Sunday, 3 April 2011


The Ngong Forest Reserve does not have an especially topnotch reputation for safety. Thus, while it is open to the public, public with brains only go with a guide. On the first and third Saturday of every month there are guided walks (more here, and super hardcore version here)and we went on one on April 3.

We were early, so had to wait for our guide, and saw several strangely unafraid hardedars, a large Vervet monkey, and a troop of twenty racehorses, one of whom got away from his guide, greatly to the amusement of the other guides.

Boggling our minds by arriving early, our guide Nicholas proved to be in full uniform and impressively fully informed about the forest. We saw pied kingfishers, divebombing for fish repeatedly, black winged stilts, rednecked widowbirds, cinammon chested bee eaters, and a huge number of plants, harder to identify and harder to remember.

Nicholas was very interesting on the subject of the social uses of the trees. He pointed out a tree called mutanga, known for the medicinal uses of its bark, and told us that where the forest got down to the large slum Kibera the mutanga was dying out. Apparently this is because old men used to take the bark, and knew to use only a small amount, and cover the hole that was left with cow dung, but now young guys apparently just rip entire trees bare, and thus kill them.

Nicholas was accompanied by a man in civies, who carried a thick stick. I asked him if this was in case of theives, and he replied, No, just for walking. This was really very sweet of him, as it was evidently far too short to be a walking stick, and he never used it for walking; but I appreciate the attempt to put the new girl in Nairobi at ease.

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