This week marked exactly one month since we first stepped foot off the plane in Nairobi and made the journey to Kimana. This first month has flown by so fast, as it feels like just yesterday that Moses Okello, the Director of SFS Kenya, was welcoming us with his cheerful smile and very distinctive “Hallo!”. Since that very warm welcome, I have learned so much about wildlife conservation in the Amboseli ecosystem, my Swahili has greatly improved, I have only had a few minor sunburns (but lots of bug bites, whoops), but most importantly we all have experienced many firsts and have had many unforgettable adventures while being here. Our small group of twenty students, alongside the nicest and most caring staff, have made so many long-lasting memories and I want to share my top 10 memories from my first month in this blog post! However, I have never been great with words and I am much more skilled with a camara, so instead of telling you about my favorite memories, I am going to let these pictures tell the stories for me. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!
Elephants pictured in Kimana Sanctuary. Photo by Abigail Dwelle.
1) I will never forget the first time I saw an elephant in the wild. This picture was taken in Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary during one of our first field exercises for our course in wildlife ecology. During the exercise, we were observing a herd of male elephants and noting their behaviors over a period of three hours.
The author, photographed by classmate Mary Kevin.
2) My second favorite memory is the homestays we recently got to partake in. During my homestay, I learned from one of the Maasai mamas how to get firewood and water and learned how to carry it the way they do, with their heads! I learned so much about Maasai culture during my homestay and had an amazing time learning from my mama and loved being able to experience a day in the life of a Maasai women! Pictured is me carrying water with my head.
Student welcome party. Photo by Merceline Emali.
3) On our first day of class, Okello held a welcome party for all the students! During the party, we participated in slaughtering and cooking a goat and were welcomed by some of the local Maasai men. This experience was truly like no other and holds a very special place in heart now. I will forever remember this amazing first day of class.
Local mamas teach students traditional Maasai beading. Photo by Merceline Emali.
4) During one of our days off from class, three of the local mamas came to campus and taught us how to do the traditional Maasai beading. The mamas showed us how to do some of the basic patterns and then helped us for hours as we attempted to learn them ourselves. This was by far one of the best free days we have had, and you will still find me around campus beading whenever we have downtime!
The author and fellow student Mary Kevin at the gate to Tsavo West National Park. Photo by Ella Hennager.
Students at the top of the mountain post-hike. Photo by Charles and Oswago.
5) We took a trip to Tasvo West National Park during the third week of classes and while there we learned about tourism in Kenya and the lava field that runs through the park! While in Tsavo, students were also able to participate in an optional hike. We visited Mzima Spring, where we saw lots of vervets, a baby crocodile, and a few hippos! Tsavo was one of the most beautiful places we have visited so far, and I had an amazing time driving around in the safari land cruisers looking for animals and taking in the beautiful scenery. Pictured is the group at the top of the mountain after our hike.
A group of vervets. Photo by Abigail Dwelle.
Dik diks grazing. Photo by Abigail Dwelle.
6) On the day we arrived, I looked off my back porch and there, sitting by the bush line, was a group of vervets. At the time, I was beyond excited and later found out that seeing them along with dik diks would become a daily occurrence, one which I will never get tired of. Seeing the vervets playing and the dik diks grazing as I sit on the back porch of my Banda or in my hammock has become one of my favorite past times here at KBC!
The view from the author’s ‘banda’. Photo by Abigail Dwelle.
7) The first three days we were here it was a bit cloudy, so we couldn’t see Mount Kilimanjaro. The staff kept telling us to wait and look out for it and on the fourth day of being here, there she was, and she was beautiful. I will never get tired of waking up every morning and looking at Mount Kilimanjaro from the front porch of my Banda. It is defiantly one of the sights I will miss most when I have to go back home.
A herd of wildebeests. Photo by Abigail Dwelle.
8) During our first field lecture, we were sitting in a wildlife corridor and learning about its importance for wildlife movement between Kimana Sanctuary and Amboseli National Park when we looked over and saw a cloud of dust coming towards us. We all immediately stood up and grabbed our stuff just as a heard of wildebeest came running past us. I am still in shock over this experience and it is, hands down, one of my favorite memories since being here and one I will hold with me forever.
The semester’s cohort.
The author with fellow students. Photo by Ella Hennager.
9) Due to the small group size, all the students have become great friends and have made so many great memories on our days off and downtime between and after classes. Some of my favorite experiences with my friends have been time spent at the Lodge relaxing by the pool, playing sports in the evenings, and going on sunset/sunrise walks to the platform. These little moments have made KBC feel truly like home.
10) Last but certainly not least, the staff here is absolutely amazing and I have loved getting to know them more and more each day. They make this already once-in-a-lifetime experience that much better, and they are what I am going to miss most about my time here at KBC.
Overall, coming to Kenya has been a very eye-opening experience to the trials and challenges of conservation within the Amboseli ecosystem. This has been a life changing experience, from seeing elephants in their natural habitat, to meeting many wonderful Maasai people, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity. These memories detailed above, along with many others, are ones I will never forget and I am so excited to see what the next two months here in Kenya bring.