Whitney and I just arrived back from a wonderful weekend at Kagamega Forest, Kenya’s only rain forest. I thought I would share a photographic tour of our journey to Kakamega, and some highlights from the trip.
The Journey to Kakamega
We left at 8am on Saturday morning toward the forest with four other short term missionaries from Tenwek (Steve – a resident from Duke, William – a medical student from Ghana/Ukraine, Comfort – a banker from Ghana, David – a medical resident from South Korea). Our drive initially took us past numerous tea fields, similar to what we posted about previously.
Our driver, Donald, had arranged for us to visit and tour a tea factory to learn how black tea was produced since the factory was on the way to the forest. We visited Chelal Tea Factory, where we were welcomed and treated to a excellent informational tour of the factory. Here are some pics and highlights from the factory:
We finished the tour at about 11am and met Donald at the car. We anticipated having another 2-3 hour drive prior to arriving at Kakamega. Unfortunately, we had some serious car trouble and could not get the car started. We ended up stranded at the Tea Factory for 2+ hours while awaiting for Donald to take a motorcycle taxi (called Boda Bodas) to a nearby town to purchase a part that was the suspected culprit. While waiting, we chatted with many of the friendly tea workers and learned more about Kenyan culture, traditions, politics etc. I was impressed with their incredible hospitality. Fortunately the car did eventually start, and we were back on our way.
The journey continues…
After getting back on the road, we drove through various small villages, past many dukas (small roadside stands selling produce or other basic supplies). The tea fields that dominate the Tenwek landscape became less prominent as we drove north, and were replaced by sugarcane as the dominant agriculture product. A few more pics…
Unfortunately, about an hour or so from Kakamega, our car stalled again and we had another 1+ hour delay. With the help of a local mechanic, we were able to get going again, although the delays made the trip a bit more exhausting. Once going again, we next drove through the Nandi Hills, which are the home to many of the famous, elite Kenyan distance runners. On this trip, we didn’t see too many runners…maybe they are all in London! Here are a few pics from the Nandi region:
Kakamega Rain Forest
Well, after a long journey, we arrived to Kakamega rainforest and I must say, it was well worth the wait. 400 years ago, this forest spread across much of the central belt of Africa, but with settlement, the forest largely disappeared. Kakamega is now a protected rainforest in Western Kenya featuring immense, ancient hardwood trees, an extensive network of vines, orchids, innumerable other plants, and a diverse array of butterflies, tropical birds, and monkeys. We stayed in authentic bandas (small thatched roof huts) designed in the Luhya tradition (the Kenyan tribe that occupies this region). The bandas are maintained by an environmental/educational group called KEEP. The bandas offered a truly authentic Kenyan experience as this is the type of home in which many people in Kenya live. Additionally, it only cost ~8 dollars per night per person, so it was tough to beat that price. A few pictures of our accommodation is shown below:
Around our campsite, was a group of about 20 Blue Monkeys. They were a riot to watch as they jumped from one branch to the next, eating leaves, and glancing down at us every now and then. It was dusk when we arrived, so the lighting was poor, but here is a representative picture and short video of one of the monkeys.
Hike to Lirhanda Peak
The next morning, we met our guide, Abraham, at 5am for a sunrise hike to Lirhanda Hill, which is the highest point of the forest at ~5200 feet above sea level. It was pitch dark when we left, so we all had flashlights to navigate through the forest. It rained overnight, so the paths were quite soft and muddy, which made navigation a bit more challenging! On the way, we encountered a Jackal, but did not get a great view of it due to the darkness. By the time we reached the top of the hill, it was nearly sunrise. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy morning, so sunrise did not make a dazzling appearance, however, the views from the top were still quite spectacular! Here are a few examples:
We next hiked through the rain forest where we encountered hundreds and hundreds of monkeys, birds of all different colors and sounds, butterflies, and amazing trees, ferns, and other types of plants. Our guide, Abraham, was amazing! It seemed that he knew the name, habitat, and behaviors of all of the different species. He also could speak to the birds! He was able to make many different bird calls to match the different species. On many occasions, he would hear a bird, and start calling back and forth with the bird until we found the bird he was calling. It was impressive! We actually did two hikes with Abraham, with a breakfast in between. Here are a few pics of the forest, monkeys, and a few samples of the birds we saw:
Here are some representative pictures of some of the monkeys we saw:
Fortunately, our trip back was much less eventful without any car trouble! Thanks for taking the time to view some of our pics. I will post again in a few days regarding some more interesting and exciting medical cases that I have been a part of, and Whitney will share soon about some of her interesting experiences at the school! Blessings!!