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Monday
Oct172011

AFRICA FOCUS: KENYA

This week we will be focusing on Africa, the world’s second largest and second most populous continent. Africa is both scientifically and historically fascinating: it is celebrated as being the birthplace of humans, as descended from great apes, and has experienced historical events with global repercussions, such as the horrors of slavery or the liberation of Nelson Mandela. Africa is also a natural historian’s dream: the continent has over 3,000 protected areas and boasts arguably the greatest density of free-roaming animals in the world. This combination of factors makes the African people a spirited, vibrant and fascinating population to spend time with. Frontier offers a total of 130 varied and exciting projects in Africa, ranging from healthcare to marine conservation. We will begin the week by focusing on Kenya.

Kenya

Located in East Africa, Kenya lies on the equator and is bordered by the Indian Ocean, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Often described as a microcosm of Africa, Kenya features everything from mountains and deserts to beaches and coral reefs. The country holds the second largest fresh-water lake in the world, Lake Victoria, and has volcanic springs that put a significant amount of electricity in the national grid. Agriculture and tourism are the two main industries in Kenya; the country exports tea and coffee, and wildlife safaris are crucial to the tourism industry. Visitors often strive to see the “big five” animals in Kenya’s national parks: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos and rhinos. With 42 different people and cultures, the country also presents the visitor with a fascinating cultural experience. Kenyan people are renowned for their vibrancy and friendliness, making any volunteering opportunity a rewarding experience.

Facts 

Capital: Nairobi 

Languages: Swahili, English, tribal languages 

Population: 31.6 million

Currency: Kenyan Shilling (£1 is about Ksh160)

Backpacker budget: From Ksh1000 (About £6.40)

Climate: Varies from tropical along the coast to temperate inland and arid in the northern parts of the country. The country receives a lot of sunshine and agreeable temperatures year round.

When to go

Kenya’s diverse geography and range of altitudes results in varying rainfall, humidity and temperatures. It is easiest to consider four distinct areas:

  • Western Kenya comprises of hot, rainy plateaus: rainfall is generally heaviest during April and lightest in January.
  • The Central Highlands and Rift Valley feature agreeable temperatures and two rainy seasons: March to May and October to November.
  • Temperatures in the semi-arid bushlands of northern and eastern Kenya can escalate to 40°C, with little rainfall.
  • The coastal region is constantly humid, with rainfall dependant on the monsoon.

 

Don’t miss

A Primate’s Memoir: Love, Death and Baboons in East Africa by Robert M. Sapolsky is the true account of Sapolsky’s experiences as a young primatologist working in Kenya. Combining humour with scientific facts, this novel is a favourite among conservationists and a must-read before any Kenyan wildlife adventure.

Mount Kenya National Park presents the second highest peak in Africa and the country’s namesake. Mount Kenya’s three snow-capped peaks create such a spectacular panorama that it is easy to understand why the Kikuyu people idolised it as the seat of their supreme god Ngai. Point Lenana, the lowest peak, is an outdoor enthusiast’s glacial trekking dream.

Tsavo National Park is almost 22,000 square kilometres, making it Kenya’s largest national park. It boasts breathtaking landscapes, the possibility of seeing the “big five”, guided river walks and rock climbing potential. It is arguably preferable to popular parks such as the Masai Mara as it receives comparatively fewer visitors and thus offers an authentic experience in a more natural setting.

Hell’s Gate National Park, located within the Rift Valley, is unique amongst Kenya’s parks as visitors can walk or cycle here unguided. The looming cliffs, gorges and basalt columns are allegedly the inspiration behind Pride Rock and other features in Disney’s The Lion King. Rock climbers will enjoy Fischer’s Tower, one of the park’s many popular climbing destinations.

Lake Nakuru National Park is famed for the thousands of flamingos that surround the lake, attracted by the abundance of algae. Those who have seen Out of Africa will recognise one of the famous viewpoints, featured in the 1985 film. The park is also one of the best places in Kenya to see leopards and white rhinos.

Learn some Swahili before you go, a fantastic way to connect with the local people and better understand their culture. In Swahili, safari means ‘journey’; an apt description of the pursuit of wildlife in Kenya.

Kenya with Frontier

Frontier offers a total of 30 exciting projects in Kenya, from community development and conservation projects to journalism and teaching.

Kenya Whale Sharks

“I’ve always wanted to swim with whale sharks and it was definitely worth the wait! I really enjoyed being able to work on behalf of these incredible creatures, I loved going into the schools to talk to the kids about them and make them love whale sharks as much as I do. Going out with visitors to see them was really good too, it taught me a lot about whale sharks as well as their habitat and the dangers they face. I had a great time, I just wished I had stayed longer!”

Briony, February 2010

Kenya Elephant and Community Research

“This was a really interesting project to take part in, I really enjoyed carrying out the research and learning how the elephant’s movements were affecting the local community. Taking part in the local community gatherings and speaking to the people was really good as it meant I got to experience the real Kenya as well as to truly understand the negative impact the elephants can have on them. The communities were so friendly and welcoming, especially my host family who were lovely!”

Zara, September 2010

Teaching and Maasai Mara Safari

“Such a fun project! The kids I worked with were all amazing! They worked so hard and were really dedicated to their studies. It was lovely to hear all the ambitions they had in life to be doctor’s, lawyers and even teachers. After school I would often help students who were behind or just hadn’t understood something from class, it was great to know you were really making a difference to these kids life’s as without that extra support they might not achieve the futures they wanted. I really enjoyed the safari after the project too, visiting real Maasai villages was incredible! As was seeing all the wild animals in their natural habitat. I would definitely recommend this project!”

Willow, August 2010

By Denise Bartlett

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