Snapshot 1: Paddles up!

Jan 23 – 28th

Those who have been following this blog for a while have seen the pictures and read the stories of me on Mt. Kenya – you know about the intercultural trips student’s at this school go on every year.

In case this blog is new to you: every year in the last week of January, the whole high school takes off for a “Kenyan experience” of some sort. Each trip has a different focus: community service, or cultural awareness, or outdoors action, or environmental education, or some combination of the above. For the last two years, I’ve taken groups of students to the top of Mt. Kenya and back. This year however was a touch different …

Inspired by my summer paddling experience, I worked with a couple other teachers to propose a coastal kayaking trip. In October, the administration agreed (amazingly!) and we spent the next few months working through all the obstacles and preparing for all the contingencies we could think of. The planning included a three-day recon trip in Dec, in the middle of exam week. You know, had to go to the coast and scout it out – such a hardship. Anyway, I’ll spare you the gory details of logistical planning. All irrelevant anyway since the trip happened and was amazing!

Who went:
Me, two other teacher chaperons (Jeannine and Matt), and 17 kids from 10th and 11th grade.

Where we went:
Mida Creek – a long tidal bay just south of Malindi (about in the middle of the Kenyan coastline).

What we did:

Cooked our own food (mostly)
Kayaked all sides of the bay, including some saltwater mangrove channels
Visited the Gede ruins
Went to a butterfly farm
Participated in a bird-banding project (for tracking migrations)
Went on a coastal forest walk
Visited a local sea-turtle reahab center (They take injured turtles and nurse them to health before releasing them. Very cool.)
Ate amazing Italian gelatto

I didn’t get to do a lot of the land activities since I was mostly on the water with the kids. That’s also why I don’t have any pics except of kayaking and turtles. Enjoy anyway.

The photo highlights:

Kayaking in the bay just before sunset – the day we arrived.

We had lots of wind on a couple of the days … lots. So we would sometimes duck into mangrove channels to rest and get out of the wind. This was on one of those rest breaks.

Did anyone else know that flamingos like salt water?
I always thought of them as freshwater birds. I was wrong.

Matt – co-chaperon and bio teacher extraordinaire – resting in a mangrove tree.

No he’s not puking in his kayak. And though he seems confused about which end is for his rear … this is the student leader-of-the-day on a rest break. We were in the middle of our most exhausting paddle yet. Super strong head winds forced us to take the long way home.  He didn’t complain though …

The tidal flats!
(I feel like there should be a drum roll or something when I say that.)

We camped at the top end of the “Creek” (bay) and did not discover ’til we got there that it actually gets quite low at low tide. To give you perspective, this view is almost the same as the view in the first picture. As you can see: that water goes out … ALL the way out. Sadly, we got stuck on the flats more than once. And you can see for yourself the conditions. Carrying a 60 lb kayak a third of a mile in the hot sun across wet sand that sucks your shoes off if you’re wearing the wrong kind is something less than fun. On the other hand, the kids learned more about teamwork in those two days than I think they have in all their years so far. In other words: success!

This monitor lizard was living in the little lily pond at our campsite.
Cool? I think so.

Jeannine – co-chaperon and logistics wonder-woman – with her camera.
Only one hour left in this camera’s electronic life. An unexpected capsize and a dry-bag malfunction means: bye bye camera.

A very cool sea-turtle. Dude!

At the butterfly project. This one had just hatched. It’s wings are still wet.

Me. With a bunch of kids in kayaks.
Do I know what I’m doing?
Hmmm …

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