In October, a crew from leading Brazillian travel & sport channel, Canal Off, came to camp to film one of their episodes as part of a Kenyan series. The series, Aerials, is made by Sylvester Campe, who is one of the worlds most accomplished and daring documentary directors and photographers. Specializing in docu-dramas, extreme adventure and cultural films, he has claimed two Emmy awards for his work on the reality series, “Amazing Race”.
Aerials follows the adventures of two paramotor fliers, including British Paramotor champion Dean Eldridge, as they explore the globe and fly in some breath-taking and spectacular locations. The series showcases different landscapes, people and cultures and this has taken the team from Brazil, to South Africa, Europe, and now- Kitich Camp!
The team stayed in camp for 3 nights and filmed daily around the area, in the forest and Engalai village. Needless to say, all us kids (big and small!)were fascinated by the paramotor, which was used for many of the film shots, along with a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The paramotor pilots have a camera on their headset, a camera on the wing and one above the canopy, which they can control with toggles. There is also a camera man on the ground filming them take off and land and of course, the UAV buzzing about doing tracking aerial shots which would otherwise be impossible to capture.
However the visit wasn’t all flying- the camp staff were included as extras on the shoot, being interviewed and filmed and, once the episode has aired in February, some of the footage will be available for us to share with you- watch this space!
Tortilis Camp currently has a Silver eco rating but we hope that, following the next evaluation, they too will join the others in the Gold Club!
Evaluated on criteria aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria formed under the umbrella of the UN, this marks a significant achievement and brings the total of Gold eco rated camps & lodges in Kenya to 17. It also makes us the only collection of properties with such outstanding environmental credentials in Kenya!
Stefano Cheli comments:
“Our ethos has always been to establish eco-responsible camps and lodges and to create conservation models in direct partnership with local communities. These awards not only acknowledge our continuous efforts, but validate why it is that we do what we do, bringing us one step closer to achieving Gold Eco Certification all round. I would like to thank and congratulate all the teams who have worked tirelessly to uphold our morals and values and brought this to fruition. We are very proud!“
The Ecotourism Committee notes:
“The facilities show superior and remarkable levels of excellence specifically in responsible resource use, socio economic and social cultural aspects. They all have demonstrated impressive and consistent efforts and best practices in their business operations.”
It’s been very dry here this season with only 227mm, when last year we received 738mm. However, the low rainfall has been a blessing in disguise as the elephants have arrived back into the forest unseasonably early. We’ve captured many lovely videos of them, including this fantastic footage of a young elephant taking a dip in the Ngeng River in the early morning – truly special, take a look.
We had over 60 elephants with babies in front of the mess area and guests have had an elephant bonanza when visiting Kitich Camp.
More water buck and bush buck are coming to the camp on a daily basis. One bush buck was born just outside our tent. We heard the baby calling and upon further investigation, found a very wobbly and slightly damp newborn, while mommy was down by the stream trying to lead us away from her baby.
The camera trap has caught some rare images and videos of lions outside the manager’s tent including 2 lionesses walking by at lunchtime – quite unusual for them to be active during the day. Sally was inside the tent at the time the video was shot: you can see the lion stop and look in the direction of the tent before proceeding. Sally was in for a surprise when viewing the footage later!
One night a leopard killed a bush buck in camp. Unfortunately, for the leopard, he was disturbed by staff coming to work and so abandoned the kill. We moved the carcass to just outside of the mess area, as we didn’t want to attract hyenas into the camp. However, we did get some great camera trap footage of the hyenas feasting on the kill right about the time guests were having dinner; the hyenas made short work of devouring the carcass.
But we’re not too worried about the leopard as we know he comes back to camp regularly and particularly likes our sundowner spot.
With so much widlife activity going on at Kitich Camp, you need to come and see it for yourselves.
Seems that at Engalai Primary School there is undiscovered talent for poetry writing and narration. Last month Kitich Camp, together with the Cheli & Peacock Community, proposed a poetry competition based on conservation themes for years 7 & 8 pupils. This is part of the ongoing Wildlife Warrior project that’s aimed at younger members of the local communities.
Engalai School Poetry Recital
The Trust donated posters and flash cards with educational information on the Big 5. The children were grouped into teams of 7 and asked to write poems, which were then marked by the C&P Trust team in Nairobi. Overall, the Engalai pupils set a very high standards as all but one of the poems scored a 9/10 The poems were returned to the children to prepare for a recital event.
Guests & Pupils at Engalai School's Poetry Recital
In late July, the teams recited their poems in front of an audience of their parents, teachers, the area chief, Kitich staff and their fellow pupils. Five independent judges scored the poems and the end result a close call: 1 outright winning team, 2 teams for second place and 2 teams for third place.
Poetry Competition Winners
All participants received a certificate. The winning team were presented with a trophy, and a visit to Kitich Camp.
Engalai Pupils Tour Kitich Camp
On the 4th August the winning team, with 3 of their teachers, toured Kitich Camp, both front and back- of-house areas, with explanations given on how the camp obtained and maintains its Silver eco-rating.
The visit ended with sodas and a celebration cake for all.
Celebration Cake and Sodas with Sally
Together with the C&P Community Trust, we are proud to be educating the next generation of conservationists in Kenya.
2014 has been a great year for the elephants around us and many guests have been privileged to see them on their guided walks. Occasionally walks have had to be shortened due to the elephants using the same paths! A unique experience which guests have loved.
We’ve also had great excitement with the sighting of wild dogs on our walks. Some of the local community have unfortunately lost goats to the dogs. However, the Samburu community believe that wild dogs host the spirits of their ancestors and should be protected. In addition, a new initiative by the County Council compensates any livestock lost to wild animals – a great move forward for the conservation of our beautiful wildlife.
In March the Cheli & Peacock Community Trust held a conservation competition with nearby Engalia Primary School – 124 children took part, together with some parents on the school committee. There was a question and answer session, plus the children sang songs and recited poetry about the Big 5 – in both English & Swahili. All the children received a certificate for entering the competition and the winning team won a trophy donated by the Trust.
The Kitich family continues to grow. Day Watchman Lolokuria & Tent Attendant Laparaine became proud fathers in December. Sumuland, our Waiter/Barman, became a father for the seventh time in March – congratulations to his wife for her remarkable stamina!
The Kitich area continues to have an abundance of butterflies year round. We now have butterfly & tree guides available for all guests. The guides have also been donated to the Engalai Primary School, plus our local Namumak Rangers. There is now fierce competition to identify the most species!
Our birding groups were amazed at the diversity of species found within the Mathews’ Range. Kitich has a checklist of 328 species!
We closed camp in April & May for the welcome long rains during which we carried out maintenance and further in-house training. Being back, the forest is looking lush & green and we cannot wait to re-open camp on June 15th!
Kitich Camp and the Mathews’ Range are home to some very special species. We recently installed a trail camera and have been delighted with great results in a very short period.
For the ‘techies’ amongst us, the trail camera is a passive device mounted where we expect to have good sightings and is activated by movement or a rapid change in ambient temperature. In essence, the camera remains off until something comes into its sensor range. We’ve been experimenting with positioning the camera but have been getting great results almost every time.
We were aware of the high leopard presence around us but these elusive, nocturnal creatures are often difficult to see. Since installing the trail camera we have had regular sightings and have captured many of our nightly visitors on camera, including this spectacular shot taken in the early morning hours only meters away from our sundowner spot in camp!
One of several leopards visiting the camp at night
We have also managed to get an image of this beautiful leopard in daylight, only 20m from the manager’s house!
Here are some more pics of night-time visitors exploring Kitich Camp:
Elephants roaming through Kitich Camp at night
And a mongoose right in front of a guest tent
A few nights ago, we had a little ‘problem’ with the camera. The resident lion pride, which we regularly hear roar in the evenings and at night, took the camera and carried it away up the river. The camera was attached to a log, weighing around 25 kgs and the log was tied on to a tree. The lions picked up the log, broke the rope between the log and the tree and carried the log off along the river and into the reeds. Luckily, the lions were good enough to keep the camera dry while they crossed the river. It took around 1 hour of hit and miss tracking to find the log and the camera the next morning. We first found the camera, then the log and then the camera backing plate, around 500m from where the lions took it. We are thrilled that the camera is still working, except that the backing plate has a couple of teeth marks on it:)! The strapping that held the camera on to the tree is in 3 pieces however, well chewed by the lions…
From this attack on the camera we only managed to get some photos of the ground while the lions were carrying the camera – but we will try to get some good pics of the lions next time they’re in camp!