For the next two weeks I will be touring Kenya as part of my MSc course in Conservation and Biodiversity with the University of Exeter. We will visit National Parks and conservancies, in different environments ranging from the soda lakes in the Rift Valley to the savanna of central Kenya. All the while we will talk to the locals and learn the problems they face living in close proximity to the amazing wildlife of Kenya.
After taking over the plane from London, with more than 100 excited students and staff, we arrived in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, on a hot summer night. We split in two, the policy group and the biodiversity group, we will travel separately as our courses have a different focus. In the policy group we will approach the issues both from the wildlife point of view and from a human point of view. We will learn about human-wildlife conflict from the villages where livestock is killed by lions, we will talk with the wardens of national parks and with the managers of private reserves to understand how they try to prevent this conflict and how they help the local communities.
That night we piled up, people and luggage, in the mini-buses that will carry us around the country for the next two weeks. We drove for little less than two hours to reach Oscar’s camp in the Kitengela plains, on the southern border of Nairobi National Park. Much of the drive was off road and we managed to get our first glimpse of Kenyan wildlife: scrub hares jumped in front of our headlights, Thompson’s gazelles, wildebeest, zebras and even two hyenas could be seen over the lights of Nairobi city. The amazing thing was that we were not actually in the park.
When we reached the fenced camp, we set up our tents, had dinner and went to sleep with the sounds of nature lulling us to sleep. That is, the screams of tree hyraxes and Vervet monkeys all through the night and the chirping of birds at first light giving us the exact opposite of a good night’s sleep. But who cares when in the morning you get up to the African sunrise, the amazing colors of the African birds and our new friend Impi, the female impala that is the mascot of the camp.