Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Paradise off the beaten path - Kuddu Hills in Elangata Wuas Ecosystem...

Whizzing past the Elangata Wuas plains en route from Nairobi to Namanga, one catches a glimpse of the sacred Maasai Mountain, Ol Donyo Lengai, and the Noonkujit Swamp, where herds of elephant cross over from Tanzania to browse on the lush grass.
But there is much more than meets the eye.
Hidden beyond the steep rugged rocks and the acacia-littered plains that stretch into infinity is a gem that only those who dare venture off the beaten path will find. Until roughly a decade ago, few dared to venture off the main highway.

But the few who did found a paradise that could be sustained through eco-tourist ventures with a low footprint. The hills were home to the lesser kudu - a large antelope with spiralling horns, elephants, giraffes and gerenuks, impalas and gazelles, cheetah and leopards, baboons and monkeys, and more than 260 species of birds and 300 species of trees.
In the late 1990s, with support from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Ford Foundation, and IDRC, workshops were held to map a way to help the community open up their beautiful land for eco-tourism and other sustainable projects.
This was the beginning of the Elangata-Wuas Ecosystem Management Programme. The programme has since struggled through thick and thin but with many successes, among them conserving the once endangered African wild dog, which is now sighted regularly.
There are also fewer trees cut for charcoal, a simple tourist lodge aptly named Kudu Hills has been constructed, and recently the first library in the area — the Elangata Wuas Resource Centre — supported by Africa Soma was put up and opened to the local community. Kenya Community Based Tourism Network, an umbrella organization for Community Based Enterprises in Kenya has been helping this community in a bid to sustain their livelihoods. 
Hikers’ paradise
As we hike to the river, one of the first community guides and parataxonomist (he takes inventory of the animals) points out air plants (epiphytes) that live off the host tree, the spoor of a hyena, and in the low scrub, the tiny dik diks.
We spot barbets, lilac-breasted rollers, canaries, sunbirds, but unfortunately, without a pair of binoculars, we miss out on the birds of the high skies. After straining our eyes for a couple of minutes, we make out the African crowned eagle perched on an acacia tree high up the rocky mountain. It is Africa’s most powerful bird of prey, with talons strong enough to grab a small gazelle.
Stay at Kudu Hills Camp  
Kudu Hills camp is located 115Km from Nairobi and is slightly past Kajiado (Nbo-Kajiado 80kms).  Turn right at the sign reading Kudu Hills.  It is 35 kilometers in into the road. The Kajiado-Magadi railway line cuts across and Mile 46, the Maasai trading center, is at the halfway point.
The plains are great for hiking and you can try different circuits on subsequent visits. Try the Emarti, Karero or Kudu hills, and make sure to take a local guide along.
For overnight trips camp or stay in the Maasai-styled enkaji. It costs Sh400 per person per night (half price for the kids). Beddings are provided, and there are showers and toilets – nothing fancy but it is great value for money.
The common kitchen is complete with pots and pans, cutlery and crockery. Just take your food and personal items as well as a hat and plenty of water.

To book at Kudu Hills Please Contact
Joel Kenton
Mobile: +254 715 341 306

Kenya Community Base Tourism Network
Tel: +254 20 231 9458
Email: info@kecobat.org
www.kecobat.org / www.homestayskenya.org 

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