East Africa, and Kenya specifically has always been a breeding ground for incredible characters: from the infamous Happy Valley Set, to talented artists – especially writers (Karen Blixen being one of the first), to people with a huge passion or life mission (The Legendary Grogan and his walk from the Cape to Cairo); this country is packed with people that have an incredible story to tell. Kenya is also a country so physically beautiful, so rich in cultural diversity, teaming with wildlife and indigenous people. Imagine there are around 40 tribes most of which have their own language all in one country! What a voyage of discovery you are on. Welcome to catching this wonderful disease that actually has a name in most languages; of course the most poetic is in French: Le Mal d’Afrique!
Reading and Movie list:
Before, during or after your trip expand your background and in depth knowledge on this amazing region. There is no better way to do this than by watching films and reading books. This is a lifelong project and contains many true gems, herewith is some of my absolute favorites:
The Horn of Africa: Blackhawk Down, The Zanzibar Chest, Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs
For conservation efforts and the trials and tribulations that eventually claimed her life, read Diane Fossey and watch ‘Gorillas in the Mist’. ‘Mountains of the Moon’ is about the explorers Burton and Speake and their expedition to discover the source of the Nile.
Kenyan history and poetically written beautiful books that move me to tears still: ‘Out of Africa’ and of course the movie – you just can’t miss either. Beryl Markham’s ‘West with the Night’ is an inspiring and true story as is ‘White Mischief’ and of course the movie too. Mirella Ricciardi’s ‘African Saga’ is a beautifully written true story of her family and hardly available. The ‘Lunatic Express’, ‘Man Eaters of Tsavo’ and the not so fantastic film the ‘Ghost in the Darkness’,(but still worth watching) are all about the building of the railroad that connects Nairobi and Mombasa. The ‘Born Free’ trilogy by Joy Adamson as well as the film tells a wonderful true story, and for another life taken in return for passionate conservation efforts is the story of George Adamson in ‘To Walk with Lions’. ‘Nowhere in Africa’ is a wonderful German language film on Kenya which won the Oscar for best foreign film. ‘The Flame Trees of Thika’ by Elsbeth Huxley, and read anything by Doris Lessing. Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’. Shiva Naipaul’s ‘North of South. Contemporary light reading: ‘I dreamed of Africa’ is a true and beautiful story. Terribly movie, stay away from that.
Amazing African writers: Ngugi Wa Thiongo ‘Petals of Blood’, ‘Weep not Child’ and ‘The River Between’ give a real insight into rural village life. Meja Mwangi’s ‘Kill Me Quick’ and ‘Going Down River Road’ tell a story of the early days of city life and already so cutting edge!
Coffee table books: ‘Maasai’ by Carol Beckwith and Tepilit Ole Saitoti. ‘Turkana’ and ‘Samburu’ by Nigel Pavitt. ‘Broken Spears’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. ‘Vanishing Africa’ by Mirella Ricchiardi. ‘African Ceremonies’ by the legendary Fisher and Beckwith duo. ‘Eyelids of Morning’, ‘Longing for Darkness’ and ‘The End of the Game’ by Peter Beard. Interiors: Taschen’s double volume – “Inside Africa” is amazing. ‘Safari Style’ by Tim Beddow as well as both Bibi Jordan books. I have noticed loads of new ones on the shelves but not had time to really research them. Oh my goodness the list could go on, but as I told you it is a lifelong project!
Questions I get asked the questions most frequently:
This is the million dollar question. The existence of malaria is largely dependent on altitude due to the temperature drop at night which cannot be survived by the larvae. Lemarti’s camp is a malaria free area. You will be taking a malaria prophylactic prescribed by your doctor and you should take this as recommended; some people do get serious reactions. When you are in a malaria area you may like to know more about how it works. Only the female anopheles can carry the disease, so not every mosquito can give you malaria. She is active between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am. So if you are in a net or wearing protective clothing as well as repellent during these times it is impossible for you to be infected.
This can be a sensitive subject. First and foremost remember this is absolutely at your discretion. If you do wish us to suggest leaving a nice tip we say that you as a group could leave US$ 60 per day that you stayed with us. At Lemarti’s Camp your tip is divided by the staff as they feel appropriate for that trip. All tips are recorded and are listed as an indirect benefit to the community. Thank-you whatever you chose to do!
Shopping at Lemarti’s Camp: 1. My shop is now up and running at camp for those who do not get a chance to visit my studio in Nairobi. US$ personal cheques, or cash are a preferred mode of payment. However, visa and master card are also accepted but will incur a surcharge of 5%.
2. Buying from adorned beauties or from the women’s group: you will be visiting a women’s group when you come to Lemarti’s camp & you will also see people adorned and may want to purchase things from them. It’s a little frustrating for them to be paid in dollars as this then needs to go all the way to Nairobi for changing and back which is quite a tedious procedure. I suggest you bring US$ 100 equivalent (Kenya Shillings 8000) and have them in smallish notes – 100s, 200s and 500s. This will really make a difference. Every purchase is recorded and shown as an indirect benefit to the community.
3. At my Nairobi Studio: We would love you to come for a visit. To get some background information, some product shots and prices please go to this link (LINK). We do take credit cards but our preferred form of payment is a personal US$ cheque or cash.
Nairobi Shopping day: I have taken the time to do a write up of things I would love to do myself in a day in my part of Nairobi, if you are interested see my personal itinerary at the following link (LINK)
Information that will be very useful and specifically relates to your cultural interaction at Lemarti’s camp:
The nomadic tribes (now semi nomadic) of the North of Kenya are said to be one of the original 12 tribes in biblical terms and we do see some shared customs and traditions. The Samburu practically keep a kosher diet (the big blunder being that they do drink milk and blood mixed at times). It’s a fascinating part of the world in geological terms (the Great Rift Valley) in paleontological terms (this is where the oldest skulls found come from) as well as cultural terms. You will see that indigenous cultures live as they have done for millennia vis-à-vis nature, livestock and beast. It’s such a rare and wonderful thing to be authentically a part of.
Once again I could write a book for you but I will try to stick to the very basics to help you understand in general what is what.
The people of Koija own their land. This is of course a new concept in MAA culture but the pressures of a changing world have forced this to come about and in fact they are lucky and blessed to hold a title of their own land. Moving from nomadic to very slightly semi nomadic culture in one generation does of course have a massive impact on culture tradition lifestyle and ceremonies.
Each homestead you visit is not a village, but a homestead inhabited by one family. It is tradition that all men of the family remain there, so uncles, brothers, fathers & sons all stay, marry and bring a wife into the homestead while daughters get married off. No more than one girl from another family may be married in. So when you go you are facing an entire family.
You will see that these are such beautiful people, adorned and wearing the most incredible colors, it makes us look a little silly when we always think that we need to wear camouflage colors in the bush when your guide is decked out in all the colors of the rainbow! So don’t be shy to throw in some color. When you are staying at Lemarti’s Camp you are a visitor of the entire community. You are automatically invited to any ceremonies taking place. We have a strict policy of not staging anything so if you come during drought there will be less going on, rain brings abundance and with it the celebrations of life. This is when important rites of passage take place. We do try to encourage you not to take photographs but instead be part of the ceremony; it really does change everything for them and for you if you do not separate yourself through your viewfinder! We are in the process of trying to introduce the concept of actually keeping these ceremonies secret.
The people of Koija inhabit this land so wildlife is scarcer on Koija itself but abundant right around us as we border 3 huge ranches. This excludes the elephants, which migrate and move around as they wish. It is important to understand that the people have chosen to make tourism a real income for the community and are active conservationists, this is a big leap. Peaceful co-existence is the order of the day. You will never be able to walk in the bush with people more experts at walking with wildlife.
During your stay you will most likely meet with a women’s group that sells trinkets but you will also see amazing adornment worn daily. If you wish to buy things off people’s necks, I would ask you not to bargain, this is their special piece and if they agree to sell it then just accept or reject the price as a sign of respect. Rejection would not be offensive. Boniface will help you bargain with the ladies of the organized group that is totally accepted and expected. As I explained above, it is a good idea to bring Kenya shillings cash in notes of 100 and 200 as well as 500. Many people spend up to 500 dollars but in general it would be safe to say you may spend 100 dollars, you can always take it back with you but instant gratification in the middle of the bush is fantastic and heads straight off to market to feed mouths.
The only two words you really need to know before you arrive are – SOBA (meaning hello and actually spelled supa) as well as ASHEE-OLENG (meaning thank you)
Lemarti and Boniface will see you at the airstrip – travel safe and we look forward to your visit!