Survival is for the fittest: Hippos in Amboseli

If asked, between the Crocodile and the Hippopotamus, who is the ‘King’ of water bodies? Most likely, we’d say the crocodile. With the sharp teeth and rough exterior and accurate tail slap, that animal is pure nightmare incarnate. In fact there’s a video on YouTube of a crocodile scaring an Elephant stiff while another video shows a crocodile hunting down an adult leopard. Crocodiles are awesome and gruesome hunters yet they don’t mess with the Hippopotamuses.

With the hippo’s smooth and sensitive skin to the sun, one would think they are easy prey but they are the embodiment of the saying, ‘Kindness for weakness. With their large bodies and small legs they are awesome swimmers. In water bodies, they are fast as a whip! No human can out swim them. However, on land, they can attain a speed of 35km/hr; even Bolt can definitely win a race against them.

Crocodiles do not mess with the adult Hippos for the right reasons. Key among them being the hippo’s powerful jaws. Hippos can open their mouth as wide as up to 1.5 meters wide and have the strongest bite pressure of between 1800-2000psi. That’s like 126.55Kg/cm2 of force being applied on every bite.

Hippo too tired to submerge due to a possible fight that happened overnight

During the 2021 AFEW Kenya Winners safari, Tertiary level, to Amboseli National Park We
saw one resting. He was badly bruised such that, he couldn’t be submerged in water, leaving its
badly wounded back out in the sun.

Our Head of Conservation Education programmes, Mr. Ngumbi Emmanuel and Mr. Omondi Fidel current Intern at the Conservation Education Department proceeded to let us know of the most probable misfortune this bull met. The bull fell on the wrong side of the survival for the fittest theory. This bull must have engaged in a male dominance territorial fight with another bull within a Bloat of Hippos and lost the fight.

Hippos fights starts with a mouth opening contest; with the one with the widest and biggest mouth winning. The winner of the mouth opening contest will try to snap it back with the loser’s mouth. If the loser evades the bite and takes off; a chase will follow with the chaser trying to dig his massive teeth in the other bull’s body until the chaser is tired or the day breaks.

The stories nature behold is simply beautiful. Participate in the AFEW Kenya Competition and enjoy some of the best scenes and a lot of learning moments with us as we help to connect you with nature.

AFEW Kenya – Giraffe Centre Annual competition winners safari

Lifestyle and Environment tend to go together, The more we depend on technology for our day to day lives, the more we’ll need to find ways to get the much needed energy to satisfy the ever increasing human demands. You can guess where it all comes from. With all the pressures of life, it’s very easy to overlook how our activities impact the environment. The demand for energy keeps increasing with every new generation. This calls for more engagement with the young on matters of environmental conservation so as to secure the future.

Zebras grazing at Amboseli Spill over lands

One of the ways to engage them is through picking their interest in fun and engaging activities. AFEW Kenya does this by  hosting an annual Environmental Awareness

Competition under a selected environmental theme.This competition seeks to give kenyan going students a chance to air their concerns on current environmental issues and challenges affecting their world and to propose possible  solutions to the same which can be undertaken at local, regional and global scales. The winners of the competition are then treated to a fully paid for Safari to different conservation areas and Parks across Kenya.

The 2021 tertiary competition winners for the tertiary level were recently treated to a 4 day safari to.Amboseli and Tsavo National parks. They had a treat of a lifetime. During the first day of the safari they got a chance to view the magnificent Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Amazing views of the huge but gentle jumbos from Amboseli National park.  On the second day of their safari, they got a chance to explore the expansive Tsavo West National Park, with magical views of Shetani lava flow remains and the iconic Mzima Springs, not to mention the rich wildlife biodiversity.

With the Guidance of Mr. Ngumbi Emmanuel, the safari was a perfect blend of education, fun, learning culture and making new connections. Stick around and find out, nature is fascinating.

This year the theme is “Our Earth, Our only Home, Our Responsibility”. The competition ends on the 31st of March 2022

The Amboseli National Park – Maasai Community Connection

Wildlife conservation in Kenya has been very dynamic in the precolonial, colonial and post-colonial period. For instance, in the precolonial period most local communities in Kenya and especially pastoral Maasai community members and their livestock lived peacefully side by side with wildlife. With the coming of the colonial masters, this dynamic changed as the colonial government of the British East African Protectorate decided to utilize legal instruments to regulate wildlife utilization and conservation in Kenya. They adopted the wildlife conservation policy which saw the creation of wildlife Protected Areas (PAs) essentially under the principle, ‘People out, Wildlife In’ for obvious reasons. This approach messed up the long held peaceful co-existence between people and wildlife as the PAs boundaries did not pay attention to the ecosystem dynamics including factors dictating seasonal pastoral community or wildlife migratory patterns and distribution of key resources within the original ecosystem. The post-colonial government adopted the same wildlife conservation policy with a few policy amendments from time to time.

Up to date, animals especially the migratory species knows no man-made boundaries. They still wander as they have always done for generations spilling over to the adjacent local community areas and beyond. Amboseli National Park ecosystem has been a good example of this scenario. The legally protected area is only approximately 390 square kilometres but it is part of the larger Amboseli – Kilimanjaro ecosystem which covers approximately 8000 square Kilometres. Amboseli national park was declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1991 because of its critical role it plays sustaining the survival of man and nature.

Hence, the park cannot be managed as an island but its conservation must actively incorporate local adjacent community members needs and knowledge for posterity. 

The Kenya Wildlife Service who are the custodians of Amboseli National Park encourages the Maasai Community who lives around the park to try and maintain land use practices which are more compatible with wildlife conservation this ensures the wildlife in the park then get to roam free on the spill areas around the park. In return, the park management have made a provision to allow the local Maasai community members to water their cattle at designated points within the park. This presents both the park and local community members with a rather important resource.

They have the community rooting for the park’s success. Also, the wild animals like the Elephants. Zebras, Giraffes, gazelles and waterbuck have grown accustomed to friendly human interaction. The kind that only leaves a minimal ecological footprint and satisfied community members and their Cattle. This a huge plus for tourism as it isn’t as hard to actually see and learn about the wildlife while at Amboseli National park. However, the carnivores are a different kind of story. 

Late in February 2022, AFEW Kenya sponsored selected tertiary level students for a 4 day trip to Amboseli – Tsavo National Parks and they had treat of a lifetime. These students were the top winners in the 2021 AFEW environmental Awareness Competition.

During this trip, they got a chance to visit a Maasai village which hosts a total of 97 extended family members. Incidentally, this village constitutes the smallest village in the area. Our guide let us know of the different experiences they’ve had with the carnivores in a bid to save their livestock dead in the night. Eerie stories the Ndauo have!  While this large, but small family eats meat as long as it’s today, they despise wild meat and so they do not kill wildlife for their daily survival. It’s amazing how much they value their culture and how much of it has been passed to the young generation. Do check them up on your visit to Amboseli National Park.

Written By:  Angaya Kevin

Compiled By: Mr. Ngumbi Emmanuel


Mosquitos. Most of us honestly believe that these guys can be a nuisance. Especially if you live near a water body. They wait for you late at night, just when you are soothing sleep. You know, you have your nice, soft music on the background, several layers of blanket to warm you up. Just when sleep is sipping in, they cut through the ambiance with their buzzing. Just like that, you are awake, fighting in the dark.

Pelican landing at lake Naivasha

Imagining them not around gives many of us sweet sleep and memories. However, imagine life without fish delicacies, birds that fish for a meal. Just imagine the images and scenes that we’ll be missing out!

On the flip side, imagine if they are in excess with no eater. Yes, I feel it too. If anything is in excess, the ecosystem becomes unstable. That was the case for Lake Nakuru National Park

To contain the mosquito problem, Tilapia Grahami was introduced. They feed on the larva of  mosquitos among others. Whereas the reasons for this idea was a little selfish, the results were heartwarming to any conservationist, bird watcher, and lives. With the fish introduction and the mosquito favoring environment, came the raptor birds. You should witness these Raptor Birds fishing! Beauty to behold.

Picture this: A fish eagle, 500 metres above the lake surface of the lake, spots a tilapia, dives in at speeds of 350 km/hr catches with is claws and flys off with satisfaction as it wafts off the water off its wings. Safaris are made of this.

hamerkop flying away

With the fish, comes the African Fish Eagle who in turn, attracts another beauty called the Hamerkop. This bird builds its nest for up to six months, the nest can be as heavy as a packet of cement, 50 kilograms. It can have a whole range of materials on the nest, from leaves to sticks, from thorns to feathers. The other birds took note of this and decided that it’s alright to get their nest materials from the Hamerkop nest.

Hamerkop’s friendship with the African Fish Eagle is purely for food which is in favor of Hamerkop. Do you have a friend like that? The kind that in events, made sure that you are full before the rest? I have one. They have a special place in my heart.

Imagine that it’s just a sample of how the wild works. So does the world too.

Learn this and more on our Winners safari. To take part in one, just participate in our annual Environmetal Competition that is currently ongoing and stand a chance to win a Safari among goodies.

Tembea Kenya

Njaanuary…, I never understood what this meant. I thought that maybe it’s one of those ‘Kang Kaka‘ wonderful spoken word performances. Creative mind he is by the way. I came to fully understand it’s meaning when I moved out. You know how back in college we’d be like”When I get a job, I’ll save lots just to recuperate like a king come December” Well, I now understand why saying”I’ll save” and doing it are two very different scenarios. The former makes me look responsible, the later is work and sacrifice.

Animals at the Sweet waters

And so, for last year’s December, I made a decision not to make the usual ‘Exodus’ to my village in the heart of Kakamega County. Only to realize that the only major difference I made is to miss out on the raw, uncut, untethered nature that is green with rains every often

as from 1500hrs to 2000hrs. So natural is my home that the monkeys are unashamed of their chauvinism. One time a lady friend was chasing them off a Maize plantation, the disrespect they displayed Still haunt me 20 years on.

All that for what? Six liters of a common soft drink and a sweet tooth. Don’t judge me, that was my dream once upon a time! January came, at least I paid my rent and essentials. All else, the only difference I had from the travelers? Other than clean air, clear roads. It’s only in the December festive season that a passenger can negotiate the fare price to a level of making the travel business feel like a charity. But who is Karma?! It’s January, the travel business owners are hiking their prices to exorbitant levels. Come on business owners! It’s not like January is happening to the unfair customers only. Exercise some humanity.

Tertiary Trip

“Come all ye who are heavy laden..” But before I bust your bubble, this call is only for those who participated in the tertiary level of the 2019 AFEW Annual Environmental Competition. For they will have a trip around the

Nakuru – Naivasha circuit. Imagine the Geo-spa, a game drive, camping, among others in January. The fun part, all this is a reward for a job well done

Why do we do it?

We are all in the move. Some move with a pretty clear understanding of where they are going, in which case people would call ambitious, focused, role models, you name it. The other group is the nonchalant, easy-going, live-in -the moment type who toss care to the wind. We all have these types of people in our inner circle. Each personality brings the best or the worst in us, but one thing remains for sure, they all form part of this closely-knit fabric without which we fall apart.

Then there’s the loners, the sojourners or backpackers. These don’t subscribe to the famous maxim “For the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the  park is the wolf.” They are very loyal to solitude and go about everyday life in a manner only particular to them.

With all this evolution and growth in the human mindset. One thing has stood the test of time. The desire to know. To find meaning and understanding. To explore. This would explain why ancient explorers would leave the comfort of the familiar to seek something far much more significant- a knowledge of what’s out there. I imagine this is how most of these conversations went.

“ For heaven, sakes Vasco, get a grip of yourself! Who says there’s something far much better beyond our shores? Why go sailing unchartered waters?”

“But mother, how will I know if I don’t take the risk? There has to be something beyond that horizon. There has to.”

“We better get you a wife. Maybe that would give you a reason to stay,”   

“Don’t sweat it mother, I’ll marry my kind.” Says Vasco as he storms out of their cottage.

Just like that Vasco da Gama sets off to a journey of the unknown. He finds himself in the tropical weathers. Back home was freezing, but here. This place is different. I will try not to indulge in the stereotypical writing of Africa’s sunsets, neither will I talk of its savannah and the Maasai because there’s much more to the continent itself than starving bushmen.

I will, however, talk about Africa’s beauty in a different light-the People. They say people make culture and that the opposite is false.  I agree. Africa is vibrant because of its people. This continent became a transition point for many races after the Pangea broke. And for centuries we still find our way back. We come back to what our hearts know or longs.

Giraffe  Center is one such confluence. One tributary comes carrying friends from Athens, another brings the explorers from Korea. One loner backpacking across North America may save enough just enough to come to Kenya or a curious individual watching Ellen DeGeneres’ experience at giraffe centre may decide to pack up and come have a feel of the same.

These rivers all meet up here. That is what makes Giraffe Center special. The joy shared by those having their first giraffe kisses or lack thereof due to fear draws them to a common understanding. We pride ourselves in being matchmakers. Giving people a taste of both worlds. Some of the friendships formed here last a lifetime, so do the connections. This is why we do what we do. Bring people closer and promote universal coexistence.


Giving Back

Say one day you are sitting at a café after a long day of work taking iced tea or whatever it is you fancy. Across the road from the restaurant is a curio shop which seems to be having a sale. You’ve never seen a curio shop do promotional sales before,  at least not one with mascots in giraffe and elephant costumes. How do they do it with all that heat – you wonder. Going back to your phone, you hear chatters and giggles. One laugh, in particular, attracts your attention. So you look up and see this group of school kids in hysterics. They look so fascinated by the mascots -I mean their eyes are even sparkling (am just assuming at this point cause how can you possibly see their eyes from across the road in a coffee shop).

They have been standing at the curio shop for almost an hour now. And as you leave to go home, you hear them talk of how they’d love to meet the real giraffes and elephants. The longing in their voices is so overwhelming. It takes you down memory lane. Childhood memories of going for school trips to national parks and how you could not sleep the night before any of these trips. You’d love to give them this experience because every child deserves to be happy.

At the Giraffe centre, we have enjoyed the privilege of bringing smiles to thousands of these children. The inspiration that brought to life our Ecological trips was not just born over a cup of tea but the desire to educate and pass on the knowledge of conservation. So for the last nineteen years, we have committed to taking school children, especially from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds to these day-long trip.

Each year, in partnership with Kerrigan Waves Trust, we take students from  Mukuru Kayaba Primary School to the Ecological trips. These trips’ aim is to learn while having fun as some would call it- edutainment.  It starts with a trip to our centre. Here the kids can feed the giraffes and if lucky kiss them too. The next stop takes us to Mamba Village, which is an Ostrich and Crocodile Farm. Did you know that crocodiles don’t have tongues? And that male Ostriches are called Roasters? Thought you should know, Cool stuff there!

From Mamba Village, the school proceeds to Nairobi Animal Orphanage. Here they see the Big Five animals and many other animals that have been orphaned or injured and are under rehabilitation. It is an amazing sight to come close to a roaring Lion or a panting buffalo. Their final stop is the David Sheldrick Animal Orphanage. Have you seen an elephant up close? They are magnificent creatures. Tender giants of sorts, and quite frankly my bias. The kids learn how emotional and demanding elephants can be, which explains why they are very social.

The day ends with a spectacular meal in which the educators and children interact and share exciting things they learnt from the trip. Eventually,  we take them back to school and wait to read their compositions on that experience. It is a fulfilling job to give back, a habit that should be inculcated in all of us.

A tale of wildlife photography

If you are an intrepid soul that only finds peace in the knowing, then David Attenborough would be your best friend. He being a curious individual by nature has spent a better part of his life exploring the wild and bringing it closer to our homes. I remember for the longest time the only TV channel we’d watch as a family that resonated with all of us and would almost immediately put an end to the remote control fights would be the Nat Geo Documentary – Blue Planet.

His calm voiceover as he spoke of the high seas and low tides took us to places we’d never been. I blame my introverted nature on of some these series because I would prefer sinking to a world of fantasy, my little haven of sorts, than having a mindless chatter with those around me. I know what you are thinking. Yes, this is not proper behaviour, especially in cooperate spaces. I am working on it. There’s always room for the personal growth right?

The other day, Netflix released David Attenborough’s documentary- Planet Earth. Now, I won’t lie to you because no one is paying me to promote it, but the truth is the series is dope! To show you that I have grown as an individual, my thought process consequently evolved from the lines of, are mermaids real to more sophisticated thoughts like what is the role photography in the conservation of wildlife?

So I did a bit of nose-diving, thank God for the internet!  and came across two intriguing wildlife photographers. Their works could arguably stem on inspiration from Sir Attenborough. Fun fact:  Sir David Attenborough was knighted by the Queen of England for his exemplary work in natural history programmes.


Let’s start with the less complicated photographer-  Matty Smith. So Matty is an ocean explorer and photographer who mainly focuses on showing the difference between the dry land and the deep seas. His collection, a Parallel Universe: Windows beneath the Waves, showcases some of the best- half over half under – water photographs the world has seen.

 His signature style of taking images of marine life has won him internationally acclaimed awards and recognition. One of his photos that gives me the creeps is the  Smiling Assassin which shows an American Crocodile lurking on the water surface but seems somewhat ready to pounce on his unwary self.

Karren Lunney is the second photographer who deals with more contemporary and  complex  ideas.  Her concepts rally around liminal spaces. In this case, liminal spaces mean states of transition, a point of uncertainty where a thing has ended, and another is yet to come.

 Take, for example, a rite of passage, the point just before you are initiated into adulthood. It is a point of uncertainty, and these are the kind of situations Karren loved to document in the wild.

Her famous collection, Dante’s Inferno. Showcases a confusion of wildebeest ( for my diligent students a confusion of wildebeest is the collective name for a group of wildebeest) migration as they cross over from the Maasai Mara to Serengeti plains. During the migration, the Wildebeest cross the Mara River which is inhabited by crocodiles, and some of the wildebeests fall, victim. In Karren’s view, it is a point of uncertainty if the wildebeests will make it to the other side of the river. It is also a test of bravery as with all rites of passage.

You all have to agree with me when I say, wildlife photography is not just a way of documenting our heritage but also a way of life. It is rather sad to note that very few Africans have actually ventured into this art of photography. And as the world evolves, I do hope we begin to document our own beauty as a continent.

Fascinating Life Of The Dik-Diks

“Till death do us part”, is a promise that seem to be a tall order as years go by if statistics are anything to go by. The amount of sacrifice that is needed to keep the promise seems hard as life goes by.


Not for the Dik-Diks though. These small antelopes, not the smallest though, have a very simple yet interesting way of life and interaction with their family.

Normally, antelope family walk in large groups. Majorly for protection, even though the female to male ratio is a little big. The stronger the male, the more the females. The way of the wild is more of conquest between males. Most animals in the have to mark their territory in some way, before that, they have to fight for that territory. For the Dik-diks, however, the way of the wild is love as opposed to conquest, encouragement over battle and explore over war.

Their gestation period is 169-174 days  which is roughly 6 months. Mark you, an adult Dik-dik is the height of 16 inches at most with the weight of 15 pounds at most. Which makes them probably smaller than a dog. No, don’t take them for pets though, they are a rare breed. Much respect to them

Remember, the way of Dik-diks is encouragement over battle? Most wild animals chase away their young ones once they become adults as they are seen as competition for territory. Even here at Giraffe Center, Eddie is already having trouble with Jock (VI) (Betty’s Male Calf) and Olerai (Kelly’s Male Calf) yet they are not yet Adults. For Dik-diks, once they are adults, which is 7 months after birth, the Male Dik-Dik “sends away” the “Adult” Dik-dik out of their territory to go start a new home.

Dik-diks stay as couples. They stay together till death do part them. The male dik-dik send away the male young one as also the female dik dik sends away the female young one.

As to the remaining pair, they stay together, have other  young ones. If by bad luck, one of them dies due to any circumstance, the remaining one becomes suicidal. The remaining one can even surrender to a predator due to loneliness. Crazy I know.

They use their tears and to mark their territory. Urine and feces work too.

For some reason, some people use their skin to make gloves, hence their biggest threat are humans.

Well, what if we just leave them alone, they would be walking around Lake Nakuru National park giving us great examples of being in love. But no, we had to make gloves out of them, shame on us. Did you know that one Dik-dik  can only make one pair of gloves. Think about it.