tilapia which are dried or frozen and marketed in Nairobi and other towns in the country.
The lakes central island, an active volcano, right at the center of the lake, which sometimes belches out clouds of sulfurous steam and smoke, was established as a National park in 1983 for the protection of the breeding ground for the Niles crocodile. The Island has three lakes; Crocodile Lake, Flamingo Lake and Tilapia Lake.
Accessibility is through Lodwar by road to Ferguson Gulf, some 60 kilometers from Lodwar town and then on the lake using hired motorboats from lake Turkana Angling Lodge at the Gulf. The interesting El-Molo tribe once reduced to only 80 souls and described as the smallest tribe in Africa, inhabits two small Islands and Loiyangalani in the south-eastern corner of the lake. The tribe has, however, now multiplied to well over 500 people. They live on fish ,crocodile meat, and on wild animals like Hippo, Turtle and birds.
South Island National Park (39Sq. Km)
Like the Central Island, the South Island was established in 1983 for the protection of the breeding ground for the Nile Crocodile, the Hippos and its unique venomous snakes – Puff adders, cobra and vipers. It is at the center of the El-Molo country- a surviving tribe just emerging from the Stone-Age standard of living and whom John Hillaby described in 1964 as the “race that time had forgotten to finish off”.
Accessibility is through Loiyangalani (a place of trees), where the well named Oasis Lodge provides a base and facilities (motor boats) for bird-watching trips to the Islands and for those visitors intending to make camping safaris to Mount Kulal or Mount Moiti to see its mineral springs
South – Turkana (1091 Sq. Km)and Nasolot National Reserve (92 Sq. km)
The reserves were established in 1979 for the preservation of the remaining wildlife species in Turkana District which like the Turkana people have adapted to the harsh and arid environment. There are limited forest and plains game like elephant, buffalo, eland, impala, lesser kudu and many other lower species found in arid and semi-arid zones.
Nasolot has beautiful scenery, overlooking the Turkwell Gorge. The reserves are suitable for camping safaris as there are no accommodation facilities within or near the reserves.
Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest
Date of Inscription: 1997
– Unesco List
Mount Kenya National Park
Mount Kenya National Park (715 Sq. Km)
Mt. Kenya or Kirinyaga (Black and White stripped Mountain), the sacred mountain of the Gikuyu people where their God “Ngai” legendary lived, is a giant extinct volcano whose rims have been worn down leaving only the central peaks sticking out on top of the mountain mass. It is the second highest mountain in Africa and the only spot in the world where snow is found on the Equator. The snow-capped mountain was first brought to the worlds knowledge by the German Missionary, Ludwig Kraft who was the first white man to see and record it in December 1849. His report of the snow-capped mountain on the equator was derided by his contemporary geographers including Dr. Livingstone, until Joseph Thompson confirmed it in 1883.
Though the Austrian Count Samuel Teleki von Szeki accompanied by his companion Ludwig Von Hohnel climbed the mountain to the snow line, within 915 meters (3,000 ft) of the summit in 1887, it was not until 1899 that the Englishman Sir Halford Mackinder finally conquered the mountains peak, Batian 5,199 meters (17,058 ft.) and sat on its top. After a period of 30 years (1929) Eric Shipton made the second ascent and conquered the second highest peak, Nelion 5,188 meters (17,022 ft.). Kisoi Munyao was the first known African to reach the top of Mt. Kenya in 1959 and again in 1963 when he carried and raised the newly independent Kenyas National flag on the summit.
In December 1949, the Mountain was made a National Park whose boundaries cover nearly all the area above the 11,000 ft. contour line plus two lower salients at Sirimon and Naro Moru. The park thus protects and preserves large sections of the mountain forests and bamboo thickets with their varied wildlife, the alpine moorlands, glaciers, tarns and glacial moraines.
– Mount Kenya Region
Mount Kenya Region – Past and Present
When the resounding, throbbing rhythms of Chuka drums are heard in the Mount Kenya region these days, and the stamping of the bell-clad feet of the dancers with their choruses and wild ululating, they are not in the secret forest clearings of long ago when, not for Western eyes, uninhibited rituals followed. More likely now they will be for the entertainment of visiting tourists and, for the performers, a means of earning a living.
Tourism is an essential contributor to Kenya’s national economy and the incredible beauty of the Mount Kenya region with its grassy plateaux to the north and west, rivers, forests and wildlife reserves, private ranches and tourist-welcoming hotels is a valuable source. Some of the finest coffee in the world comes from the mountain’s north-eastern slopes, an enviable hard- currency-earning export
Astride the equator, piercing Africa’s wide sky sheer out of the surrounding lion-coloured plains, the snow-clad twin peaks of Batian 5,199 meters (17,058 feet) and Nelion 5,188 meters (17,017 feet) rise sharply out of the thick forest and moorlands of the lower slopes, Lenana only a slightly lesser peak at 4,985 meters (16,355 feet). Seamed with glaciers, Batian has been described geologically as ‘an old and deeply dissected volcano in a very advanced stage of decay’. Seen from the scorching plains below, the mountain is a heart stopping sight and, in clear weather and when not encircled by great banks of cloud, is visible from more than a l60 km (100 miles) away.
The mountainsides and for far around are of rich volcanic soil, the most fertile in the country, an enduring legacy of some forty thousand years ago when the mountain was forced upwards to a height in excess of 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) in a succession of violent earth movements which shook and reshaped the land. Porous lava which spewed out then, especially to the north, now allows melt waters from the eternal snows to travel underground to bubble up permanently in dry lands as far as eighty miles away.
Moving inland from the east some four hundred years ago, for the agriculturalist Kikuyu, Embu and Meru people (all of Bantu stock) the mountain became their heartland and, many believe, the home of their god Ngai.
Before attempts to climb Mount Kenya were made by ‘foreigners’ from abroad, there must have been those living there whose curiosity temped them to explore the snowfields, if only out of curiosity to discover what strange white substance blanketed the peaks year-round. Snow, to them, was a factor unknown. History does not record any such attempt, the only deterrent against which, apart from the effort required, would have been superstition and fear of retribution from the god or gods. Such legends are common to high mountains all over the world.
Determined climbers of all ages and nationalities now pit their strength against the heights and return to base within anything between three and five days. Some take longer, according to which of the six recognised routes up they take.
Leaving the peaks with their ice fields, craggy ridges and glaciers for serious mountaineers to conquer, most manage to reach Point Lenana. It is a strenuous rather than difficult climb, requiring no professional skills — a long, steep uphill walk though not without its physical discomforts. Not least of these are the swampy, tussocky moorlands which look easy to traverse but are not, and freezing cold nights in small tents or mountain huts, adequate but not exactly cosy.
Modern lightweight clothing, well-trod routes, experienced guides and foreknowledge of what to expect, give an advantage to climbers now over the attempts of a hundred or more years ago. These days, moreover, hundreds of miles do not first have to be covered on foot over uncompromising, unexplored and often hostile Africa to reach Kenya’s central plateau. Today’s climbers will have arrived by far less exhausting means, and have the further option of taking a sturdy 4-wheel-drive vehicle up to the 3,048-metre (l0,000-foot) level, providing heavy rain on the mountain has not reduced the track to a quagmire of impassable mud.
It was not always like that. Until the German missionary Johann Ludwig Krapf, taking Christianity into the interior, sighted Mount Kenya in l849 from some ninety miles away, no-one in the New or Old Worlds even knew that it was there. His ‘discovery’ was received abroad with contempt and disbelief. Snow on the equator? Impossible! Yet he had clearly seen: ‘Two large horns, or pillars, as it were, rising over an enormous mountain to the north-east of Kilimanjaro, covered with a white substance.’ He was knowledgeable enough to know that at that height it could only be snow.
More than thirty years elapsed then before the young Scottish explorer Joseph Thomson’s commission from the Royal Geographic Society in 1883 was not just to seek the shortest route from the Indian Ocean to Lake Victoria — across the dreaded Masailand — but also ‘to make observations regarding the peoples, rocks, animals and plants’ on Mount Kenya, by which time the ‘outside world’ must at least have begun to accept that it was there.
From Austria in l887, Count Teleki von Tsek, on his foot safari to ‘discover’ Lakes Rudolf (now Turkana) and Stephanie (now Chew Bahir) reached 4,206 meters (13,800 feet). He named the mountain’s Teleki Valley for himself and the Hohnel Valley and Lake Hohnel for his companion, Lieut. Ludwig von Hohnel, by which names they are still known.
Dr John Walter Gregory, a geologist and officer in the Natural History department of the British Museum (Kenya’s Great Rift Valley was for many years known simply as ‘Gregory’s Rift’) was next into the field and spent five days on the mountain above the height of 3,962 meters (13,000 feet), several times ascended above 4,877 meters (16,000 feet) and twice, according to his record, above 5,18l meters (17,000 feet). He had carefully selected twelve of the best men from his Rift Valley expeditions, the majority of them Zanzibaris, accustomed to the leisurely, tropical coast. Shoeless, and in their thin clothes, it is not surprising that on some of the critical sections of their ascent, Gregory found that he had virtually to haul some of them up himself; and imagine their bewilderment when, at the higher altitudes, they found that water froze solid in their cooking pots. Gregory provided the first positive records of the mountain’s geology and high-level vegetation, but makes no claim to having reached higher than anyone before him. He was not a claim-making sort of man.
That same year (l893) Andrees Handatlas (size 16″ x 12″ x 3″ deep and almost too heavy to lift) showed ‘Kenia, 5,600 meters’ — 18,373 feet. Three years later, a three-man expedition failed to reach the top and in l897 Dr George Kolb (German) got only as far as the moorland and ‘the open Alp above the eastern forest’. Shortly after, in the game-rich country to the north, he was gored to death by a rhino at Samburu
One of the most curious claims about this time was not concerning conquering Mount Kenya’s heights, but of possession of it. The spunky little trader and adventurer John Boyes, who made a point of getting on well with the Kikuyu amongst whom he did much business, by way of endeavoring to help settle some inter-tribal land disputes, suggested purchasing the mountain himself. This he did ‘for some sheep and a few goats’ from the powerful and much-feared Kikuyu chief, Wangombe, who readily agreed to such an easy solution.
John Boyes lived in Kenya (but not on ‘his’ mountain) until he died in Nairobi in l951, although his activities did not always delight the government. His ‘possession of Mount Kenya’ claim was not taken very seriously, not even when the Carter Commission was set up to settle land rights countrywide.
The battle for the icy heights was finally won by Halford Mackinder, MA (later Sir) in l899 with his massive party of — his description — ‘six Europeans, sixty-six Swahilis, two Masai guides and the remainder naked Wakikuyu.’ It was he who named the topmost peaks for the legendary Masai laibons (chiefs) Batian and Nelion, and the lesser peak for the Masai chief Lenana, still alive at that time. A major glacier he named for Gregory.
These were the men to spearhead all later climbs, but it was not until thirty years later, in 1929, that the second successful assault was made by three East Africans, their leader Eric Shipton of Nyeri, later of Himalayan renowned.
Perhaps the most bizarre ascent of all was in World War II when, in l943 in an act of memorable defiance, three Italian prisoners-of-war from the Allies’ successful Abyssinian campaign, escaped from PoW Camp 354 at Nanyuki in the clothes they stood up in. With only a picture of the mountain on a tin of corned beef as their guide, they climbed up to Point Lenana on which they planted the Italian flag and then quietly returned to camp. Their audacious adventure makes good reading in Felice Benuzzi’s book No Picnic on Mount Kenya. Some were amused, but many were not. To save face, a 4-man team from Kenya was hurriedly dispatched to take down the Italian flag.
On his eightieth birthday, one of those four men, Allan Ker, climbed the mountain for the eighth time. A film was made of the Benuzzi story in l994, produced by Robert Halmi.
Development of the lands around Mount Kenya has continued steadily since the 1920s, by which time the country previously known as ‘British East Africa’ became better known as Kenya. ‘White’ settlement was encouraged and, from miles and miles of nothing, the mountain countryside was transformed into acres of coffee, wheat and maize. Saw-milling began and, to the despair of today’s ardent forest conservationists, continues. Then it was sheep-farming, milk herds and ranching. There was fine hunting for everyone who carried a gun. The four small towns around the mountain’s perimeter, Nyeri, Nanyuki, Meru and Embu began, and continue, to expand.
The White Rhino Hotel, the first in Nyeri when the European population numbered only nine (but there was already a golf course and clubhouse) was followed in l926 by the Outspan Hotel, intended to attract holidaymakers from Nairobi. Now, much extended, it welcomes visitors from all over the world. It was there that the founder of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide Movements, Lord Robert Baden-Powell — who had loved Kenya since his first visit in l906 — retired in l938 to the cottage Paxtu which had been specially built there for him, in which he lived until his death in l941. Scouts and Guides from all over the world make pilgrimage to his grave in Nyeri each February 22, their Founder’s Day. The ashes of his wife Lady Olave are also interred there. Jim Corbett is buried in the same churchyard, author of the thrilling classics, Maneaters of Kumaon and The Leopard of Rudaprayag. After India he made Kenya his home.
Hotels, lodges and tented camps have proliferated all around the mountain in the last fifty years, providing base accommodation for intending climbers and for the hundreds of thousands wanting to make scenic and photographic safaris and view wildlife in the game parks and reserves, where sighting lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo and a great variety of other fauna is the expectation. It is an area rich in flora, with the added bonus of marvelous birdlife in the forests and on the plains. Trout fishing is an attraction for others in the fern-banked, fast-flowing streams tumbling down from Mount Kenya and the Aberdares.
A scenic drive round the mountain (608 km — 38O miles) offers spectacular views. From Timau, at 2,134 meters (7,000 feet) above sea level, with icy winds off the mountain at one’s back, the scene changes dramatically as the land drops sharply away to the semi-deserts of the north, where camel trains trek slowly to the wells. Camel safaris are the in-thing in Kenya now, a chance to see wild, unspoiled country much as it always used to be, and sleep beneath the stars.
The glorious site in the foothills of Mount Kenya which Col. E S Percy ‘Bongo’ Smith purchased in l935 to make into his exquisite home, is now the luxury Mount Kenya Safari Club, playground of the rich and famous with its unparalleled views of the peaks. Its romantic history between times carried it through two subsequent purchasers when it was converted into the Mawingo Hotel. In such an idyllic position, Mawingo was the base for the l949 film version of King Solomon’s Mines inspired by the Henry Rider Haggard l885 book. Though he had never been there, Haggard had sited the legendary mines in Mount Kenya.
The next acquisition was by a trio of safari visitors with even stronger Hollywood connections. Millionaire Ray Ryan, film-actor William Holden and the Swiss banker Carl Hirschman stayed there, loved it, recognised its potential and made a bargain deal. The charming old Mawingo was remodeled at great expense and opened as the new Mount Kenya Safari Club in June l959, to become the popular venue of world personalities.
The Equator, which is crossed near Nanyuki when approaching the town by road from the Nyeri side, cuts through the Club grounds where the latitude is 00 degrees, longitude 37 degrees 7E, altitude 2,296 meters (7,000 feet).
Is Mount Kenya itself a national asset? Unquestionably, and not just tourist wise. In a country where the significance to pranksters of l April (April Fool’s Day) is incomprehensible to the vast majority, a national newspaper reaped its just reward only a few years ago, after publishing as a sensational front page story that the mountain was losing height, and that methods were in hand for remedying it. For days afterwards the editor’s desk — and all telephone lines — went down under an avalanche of agitated inquiries, almost eclipsing all other business.
Climbing Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya is the country’s highest mountain. It is a broad, largely symmetrical volcanic cone whose diameter at base is about 120km. It sits astride the equator it’s icy summit reaches to 5199m (10,058ft.). It was formed between 2.6 and 3.1 million years ago by eruptions of successive layers of volcanic lava and agglomerates from central vent in the earths’ surface. A fine example of this type of formation can be seen on the hike down to “The Gates” on the Chogoria route. All of the mountain above the 3200m contour forms a National Park. The mountain consists of three principal zones; the rocky peak area, with it’s mantle of glaciers and snowfields; the alpine zone with it’s distinctive giant vegetation; and the vast gentle lower slopes drenched in mountain forest and bamboo jungle. Mt. Kenya is climbed at all times of the year. However if possible, it is best to try to avoid the rainy seasons that may start in mid March and last through till mid June (the long rains), and the short rains from late October through till end of December. The driest times on the mountain are usually January till mid March and again July through mid October.
Typically, the daily weather pattern is such that it is crystal clear, soon after, as the ground warms up, the air in contact with it, starts to flow up the mountain and by 1000hrs., the clouds that may have been down around 2,200m. in the early morning, have usually reached over 3,000m, and by noon the whole mountain is often completely enveloped in cloud. From then until early evening, rain, snow or sleet, can be expected depending on the altitude. In the evenings, as the temperature falls, the reverse happens. The ground surface and air in contact with it gets colder and so the air starts to flow back downhill. The cloud disappears, starting from around the peaks, and by 2000hrs. they are usually back below 3,000m., this phenomenon is known as anabatic/katabatic effect. For visitors who are camping, select a site that will be protected from the anticipated downhill flow at night.
The Zonation of the vegetation show clearly when driving up, and when walking on Mt. Kenya. On leaving the agricultural and plantation areas at around 1,900m., one enters the majestic rain forests that cloth the lower slopes. The southern and eastern slopes are by far the wettest. The forests in these parts are rich in trees of various species, most noticeable are the giant camphor’s. vine-like lianes and epiphytes thrive. On the forest floors, numerous varieties of ferns, orchids and small flowering plants abound. On the other sides of the mountain, the drier climate favors the smaller conifer type trees such as podocarpus and pencil cedar. In most areas above the forest there is a belt of bamboo, often growing to heights of 12m. or more. This belt is widest on the southern side of the mountain but almost non existent on the other side around Timau and Sirimon passage.
The forests are rich with wildlife, buffalo, sykes, and colobus monkey are often seen. However due to the denseness of the vegetation and the natural shyness of many other animals, most of the other species are rarely seen, except at the lodges where there are large clearings in the forest, and salt is often put out as an attractant. Here giant forest hog, rhino, numerous species of antelope, lion can be seen. Bird life everywhere is plentiful and varied.
First of all do not underestimate this mountain. Mt. Kenya is big, and the whole exercise is hard work!!. You will most certainly be cold at times. Worse still you may get soaking wet in rain or sleet. At higher altitudes, (+4,000m.), 50% of your group will suffer a headache. Some may feel sick/vomit. You will discover muscles you didn’t know you even had, and at times you will consider yourself a prime candidate for a lunatic asylum. But do not worry, this is quite normal on such a mountain. console yourself with the thought that most of the others with you are feeling the same way, and often worse, and that it can’t go on for ever.
Below is a bief synopsis of how an average walker might expect to feel while ascending the mountain. That is If you are still intrested in climbing.
At the park gate(or about 2,000m), the first few hour or so’s walk is a novels experience. The scenery is interesting, pulse rate is between 3-4 steps. By 11:00am you start sweating abit, your legs start to feel the strain of the non-stop uphill walk. A sit down breather every 30-40 minutes is welcome. On reaching the camp a cup of tea revives you and you feel better.
3,000m – 4,000m. You slept well, breakfast was great, you are somewhat stiff but it soon wears off after you get walking. The scenery and vegetation changes are spectacular. After a while the walk becomes a drag and blisters start forming on your instep but what the hell!. On reaching the hut a mild headache will probably occur. Appetite is not so good and you suffer leg cramps that night.
4,000m summit. You get up at 0300, by then you have put on all the clothes you have, but you are still frozen with the cold. The tea and biscuits you forced down earlier still tastes foul, and after half an hours walking you bring them back up. Immidiatley you feel better. Ulike the previous day it’s now scree slopes to Lenana. Just before dawn you reach the Austrian Hut. Now you have a choice either to lie down and contemplate the walk back down though preferabley you wish you could die, or there’s Pt. Lenana just 45 minutes away. Decisions should be iiegal at this point.
To make things easy during the climb you can get porters and guides to help carry your equipment up the mountain. These peoploe are generally from the kikuyu and associated tribes and are characteristically friendly people who supplement the income from their farms, by working for visitors to the mountain. If you use them, I recommend you arrange and get them through a recognized group. Check that your guide has been licensed by the parks authority and obtain a voucher giving names of all your porters. The rate of pay varies with the route you take to go up the mountain, and is fixed by the local “union”. The load porters carry, excluding the weight of their own food and equipment, is limited to 18kg. on a three day hike, and 15kg. on routes of four days or more duration.
As on any high mountain, proper equipment is vital to a safe enjoyable climb. In good weather conditions you can climb the mountain in a pair of old trainers, T-shirt and beach shorts, and with a couple of sweaters thrown in you may only suffer a bit during the last day of the ascent up Lenana. However, if the weather changes for the worse: a heavy rain storm and a strong wind a couple of hours before reaching the hut, you could die from hypothermia very rapidly. It has happened and will probably happen again, that is why proper clothing is very essential for both the climbers and the porters.
Generally when climbing a mountain the faster you walk the more likely you will feel the effects of altitude and to feel ill, specific altitude problems can caused through the inability of the human body to adjust to a rapid gain in altitude, oddly enough young fit males seem to be the most badly affected by altitude. Symptoms of acute mountain sickness include headache, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, exhaustion, lassitude, muscle weakness, a rapid pulse even at rest, insomnia, swelling of hands and feet and a reduced urine output. Climbers with severe symptoms must stop ascending and seriously consider descending to lower altitude to allow acclimatization to take place. Precautions a visitor can take to help minimize the severity of mountain sickness include staying a night at 3,000m. and an extra night at 4,200m. plus Maintaining a slow steady pace whilst walking up. Drink at least 3 litres of fluids everyday. Dehydration, even mild, leads to a thickening of the blood with increased possibility of pulmonary embolism or a thrombosis.
Cooking on the mountain is much slower than normal, the boiling point of water is considerably reduced. The higher you go the lower the boiling point. It is advisable then to carry pre-cooked food eg pasta, rice, potatoes as they save fuel. You can carry vaccum packed meats, which when properly frozen can last 3-4 days. Fresh tomatoes, onions, celery and mushrooms help make the menus tasty. Altitude often brings a craving for acid type fruits and fruit drinks, eat whenever you like nibble nuts, fresh or dried fruits, sweets or biscuits along with your water bottle. For lunch chocolate is a fovourite, as is mild flavoured cheese with a tomato and smoked meat with mayonnaise on a bread roll. Fatty foods should be avoided. In the evening a large mug of soup with a bread roll is a good starter. To reduce fuel consumption, use a pot that is 4-5 cms larger in diameter than the burner on which it stands. A lid to the pot will reduce boiling time, avoid cooking inside a tent as the fumes produced are poisonous.Liquid fuels and the stove should be packed separately as a leakage may contaminate the food badly
During the descent after leaving Lenana, the run / slide back down the glacier to the Austrian takes an exilarating five minutes. With each descent the air gets thicker and heavier to the lungs. Now that it is daylight you can see the full horror of the scree slopes, and you wonder how you ever made it up. Continuing the walk on down from the hut by then all the blisters you forgot to tape are aching and on reaching the camp yu have them taped and you feel alot better. Further down it starts to rain but you still feel good, particularly as you now pass several groups noe struggling upwards. That night at the base of the mountain you sleep of the greatful dead, though the next morning it is a struggle to get up. 101 muscles are hurting.
Mountain climbers have to really be careful as the environment above the forest on Mt. Kenya is very vulnarable to damage and pollution. Beacause of increasing number of visistors, the areas around the huts and campsites are particularly sensitive. Both huts and camp areas should be left clean and tidy. All rubbish and unused food should be carried of the mountain. Where toilets are not provided, care should be taken to ensure that seepage of water around your waste will not result in pollution to nearby tarns or streams. toilet paper should be burnt as mountain soils lack in microbes that decompose matter.
Security is another important factor to consider when climbing a mountain, accidents can occur at any time and one has to be prepared for them. The Mountain National Parks are responsible or the safety and if required the posssible rescue, of all persons on the mountain. In the event of injury / accident, report to the park authority should be made. Visitors are not permitted to hike alone in the National Park and if you wander off on your own and rescue is called out, you will be fined and presented with a hefty bill for expences incurred.
For those who wish to savour the mountain air, the glorious views, to marvel at the mountains beauty and the peace and tranquility which emanates from it, there are many hotels around the foothills among the famed Mount Kenya Safari Club. Try it and it could turn out to be a holiday of a lifetime.
WHERE TO GO: Mount Kenya
WHEN TO GO: During dry season that is January till mid March and again July through mid October.
WHAT TO BRING:
Footwear: Mountain boots, though not essential, will make the walk far more pleasant and keep feet much warmer and give proper protection to ankles and feet on a descent. Several pairs of thin wool or wool/synthetic mix socks are better than one pair of thick ones.
Upper and Lower body underwear: Thermal underwear, eg polypro is ideal, it wisks moisture away fron the skin. Avoid cotton materials as they dry slowly and sweat from the body keeps them damp.
Shirt and Trousers: Breeches and salopettes are favored by professionals over normal trousers as movement is unrestricted and because of their specialized construction, body ventilation can be better controled by the wearer.
Headgear: A woolen/fiber balaclava and neck scarf are invluable in helping to keep warm. On the walk up a wide brimed hat will help stop sunburn to the face and lips.
Hands: Gloves or better still mitts play an important part in keeping one comfortable in the evenings and early morning.
Rain gear: Use of calouge or waterproof/gortex jacket and trousers can help minimize chills form rain or sleet.
Sleeping bag: Night temperatures at 14,000’ are often at -10c, thus a down or fiberfil sleeping bag, rated to “3 seasons” or better is required.
Rucksack: One with or without a frame is a matter of choice. If carrying your own gear one with a capacity of 65 liters is required. All gear must be put inside a strong polythene to prevent soaking when it rains.
First aid: A basic first aid kit for 3-4 days duration may include drugs such as Paracetamol and Aspirin for headaches, fever and aches, Throat and cough Lozenges for dry throat, Sun block:10% PABA or factor 25+ sun block plus lip salve act as anti sunburn apply 30 mins. before exposure, Strapping and bandages, 2 adhesive tape, gauze rolls and pads for blisters, sprains, binding splints or fixing packs, Ophthalmic used for conjucvitis or snowblindness, Tincture of iodine and permanganate of potash for sterilizing wounds, Anti diarrhoea: Imodium. Mountain sickness Diamox speeds acclimatization, reduces inter occular eye pressure and hedaches, Pain killer to sever pain, Sutures for sewing up deep cuts and Sterotabs for water purification. Certain basic equipment is essential even for a day hiker.
Other useful equipment: Gaiters to keep snow or stones out of boots. Spare socks, shirt, trousers. Torch, camera, film & water bottle. Small wash kit. Plastic bags, knife, fork, plate and mug. Map and compass. Ski poles.
Lamu Old Town
Date of Inscription: 2001
– Unesco List
The Arab flavor of Lamu is not nearly as old as the town itself. It derives from the later nineteenth century when the Omanis, and to some extent the Hadhramis from what is now Yemen, held political and cultural sway in the town. The first British representatives found themselves among pale-skinned slave-owning Arab rulers. The cultural and racial stereotypes which were subsequently propagated have never completely disappeared.
Lamu was established on its present site by the fourteenth century but there have been people living on the Island for very much longer than that. The fresh water supplies beneath Shela made the Island very attractive to refugees from the mainland and people have been escaping here for 2000 years or more – most recently in the 1960’s when Somali secessionists and cattle raiders caused havoc. It was also one of the earliest places on the coast to attract settlers from the Persian Gulf. There were probably people from Arabia and Southwest Asia living and intermarrying here even before the foundation of Islam.
Lamu is something of a myth factory – classical as well as popular. Conventionally labeled “an old Arab trading town”, it is actually one of the last viable remnants of the swahili civilization that was the dominant cultural force all along the coast until the arrival of the British. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, Lamu’s unique blend of beaches, gently Islamic ambiance, funny old town, and population well used to strangers, was a recipe which took over where Marrakesh left off. It acquired a reputation as Kenya’s Kathmandu: the end of the (African) Hippie trail and a stop-over on the way to India.
Lamu town itself is unending fascinating to stroll through, with few monuments but hundreds of ancient houses, arresting street scenes and cool corners to sit and rest. And the museum is exceptional, outshining all Kenya’s others but the National Museum of Nairobi.
Initially confusing, Lamu is not the random clutter of houses and alleys it appears. Very few towns in Africa have kept their original town plan so intact (Timbuktu in West Africa is another) and Lamu’s history is sufficiently documented, and its architecture well enough preserved, to give you a good idea of how the town developed.
The division is between the waterfront buildings and the town behind, separated by Usita wa Mui, now Harambee Avenue. Until around 1830, this was the waterfront, but the pile of accumulated rubish in the harbor had become large enough by the time the fort was finished to consider reclaiming it; gradually, those who could afford to built on it. The fort lost its pre-eminent position and Lamu, from the sea, took on a different aspects, which included Indian styles such as arches, verandas and shuttered windows.
Behind the waterfront, the old town retained a second division between Mkomani district, to the north of the fort, and Langoni to the south. These locations are important as they distinguish the town’s long-established quarter (Mkomani) from the still-expanding district (Langoni) where traditionally newcomers have built their houses, often of mud and thatch rather than stone or modern materials. This north/south division is found in most Swahili towns and reflects the importance of Mecca, due north.
The museum has restored an eighteenth century house (the House Museum) to approximately its original appearance.
Lamu’s stone houses are unique, perfect examples of architecture appropriate to its setting. The basic design is of an open, topless box enclosing a large courtyard, around which are set inward-facing rooms on two or three floors. These rooms are thus long and narrow, their ceilings supported by close-set timbers or mangrove poles (boriti). Most had exquisite carved doors at one time, though in all but a few dozen homes these have been sold off to pay for upkeep. Many also had zidaka, plaster-work niches in the walls to give an illusion of extended space, which are now just as rare. Toilet arrangements are ingenious, with fish in the large water cisterns to eat the mosquito larvae. On the top floor, a makuti roof shades one side. In parts of Lamu these old houses are built so close you could step across the street from one roof to another.
The private space inside Lamu’s houses is inseparable and barely distinguishable from the public space outside. the noises of the town – donkeys, mosques, cats – percolate into the interiors, encouraged by the constant flow of air created by the narrow coolness of the dark streets and the heat which accumulates on upper surfaces exposes to the sun. There’s an excellent display of Lamu’s architecture at the museum in Nairobi.
The one place everyone goes on Lamu is, of course, the beach; Lamu’s beach is the real thing. Unprotected by a reef, the sea here has some motion to it for once: it is one of the few places on the coast where, at certain times of the year, you can body surf. You can either walk down to Shela beach (about an hour) or you can take a motorboat or dhow.
Dodori and Boni National Reserves opened in 1976 to preserve a breeding ground for the East Lamu Topi, pelicans and other local bird life. Covering 877sq. km., with views of Dodori River and creek outlet with the densest, most varied species of mangrove forest in Kenya. Boni National Reserve is a 1,339 sq. km forest reserve created as a sanctuary for elephant from Garissa and Lamu.
Watamu and Gede Ruins
Watamu & Gede
Gede villages on the seaward side off the main Malindi Road and a short distance before Watamu houses Kenyas most important monument, the GEDE or GEDI RUINS about 20 km south of Malindi town – an Islamic civilization city, which disappeared mysteriously about three hundred years ago. The ruins were gazetted as a monument in 1927 and became a National Park now a National Museum (45 acres) in 1948.
The great city Mosque and parts of the Kings Palace and other city houses have been restored, well-preserved and signposted with well maintained trails for the benefit and enjoyment of the visitors who can now view them with admirable ease. An information center has been established in the area to show the visitors what the city used to look like and to display the interesting artefact’s unearthed from the ruins.
The ruins are surrounded by a thick coastal forest where interesting mammals and birds are seen. Some of the common mammals include Greater galago, Bushbaby, Blue monkey, Yellow baboon, Black and white colobus, Red duiker, Blue duiker, Aders duiker, suni and Black-faced vervet monkey.
Birds are plentiful and one is sure of seeing interesting forest bird species like Crested guinea fowl, Green pigeon, Fischers turaco, Brown-headed parrot, trumpeter hornbill, Silvery-cheeked hornbill and many others.From Gede village one travels for about 8 kilometres to Watamu village beyond which is the Watamu Marine National Park established in 1968 for the preservation of the coral reef resources.