Safari Stories

Nairobi Snake Park

Face- to-face with Omieri again

Above: Omieri the African rock python in her new glass cage. Notice the burn mark on exreme right that she received in 1987 – which led to her death.
Copyrigt Rupi Mangat

Published: Saturday Magazine Nation newspaper 14 April 2018

In 1987 l went to see Omieri the she-python who suddenly shot to fame on account of having being caught in a fire that left her in very bad health. She was coiled lethargic in her glass cage and succumbed to her wounds on 25th June 1987. In the passage of time, l forgot about her.

Fast forward to 27th March 2018.

Thirty years later l’m face-to-face with Omieri again. This time though she’s dead, her long beautifully patterned body in a special glass case and preserved in ethanol. Her burn wound is visible but she’s now a national celebrity on permanent exhibition at the Nairobi Snake Park thanks to a young woman called Diana Injendi.

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Scaling Iyale

Published 7 April 2018 Saturday Nation magazine

In the Taita Hills

Iyale bare crystalline peak - copyright Rupi Mangat
Iyale bare crystalline peak – copyright Rupi Mangat

I’m back with a mission. Staring at the gigantic bare rock face of Iyale, one of the high peaks of the Taita Hills, l’m sizing it up to summit it.

The Taita Hills is the amazing chain of massifs that make the Eastern Arc Mountains made of 13 mountain blocks. The Taita Hills in Kenya is the extreme northern end with the rest in Tanzania. These amazing and ancient forest-capped crystalline mountains are the first massifs to catch the wind-swept ocean breeze off the Indian Ocean.

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The Happy Herons of Manguo Swamp

Above: Grey Crowned Crane on its nest (not in Manguo Swamp because they don’t nest there)
Copyright: International Crane Foundation / Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership

Published: Saturday magazine, Nation newspaper 31 March 2018

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Fleur Ng’weno in green jacket who has started bird walks in Nairobi in February 1971 and still at it – Manguo Swamp March 2018 Copyright Rupi Mangat

It’s a cold and rainy March morning but some of us need to escape the dull city skies. So meeting the Nature Kenya friends for the regular third Sunday of the month (including Wednesday mornings) that have gone on uninterrupted since the eminent Fleur Ng’weno started them in February 1971, we settle on Manguo Swamp.

There are two reasons for this.

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Nestled in Naivasha

Published: Saturday magazine, Nation newspaper 24 March 2018

Above: Hippos ashore. Copyright Rupi Mangat

It’s late returning to Nairobi from upcountry. We find a campsite to spend the night on the fringes of the freshwater Lake Naivasha, the highest of the Great Rift Valley lakes in Kenya. There’s just enough daylight for a walk around the papyrus-lined shore with the hippos honking, preparing to come ashore to dine for the night.

The papyrus ruffles in the evening breeze. It is an amazing plant. Ancient Egyptians used it to make their scrolls that today show their ancient past. In terms of eco-services, the papyrus is home to wildlife like fish, birds and hippos. The green plant also stabilizes water levels and moderates temperatures around lakes and rivers. Yet today there’s less than 10 per cent around Lake Naivasha.

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The Story of Gedi

Published: Saturday Magazine, Nation newspaper 17 March 2018

Above: The Palace in Gedi  Copyright Rupi Mangat

In the eventide, a skein of white wings glide over the blue of Watamu Bay to settle on the huge jagged Hemingway rock. Curious, l zoom in on the birds that appear as dots with the naked eye, l get my shots and send them to the birders.

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Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola) that breed in the Arctic Circle at Watamu bay February 2018 – flying in to breed here after a flight of 7000 km Copyright Rupi Mangat

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