Day 1: Arriving in Kenya
After 33 hours, three planes, two buses and a train we arrived in Nairobi, we had just entered another world! We were welcomed by the immigration and then customs staff into to Kenya. Everyone one we met in the airport was so friendly and started to ease some of our trepidation and nerves.
We then battled the Nairobi traffic, where there only seems to be one rule, give way to livestock! Our first night was spent in the Wildebeest Eco Resort, where we camped in our new tents, which will be our home for the next ten days as we travel Kenya.
Day 2: Big Life base
We headed out to Big Life foundations base, which is about 250km and 4.5 hours south-east of Nairobi near Chyulu Hills National Park. Big Life Rangers are hosting us for some of our time here. They employ 300 rangers, on Masai community held land. Their primary job is to protect wildlife from poachers and farmer (community members) who don’t appreciate their crops being eaten, by say an elephant for example.
We were welcomed to the Big Life base, set up our tents and had dinner of a traditionally cooked goat, with one of the prized parts being the barbecued liver, eaten by us all.
Day 3: Zebras, goats and impalas
Today we were up at dawn to go for a drive around the country locally. We saw zebras, goats, cows, sheep and impalas. We stopped at a traditional corral, where the Maisi stack prickly branches around in a circle and herd their stock into them at night, the family also sleep inside the corral with the stock to watch over them at night. I say prickly branches, I should just say branches as every plant here seems to be prickly.
In the afternoon we were taken out to a private conservation park to have a look at more country. Here we saw four elephants one know as Tim, who is 57 years old and has the largest tusk in Kenya. He is monitored/guarded constantly by Big Life rangers as he keeps eating peoples crops and is at risk of being killed.
While out we also saw zebras, hogwarts, ostrich, impala, wildebeest, vultures, a bustard (everyone wanted to shoot it, the problem is Masai don’t eat wild game), baboons, monkeys, and buffalo. Muuki says this country is good it has so many animals. He also says this country has too many people.
Day 4: On patrol
Out to the Rhino ranger outstation, in the lava flows. Rocky hilly county full of rocks and prickly bushes. As the name suggests this station is about protecting rhinos. The rangers here track the rhino’s, by following their footprints and by capturing them on camera traps set around the place. There work is important as they need to know the movement of the rhino’s so they can protect them.
There are ten rangers at the base and they patrol by foot, up to 20km a day, every day of the year. We went out on a short patrol with them in the afternoon in the hot sun for a few hours walking about 8km. We didn’t see a rhino but found tracks, but were fortunate to see giraffes up close.
For dinner, we enquired what we would be having to the head ranger, and it was all vegetable based (soya beans, spinach/kale, and cornstarch cake (a bit like damper called masala).
He also said we cannot afford meat, we would have really liked to show you how we traditionally eat goat/sheep. We asked how much is a goat, and it was 6000 shillings (about $75 AUS). So we all chucked in and got a big sheep. We were then shown how it was traditionally killed, butchered and eaten. It was a great experience that brought the rangers from two worlds together.
Day 5: Encounter with a poacher, lion tracking and a bit of footy
This morning was a little confronting as a suspected poacher had been brought into our base, as we had the head ranger with us, on his way out of the country to be handed to the police. Poaching here carries long prison time of 20 years. The suspected poacher was what Big Life rangers were calling a scout. His job is to check out where the rangers are. Fortunately for the suspected poacher, his story of why he was there checked out and he was released.
After this, we were all a bit nervous, but the Big Life rangers are a professional unit and quickly made us feel at ease again. We went out trying to track a lion pride with the ranger who is employed to monitor it. He used radio tracking, exactly the same as our rangers use to track rock wallabies, Landy even had a go. Unfortunately, no lions to be found.
We returned to the outstation to say our good-byes and play a bit of footy, which was hilarious, as the Big Life rangers tried to come to terms with the odd shaped ball.
Around lunch time we moved on to another outstation about thew hours further south, near Amboseli National Park, arriving at dusk.
Day Six: Meeting of elders
Amboseli rangers took us off on a foot patrol early this morning which was an amazing experience, we walked 14.5km through an ever-changing landscape from dusty dried out plains, to permanent water holes to lush green plains. We strolled through zebra herds, impalas, Maisi herding cows and goats and thousands of wildebeests. Muuki and another ranger from Jarwin didn’t join us on foot for this walk but enjoyed the country as they were driven around it meeting up with us at four different locations. At one of those locations, while they were waiting for the walkers he actually saw a Hippo!
In the afternoon we returned to the Big Life Base, where four Masai elders came to meet Muuki. They talked at length about their countries, their people, their economy, their food and decided there was a lot of things they had in common. Muuki presented them each with a nulla nulla, and they presented him with a beautifully beaded walking stick. Landy sat and supported Muuki throughout the conversation that went for about 1 ½ hours.
We are all tired yet well and talking on so many new things, we are all missing you back at home and I will try and write to you all again soon, so it is not so long.
See you soon,
Muuki, Landy, Gabbi and Tristan
ABOUT THE EXCHANGE
The Indigenous Ranger Exchange is a world-first conservation and cultural exchange program that takes a select group of Indigenous Australian Rangers on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Kenya, Africa, to connect with Maasai Community Rangers in their tribal homelands.
Through the assistance of The Thin Green Line Foundation, this exchange provides an opportunity for Indigenous Rangers to travel to Kenya and share knowledge, culture and in-the-field experiences with their Maasai colleagues. The overall objective of the journey is to develop and exchange conservation solutions for Australian park Rangers to effectively protect endangered species and their surrounding ecosystems.
Joining the group will be celebrated Indigenous Australian performer, Dan Sultan, who will help facilitate the musical components of the journey and will perform for the group throughout the experience.
The exchange will be based from Nairobi, led by TTGLF founder, Sean Willmore, with support from local NGO partner, Big Life Foundation. Founded in 2010, Big Life was the first organisation in East Africa to establish coordinated cross-border anti-poaching operations. Big Life works in approved community conservation zones that engage local communities and employs over 300 community rangers.
Participating organisations: The Thin Green Line Foundation, Big Life Foundation, Kimberley Land Council (KLC), Martu – Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) and Jawoyn rangers