The Lewa Marathon is such an interesting event. Hundreds of runners turn up every year to run a rugged course filled with all of Africa’s beautiful wildlife. This year Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, participated alongside teams from all over the world. @lewa_wildlife @tropicairkenya @safaricommarathon
Oldonyiro Livestock market in Northern Kenya. This market is sits at the meeting point of Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo counties and is a merging point for livestock coming from all across northern Kenya. Traders driving in from Nanyuki will set up stalls of fresh vegetables, clothes, phones and household goods. Once the mostly Samburu pastoralists sell their livestock off, they will then buy the supplies they need for everyday life in the far reaches of Kenya’s wild places. Security is tight at the market because livestock have historically been a point of severe conflict between rival tribes often ending in gun violence and raiding. On assignment for @usaid in Northern Kenya.
I think every boma and manyatta tells it’s own little story. The patterns sort of dance and meander their way around until they eventually connect back to eachother. I’ve recently become obsessed with photographing the little dramas of them. This one is from Shompole, one of my favorite places to fly my motorized paraglider because it’s a such a unique and unfrequented area. Notice how little grass stock remains around the outside of the structure. The livestock have eaten nearly all of it.
After 11 years of planning and construction, the Turkana Wind Power Station came online in October of 2018. With 365 turbines total, each capable of producing 850 kilowatts of energy into the grid, the station is able to account for nearly 17% of Kenya’s power usage. Each blade is 26 meters long and in the initial planning of the wind farm, the location was moved 12km east of Lake Turkana to avoid migratory bird routes up and down the Rift Valley lakes. Wind farms have often been criticized for the quantity of bird strikes caused by the blades because the farms are often placed in areas frequented by soaring raptors.
Morning fog over a small farming community in Kenya’s Central Highlands.
Does anybody know how many types of zebra we have in Kenya? And can you name them?
Elephant drinking from the Southern Ewaso Nyiro River near the Kenya/Tanzania border. Here in the Shompole ecosystem, the Ewaso river is the lifeblood and although it’s flows vary tremendously between seasons, it supports a high quantity of elephant and wildlife. Currently, Kenya has not had enough rain for the Ewaso to flood this year which means a drought is likely on the horizon.
Mount Kilimanjaro. Africa’s tallest mountain. In the foreground, an electrified fence guards a crop of onions from migratory elephant passing between the Chyulus and Amboseli. As part of the Kimana corridor, @biglifeafrica works with farmers in heavily trafficked elephant migration routes to mitigate human wildlife conflicts.
Ololokwe and the ‘Great North Road’ in the far reaches of Kenya’s North. The road, spanning over 500km, connects Isiolo to Moyale, the border town with Ethiopia, and as it does it passes through some of the wildest portions of the country. When construction began in 2008 by a Chinese firm, elephant poaching numbers spiked in the area. The thought was that Chinese road crews were now closer than ever to the much coveted ivory which could easily be shipped back to China for a small fortune. Today the highway is heavily trafficked by trucks and passenger vehicles moving to/from Ethiopia and eventually as part of the LAPSSET (Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport Corridor) initiative the highway will connect direct to the port at Lamu. This will effectively link all of the region to import/export facilities and potentially make it even easier for trafficked ivory to depart the region en route to China. Development at this scale is tricky and assessing unintended consequences of these major projects can be difficult. Linkages to trade and economic growth are a good thing, but with that growth, we must be careful to mitigate the inevitable wildlife losses that occur alongside these development projects. Today, when you drive the great north road, there are signs pointing out traditional migration routes which the highway cut down the middle. They warn motorists to slow down and protect the iconic species which were here before any humans were. I can’t help but think there is a greater lesson to be learned here. It’s not just about motorists slowing down. It’s about all of us, collectively slowing down and making sure the choices we make everyday lead us to a world which is in balance.
Misty morning in the Chyulu Hills. The Chyulus are said by many to be Hemmingway’s green hills of Africa. They are some of the youngest volcanic hills in the world and maintain some semblance of green, in comparison to the surrounding landscape, because of the morning mists which ascend upslope from the warm moist valley below. There is very little ground water found in the hills because of the porous nature of the rocky volcanic soil, so most wildlife living in the hills will get their water from either the morning dew or from their food source.
Pivot irrigation next to Lake Naivasha in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The lake is a year-round source of water and large scale agriculture is increasing around the entirety of the lake. As we look forward, Kenya’s population is expected to double reaching 100 million people before 2050 and global population trends are not that far behind. How will we feed that many people and maintain any semblance of wild spaces?
Sleeping warrior crater in the Kenya’s central Rift Valley. The Rift Valley is loaded with old volcanic cones. The major and well known craters include Longonot, Menengai, Suswa, and Sleeping Warrior, but there are also hundreds other smaller cones scattered throughout the landscape. The area is a hotbed for geothermal activity and developments over the past decade to harness that energy have seen geothermal blocks being developed around Hell’s Gate National Park and deep inside of the Menengai crater. Geothermal energy from The Rift Valley produced nearly 50 percent of Kenya’s electricity in 2015. The next largest producer was hydropower at about 35 percent of the total. In 1985, Kenya produced only 85 megawatts of energy from geothermal sources, but today it is producing over 600 megawatts, with much of that coming online since 2014.
The stars in Samburu a few nights ago. One of the things I love about Kenya’s wild lands is the lack of light pollution. You can really see the stars quite clearly, especially in Northern Kenya. This was shot at the old Samburu Reserve Oryx airstrip. It isn’t used much anymore so we had the whole place to ourselves.
What do we make of this photo? I took it last week on the highway to Oliotoktok. I think it’s an interesting capture because it sums up Kenya’s wild past butting up against the future of development; a dump truck filled with sand headed to a cement factory to build more things shows no signs of slowing down for a zebra crossing the road. Do we develop at any cost? Or do we save some space and slow down to steward this land for all creatures?
After a few days of rain, the Ewaso Nyiro River, the main artery of the Samburu ecosystem, is flowing again. The last few months the river has been completely dry. Seasonally, it’s normal for the river to come and go with the rains, but the last few years, we’ve seen a significant polarization of its flows; either flood or drought. This is the story for much of the continent. Drought or flood are increasingly the new normal. The river supports agriculture, pastoralists and a large quantity of the wildlife in Northern Kenya. The Samburu Reserve, pictured here, is home of a prolific quantity of elephant.
Do you ever wonder what coffee looks like before it reaches your cup? The small round bushes here are coffee plants which are grown between lines of banana trees. These two crops are often intercropped together because the banana trees, while not using a lot of water, still provide an element of shade to the coffee. In order to get a shade grown designation which would fetch more on international markets, the coffee would be required to be grown under a native forest canopy. You can learn more about coffee production at @conservationorg’s sustaincoffee.org
Poling through the mangrove forests of Gazi bay along the southern Kenya Coastline. Home to loads of different bird and fish species, this forest is among an elite few left along the East African coastline. With increasing demand for firewood, mangrove forests are being depleted at a rate of 3x average world forest reserves.
I’ve added a big number of new followers in the past month. I want to say hello and introduce myself here. My name is Bobby and I’m a photographer. I work in East Africa and I do aerial photography work from a powered paraglider pictured here. A year and a half ago, my girlfriend Kim died in a paragliding accident in Kenya. It brought everything to a complete stop. Everything I thought I knew about the world came crashing down. But since then, I’ve grown a lot, pushed myself tremendously and it’s been an amazing year of firsts. I mostly photograph landscapes which are threatened from development, climate change or ecological issues and do this primarily from an aerial perspective, so a lot of the images you see here will be from above, but some will also be from the ground. Thanks for following and happy Easter. And definitely send me a message when I post something that strikes you. Whether you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear from you!
Maasai Manyatta in the amboseli ecosystem. You can see clear similarities between this structure and the Samburu one I posted last week. Pieces of brush, particularly acacia thorn of some sorts, are used along the outside to keep livestock in and predators out. Houses, some with tin roofs and some with traditional grass, are also scattered throughout the manyatta.
Tim, Tolstoy and the big boys on the move through the Amboseli ecosystem. Tim and Tolstoy are among the world’s largest tusked elephant.
A tourist soaks up some sun at Buffalo Springs in northern Kenya. Not far from the Ewaso Nyiro river, the springs provide drinking water for wildlife during the dry season. It’s common to see all different kinds of animals drinking from a number of springs surrounding this swimming hole.
One of my all time favorite photos of a storm cloud building over Shompole Mountain on the Kenyan border with Tanzania. The colors and patterns in this ecosystem can be overwhelming at times. As a photographer, it’s often difficult to decide which photo you want to focus on getting. For me, I’m trying to get big landscapes which capture the ethos of a place as well as little frames that capture something small which tells a story of how humans or wildlife interact with that landscape.
A Manyatta in northern Kenya. With an outside barrier to keep wildlife out and livestock safe, these are the homes of Samburu pastoralists. With the proliferation of livestock across northern Kenya, overgrazing has become a major issue. Pastoralists are heavily dependent on rain to replenish rangeland, however Kenya’s big rains haven’t come yet this year. Already a month late, the delay follows cyclone Idai’s torrential downpours across Southeast Africa which caused massive flooding across Mozambique. It’s quite a different picture across Kenya at the moment.
The Gede Ruins hidden in the Arabuko-Sokoke forest outside of Watamu on the Kenyan Coast. Gede is one of many medieval Swahili-Arab coastal settlements that stretch from Mogadishu to Mozambique.
Egret in front of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kimana Sanctuary near Kenya’s southern border with Tanzania.
Empty fishing boats sit on the crystal clear water just off Diani beach on Kenya’s south coast.
This is one of my favorite photos from one of our trips up to Turkana last year. This is often the scene for me. Loads of curiosity and doubt as to what I’m doing. And yes, the machine to the left is what I use to take all the aerial imagery you see in this feed. It’s called a paramotor. It’s a paraglider with an engine. Photo by @petersize10.
Cat and Mouse spires just opposite Ololokwe in Samburu. These rocks have captured my fascination for years. On every road trip north, I’ve driven past them wondering what it would be like to climb them or be next to them. And then a few years ago I was lucky enough to join a crack team of climbers on an expedition to climb them. And then just a few weeks back, flew over them in the paramotor.
An old volcanic cone in Northern Kenya on the south shore of Lake Turkana. Correction from previous caption where I called this Teleki’s volcano. This is known as: Naboyatum.
Tim and Tolstoy, two super tuskers on the move towards Amboseli National Park. I shot this on foot after the two elephant started on a long walk from the Kimana area to the park. I was lucky enough to follow their movements most of the day until they reached the park boundary. These are two of the biggest tuskers we have left. They are truly remarkable creatures.
Flamingos on Lake Magadi in southern Kenya. The reddish pink to the right is a soda mixture which is harvested and refined to be used in many everyday life applications including cooking, glass making, detergents, brick making and more.
Massive quantities of topsoil are being lost every rainy season because of overgrazing. The soil erodes and then is carried down major river systems to the coastline. Here, at the mouth of the Galana-Sabaki River, Kenya’s 2nd largest river, top soil mixes with saltwater in the ocean. The quantity of soil is having an affect on the health of coastal ecosystems which are being blanketed with thick layers of underwater dirt as the soil settles.
A group of birds fly over the wetlands of Lake Ol Bolossat in Central Kenya. The lake is a designated protected area and is part of the headwaters for the Ewaso Nyiro river which runs through the famous Samburu ecosystem. Even though the area is ‘protected,’ it still faces a number of challenges. If you look at the top of the image, you can see agriculture that runs right up to the edge of the water. When I was speaking with a local resident he told me that land grabbing into the wetlands was still occurring on a regular basis. Chemicals from agriculture going into the water here have an effect as far downstream as the Lorian Swamp near Wajir.
Millions of lesser flamingo go to breed on Kenya’s Lake Logipi every year. With the recent fluctuation of levels and food availability of other Rift Valley lakes, Logipi has seen a surge in the numbers of flamingo. This lake has numerous rivers and streams which seasonally input, but it has no output. Being shallow in most areas, all the water which flows in, evaporates out. Logipi is located in one of the most inaccessible portions of Kenya.
The semi-nomadic Rendille tribe in Northern Kenya build their home communities based on a clan or family unit with individuals and families living in each of the huts along the outside and livestock in the middle to prevent them from being stolen by marauders over night. Traditionally, the tribe is semi nomadic, but their nomadic lifestyle has become less prominent with the introduction of boreholes in the desert. With grass huts that are designed to be taken apart and moved, I’ve heard that when a male in the clan dies, the entire village or ‘manyatta’ structure will be deconstructed and moved or even burned to start again.
The Magado Crater in Northern Kenya. — The colours here are caused by the same mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium hydrogen carbonate that causes lake Magadi to have similar colours. The Meru people here will collect the soda mixture and sell it. If you look closely, you can see the soda in small piles next to the pools. These pools are located at the bottom of a 250ft tall volcanic crater on the edge of the Nyambene Mountains in Northern Kenya.
Mobile cattle bomas on Soysambu. - These bomas are used to protect livestock from predators at night. Traditional bomas don’t move as often as they should which results in degradation of the grass stock in the bomas. The gradual regrowth process can be clearly seen here as the boma moves in small increments.
Algae pools on the south end of Lake Turkana. — These pools are actually this green. The color is caused by a type of bacteria which obtain their energy through photosynthesis. Most commonly referred to as blue-green algae, these bacteria are among the smallest living things which produce oxygen.
Mount Kenya Wildfires are still burning today. Somewhere between 30,000-40,000 acres were burned as of last night.
An egret flies through the wetlands of the Suguta Valley. The Suguta is one of the most inhospitable places in the whole of East Africa. It is known for its soaring temperatures and dramatic volcanic landscapes and lava flows. It sits at the bottom of the Rift Valley just south of Lake Turkana. I think I was one of the first people to ever fly a paraglider down into the Suguta. However, this photo was taken from a helicopter on a second trip down the valley after high winds thwarted my second flight.
Patterns on Lake Magadi in southern Kenya. Lake Magadi is a soda lake, so when it dries and the levels drop, the patterns which emerge are tremendously beautiful from above. The water here is only about 1-foot deep so you can see the patterns through a light sheen and some cloud reflections as well.
Zebra in on dry and dusty plain in Soysambu. This time last year, things were very dry. This year, we are hoping for rains that rivaled last years. Rain here, even when it’s a lot, is a good thing. It means farmers can produce crops, wildlife have grasses to graze and livestock aren’t competing for the same land. We are just on the brink of our rainy season and small rain showers are slowly popping up around the country. For us, it’s also expedition season. When the rain comes, the winds go down which means we can do some good flying.
A rare portrait. @tanner.photo snapped a film snap of me two weeks ago in the Chyulu Hills. I’m filthy and sun burnt after a few days of flying, but happy to be with great friends around. It’s been a rough year. Not as many smiles as there used to be, so it’s good to see this one. It’s evidence that all things are possible and that perseverance and endurance do, in the end, breed hope. — Also, check out my insta story for more old school film snaps of the trip. It feels like the 1970s all over again. I will also post a few more photos from the Chyulus soon.
The mist forests at the top of the Chyulu Hills. The distinct line of forest and grasslands here is very interesting. I think they are likely caused by fires. The craters on top create a natural fire break so the forests inside have survived through all the fires over the years. These forests are home to a number of species. While hiking through them last week we were able to get close up with a bush pig. The pig was less than 5 feet from us and when it ran, it scared our entire group. Because of the porous nature of the volcanic soil, there is very little groundwater in the Chyulu Hills so most of the wildlife and vegetation survive off the mists.
The Chyulu Hills in southern Kenya separate the tsavo ecosystem from the amboseli ecosystem. They are a 100km long series of volcanic cones and lava flows. There is very little ground water in the chyulus. Most of the wildlife in the hills survive off the dew from the morning mists seen in this photo.
Thank you everybody for the overwhelming response to the black leopard photos. We have been working behind the scenes the last few days to get some donation pages active! Good news! They are active. If you want to contribute to providing a safe territory for this beautiful cat, please consider donating. LINK is in profile! We are working with the Samburu Trust ( @samburutrust) to send out their warrior scouts to communicate with the communities in the area where we spotted her. This coordination with the communities is the only way she stands a chance at survival in that area. Black leopard survival is difficult. She faces a number of challenges. She lacks normal camouflage which inhibits her ability to hunt. Shes very visible to the community, so if she kills a herders goat, retaliation is likely and she’s much more visible as she stands out dramatically from that landscape. The Samburu Trust is a fantastic outfit working in Northern Kenya. Utilizing warrior scouts who do mobile reporting via @instagram, they are a vital link between @kenyawildlifeservice, the community and conservation. To find out more visit the link in profile. - Also, please share with as many people as you can! We’d like to get some momentum behind this and sustain the warrior scouts work! @samburutrust @kenyawildlands
The paw. Three out of four off the ground. If you look closely, you can see the spots underneath her fur. #blackleopard #kenya
The Ewaso Nyiro in flood. This year marked the largest rains we've seen in the Southern Ewaso Nyiro basin since 1963. Flooding destroyed villages, camps and cutoff access to food and supplies. Here, members of the Embakasi Village just north of Lake Natron cross the Ewaso delta en route back to their village from a market day in neighboring Shompole village. If you look close, you can see the banks of the river at normal flow. On this day it was 5 miles outside of it's banks.
All roads lead to water. - The water seen here is pumped in for cattle and wildlife from a borehole. If you look close, you can see the pipe which carries the water. Before these last rains, this is what most of Kenya looked like. No grass, no green remaining. What the wildlife didn't eat, the livestock took. We are in a time of abundance now, but things are drying out quickly and it's a reminder of our limited resources and dependency on the climate and environment for the health of our ecosystems.