Lale’enok Resource Centre
Our course is based at the Lale’enok Resource Centre in Olkiramatian conservancy in the South Rift area of southern Kenya (see map below), which is approximately 4 hours drive from Nairobi. The drive from Nairobi takes you on a stunning journey down the east wall of the rift valley through dramatic volcanic scenery and past lake Magadi, one of the colourful soda lakes of the rift. The local Maasai community have set up a community conservation area here. The Maasai have always been renowned and famous for their remarkable ability to live alongside and tolerate wildlife amongst their cattle but in a modern Kenya where an expanding population has put more and more pressure on the land, the wildlife population has suffered.
The Maasai have recognised this and in forming these community conservation areas they have collectively decided to protect the wildlife on their land. They still herd their cattle and live here in a traditional manner. The area is a favourite haunt of Patrick’s and he knows it very well, having spent much time there camping and exploring with his family whilst growing up. The amount of wildlife present is quite staggering considering that the area is outside of a formal protected national park. They have one of the highest lion densities present in East Africa as well as healthy numbers of the other big predators, elephants, buffalo and large numbers of giraffe and plains game. Night game drives here are incredibly productive and exciting, with regular sightings of nocturnal mammals including porcupines, african wild cats, zorillas, white-tailed mongoose, genets and civets.
The fees payable to the community for the use of the conservation area are included in the course fee. By being there and using the area we are contributing to its continued protection. The resource centre itself is a community based, women-owned natural resource and research centre, a physical place that provides a centre for information storage and dissemination. The centre provides the community with a forum to engage with partners (scientists, practitioners) on knowledge creation, dissemination and application. There are a team of scientists based out of the centre who are involved in lion, elephant and baboon research in the area. This is fantastic from our point of view because we can interact with them to learn more about what they are doing on the ground and hopefully spend some time with them in the field tracking some of the lions that they have radio collars on.
Camping and facilities at Lale’enok
Lale’enok sits conveniently on the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro river which is thankfully crocodile-free. Its shady, fig tree lined banks are a favourite with the local baboon troop, and its cool water provides a great place for a refreshing swim in the heat of the day. The resource centre itself is fairly basic and is home to the local women’s group, the conservancy admin staff and local researchers. We will be using some of their thatched buildings to do our lectures in but otherwise we will be staying in a basic but comfortable tented camp in close proximity to the resource centre.
The tented accommodation is based on two people sharing. Camp beds and bedding will be provided along with local staff to oversee the smooth running of the camp. Toilet facilities will be shared between tents and will take the form of pit latrines and safari style showers from a hanging bucket. Laundry facilities will not be provided although there is plenty of water in the river. There will be modest full board catering with all meals and water provided. There will be a cash bar for purchasing sodas and alcohol in moderate amounts in the evenings. Although there are people in the area, Lale’enok is remote and there are no local shops or facilities for purchasing food/drink in the area. In the evenings there will be a chance to relax in camp chairs around the camp fire.
There is no dedicated electricity at Lale’enok so it is unlikely that you will be able to charge electrical items although there will be a contingency for emergencies. There is some intermittent mobile phone reception now in the area.
Although much of the course content and lectures will be delivered within the grounds or immediate surroundings of the resource centre, we will also have 4×4 vehicles on hand to take us further afield in the conservancy for walks, cultural visits, navigational exercises, and game drives. Most of the wildlife is down stream on the far bank of the river but they still often get wildlife in camp, although you may not always see it. In particular impala antelope, hyaena and leopard and a huge variety of bird life. Elephants and lions pass through from time to time. During our time there we will cross the river and travel down the far bank towards the characteristic shape of Mount Shompole at the far end of the neighbouring Shompole conservancy to the south. This also marks the border with Tanzania and the northern end of Lake Natron; another of the Rift’s magnificent soda lakes. For photos of the area look here.
Climate and environment
Lale’enok sits at approximately 1,900 feet above sea level in the floor of the rift valley, adjacent to the western wall of the rift. The view across the river to the Nguruman escarpment which forms part of the rift valley wall here is stunning. It is always very hot here with temperatures invariably in excess of 30 degrees centigrade during the day. Although temperatures do drop at night it would be unusual to need anything other than a T shirt but it is worth having a fleece nonetheless. There is a thick volcanic dust that gets into everything so you need to bear this in mind when protecting your electronic equipment. Malaria outbreaks do occur here seasonally.