Monday, July 21, 2014

Kakamega Forest - Traveling With Kids in Kenya

1 1/2 - 2 Hours from Eldoret
Cost- 4500 shilling taxi ride
3 hour guided tour 500 shillings per person

We went to Kakamega forest this weekend.  We are down to our last two weeks here and we wanted a nice day trip to keep us busy but that wouldn't break the bank.  At one point huge swatches of Kenya were covered with rain forest but like most of the forest in the world this one has suffered huge deforestation.  Now all that is left is a tiny little patch that has been turned into a national forest.  We'd heard it was beautiful and wanted to see for ourselves.  The taxi ride was short enough.  When we got to the forest we were taken to the side Rondo Lodge was on.  I sort of wish we would have been taken to the National Forest Side, but the thing is the forest really isn't that huge so maybe we didn't miss much.  The Rondo Lodge is beautiful.  I mean just a pristine little piece of heaven...that is if you didn't have four kids tagging along with you.  They like to maintain an air of silence and the whole lodge is really set up to be a place of relaxation.  We tried to get our brood off the grounds and into the forest pretty quickly but I did manage to snap a few quick shots of the place.       
Seriously just a gorgeous spot.  I think if I had a weekend without kids and a great book this would be the spot to be.  Just a few hundred yards from this lovely place you enter the forest.  There are paths everywhere.  We'd been told that this area was a little dicey to hike with the kids.  Surprise it is a rain forest, there was rain and mud everywhere.  It ended up being ok although Dr. J kept Cheetah on his shoulders most of the hike to keep her from climbing us with muddy feet.  I kept my hand on Cheetah and we survived quite easily.  We opted for the three hour hike because we weren't quite sure how long our kids would last.  We were given the option of a five hour hike or the three.  Having children you just never know what to do.  We went for three and though our kids asked quite a few times when the hike would be done, after the hike was over our kids were still wired.  We probably should have opted for the five hours, but here is what we did see during those three hours.  The first 1/2 of our hike was in old forest.  The trees were huge and everything was green...I mean everything. There was moss growing on everything.  Our guide Ben did a great job of showing us butterflies and moths, monkeys, a whole host of different plants, bugs and a giant snail, the largest I've ever seen in my life.  Shockingly we saw no birds.  I don't know if it is because we are a very loud group of six or it wasn't just the wrong time of day but we didn't see a single bird.  It's crazy because I can barely sleep at night because there are so many birds in our compounds.  There was a part of my mind that wondered if perhaps there was a large snake population keeping the bird population in check but luckily we didn't see any snakes.  I'm so freaked out by snakes right now.  Dr. J and I have got to stop watching National Geographic snake specials while we are still on this continent.
Walking into the green forest...Cheetah is on the prize spot on her father's shoulders.  I think about this often.  Sometimes I feel like maybe we were a little young when we started having kids but then I think young bodies have strong shoulders, and strong shoulders can carry babies all over the world :)

Monkeys in the trees.  I feel lucky we had the opportunity to see the monkeys.  Some friends of ours went and only heard them.  We saw them swinging around, eating and playing.
There are so many butterflies although many of them are in the secondary growth forest.  I'll get to that part a little later.  This was pretty much the only one I was able to capture though.  I think I've been badly trained by the butterflies at the zoo.  They always sit so nicely for you when you are trying to photograph them.  Meanwhile here in the forest where I suppose there must be birds eating them since we saw plenty of mangled butterflies on the ground.  We also saw hundreds fluttering around but for the most part when they landed those little pretties closed their wings.  Ben the guide said they do that to help keep themselves hidden.

Oh look here is my daughter grabbing leaves and trying to shove them in her mouth.  I'm starting to think the girl has pica.
This snail was palm the heck did it get so big.
About 1/2 way through our hike we came out of old growth and found ourselves in secondary growth.  In order to try and stop some of the destruction of the forest a quick forest was planted all around it.  They were going for threes that grew up faster.  The forest is still pretty beautiful but it is definitely different.  This was where we saw the majority of the butterflies.  This forest is an absolute necessity if what is left of the original forest is going to survive.  The people in the local community use this are to graze their cows, they forge into the forest for food, and they definitely go into the forest for firewood.  All along the route to Kakamega forest you see woman and children walking into the forest carrying a little puffy looking pillow thing behind their backs and woman and children walking out of the forest carrying huge loads of firewood on their heads.  We actually stopped to talk to a few kids while Dr. J was trying to snap a good picture.  One child said, "Give me your money."  but the rest of kids were very nice and were pretty much just excited to see our children.  Sometimes I feel like our kids are little mini celebrities.  We snapped off a few shots and then passed out handfuls of Pringles before we headed further on our way.  

As we started our hike Gigi saw a sign pointing a separate direction toward a fish pond.  After we got back she insisted we head that direction.  Reading is lovely, but sometimes it is annoying ;)

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