Kenya week’s coming to a close here on the Looptail — but you still have a few days to enter to win a flight-inclusive safari camping trip to this enchanting African country. Check the bottom of this post to enter! On Monday, photographer Bethany Salvon and journalist Randy Kalp took us beyond the safari with a few notable travel bloggers. Tuesday saw Toronto’s Seattle Dredge track down a leopard near Lake Nakuru. Peter West Carey introduced us to the orphaned elephants of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on Wednesday, while G Adventure’s very own Caitlin Hotchkiss took us on a visual adventure spanning Kenya yesterday.
Located in East Africa and bordering five other countries, Kenya has a total area of 582,650 square kilometers (224,962 square miles), rendering it slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Despite its size, Kenya sure boasts diversity — there are approximately 42 different ethnic tribes living within its border — from snow-capped Mount Kenya (the country’s highest point at 5,199m) to its Indian Ocean coastline. While Kenya is one of the world’s greatest destinations, known for its remarkable diversity of landscapes, wildlife and cultures, it also boasts some weird and wonderful facts—from huge bugs to high fashion.
Kenya’s Amazing Dudus
Because of its lush climate, Kenya is home to some huge tropical bugs, known as ‘dudus’ in Swahili. From the plum-sized golden orb spider to golden starburst baboon spiders — regarded as ‘small’ tarantulas because they reach only 12cm in diameter — these aren’t your usual garden-variety creepy crawlies. Perhaps Kenya’s most notorious ‘dudu’ is the Safari ant. Such is the strength of the Safari ant’s jaws that they are sometimes used as natural, emergency sutures. The Masaai, for example, when suffering from a gash in the bush, will use Safari ants to stitch wounds by getting the ants to bite on both sides of the gash, then breaking off the body. This use of ants as makeshift surgical staples creates a seal that can hold for days at a time, and the procedure can be repeated, if necessary.
The Circle of Life
With earnings of over US$951m worldwide, the Lion King is the highest-grossing hand-drawn film in history — and it’s also set in Kenya. While the film’s creative team traveled through Kenya, they watched hunting lions, mothers with cubs and big male cats stretched out in the sun, making sketches and took photos of playful cubs to create the movie’s protagonists, Simba and Nala. The movie’s ‘Pride Rock’ and ‘The Gorge’ were modelled after Hell’s Gate National Park—a location, rumoured to harbour evil spirits. One of the biggest spectacles one can witness in Kenya is the annual migration of Wildebeests through Maasai Mara National Reserve — it took Disney’s CG department three years to illustrate this epic stampede.
From Kenya to the Catwalk
Influenced by a Maasai blanket from his Kenyan childhood, style manager Kim Jones, infused Louis Vuitton’s 2012 Spring/Summer line with the traditional garments of Kenya’s semi-nomadic people, the Maasai. The main garment worn by the Maasai is the shuka, which is a basic piece of fabric that can be worn in a variety of ways, depending on one’s personal style. The fabric is rubbed with color or dye to make it red, becoming a sort of camouflage with the red dirt of that part of Africa.
After tourism, agriculture is the second largest contributor to Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP). The principal cash crops are coffee and tea. Employing approximately 6m people, coffee is one of Kenya’s biggest exports but you’ll rarely see a Kenyan drinking it—tea is by far the preferred choice. They are (behind India and Sri Lanka) the world’s third largest tea-growing nation. Kenyans are devout ‘chai’ drinkers (the Kiswahili word for tea). Kenyan chai is about one-third milk, boiled with two-thirds water—with lots of sugar added.