One group's week in Kenya with OTA
Earlier this year, OTA hosted a small group who wanted to photograph animals in the game parks as well as visit a community development project to see how they could contribute. OTA has connected with a local NGO called Amani Kibera – Kibera is the slum area of Nairobi and Amani means Peace. It was established in the wake of the post-election violence in 2008 to promote peace in the slums, where much of the inter-tribal violence had taken place.
Amani Kibera runs a football camp for children and has established a football league in Kibera, supplying team shirts and umpire uniforms. This simple project has fostered a sense of belonging for the young people, giving them motivation and inspiration to move forward.
In March 2011, Amani Kibera’s biggest project so far was opened: the first and only public library in the slums. Although the structure is only an interim solution, the activities are well-established with a book club meeting every Saturday afternoon and regular tutorial sessions. The group visited the library and had the opportunity to speak with some of the students, discuss the challenges with the librarian (who is an Amani Kibera volunteer), and donate some books.
The group also visited the young women’s group, a project that provides support to girls growing up in the slums. They gather to make bead jewellery to sell, while discussing the issues and challenges that women face regarding access to education, HIV/AIDS, sexual violence, and maternity and child health. Access to education is an impossible dream for these girls because they cannot afford it. The group were inspired by the determination and courage of the girls and pooled their resources to fund two girls’ school fees for a year, with a promise to communicate in the future about continuing their support.
From Nairobi, the group travelled to Naivasha, stopping for a picnic lunch at a lookout over the Great Rift Valley. OTA’s comfortable van seats six passengers comfortably with plenty of space for a cooler to store drinks. Close to Naivasha is Green Crater Lake, one of the few places in Africa where walking safaris are possible. Being on foot, gives a unique opportunity to get up close to the animals and have a true sense of their size. Giraffes, elands, impalas, gazelles and zebra roam the lush grassland undisturbed.
The group learned about village life in Kenya as the local guide showed them around his village, especially proud to the water tank being built at the school to provide water for the village. The group stayed at a lodge providing half board, which gave them the freedom to enjoy lunch at a local nyama choma restaurant. Literally it means “meat barbeque”, which you order by the kilogram and is presented on a tray diced into bite-size pieces. Side dishes of ugali (maize meal porridge), githeri (beans and maize) or kienyeji (mashed potato with maize) are optional, but a cold Tusker (Kenyan beer) is a necessary accompaniment.
From Naivasha, the group continued to the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya’s most popular park. Full-board accommodation at a luxurious permanent tented camp was the choice of lodging and the hosts were very friendly and welcoming over the two nights spent there. After two morning and two afternoon game drives, the group had seen elephants, giraffe, a leopard, thousands of wilderbeest and zebras, cheetahs, and a pride of lions munching on a carcass. OTA’s van has a pop-up roof, allowing for excellent game-viewing and photography.
The group visited a nearby Masai village one evening and were treated to a traditional Masai meal of goat roasted over hot coals. The Masai consume every part of the animal, including drinking its blood, but not all of the intrepid travellers chose to participate in that aspect! Before dinner, the group were shown around the manyatta (village) to learn how the Masai live. Dinner was followed by a show, with the villagers performing traditional song and dance.
On the second morning, some of the group opted to go hot-air ballooning over the Masai Mara, which included a full champagne breakfast. By noon, they were all back on the road heading to Nakuru. They spent the next day game driving around Lake Nakuru National Park with a picnic lunch at a lookout over the whole park. Lake Nakuru is famous for its flamingo and rhinoceros populations. It also provides excellent opportunity for leopard and lion sightings and indeed the group saw a group of lionesses stalking through the grass towards a herd of buffalo.
Back to Nairobi, back to the airport, it was over too quickly! But what a week it had been: from the development projects in the slums to hot-air ballooning over the Masai Mara it was a trip they would never forget and they left with promises to return to Kenya to see the coast and learn about traditional Swahili culture next time.