The loss of a great friend.

The rains have already washed your footprints away. The dung beetles rolled the last of your dung away- dung ball by dung ball. All we have left of you now are the pictures we took and the memories- precious memories of a gentle giant that was always there- somewhere at camp or close by. I will always remember you and I will tell your stories- though there are so much that I didn’t know about you- like how you lost your eye or what you thought about us. Did you ever think about us at all? At least I know you felt safe with us and that is a great honor you bestowed upon us. How did you know you could trust me even so many years ago when I found you laying outside my tent one moonlit night? You gave me such a great fright then and I know now that it was I who had to learn to trust you. I remember the unreal days when you made yourself at home in the main camp’s bathroom- even with guests there- you went and laid down in the middle of the bathroom- stretched out on one side and took your afternoon nap. Bewildered that there was a huge buffalo occupying the toilet, the guests just had to go and use another loo. They could scarcely believe their eyes and with such amazing stories and experiences the stories of you have gone to the four corners of the world. I remember the many nights your grazed outside my tent. I remember the night you came and laid down against the tent and nearly pushed the heavy wooden desk on the inside away from the tent wall almost knocking everything off the desk! I remember Corneli and I lying awake and listening to your heavy breathing and you chewing the cud. It made me feel at peace, deeply contented and unmeasurably happy. In the morning at dawn when I got up to make coffee I always had to first check and see if you had gone before I went to the kitchen. I never knew what would happen if I accidentally startled you, though I knew well you knew we were there. You were like a large grey ghost moving through the bush slowly and quietly. Sometimes you surprised us and we would find your huge hulk of a body standing there in the bush nearby us like a granite boulder or statue- quietly staring at us. Then as subtly as you appeared you would disappear again. Did you feel a sense of belonging with us the way we felt with you when you were close by? In all the 10 plus years I have known you- you’ve never shown aggression to anybody or harmed anybody. Yet you so frequently had spear wounds on your body from people who tried to kill you when you went to raid vegetable gardens in the community. You never knew that the sweet maize was not for you. You thought it was something everyone should share. There were times when you were heavily wounded and you came to stay at camp to heal and still you never became aggressive to any of us, quietly going about your way.

I know that by writing this I have broken all the rules of not personalizing wild animals- but for you I will do it because you are a legend and no one can explain the mystery behind you. You were wild, rogue, dangerous and unpredictable at every level- one of Africa’s most dangerous animals- and yet I saw within you gentleness, kindness and yes friendship. You never hated me for what others did to you and you accepted me in your home. You never betrayed me even though your were here first. I have learned so many life lessons from you and I will forever be grateful for the brief moment in time I had the privilege of knowing you. Some say you were my guardian angel- will I ever be safe without you? In our memories and hearts you will forever remain- the Watchman.

For those who knew the buffalo at Olkoroi Camp called the Watchman- he was killed by a wire snare a few days ago when he went to some of the vegetable gardens in the community. We greatly morn his loss and we feel a great sense of void here at camp. We will all miss him dearly. We continue our endeavor to protect the wildlife and environment in and around the Olkoroi Camp and continue to make it a safe haven for the animals.

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A Solar Water Pump for Olkoroi Camp!

The few people who’ve had the chance to see behind the scenes of what it takes to make the Olkoroi Camp tick might appreciate the smiles of happiness of our staff after the successful installation of the solar water pump recently. Carrying an 18 kilogram petrol engine pump down and up the steep banks of the river to pump water every now and then was an extremely difficult and risky job. For those who never saw the fundraising campaign video (click on the link), it gives you a little bit of an idea of what it all entailed.

Needless to say we are all very grateful towards those friends who helped us make this very necessary  project a reality! The camp now have enough  water and so does our wildlife water hole! What is even more exciting is that we are able to use clean renewable solar energy to get water.

Below are some pictures that will tell the story.

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Kashu, Amos, Emmanuel and Leudi inspecting the solar pump after it arrived.

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Digging the trenches for the pipes to take the access water to the wildlife water hole

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Connecting the water pipes and fittings together.

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Building the mold for the concrete cistern to house the solar pump in the river.

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Mixing concrete down by the river

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Heavy wheelbarrows full of concrete through the river

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Filling the mold with concrete

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Mounting the steel door over the cistern

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Almost there!

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Wiring in the solar pump

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Mounting the pump in the concrete cistern

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Water filling the cistern for the first time!

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Mounting the solar panels on the hillside where they can get maximum sunlight

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Final touches and wiring

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First water running into the dry water hole

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Landscaping the banks of the water hole to make access for wildlife easier

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Lots of hard work but with great joy!

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Water plants becoming established

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Setting camera traps to get footage of animals coming to drink water

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Buffalo coming to drink water

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Zebra visiting

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Impalas visiting

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Water Mongoose at night

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White-tailed Mongoose at night

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Bush-buck male drinking at night

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Buffalo bull drinking now nearly every day

 

 

 

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Report-back video for Olkoroi Camp

An exciting new video by Swiss friends Matthias Niederer, Michael Bolli and David Bachoven shows you exactly what you can experience when you visit the Olkoroi Camp.

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Click on the picture above to open Video.

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Olkoroi Camp’s new wildlife camera traps.

Overjoyed, is an understatement for how the Walking with Maasai team felt when they received their new set of wildlife camera traps donated by Kim De Witt and her amazing team of medical volunteers from Global Village Ministries who come and stay at camp every year while they  come and serve the Olorte community with their medical expertise.

Already we’ve managed to capture images of our resident leopard who lives around the camp! We also captured stunning images of buffalo drinking at the camps waterhole at night, including images of lots of other animal activity. Have a look at our Facebook album: Olkoroi Camp Camera Trap Pictures 

We are excited about the prospects of being able to monitor and study the African Wild Dog population in the area to create awareness of their endangered status and value to the community.

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The eye of the river

The “eye of the river” is what the Maasai call the source of a life giving river. The eye, a part of the body so sensitive, that if injured or damaged, would disrupt the whole being of a person and leave man blind and without hope. We are greatly excited and deeply amazed at the extraordinary wisdom of the Maasai elders of the Olorte Community Development Trust  and other community leaders who recognized the importance of conserving the Olkeju Arus River and the ancient Elephant Corridor that link the Naimina Enkiyio Forest(Forest of the Lost Child) with the world renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. DSC_0365

The community based Olkoroi Camp is located on a small hill, curiously enough shaped in the shape of an eye (aerial picture right). The camp lay snug on the edge of this bio-diverse wildlife corridor and water catchment area. It features breathtaking views over the Loita Hills, the surrounding woodland and the bordering Olkeju Arus river gorge. This is also the area that the Maasai elders of the Olorte region of Loita recognize as the source of the Olkeju Arus river and the Olmotonyie Wetland. The “Eye Of The River”.

The year 2014 gave the Walking with Maasai team new hope as we’ve searched through great difficulty for ways in which the Olorte community could buy into the idea of conserving this all important wildlife corridor. We are extremely glad and thankful for the efforts of Joyce Poole and Petter Granli from Elephant Voices and Dickson Ole Kaelo and Daniel Sopia from the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association who visited us to advise and assess the area and who sponsored a visit for some of our Community Trust and other members of the Olorte community to visit some of the very successful community based conservancies in the Maasai Mara area. The exposure of such field trips to other successful community conservation projects does a lot to stimulate vision and interest into conservation activities from community members.

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Along with the challenges of mobilizing a remote community such as Olorte into considering conservation as an option, there is a huge need for leadership training and skills development. In 2014 our team together with community trust members attended a conference in Nairobi on Sustainable Development hosted by the Boulder Foundation, this conference together with the Work 4 a Living training course has given us the tools to begin training with key role players. Skills training together with field visits to other community conservation projects and creating awareness through village training workshops  within the community is key to the success of establishing a community based conservation project.

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Tourism in Kenya was greatly affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as well as travel warnings due to terrorism activities in other parts of Kenya. This had a very negative effect on the whole country and many tourist camps and lodges had to close their doors and thousands of people lost their jobs. Thanks to the commitment and dedication of the Olkoroi Camp staff and management, the camp stayed operational throughout 2014 and we managed to get some good reviews on BizzNews.com and on the Walking with Maasai FaceBook page.

We are very grateful to all our supporters and friends who keep on encouraging us. We thank you for your support and faith in this project and we wish all a prosperous 2015!

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Olkoroi Camp

email signature2The Olkoroi Camp is located in the Loita Hills of Southern Kenya. The camp is situated on the edge of a wildlife corridor linking the Naimina Enkiyio (Forest of the Lost Child) with the world famous Maasai Mara eco-system. This  community based eco-camp was established by Walking with Maasai and offers unique and profound experience for all who wish to experience both culture and wilderness off the beaten track. Read this blog to find out more about what we are all about.

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Starting afresh

Dear Friend,

ImageYou might have noticed that the Olkoroi Camp’s Blog page has not been updated for quite some time. Walking with Maasai is working at putting the right infrastructure in place for our Website, Facebook page and Camp Blog to work together so we can be more consistent and effective with our updates and information. We have also experienced some problems with our internet connection and we are working towards having this restored. Our new website has a page just for Olkoroi Camp and interested people will be able to do booking inquiries through the web page. From here on we will do more regular postings about the camp and all the other activities of Walking with Maasai.

We thank everybody who has contributed towards setting up a better infrastructure that enable us to share our own vision and activities with people.

More updates will come soon!

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His name is “Barsilinga”

By Rodge More O’Ferrall

The traumatized Barsilinga during his rescue.

When I was in Nairobi this August I decided to visit the Elephant Orphanage after reading the blog entry “What are we going to do?” I was so moved by the experience that I have decided to ‘foster’ a male baby elephant called Barsilinga – rescued earlier this year.

I was struck by the impact that poaching has on elephants in the area around Olkoroi camp. At least the orphanage is doing something constructive by rescuing the very young offspring of poached adult females. I will have a chance to visit him on my next trip in November. Elephants are such majestic and intelligent animals that have been walking the area very near the camp for many hundreds of years. It would be great if the community can come to recognise their value and become involved in protecting them.

infinite gentleness needed for a steady journey of recovery and rehabilitation. Barsilinga with his Maasai blanket.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife fund is doing something constructive about this on a worldwide basis. Here below is Barsilinga’s story:

Gunshots were heard during the evening of 13th April 2012 by the community of the Lpus-La-Mpasion area near Wamba in the Samburu tribal area of Northern Kenya. The next morning (14th) a severely wounded female Elephant with a calf at foot was spotted in the area, bullet wounds in the chest area and front legs had rendered her barely able to even move. Yet another victim of the ivory trade, and a grizzly reminder of the suffering attached to each piece of ivory that is sold and bought. Her end was a painful one, full of suffering, and her calf would have been a victim too had he not been one of the lucky few rescued… Read the rest of the story and more about the wonderful work the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is doing –  http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/updates/updates.asp?ID=422#.UFYgYNNhjRw.email

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Buffalo!

By Haddon Davies and Anna Pearson

I stir just as dawn is breaking – the dense Kenyan night will soon melt away. Silence- I can no longer hear the rhythmic sound of grazing that punctured the darkness. Three lean horses found their way to the camp and have been free to roam.
Anna is already awake, propped up on one elbow, peering intently through the mess window by her bed.
‘Quiet, something’s out there,’ she whispers. I strain to hear faint snap of twigs in the undergrowth, and again, the crunch of dry leaves. Anna is off the bed now and gazing into the gloom through the window in the door flap, as desperate for the loo as for a better sighting of the zebra, first glimpsed some mornings earlier.
‘There’s a blurry shape down the hill – probably one of the horses – or just a bush. Still too dark to see.’ She bends to open the zip. I’m behind her now, staring at the shape in the half-light. Anna stretches a leg out of the tent, just as the ‘horse’ moves, raises its head and proudly displays a magnificent pair of horns – a silhouette that is unmistakeably buffalo!
All body parts nimbly retracted, but tent left boldly unzipped, we peer out awe-struck as the cow and calf also emerge from the thicket to join the bull. Unaware of their audience, the family move slowly to the right until hidden from view. We stay rooted to the spot as the bull reappears to the right of our terrace, moving back up the hill towards us and closer than before. We watch him approach through the gap in the tent flaps. Although grazing, the bull is on full alert to the slightest noise. At every sound, he freezes, staring in the direction of the threat. I move a cramped foot, the ground sheet crackles and we are suddenly the focus of a full-on suspicious glare. Time stands still as the two beady eyes stare deep into our souls. The blood pounds in my ears
as finally, the head lowers to continue grazing, we move to watch trough the mess window. Direct eye-contact with such a huge wild animal, free in its native habitat is too intimidating. The bull continues to advance, so close now I feel a sense of mounting terror. Calf and cow are also in the clearing behind the bull, but he has our individual attention. Halting at the very edge of our terrace, he lifts his massive head and delicately whips off the tips of the tall saplings growing by the steps. Close enough now to count the huge folds of hide at his neck, hear the tongue rasping away the leaves, we fully appreciate a sweep of horns that can toss a lion twenty feet with ease.
Suddenly something spooks the calf and cow, sending them back down the hill and into the bush. Our bull is unmoved and munches on. Decades pass before his head lowers and turn, he noiselessly directs his bulk down the hill, into the daylight and out of sight.
We have been imprisoned for almost an hour. Cautiously, I pace the distance from the buffalo’s hoof-prints – a mere twenty-five feet! With danger now at a distance, we rejoice in the thrill of such a close and personal encounter – more especially that we live to tell the tale!

Warmest gratitude to Andre and his wonderful team, who succeeded, in only ten days, to converting two ‘rookies’ from the UK into mini-adventurers, able to apply the first principles of self-preservation: To be invisible, stand still, shut up and don’t point!

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A story about a waterhole

We planted some of them in the buffalo footprints. The soil was moist and soft from recent rains and the huge hoofprints around the new waterhole was just the right depth. The spacing of the depressions in the soft mud could not be more perfect. It was just wild grass seeds and cuttings we planted to stabilise and rehabilitate the slopes on the newly dug wildlife waterhole at the camp, but for me – they were symbols of healing, hope and new life in a threatened and dying wilderness. In the weeks to come, each seed and grass cutting that took and each new tadpole in the water or fresh animal prints in the mud around the waterhole every morning gave me new inspiration and it made me smile.

One of my Maasai friends asked me why I was so excited about this hole in the ground. “Life,” I told him. “It brings new life…”     Read more below…

At the top – Leudi and Kashu planting grass cuttings on the slope. Centre – Mposioro, Andre and Don Richards planting reeds. Bottom – Nooltuka weaving a wicker barrier to prevent erosion around the inlet.

Over a span of less than one year the bare soil around the waterhole is completely covered by different indigenous grasses.

A pair of Cinnamon-chested Bee-Eaters (Merops oreobates) has started nesting in a steep bank at the waterhole.

The team was overjoyed when one of our camp visitors last year decided to fund the entire waterhole project! This meant that we were able to plan and implement the waterhole project without the daunting question of – “Will we have enough funds to do this?” hanging over our heads. As the once ugly red-brown scar in the earth where the new waterhole was dug was steadily healing as the bare soil got covered by grasses and water plants, so our hopes and vision for the success of the camp grew and strengthened.

Now that the waterhole has naturalised to a large extent, it is ready for the next stage of landscaping and the building of an educational hide up in the trees.

Nairimu, the camp’s orphan bushbuck investigating the drainage ditch that prevent erosion and carry rainwater to the waterhole

Here educational groups and visitors to the camp will be able to view birds and wild animals in silence as they come to feed, drink  and wallow.

The waterhole project provides a valuable opportunity for community members and school children to learn about erosion control and water harvesting techniques. It also provide an opportunity for viewing wildlife and do water studies with children on environmental outings.

The aim is for the waterhole to look like this eventually – hippos included…

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