While millions of tourists travel to Africa each year in search of the ultimate big game experience, for the Hurst group, sightseeing was just an adjunct although one that was greatly valued by the entire party.
Shortly after landing at the capitals Jomo Kenyatta airport, the boys and girls made tracks to their first stop, the Langata Giraffe Sanctuary. Both students and the rescued animals were, naturally, quite curious about one another, with the world’s tallest animal stooping low to enquire in the only way it knows, by using its tongue.
Following a first night stay at the Banda School in Nairobi the group rose early to visit to the Sheldick Trust, where orphaned baby elephants and rhinos are carefully introduced back into the national parks. As the group learnt about the processes behind the programme, one elephant calf plotted playful tricks, eventually spraying wet mud at the entire party.
Soaking up all on offer, the team journeyed to Lake Naivasha. Whilst on a short boat trip cameras snapped to capture shots of hippos as they dozed under the high sun. Once back on dry land and after a cycle ride through Hell’s Gate National Park, home to a famous flower farm, the students were introduced to the fundamentals of sustainable production methods.
Four wheels had, so far, been the mode of transport but at the base of Mount Longomot, it was time to stretch the legs and climb some 2,800 metres. Ten students made it to the summit whilst others opted for a guided bush savannah walk.
The next few days and nights encapsulated a true African experience as the team spotted wild rhinos and flamingos at the Nakuru National Park, overnighted in the Kembu campsite and travelled to Samburu, where they were met by ostriches, gerenuk and further wandering elephants.
It was in Samburu where the students supported the conservation charity, Save the Elephants, which works mainly on the prevention of poaching. Inside the centre’s research camp the group received presentations, used Google elephant tracking and met with Dr Lucy King, recipient of multiple awards for her ground breaking work in improving the relationship between both elephants and the indigenous community.
From the field research at Samburu the next stop was the nearby Ngare Mara primary school. Together with staff and some 15 local children, the Hurst team painted colourful murals on the school’s outer walls greatly impressing the headmaster with their dedication and creativity.
The time spent amongst the people surrounding the school was treasured by all, including the Kenyan support staff and children, who joined to talk, play games and pose for photographs well after the work was completed.
With the end of the tour approaching, Hurst’s explorers were still on the move, this time by camel. The students trekked in the searing heat by day and by night they camped amid beautiful scenery, ate from the BBQ and welcomed the evening’s cool.
Before the return home there was just enough time for one final moment to cherish in the memory. As the students sat together through the final night’s camp, local camel herders gathered to perform traditional dances and songs. “I learnt so much in such a short period of time” reflected one student “it was an unforgettable experience”.