The Maralal International Camel Derby (26th Edition)

Mash (adventurewithmash.com) at the 26th International Maralal Camel Derby

Mash of adventurewithmash.com at the 26th International Maralal Camel Derby

I was meeting her for the first time. She had come all the way from the UK and her poise said that she was dying with the urge to explore Africa. She sat there patiently as the porters put together all the supplies we needed for the safari. Something about her demeanour said that she had been through the heat and came out a diamond. She had the confident face of a soldier that had survived battle and purred with the calmness of royalty. As I walked around her, something within me said I could trust her. Being from England, oozing confidence and courage, yet calm; I couldn’t find her a better nickname than Thatcher 🙂

 

Meet Thatcher, the newest addition to the Bunduz.com family :-)

Meet Thatcher, the newest addition to the Bunduz.com family 🙂 (Military Grade)

 

The fellows all set to cover 350km from Nairobi to Maralal

The fellows all set to cover 350km from Nairobi to Maralal

We drove Thatcher out into the night and we were well on our way to the Maralal International Camel Derby, an event that has been held in Samburu County for the past 26 years! This year, just like in the past this event was expected to draw attention from both the local and international tourists. The International Camel Derby is held in the small town of Maralal, the administrative headquarters of Samburu County which is a hive of cultural diversity as it is inhabited dominantly by the Samburu and sparsely by the Turkana, Pokot, Rendile and other Kenyan tribes.

The people of Samburu County

The people of Samburu County

350km later from Nairobi, we got to the Maralal town in the early hours of the morning having driven throughout the night. 122km of that stretch was of treacherous terrain, full of craters for potholes and finely sifted sand that blew up into a huge cloud of dust behind Thatcher as we drove down. She handled tough terrain with the ease of a tank on tarmac! She is a fine new acquisition to the Bunduz.com family!

A participant in the Camel Derby race

A participant in the Camel Derby race

The Camel Derby is an event held to celebrate the cultural diversity of the people of Samburu County as well as their way of life. The camel races are a central attraction of the Derby, but it would not be justice if the colour and pomp brought out by the traditionally clad people of Samburu went unnoticed!

A moran at the in his regalia at the Camel Derby main venue

A moran in his regalia at the Camel Derby main venue

The Bunduz.com crew set up camp for the adventurers who were on this trip at the Maralal Safari Lodge, an establishment located in the Maralal National Sanctuary. It was not odd to see zebras and antelopes grazing within and around the camp.

The beautiful Maralal Safari Lodge

The beautiful Maralal Safari Lodge

The 26th Edition of the Maralal International Camel Derby was dubbed ‘Sporting for Conservation, Tourism and Peaceful Cultural Interactions’ and the money raised would be channeled towards improving community conservancies in an effort to promote eco-tourism within the county. This made it a worthwhile undertaking as it coupled adventure with charity.

Tourists riding the single hump dromedary camels of Samburu

Tourists riding the single hump dromedary camels of Samburu

Early on the second day of the Camel derby, the adventurers woke up to a sumptuous breakfast prepared from the Bunduz.com ever ready kitchen. Nothing beats a full breakfast out in the open and by the pool. The adventurers especially those who were scheduled to race on the camels needed this tranquility to calm their nerves in readiness.

A camel whisperer

A camel whisperer

 

Security was tight at the 26th International Maralal Camel Derby

Security was tight at the 26th International Maralal Camel Derby

In the early morning hours, all the roads led to the Yare Safari Club which was the main Camel Derby venue. The grounds were full of people. The locals adorned in their traditional regalia freely mingled with the scores of tourists as they excitedly walked around the venue to witness all that was on show.

Morans discussing what to expect at the Camel Derby

Morans discussing what to expect at the Camel Derby

As the races began, the road was lined with cheering spectators as the camel riders and their handlers got ready at the starting line. As I clicked away on my camera, I felt the energy in the competitors and the crowd alike. This had the promise of an exciting event! The camels took off at a neck breaking speed with the competitors eyes all set on prize money. However, some camels were not as cooperative and had to be pulled or coerced to run at least half way through the set track. The crowd cheered the competitors on and it felt like we were in one big medieval arena, for a competition that took human brains, animal brute strength and endurance to win.

Spectators lined both sides of the road at the camel race starting point

Spectators lined both sides of the road at the camel race starting point

 

As the camel race began

As the camel race began

 

A head to head camel race!

A head to head camel race!

 

Spectators keenly following the camel race

Spectators keenly following the camel race

After the competition, winners and the losers alike were treated to a great show of cultural dances later in the evening. The morans and their women came out in their best of regalia, showing off the best that the Samburu County has to offer culturally. They sang and danced their hearts out as if conveying their gratitude for the success that the event was turning out to be.

Morans all set to do a traditional dance

Morans all set to do a traditional dance

 

Samburu ladies belting out a tune

Samburu ladies belting out a tune

 

Samburu youth in a playful dance

Samburu youth in a playful dance

 

What a beautiful traditional choir dressed in skin clothes!

What a beautiful traditional choir dressed in skin clothes!

 

A section of the audience enjoying the traditional dances

A section of the audience enjoying the traditional dances

We returned to the Maralal Safari Lodge with the Bunduz.com adventurers who were now quite tired from the events of the day. They were greeted with a warm dinner and as they ate away, the chatter was alive with heroic recounts of what each had been up to during the eventful day. Needless to say, most of us ended up by the ‘watering hole’ read bar, where we were entertained well into the late of night by a very able two-man band from South Africa as we downed bottles of whatever each of us fancied.

The very able two-man South African band

The very able two-man South African band

Tusker, the world's best beer from Kenya

Tusker, the world’s best beer from Kenya

A triathlon race was set for the final day of the Camel Derby. In this race, each team was expected to have three members. One would race on the camel; the other would cycle while another would run to complete the race. Bunduz.com crew and our friends from Warthog Expeditions took part in this race. The participants were very well coordinated, they all gave their best and had fun while racing for charity.

The Bunduz.com and Warthog Expeditions team!

The Bunduz.com and Warthog Expeditions team!

 

Mukhtar Sidi of Bunduz.com mounts his camel in readiness for the triathlon

Mukhtar Sidi of Bunduz.com mounts his camel in readiness for the triathlon

 

The triathlon team walks to the start line

The triathlon team walks to the start line

 

Camels speed off at the start of the triathlon race

Camels speed off at the start of the triathlon race

 

Sarah Reeves of Warthog Expeditions at the finish of the camel race. Henry is on standby to start the bicycle race in the triathlon.

Sarah Reeves of Warthog Expeditions at the finish of the camel race. Henry is on standby to start the bicycle race in the triathlon.

This is one event that I was very excited to attend. I had been to the Camel Derby way back in 2009 and I was glad to see how much the event had grown over the years! In the words of one local, “The Camel Derby is like early Christmas to the people of Samburu!”

Let's call our friends over to share in the fun!

Let’s call our friends over to share in the fun!

 

I made new friends at the 26th Camel derby in Maralal. Lydia the CEO of Tourism in Samburu County and Therese a fun loving tourist :-)

I made new friends at the 26th Camel derby in Maralal. Lydia the CEO of Tourism in Samburu County and Therese a fun loving tourist 🙂

I really can’t sum up all the beauty and fun that I witnessed in this tour documentary, but I certainly took shots that will give you a feel of it so that you can make sure to book your slot for the 27th Maralal International Camel Derby with Bunduz.com come  25th – 28th August 2016 😉

Look out for the next photos-post dubbed, A Hotbed of Cultural Diversity – Samburu

 

Event: The International Maralal Camel Derby (26th Edition)

Location: Maralal, Samburu County, Nothern Kenya

Photography and documentation by: Macharia Njuguna, @macharianjuguna

Adventure and safari organized by: www.bunduz.com

Hot, Wet and Natural! (Olkaria)

Sunny morning at Cray Fish Camp.

Sunny morning at Cray Fish Camp.

During my recent short stay in Naivasha ( a market and tourist town located north west of Nairobi), I remembered reading an article in the Business Daily back in 2012 about a natural spa that was being built by KenGen at the Olkaria Geothermal fields which are located about 33km from the town, and only 13km from Cray Fish Camp where we were putting up. It was a must visit!

Mash

Mash at Olkaria spa

After a rushed breakfast at the Karuturi Club House, we all boarded the vehicles and proceeded down the Moi South Lake road towards the Olkaria geothermal fields. The road is smooth, without many vehicles and it can be tempting for one to speed. This was however not the case this time, as we were captivated by the panoramic view of Lake Naivasha on the right side of the road. The visible wide expanse of the lake, combined with the soothing warmth of the early afternoon sun and the lazy breeze seeping through the open car windows  gave one a feeling of deep tranquility!

Beautiful Lake Naivasha

Beautiful Lake Naivasha

After leisurely driving for about half an hour, we arrived at the Olkaria Gate where we had to pay a park entry fee of Kshs. 300.00 per person albeit the fact that the tickets we had purchased in the late afternoon of the previous day read that we were allowed entry for the next 24hrs!

Olkaria Gate into the Hells Gate National Park

Olkaria Gate into the Hells Gate National Park

To avoid paying additional park entry fees for the vehicles, we parked outside the Olkaria Gate and opted to walk in to the Geothermal Fields which were several hundred meters away from the gate. We packed what we thought we needed at the spa in backpacks and within minutes were off, walking towards the Olkaria Natural Spa whose construction was partially done but was now open to the public. This will be the biggest natural spa in Africa and it is built to accommodate about 500 people at a go!

Olkaria natural spa bath under construction. (File photo courtesy of Nation Media Group)

Olkaria natural spa bath under construction. (File photo courtesy of Nation Media Group)

The natural spa has four interconnected hot water lagoons. The first, second and third lagoons have diameters of 30, 40 and 70 meters while the fourth, a child’s pond measures 10 meters wide.  It is also said that the spa which is to be known as the Direct Use Centre,  could also host a geological and geothermal museum tracking the development of geothermal resources in Kenya as well as progression of global technology for converting steam into economic activities.

A building under construction on the site

A building under construction on the site

Happy people walking to the Olkaria spa from the main gate

Happy people walking to the Olkaria spa from the main gate

On our arrival an attendant at the natural spa walked up to us and gave us a quick introduction to the site. He advised us that only those who promised to adhere to the rules of the spa would be allowed to sign in on the visitors’ book and also use the spa. We were a well mannered group and we listened to the attendant keenly as he read out the spa regulations. There was nothing he read that was out of this world, so we all signed in and off we went into the spa! 🙂 Of note is that;

– No visitor is allowed to go to the hot spring reservoir which emanates smoke (an indication that it holds super heated water from the bowels of the earth) and is enclosed with mesh wire to keep everyone well at bay for safety reasons

– Users of the spa are not allowed to dive into the hot water as the bath pool is not conducive for this due to its shallow depth

Elaborate Signage

Elaborate signage on some of the spa regulations

The spa is wide and full of inviting baby-blue coloured water. On one of the sides, there is a temporary shower in the open through which each visitor must go before entering into the waters of the spa.

Mash with the wide Olkaria natural spa in the background

Mash with the wide Olkaria natural spa in the background

I quickly changed into my swimming shorts and went on to discover how the hot natural spa would feel to the body. As I went into the pool, the water was hot and I estimated it to be at about 30 – 35 degrees celcius. As soon as my toes came into contact with the water, the rest of body was sure it wanted to feel the warm caress of these waters! 😉 As I went further in, I found out that the lagoon has stairs to the depth of the pool.

Mash inside the Olkaria Spa in Naivasha

Mash inside the Olkaria Spa in Naivasha

I watched my friends get into a ‘contained’ thrill as they themselves ventured into the spa! It was evident in their faces why the spa regulations had to be so boldly announced; because on setting foot to the tantalizing water, one would be easily tempted to rush in with a dive so as to have the entire body enjoy this feeling!  Once inside the spa waters, the regulation that ‘Swimming Costumes Must Be Worn’ is not too welcome a rule, but we worked hard to abide! 🙂

The wide and beautiful Olkaria spa

The wide and beautiful Olkaria spa

As I immersed myself into the spa, I felt proud that on completion of this facility my country Kenya will have joined the leagues of other nations that have attracted tourists over time through their natural spas. These are countries like Turkey which has the Hamam spa, Costa Rica which has the Thermal Baths and New Zealand which has the Wahkarewrewa natural spa. Once the Olkaria natural spa is complete, it will have a steam bath and sauna in addition to the hot water pools.

My friends and I enjoying time in the Olkaria spa

My friends and I enjoying time in the Olkaria spa

It is said that the spa has good natural skin treatment elements that have been known to heal some skin diseases like psoriasis. Therefore, as much as we were here to have fun, our bodies were also gaining protective qualities from these waters!

Whie inside the spa, one didn’t feel the urge to leave as the engulfing warmth felt like a massage being conducted allover the body at the same time! I walked around the entire pond with my entire body (to the neck) immersed in the water. It was a great feeling!

Julie enjoying the natural treatment in the spa. The smile says it all! :-)

Julie enjoying the natural treatment in the spa. The smile says it all! 🙂

Kama & Trish share a moment at the Olkaria spa! ;-)

Kama & Trish share a moment at the Olkaria spa! 😉

As we floated by in the spa, laughter could be heard and jolly faces seen! Time flew by faster than we wanted it to, and this was an indication that we were definitely having a blast! The sun was fast retreating behind the hills and as much as we wanted to stay, it was time to leave the spa and head back to Nairobi before nightfall. This was quite a treat to our adventurous selves and I would definitely recommend the experience for you, your family and friends!

The children's spa bath at Olkaria

The children’s spa bath at Olkaria

Location: Olkaria Natural Spa, Naivasha

Distance: About 110km from Nairobi

Accommodation: There are several campsites within the Hells Gate National Park, and many camp sites and hotels along the Moi south Lake Road

Parke entry fees: Kshs. 300.00 per adult (Kenyan citizen) and 15USD for foreign tourists

Spa entry fees: A minimal fee to be introduced on completion of the spa facility

What to carry: Sun glasses, Sun screen, Light clothing, flip-flops , a swimming costume, towel and a camera to capture the moments

-MASH-