On a chilly Sunday morning, in September 2022, an excited team of vibrant COMRED staff and directors left the Mombasa train terminus, destined for Naromoru, Laikipia County, over 600 kilometers from the port city.
We were on a mission to unwind in the cool breezes on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, away from the sweltering heat that is daily routine in our marine conservation work in the vast Kenyan Coast.
It is on this trip that we’d also tie the loose ends of our Strategic Plan that had been on weave-mode for a while.
For two months, we had all planned and fantasized about this trip. When the day finally came, we were beside ourselves with joy. Shopping, done. Suitcases, packed. Naromoru here we come!
The train ride to Nairobi was exhilarating as I took a front seat to enjoy the magnificent views of Tsavo east and west landscapes and the occasional chatter and banter in between with my colleagues. We arrived early evening at NaroMoru river lodge , tired but enthusiastic about our mission there.
On Monday morning, I was woken up by the melodic chirping of birds and the soothing sound of river Tigithi’s water crashing against rocks and tree trunks. The cool air was so refreshing and at this moment, I didn’t miss the hot Mombasa air. I got to take in the breathtaking environment of the lodge where we stayed for the rest of the week. This picturesque location is straight out of a movie.
Our week-long adventure started with a game drive at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. A very high note to start the week you could say. This being the first game drive for some of us, we had expectations of seeing the 2 remaining #NorthernWhiteRhinos, trying horseback riding, lion tracking and visiting the chimpanzee sanctuary. However, just when we had started enjoying our game drive, it started raining heavily cutting short our adventure and washing down our dreams and hope for the day down the gutter.
Perpetua Wairimu, a project officer at COMRED offers her reflection on this drive saying,
“The game drive was one for the books for me. Seeing elephants up close and how huge they were was a first for me. It was mind-blowing how they kept to their business almost as if we were not there,’’ She added.
The 2 days that followed were serious business. With facilitation by MaliAsili’s Gathoni Mwai and Naiya Raja, we revisited our earlier drafted mission, vision, goals and objectives with the aim of making them SMART as Miss Gathoni would put it.
“The thought process and development of the strategic document was intense but the facilitation made the process less overwhelming.” Commented Jefwa Titus, a researcher at COMRED.
As we dissected these items and picked each other’s brains to come up with a SMART Strategic plan, we began to appreciate the value each individual brings to the team. As we interacted with our directors and colleagues, the team spirit became alive. Listening to other people’s opinions and thoughts was eye-opening.
According to Patrick Kimani—one of the Directors at COMRED,’’Seeing all the team members put their heart and passion into this process was fulfilling.’’
On Wednesday, we went to bed exhausted but excited looking forward to the adventure in store for us on the next day.
Mt. Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and 2nd highest in Africa at 5,199 meters and there was no better day than 8th September 2022 to slay this giant. We all showed up in the right attire and mood at the crack of dawn and set off to the mountain base to start our hike. As we drove to the base, the winding road was therapeutic to watch. The roan antelopes dotted the roadside blessing us with their unmatched beauty and poise. Then we came to the Percival waterfall…
Adrenaline-pumped, we made our way down, taking endless selfies, and I cannot begin to explain the joy that was in the air. Our way back up was definitely a challenge. Those who went down running came back crawling due to the steep nature of the terrain.
The unforgettable hike commenced with a brief meeting led by our guide George who gave us instructions on the do and don’ts for a successful hike including but not limited to: Drinking water regularly to stay hydrated, avoid running up the mountain, not disturbing animals in case we came across any, communicating immediately in case of any emergency among others. Our hike was eventful and we could feel the air get cooler as we ascended the mountain confirming the phrase, the higher you go, the cooler it becomes. We even got to see and experience the heath and moorland vegetation!
Nyaga Kanyange, COMRED-director, savored the trip though he shrank at the thought of being bed-ridden from the execution’s hangovers.
‘’Ascending and descending Mt. Kenya was energy intensive, after that, I went cycling and I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to walk the next day,’’ said Kanyange.
Keeping in mind that Mr. Kanyange is arguably the fittest person at COMRED, feel free to imagine what the rest were going through. All in all, we were proud of ourselves for hiking 3100m and we can confidently say, we went, we saw and we conquered, gracefully following in the footsteps of legends such as Firmin and Hicks: Who made the first ascent of the Batian, Mt. Kenya’s highest peak.
This trip was an intimate experience for me. It opened my mind to the great potential our team has and the many opportunities at our disposal. Compared to the first strategic meeting we had in May; I was more in tune with what was happening around me and I was ready to immerse myself in the entire experience.
Our ride back home was nostalgic. We felt rejuvenated and with renewed commitment to our work, we were ready to dive into work, pushing COMRED into the next frontiers and breaking the glass ceiling, guided by our strategic plan goals. While I will miss the serene Naromoru, I will definitely not miss the shrieking cry of the tree hyrax in the night.
COMRED is a flower that blossomed out of a friendship between three young men (Patrick Kimani, Innocent Wanyonyi and Joseph Tunje). Sixteen years down the line, their dream has outlived them and this once nascent organization has stayed on course to achieving a community-led approach in marine conservation. COMRED is experiencing growth, and expansion and this strategic plan process is the icing on the cake!
Agatha of Blue Ventures and Kimani of COMRED recreate their childhood memories.
Acknowledgement: Thank you Blue ventures and Maliasili for your continued support and partnership.
Photo credits: Catherine Muyonga
Blog by: Catherine Muyonga