I am an Explorer. An explorer is a traveller-storyteller, a seeker of the unknown. I travel and tell stories of our people, mountains, rangelands, rivers and wildlife in East Africa.
I have traveled to 40 countries around the world – Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. One of my favourite accomplishments so far was driving 6000Km from South Africa to Ethiopia.
My inspiration to travel came from my father when I was very young. One evening, he brought home a large book with a black cover.
“What is that?” I asked.
“It is a map,” he answered.
“What is a map?” I asked.
“Dunia.The world,” he said.
He opened the atlas – I saw the different parts of Kenya, Africa and the world. My eyeballs could have fallen out with excitement. I had never seen such a colourful book in my entire life. I had no idea how big the world was and we spent hours following roads, towns, rivers, mountains and oceans on the maps.
This encounter changed my perspective about school and developed a singular focus to finish school and travel the world.
Why Naloolo Explorer? There are two things that worry me about the environment in Africa. The first is that many Africans are getting disconnected from nature as they embrace urbanisation. Many can no longer connect their future to the existence of pristine rangelands, mountains, forests and wildlife.
Secondly, even though Africa has changed in the last few centuries, what has not changed is how the story of exploration and expeditions is told. This story and its tellers have not changed since the arrival of the first European explorers in the 15thcentury. Western travel and conservation media outlets still majorly control the narrative.
This story telling space needs to be expanded to accommodate the natives of Africa. Expanding it will bring not just add Africans voices to the media but millions of audiences that will re-connect with their lands, cultures and wildlife heritage.
In late 2017, I set out to change the above issues and formed Naloolo Explorer (www.naloolo.wordpress.com), an exploration outfit that will put passionate modern day African explorers in the media to tell stories of their continent and in the process reconnect people to nature.
It has been a life changing experience building Naloolo Explorer from a simple blog to something that many people follow and admire.
In order to do this, I drew inspiration from the wandering spirit of my people – a people that travelled the vast lands of eastern Africa for centuries. With their long spears, they ruled this land until they were silenced by the arrival of incurable diseases (that killed 70% of their population) and the power of European weaponry. Like many nomadic people in Africa, the Maasai were the true explorers.
I started traveling – climbing mountains and other amazing destinations in East Africa. I wrote and photographed about these adventures and shared with my social media followers. The response was astounding. The first question from fellow Africans is always:
“Why are you doing this?”
My response: “Why Not?”
Over the months as I traveled, wrote and photographed, the narrative changed to:
“Can I come with you on your next hike?”
“I admire your courage”
“I love what you do” and “You make us proud.”
I expect this movement to keep growing and I am happy that my travels, writing and photography is encouraging people to travel and connect with nature. The more citizens travel, the more they are inclined to care and protect their environment.
Stories matter and must be told and that is my purpose in life.
My name is Timpiyian Nanana Kisimir. I am 13 years old. I am going to tell you about my experience of a recent hike on Ngong Hills. Ngong Hills is a series of seven peaks. We started early walking up the first hill from the gate (I, dad and brother, Lemayian) after saying hello to the rangers. It was fun as we took photos of the wind turbines and talked to friendly Maasai children who were selling sweets along the way. Dad told us many stories and learned a lot about the mountain and animals that live on it.
The first hill was quite long but not steep, had a nice breeze, which a think is caused by the tall wind turbines. We took breaks to rest, drunk water and snacked.
We proceeded to the second hill, which was quiet steep. As we approached it, dad asked me if I wanted to use a short cut but I was determined to take the rough and tough way. It was a hard, steep and slippery but we still climbed and reached the top.
Going down hill number two was not a problem because it was filled with long nice grass and not rocky. Our goal was to reach the summit and we would not give up. Lemayian walked faster than us but slowed down many times to wait for us. In hiking, one of the rules is to stick together so that no one gets lost.
The third hill was even steeper than the second and was rocky but dad helped me. Lemayian did not need any help – he had good shoes and was good at climbing. Climbing the third hill was easy. The fourth hill was not steep but it was one of the hardest to climb because of all the rocks and the soil was very slippery. Going down was very nice and smooth filled with good grass.
We met many people on the way and said hello. We saw people who came to the mountain to pray because of the quietness and beautiful nature. They pray for the country and other things.
We also found people who had given up climbing and were waiting for their companions to come back so they can return together. We met found a lady who had flat shoes and a formal white dress! Dad told us that he had even met ladies who came to the mountain on high heels! I could not imagine myself climbing hills with high heels! I also saw a boy who used to be in my school with four other boys, accompanied by their father.
Now it was time to climb the hardest of them all – the fifth hill! In the middle of the fourth and fifth hill there is about 100 meters of flat land. We rested, took photos as we prepared for the climb to the summit. This is the tallest of all hills that makes Ngong Hills. It is steep and a forest. We were surrounded by so many trees and insects like fire ants. I did not enjoy this stretch because of the rocks – I slipped many times as I led us upwards. It was tough but I was determined to reach the top and there was a lot of sweat and pain as but we finally reached the top.
We sat down – exhausted and had snacks (yoghurt, cup cakes, milk, soda). We then had conversations with other hikers who were at the summit.
Going down the hills was very rough and painful. I thought it would be easier to go down but I was surprised to find it very tough. Dad knows this mountain inside out so we took some short cuts around the steep sections because the shoes were hurting my toes. It was very painful but got better when I removed the shoes and walked barefoot. I had to walk without shoes!
We got back late afternoon and passed by a friend’s place for lunch. I fell asleep while watching T.V and it really helped. We then said our good byes and left at around 5:30pm and returned home for a restful movie night.
My experience at Ngong hills was fun and adventurous. It was my first serious hike on a mountain – I really enjoyed it even though it was quiet hard. I will never forget!
This is one of the most beautiful moments in the Maasai Mara ecosystem. We have had months of unbelievable rain. It is lash green – tall grass.
Areas of the game reserve that were once degraded by thousands of livestock that grazed illegally at night for years have healed. And this is such a relief.
The grass is so tall such that most grazers have left the park and found home in community lands and conservancies where the grass is shorter and where they all feel safe from predators. This means that the lions and fellow meat eaters are following them. Do not be surprised to find lions right at the gates of the reserve or sometimes marauding in the small towns.
But the elephants and bigger mammals seem to be doing great inside the park – they are out in great numbers – lots of calves recently born.
The park is so quiet without the wildebeests. Ii gives you that city feeling of 3:00AM. It is literally a perfect calm before the great storm because soon and very soon, millions of wildebeests and zebras will arrive from the Serengeti.
They will fill the plains and mow down the tall grass to the ground. They bring with them noise and drama that irritates the elephant and the buffalo. They will awaken the ferocity of the lions and the insanity of the urban tourist.
The open plains will be painted black and grey. I think Maasai Mara in its current state is more than ready for the next wildebeest migration in a few weeks time. Get yourself out there!
Enjoy these photos from the game drives that I did – guided by my friends Amos Kipeen and Harris Taga of Friends of Maasai Mara.
The name is Orbatatata! It is a tongue twister even to native speakers. It is a beautiful gorge and here, I am trying to describe the indescribable – its display crushed my comprehension. I looked. I gasped. I shuddered with awe.
Orbatatata gorge means “The Massive Fall” in Maa language – a hidden gem that starts from the southern periphery of Hell’s Gate National Park – a massive canyon that opens its face to the direction of Mt. Suswa – 10KM from Suswa Town.
I came here at the invitation of a friend, Eric ole Reson, a raptor conservationist who grew up here and I tagged along two other friends, Nase Kelel and Josephine Kindi (the manager of Suswa Conservancy.)
The road from Suswa Town at entrance of MaraGateway Hotel is not pretty – it needs a 4 x 4 truck. We drove past sleepy villages – a beautiful country of happy cows and people.
You won’t see the canyon until you arrive at the base, then, it suddenly opens up like a beautiful flower. We stood next to each other in silence, basking in the glory of our surroundings.
This gorge, to all of us here brings a mixture of emotions not just because of it is a marvel but it is the route that our forefathers used as a safe escape during the massive relocation after the expropriation of their land in Laikipia by colonialists from 1911. Thousands of Maasai children, women and the elderly died during the trek to the south – mostly from diseases. Our forefathers walked on this canyon and I looked at the massive cliffs, the sand on the riverbed and imagined their footsteps and sadness.
This gorge is also the source of the famous red ochre, which has decorated generations of Maasai warriors and women. It houses many caves like Enkapune Olpelesi that have housed past men of the warrior class as they partook herbs, beef and prepared for wars.
Its massive cliffs are home to dozens of endangered ruppel vultures and eagle nests. These raptors fly out here to Maasai Mara every morning to feed and return in the evening. The whole valley is actually a bird’s paradise. It also has a famous well, Paepayan – with its favoured sweet coloured water.
Another major feature is Kaibartani a massive rock in the middle of the canyon that the Maa believe was a bride that turned into a rock after ignoring advice by looking back to where she came from instead of following her husband.
Enjoy the photos of our hike and I hope you will be motivated to visit.
As the old saying goes, “A wise traveler must never despise his own country.”
So this Sunday, I took my spiritual warfare to Ngong Hills. I consider this place in my home County (Kajiado) as one of the most beautiful mountains that I know. And just a quick reminder that the original name is Oldoinyio (Mt) Loolaiserr but the Brits in their arrogance and laziness baptised it Ngong Hills.
My plan was to walk and pray – Sundays rarely disappoint because there are many other prayer warriors on the mountain.
It was chilly but not raining. I arrived at the gate at about 9:00AM – rangers were busy advising and directing groups of hikers. I paid the Sh200 entry fee by M-Pesa and trudged on.
I walked past a broken vehicle a few metres from the entrance and met a group of young people taking selfies. They were excited and I made an effort to walk past them but was quickly invited.
They were from eastern Nairobi – an area that I know little about. They were young too, their first time here – some of them were hiking for the first time in their lives. It warmed my heart to meet young people who seek adventure and freedom in nature. I ended up being their guide for the day. See some of their images.
This is my fourth climb to Ngong Hills (Oldoinyo Loolaiserr) this year. I hiked with a friend and photographer, Solomon Odupoi. It was a chilly morning, the weather kept fluctuating by the minute. PHOTOS: Odupa Photograpy/Solomon Odupoi
The Eland (Taurotragus oryx), Africa’s largest antelope, is one of my favourite souls on earth. It is quite an eye-opener when you first see it. The size hits you straight away and the beauty, outstanding.
A few months ago while driving in the evening along Kiserian-Isinya Road, an eland jumped over our Land Rover. It came out of the bushes with speed, I hit the brakes and steadied for impact but the massive bull rose up and dropped on the other side and continued trotting.
My son, Mayian and I were left in shock. My 12-year old daughter, Timpi, who sat at the back did not even see what happened. My foot was still on breaks – shaking!
Over the months, every time I see an eland, I remembered that incident and last month, a friend from South Africa showed me photos from Maasai Mara of an eland jumping over a safari jeep with lions in pursuit. It got away but left tourists in awe.
My people’s traditions talk of the power of the Eland – it is known to overpower lions, most times injuring them by leaping through and above trees, leaving the predators hanging up there and sometimes killing them in the process.
Before the entrance of modern ropes, the Eland hide was a valuable product. For those who eat wild meat, the Eland has soft, tasty meat.
I did some research and watched a few videos of lion attempts on Elands and latter most times came out the winner, dancing away powerfully, throwing the lions in its wake.
Elands are capable of jumping up to 3 metres from a standing start when startled and can live up to a good 15-20 years. A grown male can stand at 1.6 metres, a weight of 940kgs and females weigh about 600kgs with a height of 1.4 metres. It can run at a max speed for 40kph but can run for a long time at half that speed, thus, making it impossible for predators to keep up.
The last census showed that there are about 136,000 elands in East Africa – mostly Kajiado, Narok, and Laikipia as well as northern Tanzania.
It is a healthy population but these territories are shrinking especially with the continued fencing of ranches in Narok and more so by the wanton destruction of the rangelands by the dreadful act of cutting acacia for charcoal in Kajiado County.
The last days of February were marked by a heat wave and Kenyans finally had a feel of the stuff they have been hearing from foreign news. Then, rain…lots of rain! Thank you, Climate Change!
I packed my bags for Olorgesailie. Yes, that place that we all read about in history books. The place where they dug out things old, bones of departed beings – what my people call “aturu irmeneng’a.”
Scientists refer to it as the world’s largest factory of stone-age tools that dates up to 990,000 years. It is the place that has excellently preserved biological and cultural evidence about the evolution of man and National Museums of Kenya is helping to move this forward to the future generations.
Shame, that I have never visited it even though it is just 65km from Nairobi and right in the middle of my home county along Magadi Road.
I drove in the evening and set up camp – it is a nice place surrounded by acacia trees. It is quiet too with only one family camping. There are a few bandas and they looked good…well maintained. It seems like it will rain tonight so I pitched the tent at an elevated area.
An elderly Maasai lady sold me firewood for Sh700…she is about my mother’s age – had a little chit-chat about that and her family.
“God knows how to feed his people,” she remarked as the M-Pesa payment message reached her phone. I guessed she had a long day and I might be her only customer today. Another one tried to sell beads but I was not interested.
The night did not go well as I expected – the rain started at around 9pm and the cheap Weekender tent that I bought at Carrefour Supermarket in Nairobi did not handle it well. It started leaking from the joints. In order to make it cheaper (Sh2400) the manufacture excluded the canopy that wards off rainwater and also failed to inform its customers that it is basically a summer tent – not waterproof.
It will be a long wet night with water dripping at the corners and me in the middle. I sent a text to the mountain guide to cancel tomorrow’s hike to Mt. Olorgesalie. It stopped raining at about 3:00AM and I slept.
I went to the museum at about 10:00AM. It is a small room with specimens of our ancestors and extinct animals neatly displayed.
The Excavation Site is right behind the museum and it takes about an hour to walk through it. It is a basically a little safari walk of tools that were used by extinct species. The tools are kept under sheds with iron roofing – it kind of reminds me of a dairy cowshed.
I stood at every shed and observed the tools in different sizes and shapes. They are crude and one would need a lot of effort to cut anything with them but again that was another era and they were considered cutting-edge technology.
The place made feel like something was here – a community once thrived here. I could feel their spirits and existence through their work.
I also wondered about the white dude, British Geologist John Walter Gregory who in his craziness and wander stumbled upon the first tools in 1919. I read more about him later – he was a freaking racist. This is also the place where Mary and Loius Leakey discovered more human remains and tools in 1943. Many scientists later found more stuff and I am sure more will be found in the future.
This area was once a lake with fish, lots of human and wildlife activity around it. But it dried up as a result of volcanic eruption and deposits from Mounts Suswa and Longonot. Subsequent sedimentation covering the site has preserved the fossils.
You can see and feel how this place was formed by observing the soils – the various layers sometimes in beautiful colours of alkaline deposits.
And the birds of Olorgesalie sung in their numbers and sounds. Dark giraffes fed on trees from a distance as I walked away to another destination. I will return to climb this mountain when good weather returns.
They call it the Elephant Hill, part of the 70km Aberdare Ranges, but I could not see the elephant in the shape of the mountain. That’s just how my mind works – abstract art is not my thing.
The sky was clear – blue, the sun smiling at mother earth. The mountain sat calmly, waiting and unmoved by the anxieties of hikers who make an effort to conquer it. There were a lot of hikers as we arrived at Njabini Forest Station, one of the many climbing routes for the Aberdare Ranges.
I am in the company of two elite hikers (Jim and Herdsgirl) who wanted to do the hike under 6 hours as a warm-up for a climb to Mt Kenya next week (they will do it in 24 hours instead of the usual four days). I did not fancy their chitchat while on our drive from Nairobi (90km) – about how “normal” humans crumple once they hit 3000m above sea level blah blah blah! I am a rookie hiker, a child of the desert and dry country with little knowledge about altitude, forests, and high mountains but they kept on rubbing it.
Njabini Forest Station is not an organized place – hikers and vehicles were everywhere. No reception area but a small mabati office at the back of some house. We found a guide, Jackson – short, calm and with an interesting accent and I had to keenly listen and figure out whether he was saying “air or hair.”
The first 5kms were easy – wide path and excited hikers who still had the energy to chat and greet fellow travelers. Our guide met one of his TV stars and excitedly greeted her – big eyes, very pretty face. He later explained that she comes on TV screens twice a week. I have not watched TV in three years, so I zoned out and led us through the forest. It is a mix of forest plantation with controlled farming.
We reached the bamboo forest – it was cool and the path became narrow, leaves scratching rucksacks. We met a big group of hikers and briskly walked past them and someone commented: “Team Subaru is passing.” The path suddenly turned to the left and we found another group seated, resting, some were having breakfast.
This is the beginning of a very sharp climb. It is treacherous – dry leaves on the ground made it slippery. We were under the canopy of the bamboo trees with filtered light coming through as we trudged on the steep path. It is dry – our lucky day, Jim and the guide seem to agree. The path would have been terrible if it was raining. Tough, tough walk and we found several hikers, sitting by the trail, almost giving up, some were already on their way back – given up!
I kept on plodding up – sweating buckets – heavily breathing but the cool of the forests brings relief whenever the body wants to overheat. Jim followed – the calmly placing his feet on the ground, moderate but consistent speed of an experienced man. Herdsgirl fell back, walking rather slowly while chatting with the guide. Every hiker knows how to take care of their vehicle/body.
I got to know a few things about Jim – he is more of a runner of marathons but one day he decided to climb Mt. Meru (Tanzania) after meeting hikers in a pub. He bought gear and by morning he was on the trail. He conquered Mt. Ruwenzori after that and got lost in the glacier for three hours. We would late joke about the irony of him nearly getting killed by ice on the first day he encountered real ice apart from the one he has been seeing on his fridge.
The steep climb suddenly leveled up as the bamboo forest thinned out, getting us to the alpine zone, a new kind of vegetation. It is beautiful, a stunning array of outlandish flora, a real feast for botany enthusiasts. I yelled with excitement!
We were at the first peak, the elephant ramp (I rolled my eyes), also known as The Point of Despair.
Why has God stopped making more of such stuff? Below are amazing views of the countryside – Sasumua dam to the right and Ndakaine dams at a distance on the left. Aberdare Ranges is the source of 95% of the water that is consumed in Nairobi. It is also the source of Athi and Tana Rivers.
It is at this peak where most hikers give up. And trust me, you will despair! I do not recommend this hike for citizens of the Woyie Republic! It is also the place you will find out that you can do more, push past your limits knowing very well that you will have to come down the route, same distance.
Jim looked at his watch – we have done 1hour 40 minutes. Very good time, he said. In less than two minutes, Herdsgirl and the guide caught up with us and we continued with the climb.
The next climb is rocky but very steep – I looked up and saw several hikers ahead of us – literally at close to 45 degrees elevation. Goodness, how on earth am I going to get there? We trudged on, Jim and I leading interchangeably. Storytelling helped – our families, passions, things of men in their 40s. The trail meandered past gnarled giant Heather trees covered in Spanish moss. I had my first slip, a light fall.
It seemed like an endless walk and I started to wonder about this mountain size-elephant back, but, it mercifully leveled off, giving us the first view of the summit! There are two peaks ahead of us. The sky is still blue, fighting off clouds, emphatically gifting us a beautiful day. We hoped to get a glimpse of Mt. Kenya but it was hidden by clouds.
Then, the wind, strong wind and it is biting cold too. I looked ahead and saw two Caucasian hikers on sleeveless shirts trudging on as if the wind did not matter. Well, maybe they are made of something else.
We walked on, fighting off the wind and approached the summit, the elephant head. It is a beautiful place, the world under our feet at 3625m above sea level!
Jim glanced at his watch – we have done it in three hours, excellent time. We opened our lunch packs as I listened to the elite hikers’ exploits of great mountains but my mind was constantly on the densely populated countryside below that stretched all the way to Lake Naivasha. Mt. Longonot (Oloonongót) stood blue and misty from afar. This was once the land of my ancestors, the land the British stole, then changed hands after independence. Kinopop and Mt. Satima is what we called you, but, now they call you Kinangop and Aberdare.
It is time to descend and we must do it under three hours. It is cold and the wind is brutal, beating our faces, freezing my fingers. Herdsgirl led the descend, walking fast and strong. Half the journey was done and the morale is high.
Going down the rocky area is a true test of one’s knees – drop, drop and drop! It will wear down your springs and shock absorbers. It will test the all the grease in your joints from the neck to your feet.
I slipped and went down. Fall # 2 and was quickly followed by Herdsgirl. No injuries. The ever-cautious Jim stayed intact – careful, slow and consistent on the trail.
We reached the bamboo forest and just like the insane steep climb, going down is just as challenging. I slipped again and went flat down on my back. Lying on my back kind of felt nice, a relief for my feet and was tempted to just stay there and refuse to get up.
We met many of the hikers that we passed in the morning, some still trying to make their way up but most were on their way down having given up at the Point of Despair.
I walked ahead of the group, praying and talking to God – marveling at what he has created, praying for grace and healing for my family as they bury a loved one. Funerals of family members kill my spirit. Grief breaks my inner core and I don’t know how to handle it and that is the reason I am far away from home this Saturday.
We arrived at the end, rather where we began at 1600hrs. We have done the 20Km trail in 5hrs 21 minutes. I think they are ready for Mt. Kenya.
As I walked towards the office for payment, Jim called me.
“Let’s take a few minutes to stretch,” he said as they put their rucksacks on the grass.
I was a little confused. I was tired too.
“Stretch what?” I asked as I put my bag down, my sore body on the grass. “I am doing no stretching. I have been stretched enough in the last five hours.” It felt nice to just lay down and ignore them.