Having raved so much in my last post about the IFAN museum in Dakar, I thought it only fair to mention the excellent National Archives in Nairobi. I’m here for meetings, but had a half-day free. It was a difficult choice between the Giraffe Centre (where apparently a raised platform enables you to look giraffes in the face and even feed them), and the Archive Centre (with its new exhibition of traditional African art I had read about on the flight from Dakar), but eventually I settled on the latter and am very glad I did.
For only a $3 entry fee I saw a superb collection of stuff from Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Ghana and the Congo, amongst others, including an extensive section on traditional African jewellery. I don’t have any particular interest in jewellery, but was fascinated by the history of the beads brought to Africa from India, then Europe, and more recently India again. Apparently a few centuries back there were entire communities in the Czech Republic making beads destined for Kenyan tribes! At different times in history the various tribes in East Africa have used flakes of ostrich egg, antelope toe bones, coral, glass, melted down aluminium cooking pots, brass, amber, shells, and even giraffe tails in the making of jewellery. There was a lot of information in there and also some beautiful exhibits. They have so far missed a trick though in failing to set up a shop selling replicas, which was a good thing for my bank balance!
Then back at my hotel I went out into the shady little garden, but the procession of different birds came more quickly than the speed at which I could identify them in my newly acquired Birds of East Africa guide book. I only went back inside when the birds became outnumbered by the biting mosquitoes. This weekend I am going to Lake Nakuru with my Mum and am hoping that the rainy weather doesn’t encourage all the wildlife to stay in hiding. Hopefully I will get a nice photo of the flamingos to add to this post.
Back from Lake Nakuru (but without my camera cable - will add photos later so please revisit this post after 16 April!), I just had to say what a beautiful place it is. Part of the Rift Valley, it is an alkaline lake surrounded by hills, with a population of some 2.8 million flamingos. I had read that their numbers had recently declined, but that was hard to believe as I looked out at a sea of pink. I was able to get surprisingly close to them - such strange creatures, both elegant and ungainly at the same time - and I was really surprised by the noise they made. Our guide said it was the beating of their wings, but it sounded more like drumming on the water surface.
In addition to the flamingos there were marabou storks, sacred ibis, zebra, giraffe, warthogs, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, ostriches, kudus, two types of gazelle, white rhinos (we saw five, mostly at pretty close quarters), rock hyraxes, a crested eagle and a group of beautiful black and white colobus monkeys. All helped by a cloudless blue sky and a very few other tourists. Worth getting up at 5:30 for, definitely!