Monday mornings are not the most exciting times of the week and with the prospect of a morning full of meetings, one doesn’t expect v much of great excitement to happen. Having said that, since our meeting ‘room’ is on the flat roof of the centre with a makuti (palm frond) roof over our heads and a great view of the Indian Ocean from it, I’ve in fact got quite a healthy species list of birds that I’ve seen during meetings from there! Stanley & Roni were having a brief meeting pre-Monday Morning Meeting (weekly staff planning meeting) up on top and I went up just to check something with them… As I was talking a movement caught my eye beyond and above them – a huge black bird with long sharply angled wings giving it a keenly rakish feel was hanging in the sky only about 100m away at tree-top level.. a frigatebird!!! Chaos erupted as I charged downstairs shouting for binoculars and a garbled message to others to come and see. I grabbed the bins and galloped back up to the top to see if it was in sight – marvel of marvels it was and not just that but it turned as if spinning on a dime and effortlessly drifted back along the shoreline to pass right overhead about 70ft high giving stunning, nay – ‘crippling’ views, as they say, of what must be one of the most spectacular birds of the oceans!
The bird was clearly a young one from its off-white head and white breast patch which we carefully noted did not extend onto the underneath of the wings thus making it a Greater Frigatebird, not a Lesser – which is the rarer of the two. However even Greaters are not exactly common as this is probably only the 6th frigatebird I’ve seen in 11 years though I know others have been reported on occasion. They are very much the pirates of the oceans mostly snatching their food off terns which they bully to make them regurgitate or drop the fish they’ve caught and then performing the most outrageous of aerobatics to catch the prey before it hits the water. They are totally the masters of the oceans air space and are a huge delight to just hang out and watch. God had some mega ideas when he designed those things!!
Stanley leading a session during the vision day
With impecable African timing Monday was the official start of the year for Arocha Kenya. With all the staff back from their summer breaks a day was put aside to discuss the aims and vision for the year. Topics such as team building, finance and administration, programme reports and the running of the guest house were included.
Christian values were also discussed and our Environmental Education Officer, Tsofa Mweni gave a word of encouragement to the group reading from the books of Psalms and Galatians in the bible. The whole team, including centre staff were involved which left the running of the kitchen to the volunteers for the day. I’m happy to say that meals arrived on time (almost) and were enjoyed by everyone – well done the team!
At a few minutes past midnight on Tuesday morning Mwamba was taken over by a Finish invasion. 16 students, their teachers and driver arrived from the University of Helsinki. They’re travelling each day to Arabuko Sokoke, Mida Creek and as far as Dakatcha Woodlands to study the local geography and botany.
Unfortunately, on the way here their car broke down outside Tsavo Park and they were delayed by several hours. It was a strange experience to go to bed only to be woken up a short while later by Laurence, our night watchman. Then we got busy serving up meat, rice and salad to a dining room full of travellers who were very tired but still hungry at midnight!
We’ll continue in the Mwamba tradition of welcoming guests from all over the world next week when a similar sized group arrives from the USA.
Hello and a Happy New Year to all our supporters.
Christmas has been a busy time at Mwamba, if my calculations are correct we had 30 people for Christmas dinner including staff, volunteers, pre booked guests and some last minute additions. We were so full that some people camped while others slept on the roof. There were 5 children aged 4 or under, and 6 different nationalities were represented. Between us we ate 5 whole chickens and a mountain of chapatis as well as plenty of other tasty dishes. If I had to summarise I’d say the time was exhausting but a lot of fun. Since the New Year things have quietened down but as I write most of the rooms are still occupied, let’s hope 2009 continues it’s begun…
In the sea on Christmas Day
Most of the ARK staff have either started or are about to start their long summer breaks now but Mwamba is far from quiet as December is set to be our busiest month for guests so far this year.
Our Centre Managers are about to go holiday but as they leave others are arriving to ensure a lively Christmas at the Centre. Rachel Blakey from Australia has been working with Colin at Tsavo West for 3 weeks bird ringing and she’s now arrived to complete her data entry on the project. She’ll also be helping around the centre where she can and has already made herself useful fixing bird bags and putting up tents.
Mercy Njeri, who normally works for Nature Kenya will be house sitting for the Kigens during December and also helping around the centre. Lispa, our caterer is working over the season and has family and friends visiting to keep her company. There are also 3 volunteers currently in residence. Finally, on Christmas day all the guests rooms will be taken at Mwamba, after a quiet start to the year we look foward to bursting at the seams! Happy holidays everyone :)
On Monday our regular visit from ‘Earthwatch’ commenced with 9 visitors from Kenya, the USA, and the UK. The team, from a variety of professions including teaching and zoo keeping are here to study Sykes Monkeys in the forest region around Gede Ruins. They have a particular interest in the difference in seed dispersion between those groups often fed by the tourists and those that are totally self sufficient and how this affects the sustainability of the forest itself. The group will stay with us for 10 days and are already making mealtimes more lively.
New volunteer, Rosalie arrived a week ago from the UK. For the next 3 months she will be taking over the blog entries from Julia as well as working on the e-news and newsletter but for now she’s just getting used to the sunburn!
“I decided to volunteer for ARK after I told a friend I wanted to do conservation work with other Christians. She told me about Arocha and they seemed to be the only Christian group who specifically did environmental work. I looked in an Arocha magazine and the first thing I saw was pictures of the turtles swimming off the coast here and I read about the beautiful coral reefs and I knew I had to come! I applied in hope not expecting Mwamba to take me as I have no conservation experience so was surprised and really excited when I heard in May that I was going. So far I have spent time adjusting to the climate and the culture and just learning how to get around (matatu, motorbike, taxi or tuk tuk). I have also been to a school with Tsofa, gone on a ‘crow count’ and visited Watamu Turtle Watch as part of my introduction. I’m hoping to improve my photography skills while I’m here by taking lots of pictures for ARK and learn more about web publishing as I work on the website for Mwamba. By the time I leave I should know a lot more about conservation too and maybe even some Swahili!”
On Thursday, while the rest of Kenya was celebrating ‘Obama Day’ at Mwamba we marked ‘Julia Day’ with a sumptuous feast on the rooftop. It was a sad day because Julia was leaving us after four months but a happy celebration of everything she’s done for Mwamba during her stay.
Since arriving on 9th July Julia has been involved in writing blog entries as well as taking photos for the blog. She was helpful in covering administration for Carol while she was away at her wedding and honeymoon. She has also been involved with ARK’s environmental education programme helping Tsofa with lessons in our Assets schools. This included organizing the Assets camp in August and the teachers’ seminar. She was a great help remembering to update our virus software and keep Mwamba’s computers virus free. She was always on the go around the centre helping with whatever she could from shopping to cleaning rooms.
We’re grateful for everything she did and will miss her a lot. We wish her well back in England and hope she’s successful in finding a new job soon. Keep in touch Julia!
Belinda, Henry and Ivy Kigen
The year was 1972 the 19th day of August, a boy was born in a tiny village in Kenya called Koisaram found in Koibatek District. The area is surrounded by hills that snake down to Lake Bogoria about 20km away famed for hot springs. This boy was named Henry Kipchirchir Kigen and this was me. I am the second born child and first born son to Grace and Jackson Kigen. There are eight more siblings born after me. My father was an accountant with the Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) while my mother was a house wife. We moved to Kitale where my Dad worked when I was still under one year. My early child-hood schooling was interrupted because Dad got transferred from one station to another. At some point my sister and I were left with our grandparents and started primary school in the rural area where I was born. We would write on the floor and if lucky share the few slates that were there. Most of the morning would be spent between class and play. Two years in school (Std 1&2) the best I could do was write my name do some simple sums but reading remained a mystery. It was not until 1981 that I started proper schooling in an urban setting in Nakuru .My dad then worked in the same town. I did my primary school at Mama Ngina, Kisanana Primary and later joined Moi High School – Kabarak for my secondary education. During the school holidays I would help my grandfather in herding the goats and cattle. It was here that I enjoyed the ‘luxury’ of sleeping on cowhide for a mattress after a long day in the field herding. After high school I joined Egerton University for my Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resources Management 1993-1997.
My hobbies include working with tools ranging from carpentry, mechanics, and electrical installation. I also love pets such as dogs & cats. I’m passionate about wildlife and conservation in general. I was a member of the Wildlife Club of Kenya during my school days.
My work experience includes working in Galana Ranch, a government ranch bordering Tsavo East National Park from the east. Galana Ranch the biggest in the country and the continent covering 1.5 million acres acted as an important buffer zone for the parks wildlife and the community. I worked here for close to 6 years as an ecotourism manager as well assisting in livestock activities. I later worked in Laikipia shortly before joining A Rocha Kenya as Centre Manager & based at Watamu Field Study Centre .This is where I work to date. I do enjoy my new job, interaction with people from diverse cultures as well as facing new challenges. Being involved in conservation activities and managing the Centre has been a great mix for me.
I’m married to Belinda and have a nine month daughter named Ivy Jerop. My wife and I work for the same organisation.
Hi, my name is Belinda Jepkosgei Kigen. I was born in Eldoret in 1974, June 3rd two days after Madaraka day is celebrated in Kenya.I am the last born child in a family of 4. We grew up on a farm in Njoro close to Nakuru in the Rift valley.My Primary and Secondary education was done at Hill school in Eldoret. It was challenging to be in boarding school at 5 ½ years. This helped me to be independent at an early age. While in both Schools, I was a member of Wildlife clubs, Art & Craft and cookery clubs. This tells clearly what my interests were and still are…After completing O levels, I did a course on Tours & Travel at Universal College in Nairobi. I did an apprenticeship at Sirikwa Hotel in Catering. With a liking for Business I have run a Christian gift & Bookshop for 5 years in between working for Keswick Books in 1998 & 2004. While attending service at Nairobi Baptist I was a member of the Crafts club mainly doing Embroidery (cross-stitch). I have also worked at Cana Publishing (now Word Alive) as an Administrative Assistant. My Hobbies include Stamp collecting, hiking, camping, and going for game drives and cookery. I met Henry in 2004 while working in Nairobi, got engaged in April 2005 and had our wedding the same year in October. Ivy Jerop, our daughter was born this year on Jan 17th. I joined Henry after our wedding where he had been working on the Government Ranch in Galana. Later, still with the same cooperation we moved briefly to Laikipia before joining A Rocha Kenya. While in Galana Ranch we heard that the Director for ARK was looking for a Christian couple they could work with. We applied for the job got invited for the interviews and here we are…from Last October 2007 we have been serving at Mwamba as the Centre Managers – from the cold of Mt. Kenya Region to the heat of the Coast. It is a wonderful experience learning to live in a community with people from diverse cultures. We enjoy the fellowship and the participation in Conservation work that A Rocha is involved with around the Mida Creek, Arabuko Sokoke Forest and the Sabaki River. We enjoy the opportunity we have, in a small way to be part of Assets & the Environmental Education programme, to make a difference not only in the child’s life but a whole community as well.
At the moment we have a very adventurous family staying with us. The De Groot’s from Holland have lived and worked in East Africa on and off for the past 15 years. Tanya and Robert together with their sons Jasper and Sander who are 10 and 12 are about to set off home for Holland in a specially converted truck. They plan to take three months and on the way visit Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Syria, Turkey and Greece. You can follow their journey at www.travelpod.com Robert and Tanya. Its nice to hear their story, especially because Robert and Tanya first met at Plot 28 when it was Mrs Simpson’s guest house. Robert is a very keen birder and the rest of the family love animals in general. The boys can be seen out at all times of day looking for snakes and other reptiles around our site. They have also done some excellent beach cleaning in the past couple of days.