Nerve Communications

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

AWESOME - What is this - caterpillar cocoon ?

Shimoni - a lost treasure or a hidden gem ?

 Shimoni village overlooking Wasini Island


Whilst recently visiting Kenya as part of a familiarisation trip to the country as guests of the Kenyan Tourism Board (KTB), our intrepid host took us on a journey of discovery to the Southern Coastal town of Shimoni which is abutted by an equally alluring island named Wasini. Shimoni is an adventure tourism treasure chest just waiting to be explored either by land or sea.

On first impression, it is clear that this part of Kenya is impoverished with the classic interpretation coming to mind of how poor rural settlements exist. Shimoni has a small working port that relies on ancient wooden Dhow transport ships to ferry goods to Zanzibar.

Unlike Zanzibar that has capitalised on their history of the African slave trade ….Shimoni has a dark past, a story which one does not hear much about. I had never heard of this place or its horrific history revolving around the early Arab slave trade in Africa but….. I am referring to the Shimoni Slave Caves (pictured right).
  

The Shimoni Slavery Museum is a historic site that is located in the small village of Shimoni on the south coast of Kenya. The name "Shimoni" is a Swahili word that means " place of a hole" or “Inside the hole". It derived this name due to the existence of a complex network of caves along the seashore that were formed as a result of natural forces. 

These underground caves resemble an octopus tentacle that snakes through 5 kilometres of hard coral ground under the village of Shimoni. There is a complex of tunnels that was used during the lucrative slave trade period to confine captured slaves before shipment to the slave market in Zanzibar. 

Slave traders from Asia settled in Shimoni as the area was strategically placed on the East African Coast and it was conveniently close to the to the Zanzibar slave market. 

Taking a walk through the caves, is an overwhelming experience where one will find chains that are still embedded in the walls, which were used to secure and torture the slaves. 

The conditions in the caves are beyond comprehension. The stifling heat is the first thing you feel and one can only imagine what the thousands of slaves must have gone through, confined in the heat, without any fresh water, relying on a trough of sea water which ebbed and flowed with the tide and which posed an additional threat of drowning. Tragically thousands of slaves died in these bat infested caves. What unthinkable atrocities too place...

The local village council has opened the caves to the public in order to fund their restoration and to aid students to further their studies, to purchase medicines for the community, to buy food for the deaf community and for other programs that assist the local population.

Shimoni has grown over the years and today one can find other unique attractions and places of interest to visit. These include the Colonial Cemetery, The British Administrative Building, The Colonial District Commissioners Residence, the Old Jetty Bridge, Kichangani Old Residence, beautiful tropical rainforests, a breath-taking view of the Indian Ocean and marine parks, as well as the Wasini Islands.

Shimoni was also of historic importance to the British during World War One, as it was home to a naval base, a Governor’s office as well as a prison. The Garrison  room was bombed by the Germans and the ruins are visible to this day.

Shimoni definitely has potential…it borders Wasini Island and a whole network of smaller islands which are laden with reefs, abundant sea and plant life. It is protected and is a diving and snorkelling treasure trove. The area, home to a Kenyan Naval Base, is not only beautiful but one does feel safe walking the cobbled and sandy streets. 

A walking tour around the village reveals historical sights which are slowly decaying and modern shack dwellings that are encroaching on these sites…it makes one think that a bit of investment and effort by the local community to protect and maintain these sights is all that is needed to preserve these attractions which are so essential to attract tourists to this village.

We snorkelled the Mpunguti Island reefs that are approximately 10 kms from Wasini in a southerly direction and in view of Tanzania. The ocean has a myriad of different hues of blue denoting the depths and reflecting the raw natural beauty of the area. The abundant sea and plant life on this reef is astounding and one feels perfectly safe. Despite its location in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there are no major predators and the locals comically describe the small reef sharks as vegetarians. One is likely to see bottle nose and humpback dolphins as well as swim with whale sharks. An outing to the reefs requires an entire day and the experience of being transported on a 20 year old Dhow is absolutely worth it.

A late lunch on Wasini Island with excellent sea food, chicken and curries as well as very cold beer wraps up the day…we visited local accommodations and chatted to the local tribal leaders before heading to our comfortable hotel in Diani Beach for the night 

Visit Kenya, you will not regret it.





Words and images Paul Godwin 

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Masai Mara – a magical adventure playground



Getting into the Masai Mara can be achieved by road or air. We were privileged to fly in by air in a Cessna Caravan. The flight - only 1 hour from Wilson’s airport in Nairobi as opposed to an 8 hour overland trek in a safari van, meant we were still fresh and able to begin our exploration of the bush.


Our accommodation left us speechless - set into a hillside with 360 degree panoramic views of the Mara -  the Serena Mara Hotel is perfectly situated with clear views over the famous Mara River, which during the migration period must be an absolutely mind blowing sight to behold.

The Airstrip is about 4km from the hotel and is what one would expect of a rustic small airport shelter ….including a toilet block. To the amazement of visitors, officials in charge of the airport have to regularly chase warthog, wildebeest and buffalo that graze in the area and have no apparent fear of aircraft.

The Mara is all about spotting game ……and there is plenty of it. Visiting this area in March, which is actually out of season, did not lessen our chances of seeing big herds of elephant, buffalo, hippo and numerous other wildlife.

A hot air balloon ride topped off with a bush breakfast is also a bucket list must. An early five in the morning start is essential but the small sacrifice is worth it and once aloft in the magic of the still dawn morning….you fly with the sunrise at your back, soaked in amazing colours of the bushveld and all one can see is the marvellous game hiding in the nooks and crannies of the bush, and what a treat to see the shy animals like the hyena, jackal and  hippo…one hippo incidentally did not take kindly to a blast of gas into the hot air balloon and caused him or her to scamper through the swamp…so now I can say…It’s true they run very very fast…..

The balloon only travels approximately 15 feet off the ground and rises to miss the trees. One really feels a part of nature and it unlocks an emotion in your body that is quite extraordinary. An average flight takes about 45 minutes and flies in a general direction so there is no precise science on where you will end up. This means the ground crew have to watch and anticipate your landing spot as well as fire up the breakfast ! The bush breakfast held on an open plain with tall grass, ensures you keep one eye open as it is the perfect hunting ground for lion. Our pilot Mike, an American from Alaska is sold on Kenya and its easy to see why. He has been flying balloons since the 70’s and is a great character.

The Masai Mara and in particular the area traversing the hotel we stayed in the Mara Serena Hotel, is the much publicised and televised location of the annual migration and our guide takes you to the crossing points which are always full of crocodile and hippo waiting for the next meal.

There are numerous types of lodges in the area including an abundance of tented camps and the area caters for all types of budgets.



Whilst in the Mara it is important to visit a Masai cultural village. Here you will be educated on the story of the Masai, eloquently narrated by a village elder after which there is a question and answer session – if you don’t ask a question you have to drink a bowl of cows blood, needless to say our group asked many questions. We are then guided around the village and shown how to make fire and how the huts are constructed. Afterwards we are taken to the Masai Market which is basically a circle in the village with a myriad of ornaments and trinkets available for purchase. Bartering is the name of the game and one can pick up a good deal in this manner. The Masai are a proud and intelligent people and they embrace the tourist dollar without losing the values of the Masai’s histroy and culture which is vehemently protected and promoted. Donations and profits from the village we visited had enabled a nursery school to be built in the village.

An interesting fact about the Masai is that they are citizens of both Kenya and Tanzania and can travel freely across both borders. They are also allowed to wear their traditional clothing and weapons wherever they go.

Another must for a visitor to this area is to enjoy a Bush Sundowner.  Drinks and snacks on top of a hill overlooking the Mara as the sun goes down is exhilarating. Watched over by an armed Masai Warrior in full regalia who positions himself on a hillock and an armed guard with a perfectly conditioned .303 Lee Enfield rifle keeping a sharp lookout, our group enjoyed the scene whilst being caroused by a very talented guitar player with a voice as smooth as silk….detail is everything.

One thing we learnt in Kenya is that the hospitality industry takes no short cuts. The service everywhere is first class and there is a sheer joy in the faces of staff and management while they do their jobs. The guards are a very good idea….. remembering we are in the wild….. and as we leave a hyena comes out of the bushes to greet us. Fortunately we were all on board, but our host was still tidying up !

The Kenyan Tourism Board employees also exude an exciting and loving passion for their country and the promotion thereof. The Board’s mantra is Pride of Africa. To this end it is not hard to see Kenya as the leading tourist destination of Africa in the very near future just on service deliverables. I also attribute this to a collective intitiative shown by the board employees and companies they interact with, who have a willingness to cooperate for the good of Kenya as a whole.

All that is left to say is….consider Kenya and the Masai Mara as a holiday destination. It is a life changing experience that one will not regret and Kenya is waiting for you with open arms.






A few useful tips:

Carry a square pronged adaptor for charging your phone or laptops

Carry US Dollars

Take Malaria tablets

Yellow fever vaccination certificate mandatory

No Visa required for South Africans for up to 30 days (these rules are subject to change – so please check Kenyan Government website for updates)

Do not take photographs of Official Government Buildings and other key point locations and security personnel

Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road

Do not drink tap water, hotels provide bottled water

All signage is in English (Road signs and advertising)

Swahili is the main local language but many people speak English

Smoking in public places including sidewalks is prohibited

Wi-Fi is very good and free at most hotels and lodges

Leave only your footprints

Footnote:

This is the second of four stories written by Paul Godwin on his recent trip and experience to Kenya as part of a familiarization team from South Africa and guests of the Kenyan Tourism Board to promote tourism, professional conferencing and tourism business opportunities, stories to follow:

Day tripping in Nairobi
South Coast Magic – Diani and surrounds
Shimoni  a place with dreams


Words and photographs - Paul Godwin/Nerve Communications


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cessna Caravan landing in the Masai Mara - greeted by Warthogs ;)

Day Tripping In Nairobi - an East African Adventure



Day Tripping In Nairobi
By Paul Godwin

Visiting Nairobi as a tourist on a short stay has some exceptional places of interest that one can cover in a day or two. Using Nairobi as a connection point, as opposed to Dubai, might be a preferred option for South African Travellers who love African culture and amazing wildlife right on the City’s doorstep.

There are numerous hotels of all categories in Nairobi some within the airport precinct and others in the City Centre. Our group stayed in the Sarova Stanley Hotel in the heart of the City. This historical and beautiful hotel captures the previous colonial influence of the country perfectly. Opened in 1902 it is the hotel which housed the first Nairobi Stock Exchange, the first Tusker Beer was enjoyed in what became known as the Exchange Bar and numerous celebrities and historical figures have stayed at the hotel over the decades. Distinguished guests such as Clark Gable, Ernest Hemingway, Michael Caine, Sidney Poitier, Sean Connery and Frank Sinatra to name a few….

The Sarova Stanley Hotel is a stone’s throw away from the International Conference Centre, Parliament Buildings and Law Courts as well as a short walk to the University of Nairobi.

Working with an approved tour guide is recommended especially for the wealth of general knowledge about the country and tips on how to make your visit as comfortable as possible. There are many safari tour companies based in Kenya and in Nairobi. Our guides spoke perfect English and were impressive in their knowledge of the local flora and fauna as well as the history of Kenya which they embrace. The Kenyan people are warm friendly, educated and proud of their country and love showing it off.

The Nairobi National Park borders the city and once again there are many hotels bordering the park. We visited the Ole-Sereni Hotel – which incidentally is the old US Embassy and then was converted into this hotel. All the security measures used by the US Embassy were left in place. This is a fabulous hotel with conference facilities, fantastic spacious rooms, pool deck and bars overlooking the reserve and yes all one can see is wildlife and nature……

One will be impressed by the many road side nurseries peppered along the roads in the suburbs and the city centers…..it is very much a part of the Kenyan Culture and it forms part of informal business with locals selling plants to passersby.

It is interesting to learn that the youth in Kenya are taught at a very early age to respect nature and to cultivate plants including food plants. They are taught the importance of the eco system and nature in general and these youth become the future caretakers of the wildlife and vegetation in Kenya. This was very evident in the school outings we witnessed at the sanctuaries, where we observed the future generations intently listening and engaging with the educators.

Emily Wilson from Travel Again Tours Johannesburg was part of the familiarization team and was also mesmerized by the reception we all received and commented :

 ‘’Kenya, a country which exudes a warmth and deep respect from their people, for their wild life and toward travelers visiting from around the globe. Their excellent hospitality is second to none and diligent conservation allows travelers to enjoy a unique and rewarding trip as a whole. There is an obvious pride in Kenyans. They have embraced old world colonialism as part of their history and have kept parts of that time alive resulting in a refined and well educated African nation. I can only agree with Kenyan Airlines slogan, ‘ Kenya the Pride of Africa’. I would recommend fellow Africans to have a good look at Kenya as a holiday destination. It may surprise you that there is a magical place just waiting to be explored right on your doorstep!

A must see is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which is in the Nairobi National Park. Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. Founded in 1977 by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, in honour of the memory of her late husband, famous naturalist and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the DSWT claims a rich and deeply rooted history in wildlife and conservation.
 
This visit was totally inspiring and was the preamble to what would become six days of wonderment for our intrepid crew,

Next was the Giraffe Centre…if you have ever felt the need to feed a giraffe, well your dream can come true here. A totally amazing experience of interacting with the giraffe can be enjoyed. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Giraffe Centre are a must do for any visitor to Kenya

Lunch at the Tamambo Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and supper at Carnivore Restaurant will totally complete your dining experience for a day trip to Nairobi.

Karen Blixen has become a revered figure in daily Kenyan life with a whole district named in her honour. Her legacy is huge which makes a visit to the Karen Blixen Museum an absolute must. The Blixen home is in its original state and is a true mirror of colonial Africa and the lifestyle of European settlers of the period. The museum staff is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and the museum even has the costumes worn by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford on display from the screen adaptation of Karen’s famous book “ Out of Africa “.

There are many markets where one can pick up some lovely gifts and negotiation is the name of the game. Kenya’s currency is Shillings but the locals are well versed and prefer the US Dollar !

Kenya has a warm climate so be prepared and you will need a yellow fever vaccination and a course of malaria tablets.  Supermarkets and shopping malls are abundant and the local chain stores utilize shillings, Vat is included in the price shown on products.
Kenya manufactures many of its own products and for our “tribe” - coffee and tea was top of the list. For the beer drinker there are some really good beers such as Tusker, White Cap, Allsops and Pilsners - a truly quality and thirst quenching beverage.

One will find the Kenyan people truly friendly and are extremely proud of their country. An observation is the poor road and pavement infrastructure however this has not stopped the authorities from keeping the City of Nairobi devoid of any litter – the streets are always clean.

One of the friendly waitresses at the Stanley Hotel she had this to say. “ I could sit at home all day and wait for a job, but I chose to go out and look for employment and work hard. I believe if God sees me working hard He will reward me in the future” …..with locals exuding this attitude,  Kenya can only prosper in the future and enforces the mantra of Kenya espousing to be the “Pride of Africa”

Kenya is open for business, so if you are looking to open a business in any field, they are listening and would love to hear from you.

Would I recommend Kenya as a destination ? Absolutely and unequivocally  - Yes!


A few useful tips :

Carry a square pronged adaptor for charging your phone or laptops

Carry US Dollars

Take Malaria tablets

Yellow fever vaccination certificate mandatory

No Visa required for South Africans for up to 30 days (these rules are subject to change – so please check Kenyan Government websites for updates)

Do not take photographs of Official Government Buildings and other key point locations including universities and security personnel

Vehicles drive on Left hand side of Road

Do not drink tap water, hotels provide bottled water

All signage is in English (Road signs and advertising)

Swahili is the main local language but many people speak English

Smoking in public places including sidewalks is prohibited

WiFi is very good and free at most hotels and lodges

Leave only your footprints


Footnote :

This is the first of four stories written by Paul Godwin on his recent trip to Kenya as part of a familiarization team from South Africa and guests of the Kenyan Tourism Board to promote tourism, professional conferencing and tourism business opportunities,

Stories to follow:

Fantasy and fun – The Mara
South Coast Magic – Diani
Shimoni Slave Caves – Village of hope



Words and photographs - Paul Godwin/Nerve Communications


Monday, March 27, 2017

Visit Kenya - the picture says it all

This picture says it all, this beautiful smile was captured whilst observing a young pride of female lions and cubs in the Masai Mara reserve. The lions were enjoying a fresh zebra kill right in front of us, It was a fantastic photo opportunity and this intrepid lady took full advantage and zapped her "selfie" and in essence captures the feeling that one gets visiting the park. 

Modern technology mixing with nature to capture that special moment

Having just enjoyed a fantastic familiarisation tour as a guest of the Kenyan Tourism Board (KTB) and will in the course of the next week or so be publishing a few stories on different aspects of tourism in Kenya as well as some albums.
In the "local" context of travel We are all very familiar with destinations such as Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion, Zanzibar etc... but in the same "region" is fabolous Kenya less than a 4hr trip by Plane (actually 3.5hrs) and is even accessible by road in two directions and without 4x4. Probably cheaper as well..
So consider including Kenya in your itineraries as you sell Africa to your clients near and far. The European and American market is enjoying Kenya and out of season the place was busy - I would actually recommend out of season - as visiting the Mara during the Migration period is chok-a-blok... ;

Kenya wants you to visit.... Asante









Photograph and words - Paul Godwin