Wednesday, June 26, 2013


You don’t have to travel to the moon to enter a “new dimension”. Twenty-four Kiltimany Village, Samburu  region kids found it right in their own backyard this April 2013. One day totally changed their perception of the wildlife next to their community. Traveling like tourists in two Samburu Intrepids’ rugged 4-wheel drive open safari vehicles, it came as a big surprise that this wildlife  was more worth conserving than simply a hazard of growing up with wildlife. They came away feeling they could now do anything, as their self-esteem soared into this new dimension. “I gained nearly my entire understanding of wildlife conservation from that moment on a KKOS game drive at Samburu Intrepids!” notes Lavias Lekuuk in his written summary of the importance of his experience.
This was their first time into the Reserve, except for two kids, who had been on a previous Kenyan Kids On Safari (KKOS) into the Samburu National Reserve. It was also their first time to take pictures of animals and friends with a quality 16mp telephoto camera. In short order they were taking pictures like pros, such as the fantastic, one-of-a-kind, rare photo of gamboling Kudus below, taken by Lavias Lekuuk, who is a 15-year old eight grader at the Waso Muslim Primary School.
It was their first time to eat breakfast with tourists, picking whatever they wanted from the lavish Intrepids’ buffet. It was the first time to set up their own camping tents by the Intepids’ pool, in which they played water polo for the first time.
They asked if I would be back to give their friends and classmates a chance to learn from a similar experience.My answer - Tutaonana tena! (See you again later on.) – Todd Cromwell, Founding Director

For two consecutive nights each group of 12 of 24 kids sang songs and recited conservation poetry  for the enthralled Intrepids' tourists. A recording studio is looking into the feasibility of making  a DVD of the kids’ performance to promote  Kenyan conservation.

Intrepids’ Samburu Manager Richard Yoga made sure that everything was done to make the kids’ visit spectacular, including assigning Naturalist, Francis Lenyakopiro (below) to work with KKOS around the clock the four days we were there. Thanks to the entire Intrepids’ staff and the Young Adventurers Club, headed by Betty Wanjau.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

KKOS Camp Changed the Lives of 24 Kenyan Kids

Report by Shivani Bhalla, April 17-19 2013 EWASOLIONS.ORG
We have just concluded the Kenyan Kids On Safari Camp and it was a great success. This blog recounts some of the stories and adventures the kids enjoyed along the way.
After weeks of planning, we picked up kids who were selected to join the camp through a creative art competition. 

For many children, this was their first time in a car and they kept asking why the trees and rocks were moving! The children arrived at Westgate Conservancy Headquarters – which was to serve as their home for the next few days – quiet, and wondering where they were, and even a bit scared.

Jeneria and Ngila show the kids how to use binoculars on their bird walk. (Photo by Tony Allport)

We split the kids into teams which were each joined with one of the Camp’s sponsors. We had Team Gerenuk led by Sasaab Lodge, Team Grevy’s zebra led by Westgate Conservancy, Team Cheetah led by Samburu, and of course Team Lion led by Ewaso Lions.
Kids picture of the local White Crowned  Shrike

The kids then set up tents under the guidance of Jeneria and his team. Following this, the kids were given cameras and binoculars and Tony gave a presentation on how to use the cameras and take good photos. Each team went out to identify as many birds as possible – Team Grevy’s zebra won this competition after having identifying 20 species of birds in only 45 minutes! One of the kids remarked that he did not know birds had different names and was amazed at the Birds book.

The first lion that the kids have ever seen in their lives! Lguret on an ostrich kill. 
After the bird walk, Shivani gave a slide show on the different mammals in the area and especially ones that we hoped to see the following day in Samburu. When she asked the kids what they wanted to see, all of them said “Lions!”. Twenty-one kids had never seen a lion before and this was their wish. We were determined to grant them their wish and tried our hardest to show them lions. We ended the day with a showing of the film Disney’s African Cats. The kids were enthralled by the fantastic footage in this film.
The next day we set off for Samburu National Reserve. The Operations Warden, Gabriel Lepariyo, welcomed the kids and emphasized how they are the future of conservation in Samburu. During the talk, we got phone calls from local guides saying that lions had been seen! And, ironically, the lions had been spotted at Lion Rock.
A’Caravan’ of 5 Safari vehicles took the kids, naturalist and their teachers on game drives in Samburu National Reserve. (Photo by Kelvin Lemantaan)
We drove off straight to Lion Rock and wow, what a sighting. We found Lguret and Loirish – our two male lions – on an ostrich kill. As we drove up, Loirish was being chased by elephants, and Lguret was avoiding them trying to keep feeding on the ostrich. The kids were so excited – there was so much excited chatter in the car. I kept hearing “There’s Lguret – he’s coming close!” At that point, Loirish walked right next to the Sasaab car – it was almost impossible to take a photo because he was so close. It was a spectacular viewing for these kids’ first-ever lion sighting.

The kids were so excited – “There’s Lguret – he’s coming close!”

And it kept getting better: we saw Nanai, Sipen and Nabulu as well, resting in a sand river not far from the two males. We also met up with the giraffe researchers from the Reticulated Giraffe Project who took a few kids into their car and gave the kids an up close and personal experience with giraffes.
We saw all the game in Samburu, including a baby gerenuk that was only a few hours old, and much more. There were also over 300 elephants in Samburu that day and we got very close to some! The two boys in my car did not stop giggling with excitement for hours after a female walked literally a few inches away from the car.
A close encounter with elephants. (Photo by Michael Hamlin)

We stopped for a brief visit at the Save the Elephants research camp and Samburu Lodge on our way back to Westgate. The kids had never seen a tourist lodge before or a swimming pool – they were fascinated!
We returned to camp for a late lunch and a brief rest before the kids embarked on an obstacle course during their games session. We also managed to squeeze in a few more minutes of African Cats before the exhausted kids went to bed.

The next day, we headed out to the Grevy’s Zebra plains in Westgate Conservancy where we were joined by Peter Lalampaa and his team from the Grevy’s Zebra Trust. We had the most incredible sighting – 200 Grevy’s zebras on the green grassy plains. It was beautiful and we were so lucky to have seen so many in one area.
We headed back to camp for Wildlife Competition time. The four groups each prepared a wildlife drama story with the theme “Creating positive attitudes towards conservation”. They all hid in the bushes preparing for this – all the team leaders were very competitive and determined to win the competition. The invited guests arrived and afternoon entertainment began with stories and poems on wildlife read out by the children, followed by four very animated and entertaining dramas by each team.
Wildlife drama from Team Gerenuk. Young Rantini acts as a goat. (Photo by Tony Allport)
In the end, Team Lion won the drama competition! Prizes were awarded to the kids and they ended the afternoon with some sporting events. At night, just as we thought the kids were really tired, they all starting asking pertinent questions about Ewaso Lions and the work we do. Jeneria and Mike from Samburu gave them a talk on lions and the kids were busy writing down pride names and learning the individuals. It was so great to see their interest and enthusiasm about lions – especially so late in the day.
Todd Cromwell, the camp sponsor, had stayed awake late into the night, printing a batch of photos for each child. They were thrilled to receive photo albums of their photos.

The children were taken home on the final day. All the kids were singing in the cars and chatting excitedly amongst each other. They were all given trees to plant in their respective schools.
This inaugural KKOS Camp was a real joy for us to organize and be part of. We watched the children thrive over the three days with us and soak in everything that was taught to them. We strongly believe that this three-day adventure changed the lives of 24 children. They are the future of wildlife in the region. Following this event, we have no doubt that we would like this to be an annual event in Westgate and bring more kids from areas far and wide to come and be part of this exciting wildlife experience. We already cannot wait for 2014!

This camp would not have been possible without our sponsor Todd Cromwell and his assistant Michael Hamlin. Tony and Ali Allport gave 100% in supporting this camp and providing the children with this amazing experience. We are also extremely grateful for the dedicated efforts of Kelvin Lemantaan and Mike Lesiil, and also to Sasaab Lodge staff, Westgate Conservancy management and Samburu National Reserve. Thanks also to Grevy’s Zebra TrustSave the Elephants, and the Reticulated Giraffe Project for their time in providing the kids with such a varied wildlife experience.