One little bridge has been repaired in Kenya’s cockamamie system of big game parks. Is this Kenya’s Bridge to Nowhere?
To no fan fare whatever the bridge over the Ewaso Nyiro River was reopened on Saturday, theoretically reconnecting the two big game parks of Samburu and Buffalo Springs.
The key word here is “theoretically.”
This is the only bridge besides the main road’s at Archer’s Posts which links the two sides of the river. The bridge suffered its third washout in my life time last February during the heavy floods which ended the three-year mini-drought.
Theoretically, the bridge now allows tourists staying at lodges and camps on the south bank of the river (which is technically “Buffalo Springs Reserve”) to visit Samburu, and tourists staying on the north bank of the river in Samburu to cross over and visit Buffalo Springs.
Simple, eh? Well, no.
First, why would you want to cross over? Is the grass always greener on the other side? (There isn’t any grass in Samburu.)
The river was formed over thousands of years as a line in the sand at the point at which the Mathews Mountains watershed is meaningful.
North of the river (Samburu) is higher, hillier and catches more rainfall from the prevailing winds that butt against the Mathews Mountains. So there are usually more antelope, and therefore, more cats.
South of the river is remarkably much drier: gravel and flat, which usually attracts larger numbers of the rare northern desert game like Grevy’s zebra and the blue-legged Somali ostrich. Until Somak’s lodge opened on the south side last year, then flooded out, then reopened, there were fewer tourists on the south side, and the animals knew that.
So transient families of elephant, shier cats like leopard and mothers with babies like newborn giraffe were usually found on the south side.
So yes, you do want to see both sides, and seeing both sides would be the only way to attain the expectations of most brochures, pundits and Kenyan Government PR about “Samburu.”
Ergo the bridge.
Erstwhile Kenyan politics.
Click here to go to the Kenyan Wildlife Service website list of national parks and reserves. Can’t find Samburu? Can’t find Buffalo Springs? Is this a mistake?
Yes, it is a terrible mistake, but not for the reasons you might think. There’s no oversight here in the website. It is alphabetical, left to right by row. Still can’t find this reserve which is so important in every publicized safari to Kenya?
No one can. It isn’t a national park or reserve. It belongs to the county council.
(By the way. Can’t find the Mara? No, that isn’t a national park or reserve, either. It is three separate county council reserves like Samburu and Buffalo Springs are two separate county council reserves.)
This, of course, is lunacy. But that’s ordinary Kenyan politics, and regrettably, the new constitution which is doing so much good to bring sanity to places where there was lunacy before has not even touched on this subject of wildlife management.
Richard Leakey in his earlier days as head of the KWS tried diligently to bring all the important ecosystems under the authority of the federal government, the KWS. He lost his legs trying.
The Mara and Samburu bring in the greatest amount of tourist revenue of any of the great wilderness reserves in Kenya. But each are administered separately from the federal government. (The Mara is actually in an unbelievably worse situation.) Why?
So that the fat cats in the county council can pocket the proceeds.
See my earlier blogs on wildlife management for a continued harangue. Back to the bridge.
Now that the bridge is opened, the two county council’s which own the respective northern and southern parts of the great wilderness are fighting once again. Each side wants tourists to pay to cross the bridge and enter their land.
Well, I suppose there’s logic to that. But the logic ends when the tourist who is residing on one side, pays to go to the other side, than has to pay again to return to the place where his laundry is being done!
With fees rising this could mean $50 every time you cross over the bridge!
What we need is a bridge to reality.