Majority of tourists visiting the big attraction in Africa, Kenya, all scramble towards the beaches at the coast and to see wild animals in the African bush that was recently named the seventh wonder of the world – Masai Mara. But little do they know that there are several other attractions in Kenya which are yet to be explored.
The eastern part of the country which includes the Ukambani districts of Machakos, Makueni Mwingi and Kitui have enough of their share of attractions including wildlife, unique terrain and breathtaking small mountain ranges that are perfect for both climbing and picnics as well.
The country’s two major rivers, Tana River and Athi River crisscross Ukambani and both boast of a wide variety of animal life including crocodiles, turtles and a wide range of fish species that are only to be found in Africa.
It is also worth noting that it is only in Ukambani where one can find a rich culture including the world acclaimed wood carvers in Wamunyu whose products are exported the world over and bring to the country millions of dollars in foreign exchange every year. They curve unique works that include wild animals and the local people in traditional gear. A wonderful keepsake to carry back home after an unforgettable holiday.
These wood curvers have been at it for as long as they or anybody else can remember and got their unique skills from their parents and grandparents who passed it down the line for centuries and have ensured the skills are not lost in spite of upheavals including inter community wars with their war like neighbors, the Masai.
From Wamunyu in Machakos district,a visitor will be amazed as he travels along Kitui road right through to Kitui town itself and the outskirts where you are greeted by a large boulder known as Ivia ya Nzambani in the local language which means “The Stone of Nzambani”. This stone has a long history and an amazing myth that surrounds it.
According to legend, there was once a local who desired to be a woman in spite of being born a strong man and had attempted consulting the gods for several years but all his efforts were fruitless but this did not dampen his spirit and determination to one day become a woman.
It is said that his wishes were granted on one chilly morning when the gods told him through a dream the night before that if he wished to change his sex, he should go round the giant boulder seven times without stopping which he did enthusiastically. Alas, the villagers desires were achieved when after completing his seventh circuit, he went for his crotch and to his pleasant amazement, it wasn’t there anymore. He had been turned into a woman. To this day the locals still believe that if one wants to have a sex change, you just have to go round the boulder seven times.
There is only one catch though. Going round the magic stone is a five kilometers trek in rough terrain, so even completing one lap is a Herculean task.
From Kitui you will come to Mwingi district where strange things happen with mological explanation happen all the time. It is here where the belief of the supernatural is strongest and the locals are known to practice witchcraft with impunity as they compete with each other to see who is the most powerful among them. With a little persuasion they may just be able to put up a show for tourists who promise never to tell what they see.
It is also in Mwingi where the Arab population is surprisingly large and are the economic giants of the town and control the major businesses there. Many of them have been here for generations since their ancestors landed there during the thriving slave trade in the 18th century.
The area is among the driest in the country and in Africa as a whole and there are places in the district that do not receive a drop of rainfall for the three years at a time or more. There is also talk that there are large deposits of coal and oil in the area that is yet to be exploited.
Kenyans usually refer to Mwingi as the cursed district of Ukambani mainly due to the harsh weather but the area boasts of a lot of wildlife like chimpanzees, baboons, hyenas, antelopes and a host of other smaller wildlife including deadly snakes.
Moving from Mwingi, you will come to Makueni which is host to a number of wildlife sanctuaries including the Amboseli National park and plenty of tourist lodges which can be accessed from the Nairobi-Mombasa highway at Mtito Andei which is about 300 km from Nairobi, the modern capital city of Kenya. Here you will be able to see the big five animals, namely lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant and cheetah.