COURSE GUIDE PART 2
• The course site
• Arriving in Kenya
• Meeting up with the TBA
About the field site
Mpala Research Centre and Lake Naivasha 1
Facilities and accommodation 2
Specific health issues 4
Arriving in Kenya
Passports, visas and entry cards 5
Arriving in Kenya by air 6
Arriving in Kenya by bus/train 6
Getting around Nairobi 6
Places to stay in Nairobi 7
Security and banking 8
Meeting up with the TBA 9
Map of Kenya 10
Map of Nairobi 11
Books and papers 12
Useful web sites 13
Past projects in Kenya 14
1. Mpala Research Centre and Lake Naivasha
The initial 10 days of the course will be at the Mpala Research Centre (MRC). MRC is located in Laikipia District, Central Kenya (0?17‟N, 36?53‟E), north-west of Mt. Kenya, 50km
north of the Equator, and 50km from Nanyuki town. MRC is a facility for scientific research,
education, and training in central Kenya, emphasizing environmental sciences, biodiversity
conservation, and natural resources management. The habitat is largely savanna and hosts
abundant wildlife. MRC is funded through the Mpala Wildlife Foundation, and administered by
the Mpala Research Trust, in collaboration with Princeton University, the Smithsonian
Institution, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the National Museums of Kenya.
An estimated 800 plant species occur in Mpala. The vegetation is characteristic of semi-arid African savanna, predominantly grassy savanna bushland, with patches of woodland and
open grassland. Dominant trees include species in the genera Acacia (Mimosaceae),
Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae), Balanites (Balanitaceae), and Boscia (Capparaceae). More than
2,000 cattle, camels and sheep are ranched in Mpala, but the region also hosts an intact
savanna mammal community, including Kenya's second largest elephant population.
Currently 85 mammal species and at least 300 bird species can be found in Mpala.
Elephants, elands, zebras, oryx and giraffes are seasonally abundant, depending on rainfall
and forage availability. Waterbucks, impalas, Grant's gazelles, Jackson's hartebeests and
bushbucks are resident. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals,
aardwolfs and bat-eared foxes are also seen regularly.
Profound changes in patterns of biodiversity occur along altitudinal and climatic gradients that extend from the Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare Highlands in the south (3500m,
max. rainfall 1600mm) to the northern lowlands (1000m, mean rainfall 300mm). Mpala is
situated sufficiently close to the centre of this gradient that some of the fauna and flora that
are characteristic of either the mesic or xeric tend to co-occur there. Obvious examples are
Grevy's and Plains zebras, and helmeted and vulturine guineafowls.
The northern two-thirds of Mpala is underlain by dissected Archean terrain with thin dark red sandy loams (latosols). The southwestern one-third of the property is characterized by a
100 m high phonolite lava flow. Soils developed on the flow consist of a catena of black clay
vertisols with impeded drainage, with brown calcareous loams (chestnut soils) on the higher
elevations and steeper slopes. Scattered throughout this terrain are granitic inselbergs or
kopjes, with the largest, „Mukenya‟ (1846 m), at the centre. Fifteen dams have been
constructed on Mpala, and there are more than 250 km of internal roads.
Due to remoteness of Mpala and presence of elephants, buffaloes and lions, walking is
restricted unless accompanied by an armed ranger. However, the quiet wilderness
atmosphere is ideal for ecological field exercises on the diverse and fascinating flora and
fauna found here. There tend to be large thorns in the habitat around the station so good
walking shoes and long trousers are essential.
The rest of the course will be based at the Elsamere Field Studies Centre (EFSC). The centre is set amid Acacia woodland community and is situated on the shores of Lake
Naivasha in Kenya‟s Rift Valley. The Field Studies Centre forms part of Elsamere, a
residential lakeside facility for conservationists and researchers which was also established
by the Elsa Conservation Trust. The main house was built by the late Joy Adamson, the
famous author and artist, who left it in trust for the furtherance of conservation in Kenya.
Lake Naivasha is situated in Nakuru District, Kenya and is part of a chain of lakes dotted along the eastern Rift Valley. At 1,890m, Naivasha is the highest of all the Rift Valley
lakes and unusual in remaining fresh even though most rift valley lakes are saline. The lake
levels directly affect the vegetation of Naivasha. Much of the shore is currently fringed with
dense stands of feathery papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) with floating mats of water hyacinth
(Eichhornia crassipes) on the open water.
Naivasha supports a diverse bird fauna; 80-90 species of water birds are regularly
recorded during annual censuses and another 300 or so species have been sighted in the
surrounding areas. The Acacia woodlands surrounding the lake are particularly rich in biodiversity. Hippos are abundant in the lake and are a common spectacle in the evening as
they emerge to graze around its shores.
The course will also visit Hell‟s Gate National Park, which is situated about 4 miles (6
km) from Elsamere. This small park is bordered by intensive farming on one side and the
grazing lands of the Masai pastoralists on the other. The gorge within the park (Lake
Naivasha‟s former outflow) is spectacular, with towering 120m high columnar cliffs and two
impressive volcanic plugs that stand as towers. The vegetation is a mix of grassland,
woodland and scrub, and a variety of large mammals inhabit the area.
Warm days and cool nights dominate MRC, with low humidity in the driest season (January-
April), and moderate humidity at other times. The rainfall is weakly trimodal, with peaks in
April-May, July-August, and October-November, and a distinct dry season in January-
February. There is considerable year-to-year variation in total rainfall and in the seasonal
distribution of rainfall. The property spans an altitudinal and climatic gradient that is higher,
wetter and cooler in the southwest (1850 m; 530 mm annual rainfall), and lower, drier and
hotter in the Northeast (1550 m; 400 mm annual rainfall). It is expected to be warmer and
hotter especially during the day.
Naivasha is set in a relatively dry region; the average annual rainfall at Elsamere is
about 655mm. Parts of Naivasha can also be windy but the winds over the lake are generally
weak and come from quite varying directions. The strongest winds (occasionally exceeding
21 knots) normally occur in August and October; July/August is normally dry. The room 0temperatures are usually 27C. Evenings are often cold so we recommend that you bring warm clothing (a sweater or a jacket). It is likely that it might rain when you are in Naivasha
(so do bring a rain coat with you).
What you can expect to find at the field station
Accommodation and facilities
At Mpala, you will be accommodated in a tented camp (taking at least 2 persons per
tent) right beside the benign Ewaso Ngiro River. Mornings and evenings can be rather
cool (often windy too); warm clothing is essential for this part of your stay. A shared
shower facility is available at the campsite that has both cold and hot water. A tented dining
area will be available at the campsite. All meals are taken at the river camp.
Most day lectures will be based at the main lecture hall at the research centre while evening
lectures will usually be based at the campsite. There will be a well-equipped laboratory and
library for basic research.
Campsite at Mpala Research Centre
The Elsamere Field Studies Centre has a fully equipped lecture room which we convert
into a computer room for use of the TBA laptops. We are also given access to a small
laboratory to use for the duration of the course. Recent improvements to the accommodation
at EFSC have taken place; you will share newly constructed dormitories that house 4 people
to a room. Hot water will be available in all the blocks at certain times of day.
The TBA will provide everything you need for the course field practicals and projects.
There is a room which will be used for lectures and project work. The TBA will also set up a
small well-equipped lab and its own research library of books and reprints.
Mobile phone reception is virtually non-existent at Mpala but extremely reliable at
Elsamere; however, please remember that there is a strict TBA policy that phones should
not be used during timetabled activities.
There will be basic communication facilities (telephone and fax) available during the
period you will spend at Mpala. This will be charged at normal Kenya Telecommunication
rates. Since you will be here just for a short time (and most of the time you will be occupied
while at the centre), perhaps it will be best not to rely too much on these communications
during your stay.
In Naivasha, the Field Studies Centre has telephone and fax which are meant for office
communication thus only limited usage is allowed to TBA participants so as not to interfere
with the normal running of the centre. The centre can deliver mail to the post office. Generally,
we encourage participants to keep communication to a bare minimum and only when
essential by using the centre‟s facilities. To avoid worrying your relatives/friends we
suggest you do not promise to phone anyone while you are in Mpala/Naivasha. In any
case, you will only be away for a month!
If you have spare time in Nairobi, this would be the most appropriate time to make calls
if you have to. The phones here, especially in internet/telephone cafés, are much more
Contact Addresses in Kenya
Tropical Biology Association
P O Box 44486
Tel. +254 20 3749957/3749986/3746090
Fax +254 20 3741049
This is where you will actually be staying for the greater part of the field course
Elsamere Field Studies Centre
P O Box 1497
Tel. +254 50 2021 247 (FOR EMERGENCY ONLY)
Fax. +254 50 2021 248
Specific Health Issues
As well as the health information found in the general course guide (Course Guide Part 1), it
is worth consulting your doctor and the following website for an up to date information about
the current health requirements for the region; www.cdc.gov/travel.africa.htm.
Arriving in Kenya
Passports, visas, and entry cards in Kenya
Make sure you have a valid passport and visa (if applicable) before you travel. If you do
not have one then please get one AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
These requirements are correct at the time of writing (January 2007) according to the latest visa regulations (revised edition 2005) which still apply. It is essential that all participants
check with their respective consulates as these requirements change from time to time and could alter prior to the course start date.
Valid passports or other travel documents (including Seaman‟s Discharge Book), acceptable to the Government of Kenya are required for all persons wishing to enter Kenya.
Travellers entering Kenya by road from Sudan, Somalia or Ethiopia are advised to pass through gazetted entry points and report immediately to an Immigration Officer.
Generally, nationals of the following countries may be issued with visas on application, and without reference to the Principal Immigration Officer, Nairobi:
Austria, Belgium, Benin, Burundi, Columbia, Denmark, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Germany, Ireland, Madagascar, Mozambique, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, U.S.A., United Kingdom, Venezuela.
Nationals of the following countries do not require visas to enter Kenya:
Commonwealth countries namely:
Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
With the exception of the following commonwealth countries who require visa: Citizens of South Africa (for visits of more than 30 days), Citizens of the UK (except serving members of the British military who are exempt from Immigration formalities) and Citizens of Ireland.
Ethiopia and Eritrea concluded visa abolition agreements with Kenya and did not require a visa to enter Kenya. However, with the ongoing conflict in the region, nationals from these countries are advised to confirm with the respective consulates.
**Nationals of the following countries require referred visas:
Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and Somalia.
Reference and reference fees:
Where reference to the Principal Immigration Officer, Nairobi, is necessary before the issue of a visa, the completed application forms in duplicate with two recent passport size photographs of the applicant shall be forwarded to the Principal Immigration Officer, Nairobi, for approval in the usual manner to reach him at least one month (note that this period
changes from time to time) prior to the proposed date of the applicant‟s departure to Kenya.
A reference fee of US $ 10 is collected at the time of application.
African participants: if you have difficulties obtaining a visa please contact the TBA
Nairobi office AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Whether you need visa or not to enter Kenya, you will be given a standard entry card to
complete. Recent experience indicates that you should make sure that you make the length
of the stay that you require very clear at airport/point of entry immigration; remember that a stamp for ‘1 month’ is not sufficient and will mean that an extension will be needed.
When filling in VISA forms and ENTRY CARDS, you MUST state that you are a TOURIST on
the card. You will also need to give your address in Kenya, which will be:
Tropical Biology Association, P O Box 44486, 00100-Nairobi, Kenya.
Our contact person in Kenya is Mr Anthony Kuria at the above address.
Arriving in Kenya by air
If you are flying in to Kenya, you will arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport,
which is about 20km from the city centre. The TBA will endeavour to meet all flights
depending on their arrival time, so please send us your flight details AS SOON AS
POSSIBLE (only applicable if TBA is not arranging your flight).
In the unlikely event of our being unable to meet you (or if you are arriving early to do
some independent travelling prior to the course), taxis are readily available and charge
approximately KSh 1,200 (about 15 US$) . When using taxis say the name of the place and
always AGREE on the PRICE BEFORE entering the taxi. Vehicles go along Mombasa Road,
which later becomes Uhuru Highway into town.
Arriving by bus or train
The Central Railway Station is located on the eastern end of Nairobi. It is quite close to
the centre of town along Haille Salassie Avenue.
The main bus station is located on Landhies Road and links up with Haile Selassie
Avenue and then Uhuru Highway. However, most bus companies have terminus within the
city center and often will drop passengers at the “Ambassador” (opposite the Hilton Hotel) off
Moi Avenue. From here you can get a taxi or look for one outside Hilton Hotel.
Getting around Nairobi
Nairobi is a busy city with about 3 million inhabitants. Most people will speak either
Swahili or English but a blend of the two languages (Sheng) is often spoken. Time in Kenya
is GMT +3hrs.
All public transport vehicles in Kenya now have a yellow stripe around them inscribed
with route numbers/names, except for a few taxis that have their company names on them. .
Unless recommended to by TBA or you know the driver well, avoid any taxi that does not
have a yellow stripe on it.
Taxis - these cost around Ksh 100-200 ($1-$3) for journeys within town, and Ksh 300
to 500 ($4-$7) from town to the National Museums (you will be staying at a hotel near the
museums in the Parklands area). These taxis are worthwhile, especially if you are carrying a
lot of luggage and/or valuables.
Matatus (mini buses) - these are great for getting about town when you have left your
rucksack at your hotel and operate at a reasonably low rate. They cost Ksh 20 ($0.30) to Ksh
40 ($0.60) for a journey. They are fast and at times furious and best avoided at rush hours or
if you have a lot of luggage. The matatus to use for National Museums-city center journeys are numbers 23 or 118. These go to Westlands and the bus stop to get off is „Museums‟ (the
bus stops are next to the roundabouts on either end of the Museum Hill Road).You need to
remind the conductor that you are alighting at the “Museums bus stop”.
Within the city center „Museums‟ matatus park on the western end of Tom Mboya Street, especially at the Tom Mboya/River Road roundabout. If you have any questions about
which bus (number) to take, just ask one of the conductors [usually in a maroon uniform (shirt,
trouser and windbreaker type jacket)] or the drivers.
Like anywhere else, you should look after your possessions (including the contents
of your pockets) and exercise common sense. By doing so, you should not have any
Where to stay in Kenya
We will provide accommodation in Nairobi for the night before and the last night of the
course. We leave Nairobi early in the morning of the start date of the course, so you need to
be in Nairobi the evening before at the very latest. If you arrive earlier than the night before
let us know if you want us to book accommodation for you.
Here are several suggestions for places to stay: Note: - Prices for hostels and
hotels may change, but below is an indication of the price ranges available. Please
check a website such as www.xe.com site to calculate the current exchange rate; at the time of writing (January 2007) the rate is approx. 70 Ksh to 1US$, 135Ksh to ?1 sterling,
90Ksh to ?1Euro.
Parkside Hotel Monrovia Street (opposite Jeevanjee Gardens (Tel 020-316507)
It offers good opportunity to explore the city especially in the evening. It‟s about 15
minutes walk to the museums using Harry Thuku Road and past Hotel Boulevard. It has
secure and quiet self-contained rooms but a bit overpriced (single rooms at Ksh 1600,
double rooms at Ksh 2300 and triple rooms Ksh 3100 or 1300, 1700 and 2200 respectively,
if bed only; meals prices range between Ksh 200-600).
Parklands Shade Hotel Ojijo Rd (Tel 020-3749870)
Next to a popular Nairobi clubhouse (K1) offering good entertainment (rather noisy on
Fridays and Saturdays) much of the day and night. The hotel is about 5 minutes walk to the
Museums. Single rooms are Ksh 2300 and doubles 2600 including breakfast (bed only 2100
and 2350, respectively), while meals are between Ksh 140-780.
The Central YMCA State House Road (Tel 020-2724070 or 020-2724066; fax 020-
2728825; email firstname.lastname@example.org).
It is within walking distance into the city and quite popular with travellers (both male
and female). Alcohol/drinking is not allowed. Self-contained singles rooms are Ksh 940 and
doubles Ksh 1480 (690 and 1180 respectively if not self-contained), including breakfast.
Meals from Ksh130 to 350.
Plums Hotel off Ojijo Rd, Parklands (Tel 020-3745222/3)
Pleasant, secure, and close to the Nairobi Museums. Room (bed only) costs are;
doubles Ksh 1,400; self-contained suites Ksh 1,800; breakfast Ksh150/person, while meals
Mooreland Hotel - Kolobot Rd, Parklands (Tel 020-3748890 or 3748902)
This is a recently opened and secure establishment, which is popular and has cheap
fast food available. It is about 5 minutes from the rendezvous at Sirona Hotel. Travel here
from the city is however tricky and best accessed by taxis. Rooms costs Ksh 900 for singles
and Ksh 1200 for doubles.
Security and banking
The city of Nairobi, south of Tom Mboya Street is largely secure and you will find lots
of shops, cafes, banks and Forex bureau here. It is also much easier to walk in this part of
Nairobi, as it is not crowded.
Banks in Nairobi and other large Kenyan towns open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m, Monday to
Friday, and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday‟s (some only on the first and last Saturday of each month). Twenty-four hour access to your account can be facilitated through ATMs
countrywide at various banks. Some banks at the International Airport open round the clock
everyday, as do the foreign exchange bureaus.
Most international credit cards are accepted in Kenya. Barclaycash ATMs accept any
International VISA and MASTERCARD credit cards. Standard Chartered Bank‟s computer
network allow access to over 60 moneylink ATMs situated at all its branches, major shopping
malls, gas stations and other strategic locations countrywide.
Some recommended Forex bureau include Chase (Gilfillian Hse, Kenyatta Avenue), Taipan (New Stanley Building, Kenyatta Avenue) and Continental (Old Mutual Building,
Kimathi Street). There is a bank at Hilton Hotel that is open until 8.00pm to change money.
Traveller's cheques in Sterling or US Dollars are now accepted in most places and are
recommended for your trip to Kenya.