Monday, January 19, 2015

New RA, Nairobi, Nakumatt

Greetings! I am Matt Farr, one of the new RAs (Research Assistant) in Fisi Camp.  I am a recent graduate, May 2014, of Purdue University in wildlife biology.  I decided prior to graduation to take a year off before I started graduate school, and I have been working wildlife technician jobs in various locations to simultaneously travel and gain field experience.  Since joining the transient/hobo life-style of a wildlife technician, I have worked on a variety of research project in a short amount of time.  I spent 6 months in the Sierra Nevada Mountains working with fisher (Pekania pennanti) and marten (Martes americana) for the US Forest Service.  I returned to Indiana to work for 2 months as a technician for Purdue University conducting fieldwork on hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) and river otter (Lontra Canadensis) research. 

I have once again shouldered my bindle (or in my case a yellow duffle bag) and relocated to the Maasai Mara Reserve.  I arrived in Kenya on January 8th, but I have been in the Mara for less than a week.  The majority of my experience so far contains the trials and tribulations of Nairobi (where the rules of the road do not exist).  I spent my first week in Nairobi running errands with Ashlei, Chase, and Spencer, another new RA.  Each camp requires supplies from Nairobi that are not available in the Mara; therefore, a trip to Nairobi is necessary every 4 – 6 weeks.  We had to visit multiple shops to pick up the necessary items for camp.  We visited the gas filling station to refill our liquid nitrogen supply.  In addition, we stopped by a hardware store and a tent store for various supplies.  We also had to frequent our mechanic, Ian to fix the multitude  of problems with KAS, our Toyota Land Cruiser. 

But, the most critical resource in Nairobi to the success and functioning of the Fisi Camp is Nakumatt.  Nakumatt is a supermarket that is the Kenyan equivalent to Wal-Mart.  Walking into Nakumatt for the first time to do grocery shopping for camp, I was shocked by the selection of goods available.  Not only is the grocery shopping for both Talek and Serena camps done at Nakumatt, but additional supplies are also purchased.  We bought everything from a hacksaw to multiple jars of Nutella (a key fuel source for RAs).  We would roll up to the cash register with one or more carts stuffed and receive looks and questions as to why we needed 15 kg of rice or 40 packets of beef cubes.  We went to Nakumatt at least 10 times in the week I was in Nairobi, and it feels like I have spent more time so far inside the walls of Nakumatt than I have on hyena observations. 

Despite the good times at Nakumatt, I was more than ready to head to the Mara.  I was skeptical that all the supplies littered throughout the cottage would fit in KAS, but Ashlei and Chase assured me that all would be okay.  After stuffing KAS with supplies and a 6 + hour drive, we finally made it to the gates of the Mara.  We drove through the reserve to camp as I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the floor.  I have already seen zebras, giraffes, elephants, a hippo, wildebeest, gazelles, impalas, buffalo, cheetahs, lions, and hyenas.  I am quickly adjusting to camp life and beginning to learn the 120 + hyenas of Talek West.  I will let you know how it goes.


Jane Farr said...

Nice post, Matt! It's interesting to see all the provisions needed to operate camp for weeks at a time. It must take quite a bit of preparation, planning, and list making.

Dana Jones said...

Enjoy your time in the Mara - it's certainly a slice of heaven!

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