Jambo! Welcome to magical Kenya

by Sophie Daud [email protected]

Algarve resident Sophie Daud, 19, has embarked on an adventure to Kenya in Africa. She has joined 15 other volunteers in a project supported by the Kenya government that aims to protect and preserve the country’s flora and fauna.

After 7,000 miles, two-and-a-half days of travelling and traversing two time zones, I stumbled out of a rickety van fondly named ‘The Shrew’ and into my home for the next five weeks.

The village of Shimoni, which translates from Swahili as ‘the place of the caves’, has already earned a new meaning to me, despite only arriving here six days ago.

Each time I step upon the rocky path leading to the volunteer house and am greeted by the joyous cries of ‘Jambo!’ from grinning children, or the gentle sighing of goats nursing their kids, I feel the warm sense of coming home.

Yet what a long way from home I am! Settling in has been made easy by the communal aspect of the programme.

Volunteers, whose time here will range from two to fourteen weeks, live, eat and socialise with full-time staff in a house and cook for the jovial group of 20 or so members.

While we have plentiful supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables, which are the gems of Kenya, I have been struck by how much I felt a part of my diet was missing – meat!

While protein is readily available due to creative bean and vegetable dishes, and the weekly trip to Abdul’s to scoop fish and rice into your hungry mouth with your hands, we all still linger slightly too long on conversations concerning bacon sandwiches or Sunday roasts!

Furthermore, the Kenyans have opened their arms to us with friendliness and smiles. Children are eager to play and converse with us in Swahili or their fantastic English, while adults are happy to explain their local culture.

Indeed, there are a great number of differences between my lifestyle at home and here, but rather than any sense of superiority it is with a humbling sense of diversity that I learn the ways of life here.


Hot water really is a luxury I can live without, and whilE electricity is temperamental, it is evident that it is not a necessity.

Religiously, the sound of the call to prayer echoing through the village at dawn has become comforting, and all the volunteers are keen to try a day of fasting alongside the members of the community here undertaking Ramadan.

Indeed, fasting appears quite a feat in such a climate. While the air temperature hovers around 28 degrees, similar to that in Faro, the humidity clings to your neck, legs, back and summons beads of sweat to even the fittest of brows.

Occasionally gasps of strong, warm wind sweep through the village, inciting violent surfs of clear turquoise sea to wrestle with the rocky shores, but the oppression of the heat still means that not eating and drinking during daylight hours is a dedicated task.

The variable yet sticky weather has also wrought hilarious havoc in our conservation work. Jo, my travelling companion, and I are spending our first week on forest work, where trees tend to do bizarre things when the wind leaps through Shimoni.

Despite the work devastating our bodies through its intense physicality, Jo and I leave every morning at eight o’ clock with a glint in our eyes, addicted to the sweet drug of the mysterious forest.

Our first day involved cutting new transect lines, and so learning how to wield machetes (or ‘pangas’ as they are commonly known) to fight our way through vines and thick undergrowth which reaches well above my head- it turns out I am utterly hopeless!

We have since carried out arduous canopy cover surveys in blistering sunshine (which involve a lot of neck ache as you stare at very tall trees and use trigonometry to work out their height) and excitedly spotted the endangered Angolan Black and White Colobus monkeys leaping through the trees in a torrential downpour.

So while I have been bewildered by the intensity of this incredible new country, I am now in the pleasant company of friends and look forward to the next month of similarly copious learning and enjoying.

A week here most certainly feels a lot longer than seven days!