Monday, 20 April 2009
Some cheetahs at the Forest Reserve in Masai Mara
BY ISAAC TAIWO
THE setting at the Nairobi National Museum was cosy and serene. Besides the treat by Kenya Airways in the course of the over four hours flight from Lagos to Nairobi, the cocktail afforded me a whiff sight of the country’s hospitality and perhaps, a preen into what’s ahead.
Kenya Airways’ Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Dr. Titus Naikuni, stressed the purpose of putting the trip together, which in his words, is to present the many offers of Kenya tourism to the delegates made up of tour operators, the media, travel agents, hotel operators and other travel experts from over 20 African countries.
“You have been invited to see things for yourselves within the period of your one-week visit to a few tourist centres in Kenya with the belief that you will thereafter go back to your respective nations and convince various stakeholders of good things in Africa and that what they are looking for in Europe are also here in our own land; and should therefore shift their concentration to their own continent,” he said.
Before journeying to Mombasa from Nairobi, we had — on the first day of the tour — seen some of the arts and crafts of the country at the Nairobi National Museum with the guidance of Evelyn Kariuki.
The allure of Mombasa lies in its attractive coastline and luscious beaches. Hotels, resorts and guesthouses of different make and colours line the coast for a tourist’s enjoyment. These hospitality outfits include Leopard Beach Resort and SPA and Southern Palms Beach.
Different water-related activities such as swimming, scuba diving and boat cruise and a lot more are showpieces in this region. Beach parties and other forms of leisure activities are conducted round the clock.
Akamba Handicraft Centre located west of Mombasa is one of the interesting places to catch a glimpse of the people’s arts. A giant elephant tusk marking the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Kenya in 1952 and also a tree planted by the queen during her visit there are some of the signature pieces at the centre.
Fort Jesus is a monument to the glory of Mombasa and it is a must-see attraction because of its rich history and significant pull for the people. It was built by the Portuguese in 1593, captured by Oman Arabs in 1698; became a government prison in 1895; declared a national monument in 1958; and as a museum was built and opened to the public in 1960.
Masai Mara, which is about 280 kilometres drive from Nairobi, is home to the Masai, who are noted for their pastoral life. Their fierce look and somewhat weird attire make them appear dreadful.
They are also known as warriors and lived in huts built of dung rather than mud and thatch roofs, a common thing in Nigeria. The people who largely co-habit with animals are believed to be terrors to the animals, especially the wild ones and they see the rearing of cow as big business.
A trade mark of the Masais is the red cloth, a spear and a club that sometimes serve as their war implements. A visit to the region without patronising any of their many art, craft and souvenir shops is not complete; and you need to see their huts to see them milk cow; and their cultural dance.
The road leading to the region — as well as the Catholic Church along the route — is believed to have been built by Italian prisoners of war in 1942.
An interesting stop along the way is the Great Rift Valley. The altitude is 2,140 metres above sea level and 6,500 kilometres long. On the left of the valley stands Mount Suswa, which is 7,000 feet. Mount Margaret is in the middle while on the right is Mount Longonot standing at 9,000 feet.
The Masai Mara National Park within the region is a marvel to explore with its expanse of grassy enclave that is home to the ‘big five’ and a number of rare fauna and flora species.
The migration of wildlife across the park to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania remains a wonder to many, who visit the park in the peak period (July – October) of the long stretch of the migrating beast.
For anyone desirous of wilderness experience, a stay at any of the lodges or camps within the park is a treasured experience. Tipilikwani Mara Camp is one of such lodges, where amidst natural and rustic bliss, one still enjoys the taste and service of a five star facility.
Some of the camps in the park Masai Mara include Elephant Bedroom Camp, Samburu and Mbweha Luxury Cottages, Lake Nakuru.
Besides, the Masai Mara National Park, Kenya boasts of other parks of varied resources and attractions making wildlife one of the riches and attractions in the land. Its first national park was launched in 1946.
As a result of its wildlife treasures, the country’s first President, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, said: “The natural resources of this country – its wildlife, which offers such an attraction to visitors from all over the world, the beautiful places in which these animals live, the mighty forests which guard the water catchment areas so vital to the survival of man and beast are a priceless heritage for the future.”