Nairobi Animal Orphanage: Championing Conservation Through Rehabilition

Nairobi  Animal Orphanage is situated  in the Nairobi National park. According to the Kenya Wildlife Society, it serves as a treatment and rehabilitation centre for animals. The Orphanage is home to lions, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, serval cats, rare Sokoke cats, warthogs, leopards,  monkeys, baboons, buffalo. and various  bird species. Each animal and bird at the orphanage has its own unique life story.  A story that will either inspire the spirit of wildlife conservation in you or simply entertain you. Here below are real stories  of 7 animals at the orphanage.

  1. Lioness Sarah Tumaini

Sarah is undoubtedly the most famous living lioness in Kenya. On 28th June, 2014, the United Nation’s Secretary general−Ban Ki Moon visited the animal orphanage specifically to meet her.  Patrick, her caretaker, allowed her to play with the secretary general. She did not disappoint him. So thrilled was the UN’s boss that he christened her, Tumaini, a Swahili name that literally translates to ‘hope.’ Sarah was further adopted by the secretary general  not only to symbolize his solidarity in conservation with Kenyans but also as  a sign of hope that animals and humans can co exist in harmony.

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  1. Jan the Warthog

Animal keepers , Robert and Mutuku,  received  a report from people at Langa’ta Hospital about a baby warthog all on his own. When they went to the site, they advised the people to keep watch that night to see if the mother retuned. She didn’t, so the next day, 8th October, 2014, they collected the fragile, tiny piglet and brought her to the Nursery where she required special care. Mama orphanage named  her  Jan and with Patrick and Lawrence, helped look after her.

Jan grew stronger daily and loved all the attention, especially being fed from her milk bottle. She refused to eat porridge  from a dish even when she was several months old. She played outside  during the day and slept in a pen at night. One evening in August 2015, she refused to get into her shelter. Patrick had quite a time chasing her.  The following day, Jan was transferred to a bigger enclosure.  Currently, Jan is delighted with her home. Every evening,  Partrick  puts Jan to her soft bed of hay.

 

  1. Monkey Benin

On 31st January 2005, Kenya wildlife service officers confiscated an illegal shipment of primates in transit to Cairo. There were six chimpanzees and several monkeys. The chimps were taken to Ol Pejeta while the monkeys found a home at the Animal Orphanage. Benin was one of the saved monkeys. She  is playful and easy-to-like.  “She was moved here from our  Monkey village so that she can watch visitors entering the orphanage,’’ explains Joshua, her Custodian. However, the delightful lady can  become mischievous and visitors are warned against getting her attention by holding up objects in front of her.

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  1. Leopard Talek

Talek is the pride and joy of Nairobi orphanage.  He was brought to the orphanage on 11th September,2006   at a tender age of 2 weeks.  Dai, a passer -by,  found her all alone near the Masai Mara Talek gate. He informed the Narok council and the KWS authorities. It was later decided that  the  weak and pitifully-crying leopard cub  be brought to the Animal  Orphanage for hand-rearing. He drank milk from a bottle every four hours and soon began eating steak mince.

Now, at the age of 11, Talek is powerfully-built and friendly

 

 

  1. Sokote cats: Mr Anabuko and Mrs Sokoke

A set of Sokoke cats occupy the fifth enclosure of Nairobi Animal Orphanage. Slender, hard-muscled trunk and long legs  give them  the appearance of  skilled predators.  Their coats are single-layered ,dense and  have blotched tabby pattern with ticked hair occurring in shades of brown. The cats heads are  flat at the top with rounded ears and almond-shaped slightly slanted green eyes.

The pair  of cats were brought  to the orphanage in March  2003  from  Mt Kenya Safari Ranch where Don Hunt breeds  them. According to their caretakers, the two cats were wild during their early days at the orphanage. They would spit at their caretakers and slap them with their paws. However, within a month, they became friendly.

Mrs Sokoke likes  to sit at the roof of their house to watch visitors while Mr Anabuko  derives pleasure in rubbing himself against his custodians and standing on his hind legs for attention. “They know the voices of those of us who take care of them, and when they hear us talk nearby, they call out to us,’’says one of their caretakers.

  1. Cheetah Derrick

In July 2014, a sick 3-week-old cheetah from Wajir was admitted to Nairobi Animal Orphanage. To save his life, he was accorded specialist medical attention for several months. Derrick cried sometimes during the painful injections but as time advanced he seemed to understand that he was being helped to recover.

On the eve of his 1st Birthday, Derrick was moved  from the Animal Nursery to his present enclosure where he lives peacefully with two other cheetahs−Danny and Diane.

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  1. Peace the Serval Cat

Peace was brought to the Animal Orphanage on 25th June, 2010 when he was less than two months old. He readily took milk from a baby bottle. Mewa, his caretaker, gave him a blanket, hot water bottle and a soft toy. As  Peace continued growing, he developed interest in watching other animals when he went out to play and never cried when he was put to bed at night.

Now fully-grown, Peace does not mind being held but cannot stay still

Hotel Review: After 40 Hotel

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Located along Biashara street, After 40 hotel captures the essence of Nairobi-combining international sophistication and African cultural creativity.

The 10-floor hotel stylishly blends African art with luxurious accommodation to create an oasis of tranquility in the heart of Nairobi’s CBD. Offering state-of-the-art interiors combined with efficient service for all guests, the  hotel has 63 exquisitely furnished and air-conditioned  rooms and suites. The style of each room is a testament to world-class comfort and functionality. From a choice of pillows to surround-sound high definition TVs and high speed internet.

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Conference rooms are tailored to specific needs-from small private events to larger conferences. Each conference room is fitted with modern audio-visual equipments and connected to high-speed Wifi. Event planning is always tailored to what customers require and the hotel’s team makes sure that business is always a pleasure.

After 40 hotel brings the crème de la crème of modern food and drink to life, to indulge the inner gourmet. World class chefs deliver authentic cuisine, created to the highest standards. Guests can partake coffee and snacks at the coffee shop on the ninth floor or simply visit the restaurant at the tenth floor to indulge their taste buds in a memorable experience.

After 40 is defined by its service, which is always effortless, personal and genuine. Its standards are uncompromising, fast and unobstructive. Beyond that, the hotel’s service is also about providing the unexpected: the little details, the fine touches that leave guests feeling well cared for and special.

A Date With Nature at the Nairobi Safari Walk

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings”-Moslih Eddin Saadi.

safari-1After a 20-minute- ride in a matatu from Nairobi’s bus station, I am finally here at the entrance of Nairobi Safari walk. It is 1pm but the sun’s big eye is shut.  Thick grey clouds are hanging dangerously above my head. On my left, stands Nairobi national park’s gate, almost shadowing the view of Nairobi animal orphanage. A group of 3 foreigners, speaking animatedly in Australian accent are taking too long at the reception. One of them, a loud man with heavy make-up and feminine moves is raising eyebrows from onlookers. My patience is on trial. I am tempted to change my mind.  Unlike  Nairobi animal orphanage and the national park, very little has been written about Nairobi Safari Walk.

“I came here on a mission to ‘discover,’’’ I reassure myself as I force my way past the Australians, Kenyan style.  The ticketing officer, lifts his face to meet my gaze. I  am expecting a growl or a bark from his no-nonsense face. “Hallo,’’ I attempt to break the tension. “Hallo, welcome to Nairobi Safari walk. Are you a Kenyan citizen?’’ he asks in a calm voice. I nod. “You will pay Ksh 215,’’ he says. I display my national identity card and part with Ksh 500. Impressed by his professionalism , I ask him to keep change but he politely declines the offer.

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Distant lion roars and birds chirping and swooping in the air, welcome me in style. I am almost breathless and quite scared of walking on the raised  wooden boardwalk. However, the further I walk, the less tense I become. I hear sharp cracking noise ahead of me. I stop, listen intently, look left and right but there is nothing. I walk cautiously, conscious of the danger of the wild. Eureka! There are pigmy hippos grazing a few metres from me. They look healthy and undisturbed by my presence.  The ecosystem around here is wetland with large masses of water lilies. Not far from the hippos, lies an adult Nile crocodile, eyes closed and mouth wide  open. I guess he must have had a very heavy lunch.

The adventurous spirit in me urges me to move ahead. I grab my camera and photograph them. From the corner of my right eye, I see a rungu wielding Masaai man approaching me. Startled, I freeze on the ground. We exchange formal greetings and he offers to show me around.  “Why is that crocodile asleep?’’ I ask him in Kiswahili.  He laughs and dares me to jump into its enclosure to find out whether its asleep or alert.

“Is the whole habitat of Nairobi Safari walk a wetland?’’ I ask my host. ‘‘No. We are transiting onto Savannah environment,” he says pointing at a rock hyrax. A white signpost stands at the edge of the trail. It bears pictures  of three rock hyrax and an elephant. “Hyrax and elephants are cousins,’’ reads the signpost in part, “The 2kg rock hyrax is a distant cousin to the 1200kg elephant. Forty million years ago, there was a beast called moeritherium. The hyrax and the elephant  can both be traced back to this ancient ancestor.’’

“This is just the beginning of pleasure,’’ the tour guide accelerates my adrenaline. “What next!’’ I exclaim. ‘’Be calm and follow me.’’ I trail behind the Maasai warrior, passing a number of colourful signposts and diverse indigenous  tree species. From a distance, I can spot an endangered rhinoceros grazing. Not far from the rhino are herds of zebra, antelopes and a proud ostrich−a lone bird amid grazers.

 

Growls rent the air accompanied by purrs.  I follow into the footsteps of my host without uttering a word. We enter a medium-sized shelter with walls made of glass.  Outside, a restless big cat, I guess it is a cheetah, is purring . “Is that  a cheetah or a leopard?’’ I break the silence. “It is a cheetah. The main difference between the two is that  cheetahs have a tear line running from the inside of their eye to the mouth while leopards lack that feature.’’ Beaming with satisfaction, I hand my camera to the guide and request him to take photos of me.  I pose like Usain Bolt in front of the fastest animal on earth, smiling sheepishly.  Bang! A loud noise on the glass wall awakens all the demons in my head. I yell and jump in the air. My host is busy laughing like a hyena and capturing that awkward moment on camera. I gasp and look behind me. The cheetah is hitting the wall with its head. ‘’That glass wall is stronger that what you imagine. Not even an elephant can break it.’’

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Scared blogger yelling at the top of his voice as the restless cheetah hit the wall

I force a short laughter.”Time to leave,’’ I mumble. “Not before viewing  river Mokoyet,’’ my host cuts me short. ‘’As you say,’’ I respond leading the way, unaware of the exact location of the river. The clouds have scattered and the sun is partially exposed. I hum to myself Reuben James, hoping that the clouds will scatter further.

We are at the end of the boardwalk. Below us, river Mokoyet flows silently.  I whistle. A scared dik-dik hops to the bush. A  buffalo materializes from the forest and drinks water. Next to  the buffalo, are mating oryx gazelles. ‘’There is love in the wild,’’ my guide comments . ‘’And I am in love  with the wild,’’ I reply. “That’s lovely,’’ someone shouts from behind. I turn back. The three Australians are right behind us. The sissy loud dude is dancing− gyrating his hips and pointing at the mating gazelles with his lips. The burly man is holding his slim girlfriend in a tight embrace, taking selfies and chanting ‘that’s lovely’ after every 3 seconds.

Thank you Nairobi Safari Walk for showing me love.

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7 Wonders of Kenya

From the majestic Mt. Kenya to the pearly white sandy beaches at the coast , Kenya is indeed a paradise for holidaymakers. Here below is a list of 7 wonders of the world’s number one safari destination.

  1. Kituluni Hill(The Anti-gravity Hill)

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Kituluni hill, located 12 kilometres East of Machakos town, is the only place on earth where water flows uphill for 20 metres before changing its course at the peak of the hill. The same mysterious result has been reported on stationery vehicles whose engines have been switched off and parked at the side of the road, next to the hill. The vehicle moves up the hill at a speed of 5kph unaided for a distance of approximately 1 km.

The tarmac road that leads to Kituluni is punctuated with sharp turns and bends. Midway round the hill, irrespective of the driving speed, cars are usually jerked forward and suddenly accelerate without any visible change on the speedometer.

So far, no scientific study has been conducted to explain this rather bizarre phenomenon.

  1. Saiwa Swamp National Park.

oct-2Situated in Trans-nzoia county , 27 kilometres north of Kitale town , Saiwa swamp sits on 2.7 square kilometres of land, making it the smallest national park in Kenya. Despite its  size, the park is habitat  to rare and endangered  semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope, endangered debarazza monkey, bush bucks, giant forest squirrels, black and white colobus monkey, amphibians and reptiles. The park is also home to the grey crowned cranes and about 372 other bird species.

The park’s vegetation is a combination of riverine forests, grasslands, acacia, bulrushes and sedges.

Saiwa Swamp National Park is open daily(inclusive of weekends and public holidays) from 6:00 am to 6:00pm. The park entry fees are: Citizen adults Ksh 350, resident adults Ksh 600 while non residents are charged 25 USD for adults and 15 USD for children.

  1. The Great Rift Valley oct-3

It is the dream of every adventurous traveller to view the Great rift valley, a mega fault-line that covers approximately one sixth of the earth’s circumference. The Great rift valley  cuts across  Kenya from north to south. The valley’s floor is marked by lakes and volcanoes.  A perfect place to have a breath-taking view of the Great Rift valley is at the edge of the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, in Limuru. At this point, visitors will have a panorama view  of  the Great Rift valley with it’s vast vegetation.

This is a  scenic sight to behold that  will definitely turn any traveller to a poet.

  1. Mt Kenya

Mt. Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa after Mt. Kilimanjaro. The three main summits of the mountain are: Batian at 5199 metres above the sea level, Nelion at 5188 metres and point Lenana at 4985 metres. Mount Kenya has diverse vegetation from the base to the summit. Furthermore, the mountain has 12 remnant glaciers  that are receding rapidly. An area of 715 km2  within the centre of the mountain is gazzetted  National Park and as of 1997 it was listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mt. Kenya is  200km north of Nairobi and  can be  accessed by road from Nairobi to its nearest towns-Nanyuki and Meru. Travellers with keen interest in trekking and hiking are highly recommended to explore this destination.

  1. Lake Turkana oct-4

Situated in Northen Kenya, on  the floor of the Great rift valley, lake Turkana is the world’s largest permanent desert lake as well as the world’s largest alkaline lake in terms of volume. It is also the fourth largest salty lake in the world. The lake is home to about 50 species of fish that includes 11 endangered species such as Barbus turkanae and chichlids. Lake Turkana also contains a sizeable population of Nile crocodiles and large water turtles. On the Eastern shore of the lake, lies lake Turkana national park that is  listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

The East and West Shores of Turkana  are separated by the wide Suguta valley. The east shore of the lake  can be accessed through  Maralal and Marsabit  to Loyangalani whereas the west shore can be reached via Kitale to Lodwar. Both shores have airstrips. Generally, it is a two day journey on road from Nairobi to either of the shores.

  1. DIANI BEACHdiani

Diani  beach is a composition of  immaculate-white sand hugging the turquoise  waters of the  mighty Indian Ocean. Located 30 kilometres south of Mombasa in Kwale county, the beach is 10 kilometres long.  The water is always shallow near the shore.  Underwater sandbars near the surface easen wading. From the beach, visitors  can have a clear  view of the extensive palm trees that cover the coastal region.

An airstrip is situated near the beach, off the Mombasa-Lungalunga road.

  1. KAKAMEGA RAIN FORESToct-7

Kakamega  rain forest is Kenya’s only tropical forest. It sits in the heart of western Kenya in the counties of Kakamega and Kisumu. Kakamega forest is a paradise of birds. 367 species of birds have been spotted in the forest. Wildlife that live in the park include the tree pangolin, bush pig, duikers, mongoose, giant African water shrew, squirrels, porcupine, bushbuck among many others. The park’s Flora is diverse and includes indigenous African soft woods as well as hardwoods such  as the Elgon teak, red and white stinkwood.

Visitors can access the forest through the Southern part at Isechano Forest station that is run by the Kenya Forest Service. There is a well-defined network  of walking and hiking trails  in the forest. The park entry fees are as follows: Non citizens  Ksh 600,  residents  Ksh 400  while Kenya citizens  pay Ksh200 per day.

Nairobi Railway Museum: Treasury of Kenyan History

Visiting the Nairobi Railways museum means stepping back in time and sideways into reality. One in which exhibits forming part of Kenya’s history are held. Where artefacts, photographs and old furniture lie in polished galleries while locomotives as old as 100 years stand distinctively at the museum’s yard.

“It is not uncommon for a country to create a railway, but it is uncommon for a railway to create a country,’’ the words of Sir Charles Eliot in 1903,displayed a few inches past the entrance to the galleries, highlight the co-relationship between the construction of the Uganda railway and the creation of a country−Kenya.

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The idea of a railway came into fruition in the late 1880s when both Germany and Britain had acquired territories in the East African region. Both colonies began to actively survey routes from the coastal region to Lake Victoria. As the Germans worked on the line from Tanga to Mt Kilimanajaro the British surveyed a route from Mombasa. In December 1895, George Whitehouse stepped ashore in Mombasa and in May 1896, the first rails were laid of the project that would become known as the ‘Lunatic line.’ Its name was coined in a speech in London concerning the ever increasing costs of what appeared to be a futile exercise.

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It was later formally named the Uganda Railway, which remained in use until 1926, when it was renamed the Kenya Uganda railway. In 1948 the Tanganyika Railway and the Kenya Uganda Railway amalgamated to form East African Railways and Harbours. When the three countries separated in 1977, the lines from Mombasa to the Tanzania and Uganda borders became Kenya Railways.

MUSEUM GALLERIES
The galleries hold an array of principal items used during the pre and post construction period of the Kenya Uganda railway lines. Some of the most outstanding features include an extraordinary bench seat that used to be fit above the cowcatcher of the train to allow distinguished travellers on the lunatic line(modern day Kenya Railways) an excellent view of Kenya’s magnificent flora and fauna. Among such dignitaries were former American president Theodore Roosevelt and the Prince of Wales.

The Kenya Railways Permanent Way Inspector Bicycle Trolley is another item of interest that seem to have defied the test of time. It was introduced by the railway administration in the early thirties as an experiment to provide a quick inspection rather than the slow method of inspection by push, where three to four men together with the trolley and the inspector would proceed out in line. The inspector Bicycle Trolley had a number of limitations. For instance, during dry weather, one could proceed cautiously , but when the rail head was wet, and travelling around sharp curves, the back wheel would often slip off.

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A visit at the museum galleries is incomplete without viewing the historic plaque commemorating Kenya Uganda Railway’s exhibit at the British Empire exhibition in London in the year 1925 and the complete set of dining furniture recovered from the German warship S.M.S Konisberg after it was sunk in Rufiji delta south of Dar-es-Salaam in 1914 early in the first world war by a British task force. Further on inside the museum is the ship’s compass binnacle from the ‘William McKinnon’, first passenger steam ship to sail upon Lake Victoria after it had been transported in pieces from Mombasa in 1900.

THE OPEN-AIR STATIC DISPLAY
The pride of the Kenya Railways Museum lies at the yard where old locomotives are on display. The oldest coach, labeled Exhibit 7 was built in 1899 as a first class coach. Its claim to fame is that it was the coach from which an unfortunate Superintendent of Police, Charles Ryal was dragged by a lion at Kima station, 80 kilometres from Nairobi in June 1900. This incident has been portrayed in book form, The Man Eaters of Tsavo and also in film, The Ghost and the Darkness.

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Mountain Class locomotive display at the exhibition represents the ultimate development of steam traction in East Africa and was the most powerful metre-gauge locomotive gauge ever built. Chief Mechanical Engineer H.W Bulman had to solve a problem after the second world war: very large amounts of freight on offer, but limited line capacity to move it. He solved it by turning the design logic of the Beyer Garratt on its head. The articulated chassis to cope with sharp curves was retained, but instead of keeping the weight per axle as low as possible so the locomotive could go on any track, Bulman asked for the largest and heaviest design that the main track from Mombasa to Nairobi could withstand.

The museum possesses two further steam locomotives which have been restored to full working order by a team of retired Kenya Railways engineering staff. They are used to haul occasional tourist excursions and are stored at the Central Workshops. It is possible to view these locomotives by advance appointment.

BONUS
 The museum is situated in downtown Nairobi, adjacent to the railway station.
 It is open Monday to Sunday including public holidays from 8:00am to 4:45pm
 Entry fee is: Non Residents Ksh 600, East Africans Ksh 500, Citizens Ksh 200.
 There are two art galleries at the museum

7 Places to Visit at the Nairobi National Museum

Nairobi National  Museum  sits on museum hill, approximately ten minutes drive from the city centre. Travellers keen in learning Kenya’s diverse culture and rich history will find the museum resourceful. Here below is a list of 7 interesting places, among many others, to visit at the museum.

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Entrance to Nairobi National Museum.

  1. Botanical Garden

The garden is artistically laid out in thematic displays that integrate Kenya’s natural, historical and cultural heritage with plants and habitat displays.  The demonstration garden contains indigenous medicinal plants that were collected throughout Kenya. Currently, the garden is home to some 600 indigenous and 100 exotic plant species and cultivars growing in 11 of the proposed 16 thematic displays.   Located in a tranquil environment, adjacent to the mighty Nairobi river, visitors will not only have a rare breath-taking moment  to interact with nature , away from the  hustles and bustles of the city, but also learn about various plants, their  habitats as well as adaptations.

 

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A section of the botanical garden.

  1. Birds of East Africa Exhibit

East Africa is one of the world’s richest  regions in terms of bird species diversity, with a record of over 1,300 species.  Most of these are readily available in the exhibit−a display of regularly  occurring species as well as endangered ones . Some of the 8 Kenyan endemics are exhibited too.

Visitors will have an easy time in the gallery since distinguishing characters of each species are enumerated on its accompanying label together with a brief description of geographical locations where the bird exists.

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  1. Mammals: The Race for Survival

In this gallery, visitors will find out why some mammals look similar but are unrelated and others look  different but are related.

The most outstanding feature in this gallery is the gigantic skeleton of elephant  Ahmed who lived in Marsabit in Northern Kenya. Ahmed was, and still is, famous because of his large and beautifully proportioned tusks. In 1960s, elephant poaching became rampant in Kenya. Concerns were raised about Ahmed being a possible target of poachers. In 1970, in order to protect him from poachers, the then  President of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, placed the Elephant under his protection by presidential decree, an unparalleled occurrence in the history of the country and the only Elephant to be declared a living monument. The giant was watched over day and night by two hunters against poachers.  In addition, Ahmed received protection from two bull elephants who remained by his side. To date, Ahmed is the only wild animal in Kenya to receive such protection

In 1974, Ahmed died a natural death at the age of 55 years. President Jomo Kenyatta decreed that  his remains should be preserved for future generations to learn.

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  1. Nairobi Snake Park

Nairobi snake park exhibits live snakes; invertebrates like giant snails, baboon spider , Mombasa train millipede, crayfish, freshwater prawns and vertebrates like fish both marine and fresh water, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The park  also offers  services such as rescue and rehabilitation for reptiles (abandoned, confiscated, illegal collection), dissemination of information on aquarium fish and reptiles as well as specialized talks on the same.

To date, the Snake Park  continues to assist  Nairobi residents in rescuing their residential areas by removing spotted house snakes as well as providing advice on how to reduce possible snakebites within homesteads. Snake identification service is also provided.

 

  1. Early Human Fossils Discovered in Kenya

The fossil bones in this section are the single most important collection of early human fossils in the world, all of which have been discovered in Kenya. They provide vital information about our distant ancestors. For instance, how did they think? How similar are they to us? Why did one line develop into modern humans while others died out?

The discovery of each of these fossils was a major event which could make the reputation of scientists or overthrow existing ideas about the origins of man. Each one of these has been studied in minute detail for many years and has generated numerous scientific papers and articles in popular magazines, blogs and newspapers.

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  1. The Legacy of Joy Adamson Exhibition

This exhibition reflects on Joy Adamson’s  contribution in the conservation of  Kenya’s natural and cultural heritage. The exhibition chronicles the work that won Joy international acclaim as an illustrator, conservationist and author. This exhibition, showcasing  copies of Joy Adamson’s water colour paintings, is a celebration, not only of the illustrator and conservationist herself but also of  the diversity of Kenya’s culture and natural  environment.

Joy was murdered in January 1980, possibly by poachers. Her body was discovered in Shaba national reserve by her assistant, Peter Morson. The remains of Joy were cremated and the ashes spread over the graves of her lion and cheetah.

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Joy, the legendary queen of conservation, bonding with a lioness.

 

  1. Cycles of Life Gallery

Societies all over Africa mark stages of life differently. Although the ways in which such stages are marked differ, they form a cyclic rhythm that could generally be divided into childhood, youth, adulthood  and ancestor stages. Each stage is marked with particular ceremonies and rituals.

Cycles of Life gallery offers insights−through paintings, photographs, cultural objects and video clips− into the ways in which various Kenyan communities marked each stage.

 

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A photo of newly-initiated boys.

 

Bonus

  • The museum is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm including weekends and public holidays
  • The charges are: Ksh 300 for Kenyans, Ksh 600 for East Africans and Ksh 1500 for non-residents.
  • There is a gift shop and a restaurant within the confines of the museum.

A Traveller’s Guide to the Kenya National Archives

Cream, old and secluded, the Kenya National Archives, like a haunted house, stands desolate between Moi Avenue and Tom Mboya street. Around it, dozens of humans go about their business without worrying or caring about its existence. So little is known about the Kenya National Archives that its content and occupants have always been a subject of speculation. Only a handful of art enthusiasts, scholars and curious tourists appreciate the fact that the Kenya National Archives is a treasury of history and art.

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Well, are you ready to explore the Kenya National Archives  right now and demystify the myths about it? Here you go. Yours truly shall remain a committed tour guide.

You are standing right at the entrance. The trademark cacophony of competing sounds that define downtown Nairobi gets swallowed up by a deafening silence. A few metres from the main door, a plaque bearing the image of the late hon Joseph Murumbi -Kenya’s second vice president and committed art lover- together with his biographical information will  usher you to the ground floor. Move closer to the plaque and read about the late but great  Hon Murumbi. As you read the plaque, you will realize that the space around you is filled with artefacts collected by the person you are reading about.

Lift your head and look here and there. Ancient art is at its best. You will be spoilt for choice but don’t be overwhelmed. Move forward. Ahead of you, there is a small compartment, the size of a pitched camping tent. Enter it. Therein, lies Swahili artefacts. The Khanga will be the first item to embrace your eyes. These are rectangular cotton clothes, printed in bold multi-coloured designs, with Swahili proverbs inscribed on them. Khangas, you will realize, have been in existence in Swahiliphone Africa since the 1900s and remain popular for their many uses.

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Next to the Khanga, you will spot ancient Swahili  side-blown trumpets carved of wood. Literature below the trumpets will reveal to you that during the 17th and 18th centuries, two of the finest trumpets, each measuring at least two metres long were produced-and are currently in existence at Lamu museum.

Drift your eyes northward and ancient Swahili jewelry will dangle right in front  of you: gold and rhino horn necklaces historically worn by married Swahili women  and majasi silver ear plugs worn by both the married and  unmarried women.

Exit the compartment and turn left. An array of gourd and calabash art are on display. Take a close look. Wakamba gourds –designed with variations of triangles, concrete circles, diamonds, spears and arrows- stand out. According to historians, the gourd paintings have a cultural connotation. For instance, the circles represent Mt. Kilimanjaro, which the Kamba consider their ancestral home while the arrows and spears stand for wealth.

Adjacent to the art of gourds and calabashes, sculptures carved from the lost wax technique-an ancient art in Africa-will definitely scream at your eyes. They include an Ashanti king and queen playing oware (an abstract game of pit and pebbles played worldwide but believed to be of Ashanti origin), a Bobo king  from Mali seated on his throne, an African hunter spearing a crocodile among many others.

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Turn back and take a slow walk towards the stairs as you admire paintings from Mozambique, ancient Nigerian masks, Ethiopian orthodox church garments and stone carvings from the Kissi of Siera- leone and the Kisii of Kenya. As you get closer to the flight of stairs, decelerate and take your time to scrutinize colourful traditional African fabrics from West and Central Africa spread on the wall. You shall be glad to learn that Kente-Ghanaian textile woven by men on a combination of narrow hand and foot looms- used to be traditionally worn by  the Ashanti royalty for ceremonial occasions such as coronations and weddings.

Beside the Kente, you will spot Bakolanfini/mud cloths from Mali, embellished with designs painted in earth. Historians have established that Bakolanfini was worn by hunters , serving as camourflage and as a badge for adulthood status for newly-initiated women.

Now you are ready to go upstairs. Scale the stairs at a speed of your choice. At the first floor, there is a small room in front of you. That’s a reservoir of official government publications, holding at least 4000 volumes. Enter the room, and see Kenya’s past  through the eyes of biographers, journalists and academic writers. You are not done, yet. Walk to the next door. Once inside, you will unconsciously travel down history highway aboard a collection of  pan African stamps, photos of the three Kenyan presidents that you won’t find anywhere else and detailed images portraying traditional African practices such as Kikuyu dental surgery.

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Once you feel your eyes have eaten to their fill, give yourself a gentle pat on the back and walk with a slight swagger to the lounge at the third floor.  Occupy a seat, place your left leg on top of your right leg, fold your hands in front of your chest and listen to yourself as you formulate an  exit plan

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