Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Lake Bogoria Research Trip

The St Andrews Meeting;
October 2008 will remain the busiest month for CEK. We managed to accomplish a myriad of activities raging from trips to the Great Rift Valley, visiting and cementing partnerships with several organizations…not forgetting research based Educational Institutions.
It all started with a volunteers bonding and scheduling meeting on a rainy Sunday afternoon on 2nd October. The members started streaming in at around 2pm and within the next 1/2 hour; it was already a full house at St. Andrews Apartments where Dr. Hand was residing during that period. To set the ball rolling, Kevin opened the session with introducing himself to the group and more so, to the new CEK members who had joined the organization some few months ago. As soon as he finished, it was now time for the other members to introduce themselves which was done in a round robin style. Before long, we got into the agenda of the day. Kevin read through the items in his list, followed by Brigit who read the activities which were contained in the CEKs’ October program.

During the meeting, Mr. Monroe and his three member group from Maine University joined in. After a quick introduction, the visitors set up a digital microscope demonstration which turned to be a “Wow moment”. Everyone was exited to see the new technological tool used for looking at some very tiny objects…! Before long, we managed to compare the notes, did a prioritization and at long last came out with a comprehensive program of activities which was to kick off in the next two days. After that achievement, the meeting was adjourned and the attendees enjoyed the drinks and snacks, before taking a group photo.
A group photo at St. Andrews Apartments.

Lake Bogoria Trip;
It’s a chilly morning in Nairobi. The sky is invisible, thick dark clouds are threatening to wreck havoc at the slightest provocation. The team had prepared well in advance for the over 250kms journey. As soon as the green 4x4 truck came, we quickly loaded the bags and other equipments. We finally hit the road at 10am. To beat the city traffic, we passed through the Arboretum Driveway, and within no time, we were cruising on the Nairobi - Nakuru Highway at top speed. We conversed on various issues as Justus did his duty on the wheels. It was just a matter of time before we reached the Great Rift Valley View Point at Kinare shopping center. The sky was very clear and we could see the Longonot Mountain quite clearly. The scenery was very spectacular with Lake Elementaita being seen at a distance behind the sprawling ranges. At Naivasha, we decided to pass through the busy town just to sight see, especially for the visitors and to also visit the ATM to re-load our pockets. The stop over was short and within no time we were on the road again. The stretch from the Delamere Complex to the Weigh Bridge is full of wild animals especially the herbivores grazing sometimes very close to the road. We enjoyed seeing the gazelles, zebras, baboons, buffalos, and dick dicks, not forgetting the warthogs in hundreds.
A herd of buffalos grazing at Gilgil Reserve.

As we approached Kikopey “The meat point”, we requested our driver to slow down the pace so that we can take photos of Lake Elementaita which lies a few hundred meters from the main road. The fish eagles could be seen hovering around the lake as they kept a keen eye to the algae infested water for a meal. No sooner had we started climbing the small hill towards Kasambara region, we heard a loud bang and before we could comprehend where the sound originated, our truck was reduced to a three wheeled Tuk-tuk as the right rear wheel had a fatal puncture.

The tire puncture at Kasambara, along the Nairobi – Nakuru highway

One of the scouts law says…..”Always Be Prepared”. This happened to be our driving force. As soon as Justus pulled over, we stepped out and started changing the wheel. This task didn’t take too much of our time and soon we were back on the road. Justus had to drive a bit faster since there were signs of an early afternoon downpour that we dreaded finding us way before Nakuru. Fortunately, it drizzled for a while and within no time we were driving towards Kabarak. At 3pm we were already past Mogotio “the goats’ town” and well past the Koibatet Sisal plantations.
We made a short stop over at the Equator Crossing Point in near Emening. A Mr. William Kimosop, the chief Warden at Lake Bogoria National Reserve, who is also the Director for the Equator Education & Resource Center, together with his colleagues were anxiously waiting for our arrival due to some arrangements’ that were made earlier on. They gave us a warm welcome and led us inside the centers’ building which is under construction, and to be precise…almost complete. William took us round the one story building explaining to us the proposed use of the different rooms and the big lounge, situated at downstairs in the backyard extension. There is a nice viewing point at the top floor where we enjoyed looking at the western escarpment of the Abedare Ranges, not forgetting the athletes training trails at theTurgen Hills in the kabarnet region. We could also clearly see the world famous Lake Nakuru in the south, and the thick eastern part of the Mau Forest Complex.
Mr. William Kimosop (with hands raised) welcoming the team to the resource center.

What a wonderful sight! Before leaving, we held an open discussion session outside the building where a new partnership was entered between Cosmos Education and the Equator Resource Center. Mr. Kimosop welcomed the idea of CE members visiting the center as regularly as possible and also reiterated that the center will instill an open door policy for all the CE volunteers and researchers at large

The team at the Equator Educational Resource Center in Mogotio.

We finally made it to Lake Bogoria Spa Hotel, arriving at 6pm. After the arrival, we quickly did our bookings which consisted of rooms and the camping site. Despite the tens of patrons who had done their bookings online, we were lucky to get accommodation on the spot. Kevin, Kimani & Kanja were the people in charge of pitching the tents under a nice canopy made by the tall yellow backed Acacia trees. Carol & Justus helped to move the bags from the truck to the respective places. As soon as we were set, we all gathered at the dining hall for the dinner which was served shortly. The mbuzi choma (barbecued goat meat) was mouth watering accompanied by an assortment of green vegetables and wild fruits. A soft Jemps traditional music came out sweetly from the tiny speakers mounted at strategic places. What a nice way to spend the early evening hours!

After the diner, we decided to move places and went to the bar which is just adjacent to the warm water swimming pool. The venue was parked to capacity with revelers enjoying their drinks while others were on the dancing floor dancing the night away. Guess what, there were also a sizable number of people who were in the pool swimming the night away. Oooops….and who are we not to join in the fray? We decided to change into our swimming kits and dived into the water. This was an experience that could not match any other. The pool was just so warm which kept us going and going. Before long, it was already well past 1am. This is the time we decided to hit the bed. The night passed at a lightening speed. At six in the morning, we were woken up by the melodious sounds of the many bird’s species as they welcomed the day. Loud sounds of the marabou storks rent the air as we all gathered for breakfast.
The warm water source at the Spa Hotel, Bogoria.

At around 8am we set off for the Lake which is a 20 minutes drive. While along the way, we enjoyed seeing different animals including, the Maasai ostrich, the greater kudus, rock hyraxes, etc. Birds’ species were just too many. As the truck swerved though the rough path, we came across a tortoise which was crossing the road. This prompted the driver to bring the truck to a halt to enable us take some shots. Some several other tourist vans took advantage and had their fair share too.
A Tortoise crossing the pathway in the Lake Bogoria park.

As we arrived at the Lake shores, we found a few people scattered here and there, some watching the tens of hot springs while others were looking at the thousands of flamingoes in the lake. Soon after we laid our apparatus ready for the Discovery Channel documentary shooting, there came a group of secondary school students who approached Kevin and started fielding some questions to him. He kindly answered them and also shared some knowledge with them. Their teacher enjoyed every minute of the session. The session didn’t take long and shortly, we got to the business of the day. We divided ourselves into three groups. Kevin, Lynn and Kyle were left behind doing the documentary shooting while Denson and Carol walked ashore to the farthest spring to collect some research samples. Kimani & Kanja were also busy collecting samples and recording the test results from various spring points. In some cases, the spring PH reading rose as high as 9.5, while the salinity and conductivity recorded equally high readings too. We managed to collect data from more than 14 springs scattered at an area which was a bit less than 10 meters’ squared. Denson drew a sketch of the point in his handbook for reference.

The team during the research at the hot springs

Right across the lake towards the southern side, we could see a large number of flamingoes foraging the relatively calm section. As the afternoon heat raised to high temperatures’, some very dark clouds formed from the eastern side and before long, there was a heavy downpour which hit the sprawling hills. There was lots of wind blowing southwards which resulted to lots of heavy waves being blown towards our direction. The green watered lake was no more calm and the flamingoes started flying westwards in their hundreds.

Dr. Hand exchanges ideas with students at the lake shore.

As the early evening hours approached, we packed and headed to the Lake Bogoria Education Center where we were supposed to preside over a presentation. The education hall was filled to capacity with students from the local secondary school. There was also a sizable number of college students from the area, not forgetting some members of the nearby community. No sooner had everyone got settled, than Dr. Hand resumed his very informative presentation, followed by Ms. Lynn, whose sessions’ end, opened the open discussion time. There was a myriad of questions from the audience which the presenters answered explanatorily. Soon after the presentation, a partnership was agreed upon between the Education Center and CE. Mr. Jackson, the director of the center thanked the CE for the presentation and requested us to make more trips to their center for the benefit of their eager to learn students.

The powerful waves after an afternoon downpour in Lake Bogoria.

Back at the hotel, Prof. Francis Mwaura of Nairobi University together with Mr. Monroe from university of Maine and his group had already arrived. The second group of six CEK volunteers, led by Dr. Evalyn Mwihia, Dr. Kevin Kinyua, Eva, Ben, Justa and Dickson had earlier on arrived from Nairobi. We welcomed them and we then headed straight to the dinner venue which was hosted at the garden, just adjacent to the swimming pool. The garden was full of dinning patrons. Luckily our tables were already reserved hence no need of looking for a place to sit. Everyone enjoyed the tasty dinner. Some members headed to the pool for several water dives before retiring to bed.

The third day was an activity filled one. We had to go to the Lake for more research, get to Maji Moto Springs for more research as ell as the journey back to Nairobi via Lake Nakuru National Park. Mr. Kyle was also gearing himself for his freight back to the states in the evening. In this case w headed to the lake early enough, did our duty before heading to Maji Moto which is a 30 minutes drive through the hills capped with a thick vegetation of different species of acacias and wild perching plants. Sounds of iron bells hanging on the necks of the grazing goats could be herd from deep inside the forests. It took only 1 hour to explore the rocks at Maji Moto, and soon we were on the road again heading to the hotel and off to Nakuru.

The team at the maji moto stream.

We were happy to have accomplished too much within a short period. On the way, we discussed various issues and tried to figure out the success of the trip from a wider perspective. We came to realize that the trip activities were made easier to accomplish due to the good formal planning we had done earlier, capped with a purposeful execution.

On reaching Nakuru, we said goodbye to Evelyn’s group which headed straight to Nairobi while Kevin’s’ group went to the national park, situated just three miles away from the ever busy central Rift town. At the park, we came across tens of wild animals, with the most interesting one being the white rhino which was grazing in an open ground adjacent to the pathway. The gerenuks, water bucks, gazelles and the warthogs could all be seen feeding soundly on the green lawns. We came across a herd of buffalos as we crossed a river which flows to the lake in the eastern end. We also spotted another black rhino with a kid grazing at the swampy region of the lake, before we proceeded to the far western end where we stopped for a while in order to take some shots of the thousands of pelicans, flamingos, water ducks and the ibis, which were gathered along the shore. The sight was spectacular with loud noises of the singing birds.
A flock of flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park

Within no time, we were all at the baboon cliff watching the playing monkeys beneath the big rocks. We could clearly see the town together with some other shopping centers along the highway. Before long, it was already getting late and dusk was fast approaching, in this case, we decided to hit the road to Nairobi. It took us two hours to get to the city since there was no much traffic towards the city. No sooner had we reached the St. Andrews apartment than we bade a goodbye to Kyle who was whisked away in a waiting taxi to the airport for the night freight. We were all very tired, and without much ado, we parted ways for a relaxing night.

Lake Bogoria, we miss you and can’t wait to visit again.