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Updates from the Last Chance to Paint team

Precious Africa - Day 1- Journey to Amboseli

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

It is so exciting to be back! This time we are in Kenya, Africa. And what a fantastic place this is!

I'm artist Joanne Short and this time it is my turn to accompany artist John Dyer on his travels to bring some amazing stories to you.

After a very long journey with a 3-hour delay, we finally arrived in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. We received a very warm welcome from Martin our driver from Born Free - he will be driving us across Kenya to lots of exciting and beautiful places. You can imagine how excited we were to see a giraffe in the distance running through the Nairobi National Park within minutes of setting off from the airport.

Our first stop was to the Born Free Foundation Kenya Office where we met Phoebe who was to accompany us on our journey and tell us all the things we need to know and want to hear about (she knows lots of amazing things!)

So our journey around Kenya began and we set off on the 220km Drive from Nairobi to Aboseli National Park wherever will be staying for the next few days, exploring the area, looking out for the animals and talking to the local Maasai and finding out about their lives.

The journey was fantastic. One of the first things we came across we're cows being herded down the main road in Nairobi. This tells us the story of the plight of the Maasai and their animals due to the two year drought that Kenya has been suffering. The Maasai had been herding the cows and sheep for hundreds of miles in the hope of finding some vegetation for them to eat. Phoebe told us that sometimes local landowners in the area would open their huge gardens up and allow the animals to feed. It was a sorry sight and a real reminder of what can happen when the weather patterns change.

We sped across the country in the Born Free Landrover, passing through small towns, busy with people as they went about their daily lives. Then there were vast area of savannah with acacia trees of all shapes and sizes - some were even in flower. Martin every now and again would tell us the name of a different species of Acacia as we passed. Hopefully we can get him to tell us all about the differences later in the week!

The main road was quite busy, with lots of slow lorries to pass and many small motorbikes carrying all sorts of objects. Their main use is as a taxi service - they are know locally as ‘bodaboda’ because originally they used to carry people from one country’s border to another! Eventually we turned off the main road onto a dusty untarmacced road... Surely this meant we were almost at our destination? Then I spotted a signpost telling us it was 67 km away! That meant a lot of bouncing around in the van and a lot of dust, but the chance to look out and try and spot some African animals.

Sadly for the animals the lack of water has meant they have been pushed into smaller areas in the national park - much of the greenery has gone and they have to wander into the wetter areas in the park to graze. We even drove across a dry dust bowl which was previously a lake. Only last year, Phoebe told, us it was full of water - they are desperate for some rain. In fact, a couple of years ago Phoebe and Martin had to change their route because the road was impassable with water.

At the gates of Amboseli Park we were greeted by some Maasai ladies dressed in amazing bright colours. They let us take some photos of them - what an amazing sight. Later in the week we will be meeting some of the tribe and working alongside them.

After we were settled into our ‘safari lodge’ and thought the day was coming to a close, it got even better! Martin our driver offered to take us out in the Landrover to try and spot some animals out in the park - we couldn't possibly refuse! And what fun we had. The lid of the vehicle slid back and we were able to stand up and look out of the top. We saw so many beautiful beasts, so majestic and at peace with one another as they browsed the greenery around of the lake.

The hippos chomping noisily on the vegetation as the elephants glided by up to their tummies in water. We saw a big family of elephants making it's away across the landscape, backlit by the setting sun, with egret birds hopping in and out of their feet. There were buffalo, wart hogs, ostriches doing comedy walks across the road, wild beasts, zebra grazing as far as the eye could see and we were even honoured enough to spot 2 female lions rolling around together - they looked like a big version of two cats playing comfortably together in the garden.

So our first day was full of new things. Animals we had never seen before, the Masai dressed in amazing coloured clothes and covered in beaded jewellery and a vast scenery stretching away into the sunset. Mount Kilimanjaro refused to show itself from behind a beautiful purple cloud. So maybe we will get to see it tomorrow? Join us to find out and to hear about our time spent with the Masai. John is hoping to get painting tomorrow, so lots to see and find out about.

We have had a question from Boxgrove CE Primary School who have asked John what his is favourite animal in the ‘Big Five’? The African ‘Big Five’ were named historically as the most difficult to catch in the days when hunting was a sport.

These are:


African Buffalo




John says that his favourite is the Rhino and he is looking forward to seeing some later in the week when we move from this area to another location where they can be found. Let's hope we see some!

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