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Kenya

Help a pioneering marine conservation intiative

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Travel to Kenya

Kenya has always drawn the traveller who wants to explore the vast plains, track the extraordinary wildlife, meet dynamic conservationists and dip their toes in the crystal clear Indian ocean swimming with turtles, nemo and all his friends.

We are really excited to be back working in Kenya again and supporting this leading community marine conservation project on the spectacular north coast of Kenya in an area called Kuruwitu which is about 40-km north of Mombasa.

The Kuruwitu area consists of the small fishing villages of Sheriani, Vipingo and Timboni which, with its shallow lagoon, feels like a private tropical paradise. The fringing reef is unspoiled with some mapped out amazing dive sites and home to endangered marine turtles, migrating humpback whales, dolphins and more than 500 species of tropical fish and corals. Recently a pod of Orcas was spotted off the coast for the first time.Utterly stunning.

The bigger towns of Kilifi, Watamu and Malindi are all close by, providing an insight into the coastal history of these once thriving spice trading towns.

Venture out to Kenya to help a pioneering team protect the reefs and marine life by educating and refocusing the traditions of the local fishing communities.


Program Itinerary

During this 4 week program you will get stuck into a dynamic mix of marine and environment conservation with community development focusing on education and sustainability.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Overview

Kuruwitu, north coast of Kenya

Welcome to Kuruwitu

Here you will be based in our pretty volunteer house at Vipingo in the Kuruwitu area, over looking a shallow lagoon and fringing reef, home to turtles, migrating humpback whales, dolphins and more than 500 species of tropical fish and corals. Recently a pod of Orcas was spotted off the coast for the first time. Utterly stunning.

Here we are working with the Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association (KCWA) who are an award-winning community initiative, created to facilitate positive environmental, economic and socio-cultural change in the area.

They set up Kenya’s first Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in response to rapidly declining fish stocks in the Kuruwitu Lagoon and provide all-round community support to find alternative livelihoods thus decreasing their reliance on fishing.

Through KCWA, you will become involved in a fascinating mix of marine, environment and community development which are all interlinked to bring about the most positive changes in the most beautiful setting.

Accommodation

You will be based in Bahari Hai house on the Vipingo Ridge beach club plot on Kinuni beach. The site is patrolled 24-hours per day by Vipingo Ridge security and is very secure.

Food

3 meals a day provided of home cooked food in the house.

Weeks 1 - 4

Marine Conservation Reef studies + turtle protection

Marine Conservation

The main problems in the area are rising sea temperatures, over fishing and lack of awareness which threatens the vast array of species currently living in and around the reef. You will help the conservation combat these issues by:

Surveying and charting the changes of species in these unexplored fringing coral reefs - studying their biodiversity and health inside and outside the marine protected area. You will also help assess potential threats to these ecosystems and develop management plans with the local community to protect the vital marine resources.

You will taught how to identify marine species, calculate fish populations, re-plant coral and collect scientific data. Collecting data through snorkelling trips within the marine sanctuary or diving trips beyond the reef.


You will also work with the Turtles Alive team to help and improve the existing efforts in turtle conservation. They have around 150 nests annually in the area with the main turtle nesting season being between May and August.

Once a week you will head of with the local data collectors to sample the species, and weight of all catches landed in on the Kinuni beach, as part of the fisheries monitoring program

Seasonal and weather permitting - when they are passing through you will have the chance to get involved with the whale and dolphin identification trips.

Weeks 1 - 4

Environmental Conservation permaculture

Permaculture and farming

Another key objective of your stay at Kuruwitu is to learn about permaculture and how it can benefit the local villagers, helping them improve their traditional farming techniques and therefore reduce their dependence on marine catches.

You will be working alongside members of the local community on the farm under the guidance of Benji the resident permaculture expert. We aim to enhance food security and elevate the traditional standard of living. The farm is a demonstration and training model for other communities.


Weeks 1 - 4

Community Education Workshops + culture

Community Engagement

The success of the above is only going to be positive if the communities are on board so it is vital to share your marine and permaculture knowledge with everyone.

Here you help engage in local community workshops and activities which might include beach/ village clean-ups, field trips to local sites of ecological importance or an environmental awareness session in the classroom.

Other community activities will involve:

  • Recycling, art and IT projects
  • CV writing
  • Sports and after-school games.
  • Swahili/English exchange lessons,
  • Local cooking lessons
  • Working with the women's group


Training

Scuba Diving Padi diving course

PADI qualification is available on request.

In week two there is the option to complete a scuba diving course so you can venture outside the reef to study the marine life. This is entirely optional and weather dependent. You need to have completed your open water padi course as a minimum to participate with these dives.

If you can already dived i.e. completed an open water course as a minimum, then you will be given a refresher before heading out to dive/study the outer reef.

The course costs $500 and is paid in country and covers all equipment, training and administration.

Program Details & Costs

We have three departures to Kenya in 2021: in January, July and September for 4 weeks.

Options and costs

January, July and September departures.

Whats included?

Budget:

Flights: £800 (depending on time of year and availability)

Spending Money: Approx £80 per week for the odd beer, souvenir and weekend outings.


Beach life

Live beach side, over looking a stunning lagoon on the Indian Ocean.

Social Life

Guaranteed. You will be part of a tight team of like minded volunteers, who come from all over the world, creating happy campfire moments.

Community

Your chance to become part of the local community and to make a difference.

The Bigger Picture

Be part of this dynamic and leading marine conservation project which is paving the way for others to follow.

Working Hours and Time Out

Each day the itinerary will be different but expect to carry out projects 5 and a half days per week for about 5 - 8 hours.

Project hours: 8-12am and 2-5pm, but this may vary from time to time depending on the activity.

Saturdays are unstructured to allow for any catch-up work and Sundays are left entirely free, so you have time to explore this fascinating part of the world.You are welcome to stay and chill at the Bahari Hai House, relax at the beach club, go to the nearby resort Vipingo Ridge to play golf, ride bikes or go on an arranged trip to nearby towns.Alternatively, you can just relax, enjoy a meal at the beach bar, snorkel or play volleyball.

Join an award winning initiative

Here we are working with the Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association (KCWA) who are an award-winning community initiative, created to facilitate positive environmental, economic and socio-cultural change in the area.

They set up Kenya’s first Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in response to rapidly declining fish stocks in the Kuruwitu Lagoon and provide all-round community support to find alternative livelihoods thus decreasing their reliance on fishing.

Through KCWA you will become involved in a fascinating mix of marine, environment and community development which are all interlinked to bring about the most positive changes in the most beautiful setting.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers around the world...

Our Namibian Adventure has started... The May Namibian Team

First week feedback...

This first week has been incredible. We have had so much fun. Red and Andrea are the best, Roland is a legend and Professor Barry is an amazing guy with great knowledge and even greater quotes which we will remember for life such as...

“if you see something catch it”

“if it bites you, don’t let go of it”

“Amelia, I can’t understand a word you are saying with that accent”

“Stella, you speak like the Queen”

“Angus, I’m going to use your shirt to start to braii, it’s horrible”


Read full blog -

Tackling the rapids of the Orange River Will and Abby

Day 11 - Today was a very early morning. The whole camp woke up before the sunrise and headed over to one of the cow baits in hopes to catch sight of a leopard. Although we didn't see any leopards, we still had an exciting day of travelling to the South Africa-Namibia border to start out white water rafting adventure. We met our guides, Max and Heinrich, and began to prep for our expedition.

Day 12 - Setting off in pairs, we began rafting down the Orange River today. Our rafts were loaded down with all of our camping supplies for the next three days. Approaching our first rapid, Abby and Nina quickly became stuck on a rock, while Adolph and Will took the more adventurous route, completing the the rapid backwards. Our first campsite was on a beautiful shoreline of the river, and we enjoyed swimming in the river and sitting around the campfire.

Day 13 - Our second day of rafting begin with a risky, large rapid. After successfully completing the rapid, we carried our rafts on foot to our lunch location. In order to launch for our afternoon of paddling, we repelled the boats down a cliffside. Our camping site for the night was near a beautiful large waterfall that we got the chance to check out, and some even got in the splash zone! We spent the afternoon fishing, swimming, and lazing around.

Day 14 - Our last day of rafting was concluded with the largest rapid of the trip, Big Bunny. After a briefing and demonstration of the rapid, our teams set out. Adolph and Will once again completed the rapid backwards, while Abby and Nina had a textbook run. Red and Beth completed the rapid as well, but got caught up in the excitement and continued down the river without us! When we arrived to the pickup location we unloaded our rafts and began the hour drive back to the rafting camp. Arriving back at the rafting camp involved beers, chocolate, and large amounts of food.

Day 15 - We had a long drive back to camp in the morning and spent the rest of the day was a lot of lazing around.

Day 16 - To start the day off we collected some camera traps we'd previously set up which had some great zebra, Orix and Kudu pictures. In the afternoon we sketched out a water hole design then marked it out and began to dig.

Day 17- Once again we were back digging out the water point and making a few final adjustments which seemed a lot harder than it should've mainly because of a freakishly hot wind that just wouldn't seem to go away.

Cow heads and the 5 peak challenge Beth and Nina

Day 1 - After arriving at camp on the truck, "Kong," we settled into our tents the girls all bundling into one and the two lads taking one each. Dinner at the Octopus (the main tent) was closely followed by a number of beers and ice breakers for us all to get to know each other before heading to bed.

Day 2 - The morning bought a slower start as we went through how the camp operates, the safety briefing and the itinerary. Then we went for what Red defined as a "light" hike; this was not accurate at all! Half way up a vertical rock face, sweating and unable to breathe we realised our differences with his definition. However, we powered through making it to the top where the views were breathtaking and for sure worth the trek.

Day 3 - Today's task was to destroy some invasive tree species. We all loaded onto Kong and drove to where a few trees had already been cut down to stumps. We hacked the branches into smaller pieces for kindling with saws, axes, and machetes, then set the base of the stumps alight.

Day 4 + 5 - Today we did our first walking transect, which is when we cover a certain area of the conservancy and record data on animal sighting, dung, and tracks in an app called CyberTracking. We walked about 8 kilometres and collected lots of data on kudu, eland, oryx, zebra, and others.

Day 6 + 7 - Camera traps - we all piled into the truck to check some baited camera traps. Most of what we found was mischievous mongooses. Then we drove to three different water holes and set up new camera traps.

Day 8 - Today we started constructing a water hole for the animals. We dug a hole, shovel-mixed a batch of cement, and laid flat rocks in the bottom.

Day 9 - Today was an interesting day to say the least. We prepared fresh cow heads and hooves for leopard bait. Each of us took turns stabbing thought the hooves in order to thread a wire through and hang them from a tree. The first time was terrifying but by the third head we were a little more used to it. That evening we all enjoyed very thorough showers. Dinner was hamburgers, which we all found ironic and mildly disturbing, but delicious nonetheless.

Day 10 - Peak day. Our task for today was to climb five peaks and spend an hour on top of each recording all the wildlife we could see. We woke up at 6am and were at the top of our first mountain by 8:15. The first two peaks were the hardest and also unsuccessful in terms of finding game, but again the views were worth it. The last three peaks were more fruitful and we finished up and got back to camp, completely drained, by 6pm. Dinner never tasted so good and it was early to bed for all of us.

Rafting on the Orange River Millie Edwards

Our third week was started off with an epic day of invasive tree removal, which was thoroughly enjoyed and pegged as one of our favourite days of the trip. Saturday was a slightly different activity of fence removal and was not a popular one within the group, leaving us all with a hatred for wire. On the third day we packed up and headed across the border for our four day rafting trip on the Orange River.

On Monday, after a quick safety chat from Coby - our guide - and 30 mins of drilling into Imi S that there were no crocodiles and hippos, the rafting began. We were quick to discover that despite Ivo and Ralphs strong bromance they were not the perfect rafting pair. Base camp for the night was on the Namibian side of the river and after our chicken stir fry Coby began to ‘impress’ us with his ‘amazing’ jokes... and his rather questionable games, leading to the majority of the group going to bed at 7pm.

Day 2 on the Orange River started off with a change in the rafting teams where Ralph was paired with Imi S instead of Ivo. However, tensions in the group soon fizzled out after one of the best sundowners of the trip so far and an evening around the fire, involving some more games, which Imi G, as hard as she tried, was not so good at when being partnered up with Ivo and Magnus.

Determined to boost moral on day 3 Ralph spontaneously whipped out the Sponge-bob Squarepants theme tune and continued this throughout the trip. One of the most beautiful moments of the trip was when ‘megaraft’ was formed. All the rafts United and we’d never felt closer as a team.

With Red never running out of energy, a hike to a gorge along the river was at the top of his list for an afternoon activity. With a few reluctant groans the whole group joined him after being promised it would “probably” be about an hour’s hike. It was an incredible sight to see though and definitely worth the advanced level rock climbing trek.

Getting back to camp with homemade burgers and chips by Raul was certainly a good end to a good week.

Snake hunting and volleyball matches Ellen Robshaw

The game count we did in the Wild West sector on Sunday was much more successful than the Gemsbok study at the start of last week as we saw Gemsbok, Springbok and Red hearted beast. When we got back to camp, everyone, except Katie and I, decided to have a volleyball game; Max, Minty, Jonty, Will Gray and Dre on one team, Hamish, Hayden, Welles, Beth and Red on the other. As the game was finishing, a Horologist, named Francois, from Nankuse arrived to teach us about the native snakes and lizards, with three of the students from the research project. After introductions, the sun had just set, so we all set out on a night walk around camp, looking for snakes and lizards. Will Gray found a Cape Coral shield cobra almost immediately, then one of the volunteers from Nankuse found a shovelled nosed snake and others found two geckos.

The next morning while it was still cold, we all set out to the planes behind camp to see if we could find any snakes or lizards. After a few near misses, we came back for lunch empty-handed. That afternoon, we headed up different mountains around camp, hopeful we would find snakes or lizards. Just as everyone was about to give up, Will Gray yelled that Hamish had found a snake, so we all went running to the other side of the mountain to get a look at it. By the time we got around the side of the mountain, Hamish had realized that it wasn’t a snake after all; only a lizard that Francois identified as a flat lizard.

The next morning, we went to check the traps then headed into the mountains, and up El Donio, looking for snakes and lizards. As we drove around, we saw a lot of game – Springbok, Eli, Rock Hyrax and Klipspringer – but spotted no snakes or lizards. After our climb up El Donio, and we ate lunch at the bottom of the mountains, we headed into the forest section, where we had found two horned adders before. We only found one snake on that hunt, but unfortunately lost it in some rocks, so we headed back to camp and started cooking the braai.

The next morning, we headed back to the Whale Back sector to continue taking down the old boundary fencing. It was a very hot day, so at one we stopped working and had a snack in the minimal shade the truck had, then carried on for an hour until it was too hot to carry on, so we headed back to camp. After we ate lunch, everyone sat in the octopus in a vegetated state due to the heat being almost unbearable. One by one, we headed for a cold shower, which turned out to be a very warm one as the sun had warmed the water in the tank to the point of it being a hot shower!

Camera traps, game catching and animal tracking!

This week started very exciting for us, because we’ve got the chance to be part of a “game capture”. For that we had to drive to the “Oas Stables”, where a very lovely guy called Mantie and his wife Pennie welcomed us. The phrase “My friend”, which Mantie used a lot, is still stuck in our heads today. It was an unbelievable experience for all of us to get so close to the wild animals like the Springboks. Another highlight was the last evening at Mantie’s. We’ve been in a real building for the first time since our arrival, which gave all of us a happy feeling, and the boys could play pool! It was a wonderful time over there.

On our way back we made it to the library, were we could finally get in touch with our loved ones back home, so this weekend was full of highlights.

The next exciting thing we’ve did was tracking for animals. For that we had to get up very early and drove with Red and Fisho to a waterpoint where Fisho led us on a track through the mountains and we could actually see some wild mountain zebras on top of one mountain. During one rest we decided to find Willie’s Rusk, a homage to our loved Rusks without which we (especially Will) couldn’t survive out here.

During our second week we also installed some Camera Traps to get to know the wildlife a bit better in the area we live in. It was a very exciting week and we look forward to what I’m sure will be similarly incredible weeks to come here in Namibia.

Welcome to the wilderness Sam Williams

Arriving at camp, a little later than planned, we were surprised at how nice the tents were and after a quick dinner and a tour of camp we went to sleep. Over the next couple of days we set up camera traps in different areas of the farm to try and catch some footage of some animals. We were lucky enough to spot an Black eagle’s nest so put up a camera trap close to the nest whilst on the look out for the parent eagles who were swooping above us. So hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will be able to send you some pictures of baby eagles!

Another highlight of the week was creating a vulture restaurant which involved dragging the carcass of a hartebeest out onto an open plain. We were all very excited for this. The weather has been a bit colder than expected and it has rained for the first time in three years, which Andrea and Ed have said is very lucky for the area and great for the wildlife.

We’ve had a jam packed week, including art activities with Andrea’s friend Tash from Cape Town as well as visiting the local primary school. The children were so cute and very excited to see us and we had a lovely afternoon playing sport, drawing and playing games. They were particularly interested in touching our hair, especially Monty’s hairy legs.

On Tuesday we visited the Fish River Canyon which is about 4 hours drive away and so set off at 5am with our hot water bottles and sleeping bags in the car. The views of the Canyon were incredible and on the drive there we saw zebra, ostrich and an aardwolf.

"The Leap is doing a great job"

The organisation and the briefing on the entire trip was great by "the leap". I felt very well prepared and ready to start my adventure. The people in the office are very friendly and always ready to answer your questions or problems. They take care all over the trip of you and they make everything to give you the perfect time in a beautiful new world.

- Johann Plato

"A great mixture of community volunteering and adventuring"

I really think the leap provides an amazing unique travel experience. We got to get so involved with the local people and learn about the country in a way I don't think I would have experienced without the leap. I did travel with other companies after in different countries and did not get the same sense of being immersed in the culture.

I travelled to Borneo with the company and the trip had a great mixture of community volunteering and adventuring. I made friends for life as I am still in close contact with the friends I made with the leap and would recommend this company to everyone. All the staff I spoke to on the phone planning it and then who looked after us in the country were so friendly.

- Alice Sharp

"Thank you so much for giving my son life long friends and experiences"

My son has just got back from an amazing trip to Madagascar. The Leap were great in keeping in contact with emails, blogs and can call and get a speedy reply if you need to contact them, thank you so much for giving my son life long friends and experiences.
Many thanks to Milly from The Leap who was amazing.

- Nikki Field

"Hand on my heart it's been the experience of a life time"

I've just been having THE best time here! It's gone so quickly, but I feel like I've been here forever at the same time.

We've done a lot of work already, so I feel like we've made a big difference. Through this work we've all learnt a lot, but it's mostly given us a good sense of liberation and generally put a lot of things in perspective. And of course, we now understand how difficult it is for these communities to get just essential amenities!

But the main thing is that I am very happy with the programme, and I can put my hand on my heart when I say it's been the experience of a life time, and I can't wait to continue for the 2nd half of it!

- Peter Blake

"Amazing hospitality and care"

These 4 weeks in the Namibian desert were definitely an unforgettable experience. We all learnt so much about not only wildlife conservation, but also the essential camping skills and how liberating life is without wifi!

The base-camp was very comfortable, clean, and homely with Red and Dre's amazing hospitality and care. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone of any age. I have no doubt that the landscape and tranquility cannot be found anywhere else.

- Sascha

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