Gedi is one of Kenya's great unknown treasures, a wonderful lost city lying in the depths of the great Arabuko Sokoke forest. It is also a place of great mystery, an archaeological puzzle that continues to engender debate among historians.








To this day, despite extensive research and exploration, nobody is really sure what happened to the town of Gedi and its peoples. This once great civilization was a powerful and complex Swahili settlement with a population of over 2500, built during the 13th century. The ruins of Gedi include many houses, mansions, mosques and elaborate tombs and cemeteries. Despite the size and complexity of this large (at least 45 acre) settlement, it is never mentioned in any historic writings or local recorded history. The nearby Portuguese settlement at Malindi seems to have had no contact with, or even known of the existence of Gedi. The town has all the appearances of a trading outpost, yet its position, deep in a forest and away from the sea makes it an unlikely trading centre. What was Gedi trading, and with whom? But the greatest of all of Gedi's mysteries was its sudden and inexplicable desertion in the 17th century. The entire town was suddenly abandoned by all of its residents, leaving it to ruination in the forest. There are no signs of battle, plague, disturbance or any cause for this sudden desertion.

One current theory is that the town was threatened by the approach of the Galla, an inland tribe known to be outwardly hostile at that time, and that the townspeople fled ahead of their arrival. Yet once again, local recorded history fails to mention any such large scale evacuation at this time. No written account of either the rise or sudden fall of Gedi was ever made. The ghostly ruins of Gedi lay within the forest that has overgrown and consumed the town. They had become a part of local folklore, regarded as a sinister lair of malevolent spirits, until archaeologists began to uncover the site in the 20th century. It was gazetted in 1948.Today there is an excellent museum and well trained guides on hand to take visitors through the ruins. Gedi remains a mysterious and atmospheric place to visit. The pillars and stone walls, ruined mosques and tombs now lie among stands of trees. The stone floors are thick with leaves, and giant shrews scuttle through the deserted houses while birds and butterflies drift through the air. Wandering through Gedi is an ideal way to spend a morning or afternoon, lost among the secrets of the past

 

Haller Wildlife Park (Lafarge Ecosystems) is a former disused quarry that has been reborn as a small private game sanctuary. A major initiative has been made to "green" the quarry, and these efforts have literally blossomed into an area of lush beauty. The onetime quarry is now a thriving game sanctuary, fully stocked with game including Giraffe, Eland, Hippo, Oryx and more.
In December 2004, Kenya’s heavy monsoon rains caused minor flooding in the Sabaki River just North of Malindi on the Kenya coast. The rising waters influenced the habitat of a family of hippos living near the river mouth, and the massive mammals were washed out to sea.



The adult animals all managed to swim back to their home territory, but a small calf- less than a year old- was left behind in the open ocean. Local fisherman and tourists saw the 600 pound/ 270 kilo male calf wallowing helplessly offshore for several days, and became concerned for his life.

He was eventually rescued by Kenya Wildlife Service rangers, who wrapped him in a fishing net and put him in a truck to be taken to Haller Wildlife Park just outside Mombasa.The hippo, christened Owen (after one of his rescuers) was let loose in an enclosure with two giant tortoises and some bushbucks. In a remarkable turn of events, he was later adopted by Mzee, one of the giant tortoises. At first the giant tortoise, who at 120 years of age has the well deserved name of Mzee (old man), hissed aggressively at the frightened hippo, but within a few days the tortoise was eating and sleeping with the hippo and acting like the calf's mother, even though Mzee is a male tortoise. Owen, meanwhile, treated the old tortoise like a parent, licking his face and following him everywhere.

This odd couple can be visited at Haller Park, as their remarkable relationship continues. There are many walking trails, making this a pleasant place to spend a morning or afternoon away from the beaches.
For anyone with an interest in Karen Blixen's book Out of Africa or the subsequent film, this museum is a must see. The author lived on a coffee estate in a house known as Bogani from 1914 until 1931. This area has now developed into the modern suburb of Karen on the outskirts of Nairobi.





The house is now a National Museum, and is maintained for visitors in its original condition. Those who have read the book, or seen the film (which was filmed on location here) will recognize the house with its sprawling tropical garden and views of the nearby Ngong Hills. Efforts have been made to decorate all of the rooms of the house in their original style.

The house itself is furnished with a mixture of original decor and props from the 1985 film production. The grounds contain displays of farming equipment from the plantation. The museum has excellent trained staff who are well versed in the history of the house and the life of Karen Blixen. They are available to answer queries and to give personally guided tours.

Game animals easily seen in the park during game viewing include; African Elephant, black rhino, leopard, spotted hyena, olive baboon, black and white colobus monkey, sykes monkey, cape buffalo, warthog, common zebra (North Aberdare), bushbuck, reedbuck. Rare sightings include those of Giant Forest hog, bongo, golden cat, serval cat, African wild cat, African civet cat, blue duiker.
The recently renovated Nairobi National Museum is a good place to learn more about Kenya's history and culture. The construction of the present Museum Hill site began in 1929 after the government set aside the land for it.

The Museum was officially opened on September 22, 1930, and named Coryndon Museum, in honour of Sir Robert Coryndon, one time governor of Kenya and a staunch supporter of the Uganda Natural History Society. With the opening of the museum, the society moved its extensive library into the Museum complex. Part of this collection made the foundation collection for what is now the Herbarium. In the early forties and fifties, the late Dr. Louis Leakey made a public appeal for funds to enlarge the Museum's galleries.

The result was the construction of all the present galleries to the right of the main entrance. These were named in honour of the Nairobi community members who made their contributions for the construc-tion. Today, one finds the Mahatma Gandhi Hall, the Aga Khan and the Churchill Gallery among others.

In the early sixties the Nairobi Snake Park was built with the aim to educate the public about snakes and the common reptiles of Kenya. The Snake Park continues to be a big attraction in the Museum. In 1964, the Coryndon Museum changed its name to the National Museums of Kenya. Beginning from 1969, the Museum expanded its services and assets beyond Nairobi, and established museums in Kitale, Meru, Kisumu, Lamu and Fort Jesus in Mombasa. In addition, the Institute of Primate Research is also closely associated with the Museum. Each of these regional museums has its own identity and develops its own programmes, and are run under the office of the Director for Regional Museums, Sites & Monuments.

In the post 1969 period, the Museums have grown and diversified. The Leakey Memorial building was opened in 1976 and houses the administration, archeology and palaeontology departments. The building also houses an auditorium with a sitting capacity of roughly 300 people which serves to hold different Museum functions. Also during this period, research and development programmes were developed and initiated. These included cooperation with the University of Nairobi and the Institute of African Studies, specialising in ethnography and cultural anthropology. The Education department initiated programmes for the thousands of school children who visit the Museums every year. The Casting Department sells casts of important fossil discoveries to Museums worldwide, both for study and for exhibition.
The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is located near Nairobi National Park. This orphanage for Elephant Calves and Rhinos from all over Kenya was founded and still managed by Daphne Sheldrick, the widow of one of Kenya's best known Game Wardens David Sheldrick. David Sheldrick was at the centre of the 1970's Ivory poaching wars in Tsavo National Park. Today, the Sheldrick orphanage is a focal point for Elephant Conservation.





Elephant calves orphanned by poaching are brought here from all over the country. They receive extremely specialized treatment here, and literally receive personal care 24 hours a day from highly dedicated staff who become surrogate mothers to the calves. Eventually the calves are moved to Tsavo, where they are carefully reintroduced into wild herds. At this time the calves are being exercised and bathed and visitors are free to watch. This is a good centre for general information on Elephants and their Conservation.
The AFEW (African Fund for Endangered Wildlife) Giraffe Centre is located in Langata, just outside Nairobi. The centre has been ostensibly set up as a breeding centre for the endangered Rothschild giraffe, but now operates conservation/education programs for Kenyan school children. There is good information on giraffes available here, and an elevated feeding platform where visitors meet the resident giraffes face to face. Hand feeding giraffes is an education in itself. You will see, close at hand, how they use their long, prehensile tongues to remove leaves from prickly acacia branches.

The AFEW centre is also home to Giraffe Manor, a beautifully maintained colonial home, now an exclusive guesthouse. The centre's giraffe population wanders freely through the lush gardens, and pays an occasional visit to the house itself, often pushing their heads through the French Windows to inspect the breakfast table.
Fort Jesus is an interesting place to spend a day exploring the gun turrets, battlements and houses within the walls. There is an excellent Museum and trained guides available. Today the majestic Fort Jesus is a National Monument, standing high over the Mombasa harbor. Spectacular Sound and Light Show For those who want to learn more about the struggle for Fort Jesus, the Fort plays host to a spectacular sound and light show 3 nights each week. Visitors are welcomed into the Fort by guards in flowing robes brandishing flaming torches.



They are led to a specially designed and choreographed show that uses lights, sound effects and costumed actors to bring to life the long and turbulent history of the Fort. At the end of the show, a candlelit dinner is served in the open courtyard of the Fort, under the stars. This wonderfully atmospheric night out is the perfect way to end the day, and learn more about the history of Mombasa. The sound and light show can be combined with a sunset dhow cruise on Mombasa harbour.
Nairobi Animal Orphanage is the oldest animal orphanage in Kenya and set in Nairobi National Park with lush vegetation contrasting against the red dust and clay of the soil. Established in 1964 as a refuge and rehabilitation centre for wild animals found abandoned or injured throughout Kenya, the unique facility records over 200,000 thousand visitors every year. Animals received at the facility, undergo a thorough medical examination, followed by treatment where that is called for, before entering into an appropriate feeding and rehabilitation program.

Nairobi Animal Orphanage is the oldest animal orphanage in Kenya and set in Nairobi National Park with lush vegetation contrasting against the red dust and clay of the soil. This important educational and training facility, which is housed, in the only wildlife protected area in a capital city in the world is often home to more than 20 different animals and bird species.