Saturday, July 12, 2014

On Safari with Stefano!

Our safari guide extraordinaire, Stefano Ricci, shared some AMAZING photos from his safaris over the past couple of weeks! 

A picture perfect pair of Giraffe posing in front of Mount Kilimanjaro

An adorable young yellow baboon! 

A stunning male lion spotted on a Tsavo West safari excursion

The beautiful lesser kudu

A beautiful sight, a male and female cheetah just near Campi ya Kanzi at the spring!

They were very relaxed - what beautiful animals! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Is it safe to travel to Kenya?

Monday morning, with Kilimanjaro staring at me in twilight. Pinkish snow shines on the peaks.
A friend is climbing it and I think of him working his way up the mountain.
Lions were roaring just half an hour ago, the tubing of the mourning doves is suggesting me is time to get out of bed.
Impala are having a grass breakfast outside my bedroom. Blue ear starlings are crowding the small waterhole outside my home, where a leopard is used to come having a night drink.


I cannot think of a better way to start the week, in a better place, in a better mood, and -not being a gazelle who needs to not become food! - in a safer angle of Planet Earth...

Yet, if you are a US citizen, your State Department warns you about Kenya. But if you are a German citizen you are not warned at all, actually you have just been offered more flights into Mombasa, directly from Germany... Interesting...


We (well, you more than me!) live in a hectic World, where media are a business driven more by sensationalism than objectivity, where disturbing things happen far too often (teenagers shooting in schools is one of them...).
Last year I did my instrument rating in Santa Barbara, one of my favorite towns in the USA (with Santa Fe!).
Imagine if my mom would tell me to not do any further training in Santa Barbara, because of the shooting it just happened in UCSB...
Well, not coming on safari in a Maasai reservation because of the recent tribal clashes on the Somalia border would be a similarly debatable choice.
It is not just the hundreds of miles between us and the Somalia border, it is the 2 days traveling distance that matters...And more so it matters being in a Maasai owned reservation of 280,000 acres, surrounded by the biggest National Park in Kenya: the 8,000 square miles of Tsavo.


And what matters even more is the employment of 330 community members, as staff for Campi ya Kanzi, as teachers (50 in 20 schools), as nurses and doctors and as community rangers (101 Maasai, patrolling the reservation).
Here you are hosted as much by them as by me and Antonella, as your visit contributes $100 per day to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (see this brief video to see what the Trust does).

Who is envious of the privileged life that the developed World offers, combats it with terrorism. And terrorism is based precisely in terrorizing people. This strategy has found a fertile ground on the sensationalism Westerners are often inclined to.
Let's not be indirect supporters of terrorism by damaging community conservation projects like Campi ya Kanzi and MWCT, where tourism plays a vital role in providing the local communities with economic reasons to protect their wilderness, wildlife and culture.


Come to Campi ya Kanzi, come to Kenya: not only you will be safe, probably safer than driving to work every day!, but you will enjoy one of the most beautiful treasures that Nature can offer. From the wildebeests migration to the flamingos, from Kilimanjaro to the Green Hills of Africa, from lions to giraffes, from the gracious hospitality of the Maasai to being on safari exactly were we, homo sapiens, all came from...

Let's be more sapiens and make the right choice: get a great holiday and enjoy the amazing safari experiences that Kenya has to offer.

P.S. My mom just moved to Kenya from Italy and she is happier than ever. My daughter schools in Nairobi and we feel totally cool about it. My youngest son turned 5 here at camp in May, while me and my wife Antonella were away for 24 days on a air safari. He was at Campi ya Kanzi with a Maasai nanny. Yes, we do live in Paradise, a very safe Paradise. Come and enjoy it yourself!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

When the Lion Roars, by Jonathan Scott



When the Lion Roars: Big Cat Man Speaks out on his Love Affair with Kenya

Angela and Jonathan Scott
By Jonathan Scott

Many people think that I live in England, the land of my birth. But I don’t. I am proud to call Kenya my home. I have lived here for nearly 40 years and married my sweetheart Angela in 1992 in a beautiful ceremony on the Siria Escarpment overlooking the Masai Mara’s animal speckled plains (thinking of a Honeymoon location – this is it!). A year later we bought a house of our own on the outskirts of Nairobi. People told us we were mad buying property in Kenya – that we would never see a return on our investment. We wanted a beautiful place for our children to call home, quality of life: we weren’t looking for a good investment. In the end we got both in abundance.

The Masai Mara is our second home. For part of each year we base ourselves in a small stone cottage at Governor’s Camp in Marsh Pride territory – lions I have watched since 1977.  We know the Marsh Lions better than we do many of our human friends. At night we lie in bed and listen to their thunderous roars echoing across the plains from Musiara Marsh at the heart of their territory. This is a never ending story and what keeps us wanting to set out early each morning. The joys of safari are one reason why so many visitors fall in love with Kenya and long to return.

These same Marsh Lions were destined to become the stars of the hugely popular TV series Big Cat Diary that I co-presented for the BBC and Animal Planet from 1996 through to the final series known as Big Cat Live that aired in 2008. Big Cat was watched by tens of millions of viewers around the world with hundreds of video clips on YouTube. I am proud of the fact that many Kenyan’s have been able to share in this story – to see their big cats on TV. The majority will never be able to marvel at the sight of wild lions, leopards and cheetahs in the way that visitors from overseas are so fortunate to do. 


 So how did I get to live my dream? As a child growing up on a farm in Berkshire I was obsessed with wildlife and Africa. So in 1974 after taking a degree in Zoology at Queens University in Belfast in Northern Ireland I set off overland for Johannesburg in an old Bedford Truck. That 10,000 km trek through Africa changed my life. I got malaria and amoebic dysentery along the way but who cares – take your Malarone prophylactic and sleep under a mosquito net and you should be fine. After four months on the road I not only lost my heart to Africa but glimpsed the place that I most wanted to return to: the Mara-Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania - an animal paradise without equal. After two years working with wildlife in Botswana I headed back to Kenya, more certain than ever that this was where I wanted to make my home.

A plan was beginning to emerge. My father was an architect and a talented artist who died when I was two years old. The gift he left me was in being an artist. I could always draw and was a keen photographer. Prior to leaving for Kenya a publisher in South Africa commissioned my first set of my pen and ink drawings of wildlife. Meanwhile a friend had introduced me to Jock Anderson of East African Wildlife Safaris who was looking for someone to help keep an eye on his camp situated a few kilometers north of the Reserve. For the next five years Mara River Camp became my home. I couldn’t have cared less that there was no pay. I was living in the Garden of Eden with a canvas roof over my head.

That was 1977. Nearly 40 years later with 26 books to my name - many of them co-authored with my wife Angie who is also an award-winning wildlife photographer - and as co-presenter of TV shows such as Big Cat Diary, Elephant Diaries, Dawn to Dusk, The Secret Leopards and The Truth About Lions what have I learned from following my dream? Firstly, to live with acceptable risk. I spent four years (1968-72) at University in Belfast during the ‘Troubles’ with people telling me I must be crazy to stay there as a ‘Brit’ with riots and bombs exploding on a regular basis. The truth was that I had the time of my life. I simply refused to buy in to the fear factor. The same could be said about living in Africa. I have never been attacked or had my home broken in to. I still walk the main streets of Nairobi and feel as safe as I do when on foot in London or San Francisco. Yes of course you need to be sensible. Its never smart to walk in to neighbourhoods you know nothing about wherever you are in the world (always ask your guide and hotel receptionist for advice first).

My wife and daughter are Kenya Citizens; our Grandson Michael was born in the wonderful Aga Kahn Hospital in Nairobi last June and has already made two safaris to the Mara along with trips to Ol Pejeta in Laikipia and to Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks. And he has loved a memorable stay over Easter at the Serena Hotel in Mombasa on the Kenya coast. He is ten months old. Will I still be spending time with the Marsh Lions and enjoying the miracle of the great migration? You better believe it - starting next month.


Yes, security is an issue everywhere these days and of course it is only right for Governments to warn their citizens of risks to their safety. It’s then up to each individual to evaluate that risk – just as our daughter Alia and partner did before taking our Grandson on safari or to the coast. We can never be certain that life will treat us kindly or that bad things might not happen. That is why it’s so important not to become prisoners of our fears. To live in the moment.

And our precious wildlife? The bottom line is this. If we abandon tourism we abandon conservation. When people ask us ‘how can we help’ we say ‘by taking a safari’, something that I feel fortunate to have adopted as a way of life. Wildlife based tourism is not a choice it’s a necessity; it pays the bills. Is the International Community prepared to bare the cost if we lose that revenue? Lets see. Right now our hearts go out to our fellow Kenyan’s most affected by hard times – those who shoulder the greatest burden in living side by side with wild animals and in facing up to terrorism.

A smile and a wave is a language we all understand and when it comes to its visitors Kenyan’s offers them a hearty welcome in tandem with an unforgettable safari experience - regardless of where in the world you come from. We need you all. And that is the point? We are all connected – we need to set aside our differences and pull together. If we are serious about saving the worlds wildlife be it elephants or rhinos, pandas or lions we won’t do it without collective action. It’s time for people to think about their first safari – or their next one - and to remind us why they ‘Love Kenya’. I know why I do. How about you?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Responsible Tourism

Saturday was a special day. One which we will remembered.
320 people gathered together. They had one thing in common: they all earn a salary from conservation.
They are the 70 employees of Campi ya Kanzi and the 250 ones of Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust.
101 community rangers, and the Trustees

MWCT and Campi ya Kanzi teams!
Antonella and I came the first time to Kuku Group Ranch in October 1995. nearly 20 years ago... time flies...

We would have never dreamt, even in the wildest fantasy, that one day more than 300 people would have been engaged in the responsible tourism we were so keen to implement.

We are very grateful to all who have made this possible. The Maasai who accepted us as their partners and built with us the lodge, the agents and guests who chose to make it part of their safari, the supporters of the Trust.
The 320 people who work with us, to create a better future for their land and their kids.
And to all who are coming here to enjoy what we have created.

We have gone a long way and we intend to walk this path not only for years to come, but for generations to come!
Sarijore Parashina and Lucrezia Namunyak Belpietro

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Air safari final update

May 17 and 18
A great flight over the Lenyati channel and the Chobe river took us to Livingstone.

The falls are massive at this time of the year and we had another fantastic scenic flight over them.

Royal Chundu is the perfect place to be pampered.
The Zambezi river is really high and impressive, lovely to be sleeping in an amazing room over it! Some of us reached Royal Chundu with an amazing helicopter flight over the falls and over the river.
The afternoon was spent with a charming cruise over the Zambezi, we had our sundwoners just few feet away from Zimbabwe, watching baboons and warthogs and enjoying the massive flow of the Zambezi river.

The next day was spent enjoying different activities: some of us took a walk with cheetahs and lions, at a rescue center: others went for a walk over the falls and the adventurous ones decided to do a bungee jump!

Antonella and Luca went for a picnic over an island of the Zambezi river, super romantic!



May 19 and 20
Today we needed to fly from the Southern end of Zambia to its Northern end. It took Livinsgtone nearly a year, for us is a 3 and ½ hours flight… We are at Shiwa Ngandu (the royal crocodile). Impossible to explain the charme and the history of this fairy place. Stewart Gore-Browne was assigned by the colonial service to identify and draw the boundaries between Congo and the then called Northern Rhodesia (today’s Zambia). He did so from 1911 to 1914, but got fired for his very voiced concerns of colonial wrong doings. He walked from the North of Rodhesia to Dar el Salaam, in today’s Tanzania, then called Tanganyka. He fell in love with a valley under hills, cut in two by a river which creates the Shiwa Ngandu lake. The lake was infested by crocodiles and nobody lived near it. He applied for the land and the chiefs were happy there was an interest in such a disregarded place. From 1914 till 1932 he built an amazing mansion. See it here in all its magnificence (and Ely, the pet Eland!)


 Stewart was very involved in politics and did all he could to give the natives proper political representation. Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of Zambia, was his friend. Just before independence Kenneth lived at Impandala, a guest house in Shiwa Ngandu. It is in that house that he drafted the Declaration of Independence.
We spent two magical days at Shiwa, looking for sitatunga and letchwe, eland and sable. A truly magical place.


May 21 and 22
A three legs flight brought us from Zambia to Tanzania, flying over Malawi. We are in the extensive Ruaha National Park. A massive ecosystem (45,000 square km!) where the flora and fauna of Southern Africa and East Africa meet. 560 birds species, lesser and greater Kudu, Roan and Sable antelopes, wild dogs, and the biggest population of lions in Africa.


We are camped on the banks of the Mwagusi river, a tributary to the Great Ruaha river. The camp is lovely, very much into the traditional safari style we so love.

Roaring lions greeted us into camp, and so did grazing elephants, just few feet away from our tents.
A game drive over the Mwagusi river gave us  one of the most spectacular sundowner of the trip.


At night we put at test our UV light, with which skorpios glow: see the good finding...

Next morning elephant and lions woke us up for a great game drive. We were fortunate to see a leopard on the river bank of the Ruaha, and lesser kudu, and elephants swimming across the river, and 30 running slender mongoose…
The vegetation is amazing, with forests of baobab, spred with doum palms.



May 23 and 24
A spectacular flight brought us from Ruaha to Serengeti, over the migration. Indescribable! Animals were everywhere, in their thousands. Herds and herds of wildebeests, with their young calves, all born in February. We landed at Grumeti, cross the river and drove to our fly camp, Ubuntu. Simply set under acacia trees the camp has a fabulous view of the plains and of the migrating wildebeests. We could hear the incessant grunting of the old males, trying to defend their moving territory. The day and a half went by too quickly and the most amazing experience was at the airstrip, on our departure. Hundreds of male gnu were constantly "broadcasting" their "gnu, gnu, gnu". A concert as we have never heard before, with the sun rising. Magical...


May 25, 26, 27 and 28
Flying over the Serengeti, the Maasai Mara and then the Chyulu Hills was the most dramatic flight of our 5,700 miles journey. We saw the migration, we saw hundreds of buffalo in the Mara, we flew in the canyons of the Rift Valley and, finally, arrived in the lush pastures of the Chyulu Hills, our home. 3 weeks over Africa, seeing the most amazing places and yet the Chyulu were the most beautiful sight of the entire trip!


We celebrated Sheri's birthday with a surprise cave dinner, inviting the chief of the new age set of warriors. It was a blast, with the Maasai carrying on dancing and entertaining themselves for the entire evening. The next day a great walk in the Chyulu made all happy, as it was the first chance in three weeks to have a proper game walk. We surprised our ladies by having the horses up in the forest and we all rode back to camp: fantastic!
Yesterday, the 27th, was spent on safari: 50 elephants, 300 elands, 70 giraffes... was the partial count of the morning game drive. The afternoon saw us going to Okoikuma, our favourite lookout hill. We started this amazing safari with 6 lions, we ended it with the biggest leopard we have ever seen! He walked next to our car for a good 10 minutes. What a great omen...

And this morning we had a bush breakfast, after a horse back ride. A magical and unforgettable safari, over 6 different African Countries. 5,700 miles flown in 3 weeks.
Is farewell time and we see our friends leaving now, with sadness, but the joy of already being planning the next adventure is of great consolation.
24 days of the most amazing safari adventure... thank you for having joined it to all the participants, thank you to all the friends who followed us on the blog!

Until the next mad plan!...



A Once in a Lifetime Ceremony...

At the beginning of this month, we were incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to witness one of the rarest Maasai ceremonies in history...

The current Maasai warrior  age set was being appointed a chief. A ceremony such as this one happens approximately every 15 to 20 years. A truly remarkable opportunity to not only be around to witness, but to invited to be a part of!

The ceremony began at sunrise and lasted a mere few minutes. The purpose of the ceremony was to bless the new chief his power! He was walked into the compound of the manyatta (where the warriors are living), surrounded by hundreds of people. As you can see below, it was nearly impossible to capture a photo of the blessing due to the number of people surrounding the new chief. He was blessed with the gifts of a traditional stool (to sit on when he is having a meeting with the warriors), and a "rungu" (talking stick/chief stick - in which he will hold when he is hosting meetings, showing others than he has the power to speak).


The blessing was done by an elder from the community, who also happened to be one of our guides here at Campi ya Kanzi - Pashiet! He was chosen to complete this blessing due to his wisdom, and dedication to the local community. 

The blessing was a very quick process. The new chief was then swept away into his home, to relax, and speak with elders who would provide him with wisdom throughout this special day.


The morning continued with hours of dancing, singing, festivities, and gift giving! Hundreds of warriors gathered from all over the Group Ranch, as well as much further areas. 


The kudu horn was blown throughout the morning and could be heard miles away
We were fortunate enough to enter into the home of the new chief where he was relaxing with a few of his fellow warriors and elders. We were able to provide him with kind words of congratulations, and had the chance to ask his a few questions. When asked what the main message was going to be the main message that he communicated to his fellow warriors - he replied with an overwhelming passion in regards to respect. He wanted his warriors to first respect him as their leader, and then to learn to respect the environment, the wildlife, and the wilderness in which they are a part of.

Mamas from neighbouring villages present gifts by walking into the manyatta singing

There are not many words to describe the energy at this celebration. Fortunately, pictures are able to capture the vibrant colours, the joy of celebration, and the uniting concept of community on this special day in the Maasai history of this community. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Okavango

May 15 and 16
Imagine flying low level from the dry Makgadikgadi pan to the lush and green Okavango delta. What a contrast!

For us used to the green hills of Africa the lush is not a surprise, but the water everywhere certainly is. We flew over elephant, zebra, oryx, buffalo, hippo… in less than an hour we were at Chobe. Savuti camp is nicely nestled on the Savuti channel, among the trees: lovely.


The afternoon drive delivered a thrilling encounter with three lion brothers. Very up close, for some guests even a little bit too close!
The next morning a great game drive in between the Savuti and the Selinda provided a bunch of new species for most of our guests: Letchwe, Kudu, Roan, Tsessebe, Honey Badger. We saw many elephants and even more hippos, in the unusual setting of the Okavango. The afternoon was spent scouting the channel by boat. We love surprises… a bush dinner under an amazing starry sky ended a perfect day. Photos speaks for themselves…