Being a community development intern, I was recently lucky enough to spend two weeks on Satellite Camp in Tsavo West, working with the Kidong and Kasaani communities. Out trip began with a brief visit to Mombasa, where we spent the night with the GVI project based up there before the early start for Taveta the next day.
The bus journey down to Taveta took us quickly out of the more urban areas surrounding Mombasa, and we soon found ourselves looking out upon huge rolling skies and an expansive landscape (with elephants visible in the distance), quite a contrast to the denser forest surroundings of the south coast. Upon arrival in Taveta, we had a quick lunch at the Challa Hotel, before being picked up in a matatu and taken to Kidong, where we were to spend our first week. We stayed at Kidong’s ‘Eco-Tourism Centre’, a site that is still in development, but ready to begin receiving visitors. The location of the Centre is truly spectacular, placed on a slight slope looking out across Tsavo West national park, with Mt. Kilimanjaro visible only a few minutes walk away. On the Sunday night of our arrival, we spent much of the evening sat on the ground watching panoramic lightning storms on the horizon, with thunder existing only a subdued and faint sound echoing from the distance. That evening in particular remains one of my most memorable since arriving in Kenya over two months ago, an event that must really be experienced in order to be fully appreciated.
Over the course of the week, we worked with the Kidong community, assisting them with their long-term plans for developing their Curio shop, as well as further additions to the Centre itself in preparation for increased visitor numbers. We also held sessions in which we informed the community members about the Moringa tree, a plant increasingly found in East Africa and renowned for its health and agricultural benefits. The group also gave us a taster day for their proposed attraction: a walk around the surrounding area and a talk from the ‘Wazee’ (meaning ‘old men’) about the community’s poaching history and life out in the bush.
The week was concluded with a feedback session given by myself and the other volunteers. Our advice seemed truly valued by the community members, who appeared genuinely grateful for the time we had spent working with them. We were all sad and slightly emotional to be leaving, yet our departure took place with everyone in good spirits after a fantastic week.
Text: Luke Guiness