On April 6th 2014, Colobus Conservation volunteers and staff joined the Shimba Support Group (SSG) at Shimba Hills National Reserve, Kenya, to help with a clean-up.
There were four of us from Colobus Conservation that were joining SSG and we were very excited. Not about picking up the rubbish, although it is good to do so, but the fact we could possibly see Elephants, Sable Antelope, Giraffe and if we were unbelievably incredibly ridiculously lucky a Leopard.
Bernard, the Treasurer of SSG, picked us up at 7.30am in his air conditioned Range Rover (Oh My God air conditioning) and off we went for the 45 minute drive. It was very comfortable and a pleasant change to be cool and not sweating. Driving through Ukunda (local town) and the other villages was a new experience in itself. It was fascinating seeing everyone going about their daily business, and the general hubbub of the area.
We were all experiencing childlike excitement on reaching the gate of Shimba Hills, the terrain was much different from what we were used to; like we were going into Jurassic Park. Bernard had warned us that due to the thick bush like terrain it is not likely that we would see much, if anything. But not more than 5 minutes in and what happens, we spot 3 elephants, 15 metres away and walking towards us. I was so excited and started snapping away to make sure I could remember this moment and share it with everyone who wasn’t there. There were three youngish elephants and they moved with purpose towards us, but they wanted the water (not us thankfully). They splashed the water and mud on their body’s and then within a few minutes had disappeared into the bush never to be seen again. Safe to say we were now buzzing and wondering what else we would see.
We arrived at our rendezvous point and met the other people (mainly ex-pats and staff from a local community project) and then got a briefing for the day. Minibuses took us to the starting point and we began picking up what rubbish we could find. It was quite a privilege to be walking through a National Reserve as it is not normally allowed, to be more specific it was the public road that cars/buses use to go to Nairobi (but still technically in the park). About fifteen minutes into the litter pick the heavens opened and we got absolutely soaked. As this was an open road there were not really any trees around so we just had to take it. Once the rain had moved on the glorious sun came out and it wasn’t long before we were dry again.
It took us just over 2 hours to complete the section we were instructed to sweep and that brought us back to the main gate; our starting point. Everyone else was already there, including another group that did the other direction with a local school group. The amount of rubbish we all collected was impressive and it was nice to know it was all going to be recycled and disposed of properly, for example the plastic bottles were going to a community project where they use them to build bottle benches. We took a group photo then found a nice spot in the Reserve for a lunch. After an hour or so we went our separate ways and ours just happened to be a trip around the park, thanks to Bernard.
Unfortunately, seeing the elephant’s right at the beginning had raised our expectations. We did see a small antelope called a Dik-Dik, with a small bright white tail and a bound in its step that would put Usain Bolt to shame, and a large group of baboons. The views from some of the stopping points were breathtaking and it was peacefully quiet and a nice change of scenery.
This rounded up our clean-up day in Shimba Hills Nature Reserve and not only did we feel we had done our part in making the reserve a better place; we saw ELEPHANTS!