Our roadtrip through England

It’s been two weeks we are touring around in England, to be more precise in the South West of this country. Just to swipe away all prejudices: most of the time we had fantastic weather, a bit colder than expected and only once we had heavy rain. However, we learned that English people do not ...

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Mandhary mosque in Mombasa Old Town.

“As we journey through time remember: There are always two sides to history. The visible one – that which we see and admire, and the invisible one – that which stems our curiosity and enchantment”. 

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Mombasa Old Town is one of the historical tourist attractions on Mombasa Island. It is located on the southeast side of Mombasaa nd occupies an area of 180 acres. It is inhabited by a mix of local, Arab, Portuguese, Asian and British communities.

Mandhry Mosque (on of the oldest Mosque) is next to the Fort Jesus in Old Town,Not too far from Basheihk. The architecture recaptures a bygone era influenced by the African, Arabic and European cultures, from the narrow streets.

There are many curio shops that sell arts and crafts, antiques and popular Kenyan souvenirs, as you walk towards the Mosque.

Mandhry usually takes away the antiquity award from Basheihk owing to its written and dated records. The mosques does not disappoint in architecture either; the front yard takes an ornate seat-like shape regaled by calming ocean breeze.

Founded in 1570, Mandhry Mosque in the Old Town is the city’s oldest, and an excellent example of Swahili architecture, which combines the elegant flourishes of Arabic style with the comforting, geometric patterns of African design – note, for example, the gently rounded minaret. Not open to visitors.

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Butterfly Conservation at Haller Park.

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From far, its a beautiful house, small, in fact very small. It sits in a lavish green farm, one you couldn’t afford yourself. It surrounded as you can see with more green, with no glass windows and doors, its very inviting. You see it from far and want to just get close, then you want to get in then you want to live there, but then you are reminded that what you paid at the gate only lasts you for a day, and now that its 2pm, the day is running fast.

But maybe you would think a beautiful house with no owner? No, not this one, a middle aged man sits inside listening to some music coming out of his phone, his name…Peter Oruma. He has a pen and paper, apart from the phone off-course. Still on the table are lives, this am thinking are from a specific tree, different kinds, with plastic containers with the lids cut in the shape of a butterfly, there I have my answer. I might just have been jealous that Peter gets to spend his day in this place I want to call home, but even for him…..its not his place.

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This is the home of the butterflies. If Haller Park was a country for many animals, then where I am standing will be the butterflies province and this house would be the factory. Its impossible to imagine what goes on around here. In the first stage a girl butterfly lays eggs. A butterfly first starts out as an egg. A girl butterfly lays the eggs on a leaf. She lays the eggs really close together. The eggs are really small and round. About five days after the eggs are laid. A tiny worm-like creature will hatch from the egg.

 

A caterpillar is sometimes called larve. A caterpillar is a long creature. It looks like a worm. Most caterpillars have a cool pattern. This pattern has stripes or patches. The caterpillar is hungry once it has hatched. It starts to eat leaves and flowers. It eats these all the time. It first eats the leaf that it was born on. This is the eating and growing stage. All this happens here, in this small house.

So I understand the importance of this small house here at Haller Park. The house is of great help in making sure that butterflies are breading in a controlled environment that minimizes the risks. When you pay at the gate, Peter says; and you come in here, you should see the butterflies, and this house is here to make sure that you will be guaranteed to see them. Makes sense to me.

But then I ask if he studied somewhere, what is the scientific term Peter, of this thing that you do, we go to google very fast to just verify some term Peter said, but the surprising thing, he never studied in anywhere, it just passion, persistence and the love for the butterflies that has made him. Such an encouraging story for me, what greater love. Peter sends us to where he keeps the butterflies after they leave this small place and while we are there, we can only appreciate his contribution to their being alive.

Tell me how important your job is, tell me how hard you work, how you build the app that has revolutionized health care, how you open the highway with your heavy machines and keep the traffic flowing, how you are the judge that sends the bad guys to jail, or the police that arranges their appointment with the judge……tell me how important your job is…….and then I will tell you how important Peter’s Job is.

Places we’re going to in Indonesia

The last few weekends have been heavily focused on getting some more flights and places booked for Indonesia. Indonesia is the first country we’re going to and it is not easy being “flexible” and have a “let’s see where we’ll end up tomorrow” attitude because it’s all islands. You can’t just catch a car or…

A Visit to Haller Park.

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It was really wet when we arrived in Mombasa. The weather APP said there will be rain the whole week, thanks to nature we managed two days of full sun on our one week stay. We were backpacking with my wife, very small budget and my birthday to think about, the plan was to enjoy small pleasures while we usher in my birthday on the 23rd of May. So our first stop on day one was Haller Park, they say this is the most visited place in Kenya.

We paid Ksh500 per person to visit this park, its green with water everywhere, you can feel the fresh air around. Amongst the things done here is restoration of the old quarry, keeping animals like Giraffe – which I was privileged to feed, Crocodiles swim innocently in their waters, fish nursery ,butterfly farm, hippo farm and many others. They also recycle old tyres to produce new energy.

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Fish Nursery

Everyday at 11am you can get an opportunity to feed the Giraffes and at 4pm when the Hippos are fed. We were not able to be there till evening so we took the morning opportunity of feeding the Giraffes.

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The food is Ks50 a pack

The park is surrounded by water bodies everywhere, its beautiful to just look around and admire how water brings nature to life. Lots of trees, lots of water and lots of monkeys.

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Home of the Crocodiles

This is also home of Mzee, the tortoise who is now 250 years and still going, we have also a Mzee crocodile who is 150 years. Lets just say animals here live to be very old. Mzee has been put in a protective care, in one place with a warthog and antelope, he has  cracks on his shell.

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This is Mzee

When you are here you will see how well we can conserve the mangroves. This special trees are under attack especially in this part of the coast. Because of its hard wood they are used in basically everything. At Haller Park, they are thriving really well and its good to just see them this way.

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Snakes also have found residence here, I hear they are fed on chicken and small birds. The big snake can eat two chickens in two weeks, and seat in a glass box just doing nothing. I don’t know if its a good thing not to witness them feeding, because what normally happens is that the chickens  are thrown into the glass box alive, the snake will kill the chicken, take a rest before they start to feed on them. I love watching it only on national geographic.

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They can really be innocent

When you see baby crocodile, I was telling my wife, you will not Imagine that one day they will grow so big and possibly eat somebody. Here the baby crocodile are separated from the old ones. I am sure the old crocodiles might want to feed on the baby crocodiles, i mean there are no guarantees in the animal kingdom. This babies are also not innocent, they can feed on you.

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This was my first time visiting Haller Park despite having lived and worked in Mombasa, but still felt like the best time…..with my wife on my side on my birthday, it couldn’t have been any better day for this. Am sure as you visit this place, you will enjoy the calm and peace we have enjoyed here.

Enjoy your travel, if you do.

The Spirit of Travel on Madaraka Express.

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The Madaraka express leaves Nairobi terminus at 2:30pm, we are on schedule. It is a beautiful day to fly but the train will do the work just fine. It will be 5 hours or 7:20pm local time is when we arrive in Mombasa terminus. Gone are the days, gone are the days…..I say to my self.

My first travel to Mombasa I had just finished high school, I was looking forward to something great, something of the future. Apart from me finishing school, something else had happened, that thing, that threatened to get me in a police cell was the reason my mother put me in a Mombasa bound bus. But I tell you, this is a story for another day.

A while back it took many hours to travel to this coastal town, to a common man whom flying was unthinkable luxury, they had to put in the time. Today things are different, thanks to the debt hole we as a country dug for ourselves. Its a fact that for at $5.6m per kilometre for the track alone, Kenya’s railway line cost close to three times the international standard and four times the original estimate.

So it is perhaps not surprising that Kenyans have been asking why they seem to have paid so much. But that is a story for another day, today I just want to have a feel of this mega expensive project. Luckily the damage for me is kshs2.1 per kilometre and I want to see if every shilling counts. Its a slow start from Nairobi, suddenly the Athi River station is behind us, we head to Emali. This is an express train so we are not stopping at the small stations.

The guys hawking the snacks are live, in-fact my feeling is that food is the business not travel. At this point I don’t like my  aisle seat, with my wife seated on the opposite row its difficult to be affectionate when people are busy on the move. The seats are not very comfortable but never mind if you booked on second class, first class would be better. But the people making the seats should have done better I think.

By the time we arrive in Emali i am already on my feet. My wife is even making fun of me, my body has had enough already. I am also wondering if the train can be faster, maybe maintain 114km per hour for at-least two hours. But never mind me, I am not a train captain and I even don’t know how it works.

At some point we meet with the train that left Mombasa at 3:30pm, then the train slows down as we approach Tsavo, and at this point we are able to spot some elephants and other wild animals from a distance.

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The train keeps rolling and sunset engulf us, and I know we should be approaching Mariakani then Mombasa our last station.  Our speed reduces to 34 KM an hour as we pass Mariakani station, headed to our last Station. We arrive Mombasa terminus 7:20pm, I am still standing. I have been standing better part of the way.

A sea of humanity pour out of the train to the empty station, the smell of Mombasa, the heat welcomes us with a smile. The weather app said there will be rain, it lied. Finding ourselves to our respective mode of transportation to the city, I think about how things have changed for the traveller.

One of my seat mate on the train is a frequent traveller between Nairobi and Mombasa, and he finds the train really useful. This means that when the government does things that improve the life and work of its citizen, they thrive. I agree with many that the government should have done more, done better, but for now “it is what it is”

Camping

When I grew up, our family spent the summer holidays camping. These four weeks together in nature were always a wonderful adventure for me. One of my sisters and me slept in a little, old tent, bought by my father when he was a young adult. That tent was made of thick cotton, closed with ...

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Travel planning – The top 8 things to do first

It is exciting when you decide to travel for a longer period of time, though when you start thinking about all the logistics that need sorting before you go, it can be pretty daunting to figure out. If you’re anything like me, that to-do list writes itself in your head every time you’ve got a…

Loosening Visa Restrictions in Africa Will Promote Trade and Integration.

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One World. What does that mean? To many this is just another phrase, to other countries they have seen the reality of it and are ripping the benefits big time while dealing with its consequences.

Open borders are expected to yield a number of global benefits. The majority of the benefits accrue to the migrants themselves, while some accrue to immigrant-receiving countries and immigrant-sending countries. But there are also other benefits of a more diffuse nature that are experienced throughout the world.

  • Double world GDP:World GDP will experience a one-time boost of about 50-150%
  • End of poverty: The GDP gains will be felt most by the world’s poorest, and absolute poverty will reduce dramatically. This will benefit the whole world, even those not living in poor countries, as there will, for instance, be fewer dangers of communicable diseases originating in these countries.
  • One world: As kinship and friendship networks spread across the world, this helps strengthen the ties between countries, leading to more trade and mutual gain, with less war and hostility. Cutting-edge ideas developed in one part of the world spread rapidly to others.
  • Innovation case for open borders: When people are free to move across borders, human capital can be allocated to more efficient uses, leading to greater innovation, much of which benefits the whole world due to the fundamentally non-rival nature of knowledge and ideas.
  • Peace case for open borders: Building upon the one world theme, more open borders would lead to more peace as people with friends and kins in and from specific other countries would be less likely to support wars against those countries.

I have always wondered why I need a visa to Visit Mozambique for example, with my Kenyan passport. In recent years, African countries have loosened visa restrictions on their neighbors in order to facilitate the free movement of people and goods, thus, regional integration has become a priority.

The continent is seeing a shift towards more free movement of people: In 2016, Africans did not need visas to travel to 22 percent of other African countries, compared to 20 percent in 2015. The small increase may indicate that the way forward will yield more visa openness, with African countries being more open to host African citizens from other countries.

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This map shows East African countries are relatively more visa open than their African peers. Uganda grants visa on arrival to most African citizens and the remaining ones do not require a visa to enter the country caption

In early 2017, the African Development Bank, in collaboration with the African Union and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Africa published the Africa Visa Openness Index Report, which ranks African countries based on their visa requirements regarding their fellow African countries. The score looks at whether a country requires visas from African citizens, may it be on arrival or otherwise. The larger the score, the more visa open the country is.

Visa requirements for Kenyan citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Kenya. As of February 2018, Kenyan citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 72 countries and territories, ranking the Kenyan passport 67th in terms of travel freedom (tied with Omani passport) according to the Henley Passport Index.

There are three different classifications concerning visa requirement. Visa required means a visa has to be obtained before departure. Visa on arrival means a visa has to be obtained upon arrival in the country. This includes filling out any visa application forms, paying the visa fee if applicable, and receiving a visa in a travel document. No visa required means that there is no visa needed either before departure or on arrival, with no entry authorization required to enter freely into the country. Entry procedures—such as filling out entry forms and receiving an entry stamp—are still mandatory.

Regional economic community (REC) scores are averages of country scores and reflect the individual openness of countries in the REC toward their fellow African countries. As a group, ECOWAS is more visa open than its fellow regional economic communities.

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After the January 2017 publication of the Visa Openness Index, a list of countries and regional economic communities loosened their visa requirements. For instance, in November 2017, Kenya and Namibia announced that they would be issuing visas on arrival to all African citizens and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) lifted visa requirements for citizens traveling within the regional block.

I recently learnt while planning for a business trip to Mozambique that I will have to pay for visa and visa processing fee. In 2017, Mozambique Government Announced 30-day Tourist Visas now Available at Borders for all Visitors. All visitors to Mozambique are now eligible for visas at borders equipped with the equipment necessary to issue biometric visas according to Mozambique government. 26 border posts have been issuing these visas since 2005. The big trouble here is that there has been considerable confusion regarding which country’s nationals were eligible with many Mozambican Embassies telling travellers that they must get them before travelling to Mozambique.

The information on the website is contrary to all the above, in fact the information on the website say that all Kenyan passport holders wishing to travel to Mozambique must get visas before departing Nairobi.

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As a Kenyan citizen wishing to take advantage of free movement within Africa, I feel that African governments need to do more to promote trade and integration within the region. May times I have heard statements like African problems need African solutions, but Africa has closed herself within herself, meaning, she cannot access solutions that are within her.