Sun was shining and reggae music was playing on the bus on Sunday as we were driving to Choke ranch. The bus ride from the station was about an hour and we saw nice views on the way. Choke is one of the biggest private ranches in Kenya consisting of 21 ranching units and two wildlife sanctuaries. It employs 200 people and is a home to up to 800 cows. Choke ranch used to be one ranch of 500 acres (about 202 hectares) but nowadays includes many neighboring ranches with the area reaching to 25 000 acres (about 10 117 hectares).
We were greeted with a very interesting and informative lecture by one of the ranch owners. We learned that conservancy comes always first on the ranch before any actions or changes take place. The ranch depends on the communities and is operating in a truly holistic matter that considers conservation, livestock and community in a comprehensive way. For instance, livestock management on the ranch is organized in a way that the herd won’t be moved around that much (depending of the season). Also only critical areas, such as houses, are fenced from wildlife. Otherwise, wildlife is monitored and located in other ways, like with the use of technology.
Typically, climate change will bring some uncertainties and that’s the case for the ranch too. Drought is already a problem that is very much present. According to the owner, the water storage system needs to be more efficient and cooperation with students in terms of thesis subjects would be highly beneficial for both parties. We were taught that carbon credits can be used for reinvestments, and almost 70% of the ranch’s revenue consists of sold credits where you will be reimbursed for example by a big company or NGOs.
We learned that there’s a land use problem in Kenya and people might not appreciate large spaces which leads to fragmentation of a landscape. A chance of land fragmentation, erosion and desertification are one the reasons Choke ranch won’t sell any land but instead focus on long term thinking. Choke ranch’s focal points in the future will be ecological monitoring, education of partnerships and people (especially children), cooperation with different partners and shareholders, expansion of revenue and focusing on the working traditions on the ranch.
Next, we headed to a waterhole which was first occupied by beautiful elephants. We learned earlier that animals “take turn” in sharing the waterhole and we got to experience that with our own eyes. After the elephants had disappeared a large herd of cows came in for a drink. Meanwhile we were listening to the presentations of MSc and PhD students and the research that takes place.
Following the Choke ranch, we drove to a local mining spot that mines breathtakingly beautiful and rare gemstone called Tsavorite. Tsavorite is a deposit part of a large geological structure that extends all the way to Tanzania. The mine itself is a production unit hosting 40 employees and the caves reach up to 200 meters.
On another note, there were a lot of specific minerals on the Choke ranch. It had the qualities of plagioclase which is a common mineral also found in Finland. But I have never seen it in this colour and quantity before! This area could also be interesting for geologists when it comes to research.
After our adventure time, we retreated to the high lands to our beloved station. It was time to get ready for the soirée of the evening. The party was especially meant for the hard-working staff and rightfully so. We started with delicious food prepared by the kitchen staff which was at least a three Michelin star meal!
We then continued the party in the only proper way; singing and dancing under the full moon. I didn’t take too many pictures since I was having too much fun dancing. There was magic in the air as we all tried to learn each others songs and dance steps.. What a wonderful night!