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August 2013 travel news 25
at 7pm as a female turtle was expected to come up to nest. After walking for a couple
of hours and imagining turtles in every clump of seaweed I walked past, we saw her;
a huge, black figure against the bright sand. My heart stopped for a second before we
hurried away so as not to scare her but she retreated back into the sea regardless. I
wasn’t disappointed not to have seen her lay her eggs as I had seen so much that week
already. Lewa informed me that he did these patrols every night so that any nests laid
could be monitored and kept safe. I marvelled how he managed to keep it up, but he
shrugged and said he was used to it now and didn’t mind at all.
And that seems to be the attitude of all the people at WTW. There is so much enthusiasm
in everyone to be doing something they love, as well as making a difference. ‘I just love
turtles,’ Fikiri informed me when I asked why he had joined WTW. And it was obvious
that he did, as he knew every answer to my many questions. When young he had seen
a turtle nest hatch and since then had been eager to learn all about turtles, until he
eventually left his job as an accountant and began to work for WTW about four years
ago. He told me that even after all this time he still finds watching the young hatchlings
crawling to the sea a heart-rending sight.
I have visited the Kenyan coast many times for holidays and so have always taken an
interest in marine life and conservation. My week with WTW deepened my appreciation
for these amazing creatures that are now seriously endangered, and I became
increasingly grateful for the incredible difference that WTW has made, and continues to
make, by educating their community, planting mangroves, cleaning beaches and taking
great care to look after all the turtles and turtle nests that come their way. It started with
one lady who paid a few people to monitor turtle nests, and now has extended beyond
Watamu to Diani Beach in the south. It was a fantastic week and wonderful to join in with
making a difference instead of watching TV or lazing about beside the pool.
Mathini - A Very Different Voluntourism Experience
by Samantha Clegg-Butt
Last week I decided to venture to the outskirts of Thika with a friend to visit Mathini
Orphanage, for a taste of village life. As we both have lived in Kenya our whole lives,
and have never ventured too far from the comfort of our houses, we thought it was about
time we saw the other side of life. Arriving at the orphanage, we were warmly greeted
by a noisy crowd of kids who were all so lovely. The accommodation was basic, but
comfortable, with perfectly clean and working bathroom facilities. The meals consisted
of beans, rice and ugali for lunch and dinner, with tea and bread for breakfast. However
if this doesn’t suffice for you, (although it did for me) you can visit the village of Kiathani,
which is a 15-minute walk from the orphanage where you can buy fresh fruit, and pretty
much any basic supply. As well, you can use public transport to the town of Thika,
where you’ll find fully stocked local supermarkets.
All in all, it was an amazing experience. The children were so welcoming, we felt like we
had been there for weeks. They were immediately clambering up onto our laps and asking
us “What is your country?” We replied, “Kenya” and they laughed and enjoyed asking
us to name things in Swahili. During our stay we became actively involved in teaching,
gardening, looking after the young ones, and other tasks around the orphanage. It was
all very pleasant, and the other volunteers and the orphanage staff were so warm and
friendly; it hardly felt like a task.
The fact that the children found so much joy in us being there and playing with them,
made me realise how easy it is for us to take this for granted. Speaking to the organiser
of the orphanage, Geoffrey Wambugu, it is clear that the more volunteers that come to
the orphanage, the happier the children are, and as they say “Many hands make light
I urge you, especially you young Kenyans, to visit the orphanage, as it will really open
your eyes; it is an amazing experience and definitely worth doing.
To find out more....................................................................................
FIVE OF FIKIRI’S FACTS:
1. Itisdifficulttotellthegender of aturtleuntilitis mature, approx. 20-
25 years old for the green sea turtle.
2. On average, a turtle can hold its breath for 45 minutes and up to
2 hours depending on size, species and the speed it is moving.
3. The average success rate of a turtle nest is over 75%.
4. The largest nest monitored at WTW held 179 eggs.
5. The largest turtle that WTW released in its buy/catch-release
program was 133cm long and was too big to fit into the car.
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