The much awaited trip to the Athi Kapiti Plains finally materialized on the 26th March. The ranches on the Athi Kapiti plains make up one of the largest open spaces near Nairobi. The area is home to more than twenty cheetahs, believed to be the highest density in the world. Nairobi National Park has lost all it’s cheetahs except one male who comes through occasionally.
We converged at the Small World Country Club situated on the Mombasa Highway just 45 minutes from Nairobi. After a brief introduction and briefing by Paula, the FONNAP chairperson, Simon Thomsett, a raptor and wildlife specialist gave us the day’s itinerary. Simon has lived in the area for the last 27years.
We first stopped and had a brief chat (read a cup of tea) at the Acacia Camp organized by Sandy Simpson, an active FoNNaP member who lives on the ranch. We then drove through the Portland’s Cement property to the Stoney Athi River, a lovely stream and one of the best place to watch wildlife. It has a swamp and five little streams going into the river.
During the drive one couldn’t ignore the population of wildlife in the area. We saw Cheetahs (our main aim of visiting the plains), giraffes, wildebeests (which were calving), hartebeests, gerenuks, zebras, Thomson’s gazelles, lesser kudu, Grants gazelles and birds including Ostriches and Kori bustards-one of the heaviest flying birds. When we got to the river, we could see that this forest was under threat, some of the trees had been chopped. Simon also showed us some of the holes used by warthogs and explained how poachers had set snares to catch the warthogs and other wildlife. There were many jewel like dragonflies flitting near the water. Some of the ladies were answering a call of nature when one of them spotted an Egyptian Cobra, no one was harmed, it slithered off into the nearby bushes.
At lunch time we had a picnic on a scenic hill overlooking Kapiti Ranch (thanks to ILRI) followed by a short speech from Simon Kibiru who manages it. Mr. Korir of KWS said some an inspring words of encouragement for land owners exclaiming that the area could be a huge attraction and could do even more tourism business than Nairobi National Park. Later some participants left for Nairobi, and the campers headed for the Lisa Ranch owned by the Mbithi Family. The camping was quite an adventure. Some of the campers couldn’t recall how to pitch their own tents, other tents were just complicated to pitch but through teamwork and laughter, all the tents were up before darkness. Thanks to the Mbithi family, especially Michael, for this bush camping experience, tents, mattresses and blankets.
We later had a delicious dinner – thanks to Sandy, Paula, Simon, Haider – at the bonfire followed by a night game drive. We crammed into two cars; and headed in to the bush. We had two large spotlights that helped us spot the animals. The Spring hares were busy hopping around like Kangaroos, one of the participants thought they should be called the Kenyan Kangaroos. We also spotted antelopes, gazelles, hyaenas and birds like Thick-Knees. As we headed back to the campsite it started to rain, then the heavens opened. As usual with campers, some always forget to keep their shoes inside their tents (Ali, was that you?).
A big thank you to all who helped make this such a successful weekend.
By Martha Nziza